1836 United States Presidential Election

United States presidential election, 1836

The United States presidential election of 1836 is predominantly remembered for three reasons:

  1. It was the last election until 1988 to result in the elevation of an incumbent Vice President to the nation's highest office.
  2. It was the only race in which a major political party intentionally ran several presidential candidates. The Whigs ran four different candidates in different regions of the country, hoping that each would be popular enough to defeat Democratic standard-bearer Martin Van Buren in their respective areas. The House of Representatives could then decide between the competing Whig candidates. This strategy failed: Van Buren won a majority of the electoral vote and became President.
  3. This election is the first (and to date only) time in which a Vice Presidential election was thrown into the Senate.

Nominations

Democratic Party nomination

Democratic candidates

Candidates gallery

Incumbent president Andrew Jackson decided to retire after two terms and supported his Vice President, Martin Van Buren. Although Southerners disliked the New Yorker Van Buren as well as his intended running mate, Colonel Richard Mentor Johnson of Kentucky, Jackson secured the nomination at a meeting in Baltimore, at the 1835 Democratic National Convention.

Convention vote
Presidential vote Vice Presidential vote
Martin Van Buren 265 Richard M. Johnson 178
William C. Rives 87

Whig Party nomination

Whig candidates

Candidates gallery

The Whig Party emerged during the 1834 midterm elections as the chief opposition to the Democratic Party. It absorbed the National Republican Party and the Anti-Masonic Party. Some Southerners who were angered by Jackson's opposition to states' rights, including Sen. John C. Calhoun and Nullifiers, were temporarily part of the Whig coalition.

Southern Nullifiers placed Tennessee Senator Hugh Lawson White into contention for the presidency in 1834, soon after his break with Jackson. White was a moderate on the states' rights issue, which made him acceptable in the South but not in the North. The state legislatures of Alabama and Tennessee officially nominated White. By early 1835, Whigs in the North were lining up behind Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster. Both Webster and White used debates in the Senate to establish their positions on the issues of the day, and newspapers nationwide carried the text of their speeches. Beginning at the end of 1835, some Whig state conventions in the North began to shift from Webster to popular former general William Henry Harrison. By the middle of 1836, Harrison had replaced Webster in all free states as the Whig nominee except Massachusetts. Harrison also replaced White in three border states. Southern Whigs felt betrayed by Northern Whigs for abandoning White, who was still very popular there.

Unable to agree on a single candidate, the Whigs ended up with two primary tickets: William Henry Harrison for President and Francis Granger for Vice President in the North and the border states, and Hugh L. White for President and John Tyler for Vice President in the middle and lower South. In Massachusetts, the ticket was Daniel Webster and Granger. In South Carolina, the ticket was Willie P. Mangum for President and Tyler for VP.

General election

Campaign

The Whigs attacked Van Buren on all sides, even disrupting the Senate where he presided. Harrison was the most effective of his opponents, but Van Buren's superior party organization carried the day, earning him a majority. Van Buren defeated Harrison by a 51-49% vote in the North, and he defeated White by a similar 51-49% margin in the South.

Disputes

A dispute similar to that of Indiana in 1817 and Missouri in 1821 arose during the counting of the electoral votes. Michigan had only become a state on January 26, 1837 and had cast its electoral votes for president before that date. Anticipating a challenge to the results Congress resolved on February 4, 1837 that during the counting four days later the final tally would be read twice, once with Michigan and once without Michigan. The counting proceeded in accordance with the resolution. The dispute had no bearing on the final result: either way Van Buren was elected and either way no one had a majority for Vice President.

Results

Virginia's electors refused to vote for Van Buren's running mate, Richard Mentor Johnson, leaving him one vote short of the 148-vote majority required to elect. Under the Twelfth Amendment, the Senate would decide between the top two vote-getters, deciding on Johnson over Francis Granger.

Source (Popular Vote): Source (Electoral Vote):

(a) The popular vote figures exclude South Carolina where the Electors were chosen by the state legislature rather than by popular vote.
(b) Mangum received his electoral votes from South Carolina where the Electors were chosen by the state legislatures rather than by popular vote.

Source:

Breakdown by ticket

Contingent election

The Senate was required to choose which of Richard Johnson and Francis Granger would be the next Vice President. Johnson was elected easily in a single ballot.

for Richard M. Johnson for Francis P. Granger

Electoral college selection

See also

Notes

References

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