The United States presidential election of 1828 featured a rematch between incumbent President John Quincy Adams and chief rival Andrew Jackson. Incumbent Vice President John C. Calhoun had sided with the Jacksonians. Richard Rush was then the choice for the vice presidency by the Adams men, or National Republicans.
Unlike the 1824 election, no other major candidates appeared in the race, allowing Jackson to consolidate a power base and easily win an electoral victory over Adams. The Democratic Party drew support from the existing supporters of Jackson and their coalition with the former Crawford men, or "Old Republicans," and Calhoun and his supporters.
Andrew Jackson won a plurality of both the popular(a) and electoral votes in the Election of 1824 but still lost to John Quincy Adams when the election was deferred to the House of Representatives. Henry Clay (then Speaker of the House) received the chance to play king-maker. Although Clay did not have cordial relations with Adams, Clay despised Jackson, in part due to their fight for Western votes during the election. Clay met with Adams to confirm his support, and shortly thereafter Adams won the Presidency. A few days after the election, Adams named Clay his Secretary of State, a position which at that time often led to the presidency. Jackson and his followers immediately labeled Clay and Adams as striking a “corrupt bargain," and they continued to lambaste the President until the 1828 election. In a prelude to the presidential election, the Jacksonians bolstered their numbers in Congress in the 1826 Congressional elections; Jackson ally Andrew Stevenson was chosen as the new Speaker of the House of Representatives over Adams ally Speaker John W. Taylor.
(a) A full quarter of the states did not hold a popular vote.
The campaign was marked by an impressive amount of mudslinging. Jackson's marriage came in for attack: when he had married his wife Rachel, the couple had believed that she was divorced; however, the divorce was not yet finalized, so he had to remarry her once the legal papers were complete. In the Adams campaign's hands, this became a scandal. Charles Hammond in his Cincinnati Gazette asked: “Ought a convicted adulteress and her paramour husband to be placed in the highest offices of this free and christian land?”
The notorious Coffin Handbills attacked Jackson for his courts martial and execution of deserters, for his massacres of Indian villages, and for his habit of dueling.
Adams did not escape attack. It was charged that Adams, while serving as Minister to Russia, had surrendered an American servant girl to the appetites of the Czar. Adams was also accused of using public funds to buy gambling devices for the presidential residence; it turned out that these were a chess set and a pool table.
Adams' praise of internal improvements in Europe such as "lighthouses of the skies" (observatories) in his first annual message to Congress and his suggestion that Congress not be "palsied by the will of our constituents" was given attention in and out of the press. John Randolph stated on the floor of the Senate that he'd "never will be palsied by any power save the constitution, and the will of my constituents." Jackson wrote that a lavish government combined with contempt of the constituents could lead to despotism, if not checked by the "voice of the people."
Thomas Jefferson wrote favorably in response to Jackson in December 1823 and extended a preemptive welcome to Monticello: "I recall with pleasure the remembrance of our joint labors while in the Senate together in times of great trial and of hard battling, battles indeed of words, not of blood, as those you have since fought so much for your own glory & that of your country; with the assurance that my attamts continue undiminished, accept that of my great respect & consideration.
Jefferson wrote in dismay at the outcome of the contingent election of 1825 to Congressional caucus nominee William H. Crawford, saying that he had hoped to congratulate Crawford but "events had not been what we had wished.
In the next election, Jackson's and Adams' supporters saw value in establishing the opinion of Jefferson in regards to their respective candidates and against their opposition. Jefferson died on July 4, 1826.
A goal of the pro-Adams press was to depict Jackson as a "mere military chieftain." Edward Coles recounted that Jefferson told him in a conversation in August 1825 that he feared the popular enthusiasm for Jackson: "It has caused me to doubt more than anything that has occurred since our Revolution." Coles used the opinion of Thomas Gilmer to back himself up; Gilmer said Jefferson told him at Monticello before the election of Adams in 1825: "One might as well make a sailor of a cock, or a soldier of a goose, as a President of Andrew Jackson." Daniel Webster, who was also at Monticello at the time, made the same report. Webster recorded that Jefferson told him in December 1824 that Jackson was a dangerous man unfit for the presidency. Historian Sean Wilentz described Webster's account of the meeting as "not wholly reliable. Biographer Robert V. Remini said that Jefferson "had no great love for Jackson.
Gilmer accused Coles of misrepresentation, for Jefferson's opinion had changed, Gilmer said. Jefferson's son-in-law former Virginia Governor Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr. said in 1826 that Jefferson had a "strong repugnance" to Henry Clay. Randolph publicly stated that Jefferson became friendly to Jackson's candidacy as early as the summer of 1825, perhaps because of the "corrupt bargain" charge, and thought of Jackson as "an honest, sincere, clear-headed and strong-minded man; of the soundest political principles" and "the only hope left" to reverse the increasing powers assumed by the federal government. Others said the same thing, but Coles could not believe Jefferson's opinion had changed.
In 1827, Virginia Governor William B. Giles released a letter from Jefferson meant to be kept private to Thomas Ritchie's Richmond Enquirer. It was written after Adams' first annual message to Congress and it contained an attack from Jefferson on the incumbent administration. Giles said Jefferson's alarm was with the usurpation of the rights of the states, not with a "military chieftain." Jefferson wrote, "take together the decisions of the federal court, the doctrines of the President, and the misconstructions of the constitutional compact acted on by the legislature of the federal bench, and it is but too evident, that the three ruling branches of that department are in combination to strip their colleagues, the State authorities, of the powers reserved by them, and to exercise themselves all functions foreign and domestic." Of the Federalists, he continued, "But this opens with a vast accession of strength from their younger recruits, who, having nothing in them of the feelings or principles of '76, now look to a single and splendid government of an aristocracy, founded on banking institutions, and moneyed incorporations under the guise and cloak of their favored branches of manufactures, commerce and navigation, riding and ruling over the plundered ploughman and beggared yeomanry. The Jacksonians and states' rights men heralded its publication; the Adams men felt it a symptom of senility. Giles omitted a prior letter of Jefferson's praise of Adams for his role in the embargo of 1808. Thomas Jefferson Randolph soon collected and published Jefferson's correspondence.
The Election of 1828 had the highest voter turnout to date.
The selection of electors began on October 31 with elections in Ohio and Pennsylvania and ended on November 13 with elections in North Carolina. The Electoral College met on December 3.
Adams won exactly the same states that his father had won in the election of 1800: the New England states, New Jersey, and Delaware. Jackson won everything else. Unfortunately for John Quincy Adams, there was a lot more “everything else” in this election than there had been in 1800, and he lost in a landslide.
Source (Popular Vote): Source (Electoral Vote):
Rachel Jackson had been having chest pains throughout the campaign, aggravated by the personal attacks on her marriage. She became ill and died, humiliated, on December 22, 1828. Jackson accused the Adams campaign, and Henry Clay even more so, of causing her death, saying, “I can and do forgive all my enemies. But those vile wretches who have slandered her must look to God for mercy.”