Trivia: The Ugly U.S. Presidential Election of 1824

On December 1, 1824, the U.S. House of Representatives was assigned the daunting task of deciding the outcome of the 1824 presidential election when none of the candidates received a majority of the 261 Electoral College votes up for grabs. Test your knowledge of this controversial decision with these trivia questions about this historic event...


Who Were the Presidential Candidates in 1824? # The House of Representatives was tasked with selecting the presidential candidate who would succeed James Monroe, depicted on the coin shown above, as president. The four candidates for the presidency that year were John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, William H. Crawford, and Andrew Jackson. All four were members of the Democratic-Republican Party, which had been formed in the 1790s by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The two Virginia-born statesmen formed the party to counter the policies of the Federalist Party, which favored vesting most political power in the central government. However, in 1824 the Democratic-Republican Party failed to agree on a single party candidate for the presidential election. Instead, the party split four ways, with various groups within the party backing different candidates. Although the party managed to hold together for another four years before disbanding in 1828, the 1824 schism essentially sounded the death knell for the party.

How Many Electoral College Votes Were Won by Each Candidate? # Andrew Jackson, shown above, failed to win the presidency in the 1824 election but ran again in 1828 and won. Of the four Democratic-Republican Party members running against one another in the 1824 presidential race, Andrew Jackson was the biggest vote-getter, carrying 12 of 24 states and amassing a total of 99 electoral votes. In second place was John Quincy Adams who carried seven states and a total of 84 electoral votes. In third and fourth place, respectively, were Crawford and Clay. Although Crawford won only two states, those states carried with them a total of 41 electoral votes. Clay won three states, but his 37 electoral votes put him in last place.


How Did the Candidates Fare in Terms of the Popular Vote? Prior to the presidential election of 1824, little, if any, attention was paid to the popular vote, because it was the Electoral College vote that determined the outcome of every presidential election as it is today. However, in 1824, popular vote totals were officially recorded for the first time. Winning half of the states in the Union, Jackson got 153,544 popular votes, followed by Adams, who got 108,740. Clay placed third with a total of 47,531, followed by Crawford with 40,856 popular votes.

Which Candidate Did the House Select as President? The election was the only one in history to be decided by the House of Representatives under the provisions of the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution after no candidate secured a majority of the electoral vote. Under the provisions of the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. House of Representatives must decide among the top three candidates for president if none of the candidates has won a majority of the Electoral College votes. Representative Henry Clay, who was disqualified from the House vote as a fourth-place candidate, agreed to use his influence to have John Quincy Adams elected. Having won half of the 24 states in a four-way contest for the presidency, Jackson seemed the logical candidate to be awarded the prize. Thanks to Clay’s backing, on February 9, 1825, the House elected Adams as president of the United States.  This presidential election was also the only one in which the candidate receiving the most electoral votes did not become president.

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