Jackson's First Election As President [1828]
By James Parton

The presidential campaign of 1824 was the least instructive one that ever occurred because it was the most exclusively personal. But it was far from being the least exciting. The long lull in the political firmament had given every one a desire for a renewal of the old excitements, and there was everywhere an eager buzz of preparation. During the last three years of Sir. Monroe's second term the great topic of conversation throughout the country was, Who shall be the next President?

Five candidates were frequently mentioned each of whom had devoted partisans: William H. Crawford, of Georgia, Secretary of the Treasury; John Quincy Adams, Secretary of State; John C. Calhoun, Secretary of War; Henry Clay, Speaker of the House of Representatives; De Witt Clinton, governor of New York—all strong, able, and popular men. But the name of Jackson had no sooner been presented to the nation by the legislature of Tennessee than it was discovered- with his popularity was about to render him a most formidable competitor. To promote his Presidential prospects his friends caused him to be elected to the Senate of the United States. Pennsylvania soon seconded his nomination, and most of the Southern States showed a strong inclination to support him. Mr. Calhoun withdrew his own name in favor of the victor of New Orleans, and consented to stand for the Vice-Presidency. The prospects of General Jackson were further improved by Mr. Crawford being stricken with paralysis, which totally prostrated him, and, in effect, narrowed the contest to Adams and Jackson.

John C. Calhoun was elected Vice president by a great majority. He received 182 electoral votes out of 261. All New England voted for him except Connecticut and one electoral district of New Hampshire. General Jackson receded thirteen electoral votes for the VicePresidency, and was the choice of two entire States for that office— Connecticut and Missouri.

Mr. Adams was the choice of seven States, General Jackson of eleven States, Mr. Clay of three States, Mr. Crawford of three States. Still no majority. The population of the United States in 1820 was about nine and a half millions. The population of the three States which gave a majority for Mr. Clay was 1,212,337. The population of the three States which preferred Mr. Crawford was 1,497,029. The population of the seven States which gave a majority for Mr. Adams was 3,032,766. The population of the eleven States which voted for General Jackson was 3,757,756. It thus appears that General Jackson received more electoral votes, the vote of more States, and the votes of more people, than any other candidate. Add to these facts that General Jackson was the second choice of Kentucky, Missouri, and Georgia, and it must be admitted that he came nearer being elected by the people than any other candidate. He was, moreover, a gaining candidate; every month added to his strength.

The result was not known in all its details when the time came for Senator Jackson to begin his journey to Washington in the fall of 1824. That he was confident, however, of being the successful candidate was indicated by Mrs. Jackson's accompanying him to the seat of government. They traveled in their own coach-and-four, I believe, on this occasion. The opposition papers, at least, said so, and descanted upon the fact as an evidence of aristocratic pretensions; considering it anti-democratic to employ four horses to draw a load that four horses sometimes could not tug a mile an hour, and were a month in getting to Washington.

The people having failed to elect a President, it devolved upon the House of Representatives, voting by States, each State having one vote to elect one from the three candidates who had received the highest number of electoral votes. A majority of States being necessary to an election, some one candidate had to secure the vote of thirteen States. The great question was to be decided on the 9th of February, 1825.

The result, when announced by the tellers, surprised almost every one—surprised many of the best informed politicians who heard it. Upon the first ballot, Mr. Adams received the vote of thirteen States, which was a majority. Maryland and Illinois, which had given popular majorities for Jackson, voted for Adams. Kentucky, Ohio, and Missouri, which had given popular majorities for Clay, voted for Adams. Crawford received the vote of four States—Delaware, North Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia. General Jackson, for whom eleven States had given an electoral majority, received the vote of but seven States in the House.

Was general Jackson, indeed, so heartily acquiescent in his defeat as he seemed to be? He was disappointed and indignant, believing that he had been defrauded of the presidency by a corrupt bargain between Mr. Adams and Mr. Clay. In this belief General Jackson lived and died. His partisans took up the cry, and made it the chief ground of opposition to Mr. Adams's administration.

General Jackson was re nominated for the Presidency by the Legislature of Tennessee before Mr. Adams had served one year. The general resigned his seat in the Senate, and entered heartily into the schemes of his friends. His popularity, great as it was before, seemed vastly increased by his late defeat, and by the belief, industriously promulgated, that he had been cheated of the office to which the people desired to elevate him.

The campaign of 1828 opened with a stunning flourish of trumpets Louisiana, like New York, was a doubtful and troublesome State. In 1827 the Legislature of Louisiana, which had refused to recognize General Jackson's services in 1815 invited him to revisit New Orleans, and unite with it in the celebration of the 8th of January, 1828, on the scene of his great victory.

The reception of General Jackson at New Orleans on this occasion was, I presume, the most stupendous thing of the kind that had ever occurred in the United States. Delegations from States as distant as New York were sent to New Orleans to swell the eclat of the demonstration. "The morning of the auspicious day," wrote an eyewitness, "dawned upon New Orleans. A thick mist covered the water and the land, and at ten o'clock began to rise into clouds; and when the sun at last appeared, it served only to show the darkness of the horizon threatening a storm in the north. It was at that moment the city became visible, with its steeples, and the forest of masts rising from the waters. At that instant, too, a fleet of steamboats was seen advancing toward the Pocahontas, which had now got under way, with twenty-four flags waving over her lofty decks. Two stupendous boats, lashed together, led the van. The whole fleet kept up a constant fire of artillery, which was answered from several ships in the harbor and from the shore. General Jackson stood on the back gallery of the Pocahontas, his head uncovered, conspicuous to the whole multitude, which literally covered the steamboats, the shipping, and the surrounding shores. The van which bore the Revolutionary soldiers and the remnant of the old Orleans Battalion passed the Pocahontas, and, rounding to, fell down the stream, while acclamations of thousands of spectators rang from the river to the woods and back to the river.

"In this order the fleet, consisting of eighteen steamboats of the first class, passed close to the city, directing their course toward the field of battle When it was first described, some horsemen only, the marshals of the day, had reached the ground; but in a few minutes it seemed alive with a vast multitude, brought thither on horseback and in carriages, and poured forth from the steamboats. A line was formed by Generals Planche and Labaltat, and the committee repaired on board the Pocahontas, in order to invite the general to land and meet his brother soldiers and fellow citizens. I have no words to describe the scene which ensued." The festivities continued four days, at the expiration of which the general and his friends reembarked on board the Pocahontas and returned homeward.

The campaign now set in with its usual severity. General Jackson was accused of every crime, offense, and impropriety that man was ever known to be guilty of. His whole life was subject to the severest scrutiny. Every one of his duels, fights, and quarrels was narrated at length. His connection with Aaron Burrz was, of course, a favorite theme. The military executions which he had ordered were all recounted. John Binns, of Philadelphia, issued a series of handbills, each bearing the outline of a coffin lid, upon which was printed an inscription recording the death of one of these victims. Campaign papers were first started this year. One, entitled We the People, and another, called The Anti-Jackson Expositor, were particularly prominent. The conduct of General Jackson in Florida during his governorship of that Territory was detailed.

The number of electoral votes in 1828 was two hundred and sixty one. One hundred and thirty-one was a majority. General Jackson received one hundred and seventy-eight; Mr. Adams, eighty three. In all Tennessee, Adams and Rush obtained less than three thousand votes. In many towns every vote was cast for Jackson and Calhoun.

A distinguished member of the North Carolina Legislature told me that he happened to enter a Tennessee village in the evening of the last day of the Presidential election of 1828. He found the whole male population out hunting, the object of the chase being two of their fellow citizens. He inquired by what crime these men had rendered themselves so obnoxious to their neighbors, and was informed that they had voted against General Jackson! The village, it appeared, had set its heart upon sending up a unanimous vote for the general, and these two voters had frustrated its desire. As the day wore on, the whisky flowed more and more freely, and the result was a universal chase after the two voters, with a view to tarring and feathering them. They fled to the woods, however, and were not taken. The news of General Jackson's election to the Presidency, I was informed by Major Lewis, created no great sensation at the Hermitage, so certain beforehand were its inmates of a result in accordance with their desires. Mrs. Jackson quietly said: "Well, for Mr. Jackson's sake, I am glad; for my own part, I never wished it."

The people of Nashville, greatly elated by the success of their general, resolved to celebrate it in the way in which they had long been accustomed to celebrate every important event in his career. A banquet unparalleled should be given in honor of his last triumph. The day appointed for this affair was the 23d of December, the anniversary of the night battle below New Orleans. General Jackson accepted the invitation to be present. Certain ladies of Nashville, meanwhile, were secretly preparing for Mrs. Jackson a magnificent wardrobe, suitable, as they thought, for the adornment of her person when, as mistress of the White House, she would be deemed the first lady in the nation. She was destined never to wear those splendid garments.

For four or five years the health of Mrs. Jackson had been precarious. She had complained occasionally of an uneasy feeling about the region of the heart; and, during the late excitements, she had been subject to sharper pains and palpitation. She died December 22d, late in the evening. Her husband was shocked and grieved beyond expression. It was long, as I was assured by her favorite servant Hannah, before he would believe that she had really breathed her last.

The sad news reached Nashville early on the morning of the 23d, when already the committee of arrangements were busied with the preparations for the general's reception. "The table was wellnigh spread," said one of the papers, "at which all was expected to be hilarity and joy, and our citizens had sallied forth on the morning with spirits light and buoyant, and countenances glowing with animation and hope, when suddenly the scene is changed: congratulations are turned into expressions of condolence, tears are substituted for smiles, and sincere and general mourning pervades the community."

General Jackson never recovered from the shock of his wife's death. He was never quite the same man afterward. It subdued his spirit and corrected his speech. Except on occasions of extreme excitement, few and far between, he never again used what is commonly called "profane language," not even the familiar phrase, "By the Eternal." There were times, of course, when his fiery passions asserted themselves; when he uttered wrathful words; when he wished even to throw off the robes of office, as he once said, that he might call his enemies to a dear account. But these were rare occurrences. He mourned deeply and ceaselessly the loss of his truest friend, and was often guided in his domestic affairs by what he supposed would have been her will if she had been there to make it known.