he 1828 election is arguably one of the most significant elections in American history which involved perhaps the longest presidential campaigns. The historical race involved the incumbent, John Quincy Adams, and the once-defeated Andrew Jackson. The election is deemed significant in the political arena as it marked the beginning of modern American politics and the formation of the two-party system. Andrew Jackson’s victory marked a fundamental shift in American history until then; the American people had drawn their presidents and other leaders mostly from the elite. By 1828 the United States was by no means a nascent democracy by all standards with elections being hallmarks of a growing democracy. However, some elections were deemed as significant as they were controversial that they changed the election culture and served as a blueprint from which future political developments sprouted from. By the end of 1828, Americans had voted into office a man who was widely regarded as a champion of the common people1.
The 11th elections proved to be a turning point in American history as, in as much as it was mired in smear underhand tactics and open character assassination, it heralded a return of party politics as it managed to whip the masses into two major party lines and the consequent party conflicts and bitterness would resonate for years. Andrew Jackson’s loss in the 1824 elections which were regarded as a ‘corrupt bargain’,2 and his ride to victory four years later through the support of the poor or working class clearly formed a template many future elections that were to follow where political power closely resembled the growing population of the United States. It was now possible for a person of humble descent like Andrew Jackson to ascend to the highest pinnacle of political power unlike where it was a reserve of a small clique of aristocrats.
Andrew Jackson won in the election of 1824, but faced a loss to John Adams when the election was deferred to the House of Representatives3. He (Andrew Jackson) and his loyalist were outraged when the House of Representatives because of the influence Henry Clay, an unsuccessful presidential candidate and speaker of the house, awarded the presidency to John Quincy Adams. One may wonder if the process was free and fair and totally unbiased as a few days later, the president-elect John Quincy Adams named Henry Clay his secretary of state4. At the time, this was a position that had been a launch-pad for future presidents. The American people who had clearly demonstrated their preferred candidates felt betrayed by the very system that unified them as a people.
One is compelled to raise various questions on the turn of events since Andrew Jackson won a plurality of electoral votes in the election which meant that he was the ultimate choice of the Americans. Andrew Jackson was devastated by the turn of events and one would understand his reaction at the time and devoted himself for the next four years to winning the presidency in the 1828 election: the next election. The modern Democratic Party was formed through the efforts of Andrew Jackson’s loyalist, Martin Van Buren. This political machine was one of the many strategies they used. Van Buren worked extra hard to gain popularity in the East as Andrew Jackson was already popular in the west. Nominations for the 1828 elections changed and legislatures were tasked with the job of making the nominations. John Quincy Adams was re-nominated by the National Republicans while the Democrats nominated Andrew Jackson. The nomination presented a rematch between two great rivals of the time, Andrew Jackson and President John Adams.
The campaign was one of the nastiest in American history. The elections of 1828 proved to be unique from all the previous elections in American history in various ways. The campaign was marked by considerable cased of mudslinging. This vice was uncommon during previous elections and was reported in isolated cases. One is convinced without any reasonable doubt that the degree of mudslinging in the 1828 election surpassed all the previous elections. According to Parson, 5 the campaign was highly motivated by personal issues. John Quincy Adams was mainly attacked for pompous living in the White House and his opponents perceived him as a potential threat to democracy and also thought him to be reckless and uneducated. On the other hand, Andrew Jackson and his wife faced attacks targeting the legality of their matrimonial union.
The pressure was very high in this campaign period and the two decided to remarry. The newspaper on Andrew Jackson’s side retaliated with an outrageous charge saying that John Quincy Adams had secured a servant girl to satisfy the Czar of Russia6. Unlike in previous elections, Andrew Jackson image as a glorious war hero was unaffected by the negative press campaign against him. The attacks his lack of an education also didn’t tint his image unlike previous elections. The election of1828 was not one of the kindest in America, but it was a very significant one. Not a single election conducted prior to the 1828 election had such impressive cases of mudslinging. The election also pioneered the nomination of candidates by popular vote. The aggressive nature of the campaign strategies employed by both candidates cannot be ultimately rebuked, but should be looked upon as something to learn from. These strategies have been abused in modern politics and the effect has been a whole lot of dirty tactics and character assassination.
The election was of great importance to the American people for it marked major shifts towards democracy and it acted as a realigning election for it separated the first party system and the second party systems in America. Upon election, Jacksonian democracy dominated the second party system which had tremendous impact on the future political development7. The election affected future political development as it was the very first election to be decided by popular vote and it was a great step for the masses to have a voice in the political process. The election proved that the common man’s voice could be heard and honored. The 1828 election influenced future politics as demonstrated by the Democratic Party that Andrew Jackson and Van Buren built dominating American elections until the civil war (1861-1865). T
he election was the first time individuals began to fight against corruption in politics. Andrew Jackson era marked a new dawn and dimension in American politics as far as elections were concerned. He proved to the world that the common man would impact the future of any country especially if they were united. Democracy was given a chance in American history which has been used as a major historic example in shaping many countries’ politics. His era was also associated with the growth and increased energy of the nation.
Baumgartner, Jody C., and Peter L. Francia. 2007. Conventional wisdom and American elections: exploding myths, exploring misunderstanding. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Baydo, Gerald, Loretta Zimmerman, and John Born. 1996. History of the United States with topics. Volume one. Wheaton, IL: Gregory Pub. Co. Kellogg, William O. 2010. Barron’s E-Z American history. Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s Mobile Reference. 2007. US History. Boston: MobileReference.com. http://public.eblib.com/EBLPublic/PublicView.do?ptiID=318467. Norman L. 2014. Liberty, equality, power: a history of the American people. Volume, Belmont, Calif: Wadsworth Parsons, Lynn H. 2009. The birth of modern politics Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and the election of 1828. New York: Oxford University Press. http://public.eblib.com/EBLPublic/PublicView.do?ptiID=431181. Waldstreicher, David. 2013. A companion to John Adams and John Quincy Adams. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell. http://public.eblib.com/EBLPublic/PublicView.do?ptiID=1129735.