Election of 1836

Election of 1836


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Martin Van Buren was the personal choice of Andrew Jackson and faced no opposition for the Democratic nomination.The Whigs, however, were badly split and decided to field a number of regional candidates in the hope of having the issue decided by the House of Representatives (as had been the case in the Election of 1824). William Henry Harrison, hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe, hoped to gain the support of Western voters, Daniel Webster had strength in New England, and Hugh Lawson White had backing in the South.In the end Van Buren destroyed the Whig strategy by polling well in all sections of the country. The Whigs, however, were able to make significant gains in Congress.As a historical footnote, no vice-presidential candidate received a majority of the electoral votes cast in 1836. Under the provisions of the Constitution (see Twelfth Amendment), the Senate was to make the final determination. This was the only instance in which the Senate has been called upon to perform this duty.

Election of 1836
Candidates
PartyElectoral VotePopular Vote

Martin Van Buren (NY)

Democratic

170

764,176

William Henry Harrison (VA)

Whig

73

550,816

Hugh L. White (NC)

Whig

26

146,107

Daniel Webster (NH)

Whig

14

41,201

W.P. Mangum (NC)

Anti-Jackson

11


Historical Events in 1836

Event of Interest

Jan 12 HMS Beagle with Charles Darwin reaches Sydney, Australia

    Whig Party holds its 1st national convention (Albany NY) HMS Beagle and Charles Darwin arrive in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania)

Historic Publication

Feb 7 "Sketches by Boz" (essays) published by Charles Dickens

Battle of the Alamo

Feb 23 Alamo besieged for 13 days until March 6 by Mexican army under General Santa Anna entire garrison eventually killed

The Fall of the Alamo by Robert Jenkins Onderdonk shows folk hero Davy Crockett shortly before being killed by Mexican soldiers

Historic Invention

Feb 25 Samuel Colt patents first multi-shot revolving-cylinder revolver, enabling the firearm to be fired multiple times without reloading

Event of Interest

Feb 25 Showman P. T. Barnum exhibits African American slave Joice Heth, claiming she was the 161 year-old nursemaid to George Washington

Event of Interest

    Samuel Colt manufactures first pistol, 34-caliber "Texas" model Battle of the Alamo: After 13 days of fighting 1,500-3,000 Mexican soldiers overwhelm the Texan defenders, killing 182-257 Texans including William Travis, Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett Constitution of the Republic of Texas approved, legalises slavery 1st Mormon temple dedicated (Kirtland, Ohio)

Event of Interest

May 22 Felix Mendelssohn's oratorio "St Paul" premieres in Dusseldorf

    HMS Beagle anchors in Simons Bay, Cape of Good Hope Charles Darwin returns to Cape Town in South Africa Arkansas becomes 25th state of the Union London Working Men's Association forms

Event of Interest

Jul 1 US President Andrew Jackson announces to Congress bequest by James Smithson of 100,000 gold sovereigns to found institution in Washington.

    Wisconsin Territory forms Charles Darwin reaches Saint Helena in HMS Beagle and takes up lodgings near the tomb of Napoleon US patent #1 (after 9,957 unnumbered patents), for locomotive wheels HMS Beagle with Charles Darwin arrives in Ascension Island 1st Canadian RR opens, between Laprairie and St John, Quebec The ship the "Duke of York" arrives with the first colonists at Nepean Bay, Kangaroo Island, South Australia Inauguration of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris First English language newspaper published in Hawaii

Election of Interest

Sep 5 Sam Houston elected President of the Republic of Texas

Historic Publication

Sep 9 Ralph Waldo Emerson publishes his influential essay "Nature" in the US, outlining his beliefs in transcendentalism

    HMS Beagle anchors at St Michael After 5 years at sea Charles Darwin returns to England aboard the HMS Beagle 18" of snow falls in Bridgewater, NY Sam Houston inaugurated as 1st elected President of the Republic of Texas Earliest American patent for a phosphorus friction match by Alonzo Dwight Phillips of Springfield, Massachusetts Louis Napoleon banished to America Chile declares war on Bolivia & Peru Whig party holds its first national convention, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Election of Interest

Dec 7 Martin Van Buren elected the 8th President of the United States


Presidential Election of 1836: A Resource Guide


Democratic ticket. Stop Van.
1 print: wood-engraving and letterpress on wove paper.
[Cincinnati? : s.n.], 1836.
Prints & Photographs Division.
Reproduction Number:
LC-USZ61-1654

The digital collections of the Library of Congress contain a wide variety of material associated with the presidential election of 1836, including political cartoons, broadsides, newspaper articles, and sheet music. This guide compiles links to digital materials related to the presidential election of 1836 that are available throughout the Library of Congress Web site. In addition, it provides links to external Web sites focusing on the 1836 election and a selected bibliography.

1836 Presidential Election Results [1]

  • On February 10, 1837, the Electoral College votes for the presidential election of 1836 were counted by a joint session of Congress and reported in the Congressional Globe and Register of Debates, as well as in the Senate Journal and the House Journal .

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

  • "National Ticket. For President, William Henry Harrison. " Rutland Herald. (Rutland, Vermont), May 3, 1836.
  • "The Presidency: Mr. Van Buren Cannot Be Elected!" State Journal (Montpelier, Vermont), November 1, 1836.
  • "Presidential Election," Vermont Phoenix (Brattleboro, Vermont), December 9, 1836.

Prints & Photographs Division

December 5

Martin Van Buren, eighth president of the United States and a founder of the Democratic Party, was born on December 5, 1782, in New York. In 1837, Van Buren succeeded Andrew Jackson in the White House. Van Buren's inability to alleviate the depression, along with his opposition to the annexation of Texas on grounds it would divide the nation over the expansion of slavery, led to his drubbing by Whig candidate William Henry Harrison in 1840.

The American Presidency Project: Election of 1836

The American Presidency Project Web site presents election results from the 1836 presidential election.


Sam Houston elected as president of Texas

On September 5, 1836, Sam Houston is elected as president of the Republic of Texas, which earned its independence from Mexico in a successful military rebellion.

Born in Virginia in 1793, Houston moved with his family to rural Tennessee after his father’s death as a teenager, he ran away and lived for several years with the Cherokee tribe. Houston served in the War of 1812 and was later appointed by the U.S. government to manage the removal of the Cherokee from Tennessee to a reservation in Arkansas Territory. He practiced law in Nashville and from 1823 to1827 served as a U.S. congressman before being elected governor of Tennessee in 1827.

A brief, failed marriage led Houston to resign from office and live again with the Cherokee. Officially adopted by the tribe, he traveled to Washington to protest governmental treatment of Native Americans. In 1832, President Andrew Jackson sent him to Texas (then a Mexican province) to negotiate treaties with local Native Americans for protection of border traders. Houston arrived in Texas during a time of rising tensions between U.S. settlers and Mexican authorities, and soon emerged as a leader among the settlers. In 1835, Texans formed a provisional government, which issued a declaration of independence from Mexico the following year. At that time, Houston was appointed military commander of the Texas army.

Though the rebellion suffered a crushing blow at the Alamo in early 1836, Houston was soon able to turn his army’s fortunes around. On April 21, he led some 800 Texans in a surprise defeat of 1,500 Mexican soldiers under General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna at the San Jacinto River. Santa Anna was captured and brought to Houston, where he was forced to sign an armistice that would grant Texas its freedom. After receiving medical treatment for his war wounds in New Orleans, Houston returned to win election as president of the Republic of Texas on September 5. In victory, Houston declared that “Texas will again lift its head and stand among the nations….It ought to do so, for no country upon the globe can compare with it in natural advantages.”


William Harrison: Campaigns and Elections

William Henry Harrison began to spend time with others in his region who had been dealt out of the Jackson regime. Opposition to the powerful, popular Jackson ran so strong in some sectors that they had formed their own party, called the Whigs. Observing Andrew Jackson's war hero popularity and political success, the Whigs reasoned that it would take another war hero to oppose Martin Van Buren, Jackson's chosen successor in 1836. Harrison was chosen as a Whig candidate, but not the only one. In an attempt to deny Van Buren an expected victory in the electoral college, the Whigs actually ran three regional candidates, including Harrison in the West.

Although the strategy didn't work, Harrison did make a good showing, coming in second and carrying nine states out of twenty-six in the Union. His moderate success and promise demonstrated to the Whigs that he was the candidate to support in 1840 to unseat Van Buren.

The Campaign and Election of 1840

Even before Martin Van Buren took office, it was evident that the nation was on the brink of economic disaster. Andrew Jackson's war with the Bank of the United States resulted in high inflation, unemployment, and business failures. Van Buren inherited this situation, which became known as the Panic of 1837, and was reluctant to take corrective action. His mismanagement of this economic crisis, combined with his seemingly uncaring image (he lived well and dressed well while the public feared for its economic future), made the President unpopular among the electorate.

Not surprisingly, the Whig Party saw many opportunities for advancing a candidate in the 1840 election. Well before the 1840 campaign, they knew a candidate giving voters a strong contrast with the drab, aristocratic President would win easily. They held their convention in late 1839, months before the usual time for nomination proceedings. Neither of their leaders—Daniel Webster or Henry Clay—enjoyed broad popular support. However, William Henry Harrison, a born southerner and war hero, seemed to make a perfect foil for the incumbent. In addition, both Harrison and his running mate, John Tyler, were from Virginia, the core state of Van Buren's Democratic Party. While Clay led after the first canvassing, he fell short of the needed majority. By the time of the first ballot, Whig delegates had turned to Harrison.

Both the President and his party made serious errors in the conduct of their reelection campaign. Van Buren underestimated the Whigs by assuming that they were a party of wildly diverse philosophies, united only by their hatred of Andrew Jackson how could they organize a coherent opposition? To the Democrat's surprise, the Whigs organized and attacked Van Buren for being lordly and uncaring toward the nation. The Democrats then stumbled into a bad trap. One of their newspapers ridiculed Harrison as a dull rustic: "Give him a barrel of hard (alcoholic) cider and settle a pension of two thousand a year on him, and take my word for it, he will sit the remainder of his days in his log cabin."

This delivered the election into Harrison's hand. The Whigs jumped at this Democrat-drawn contrast with the sophisticated Van Buren and drove it home. They flooded the electorate with posters and badges extolling the virtues of their colorful, down-home "log cabin and hard cider" candidate, the hero of Tippecanoe. In their image remaking of Harrison, the Whigs misrepresented him to the electorate. Harrison was actually from an established Virginia family, a learned student of classics, and a man who enjoyed luxurious living to the point that he was continually in debt. But voters wanted to identify with a war hero who shared their down-to-earth values. Hence, the Whigs' strategy worked. They offered to the electorate "Old Tip," transforming a genteel blue blood into "One of Us." It became the first true use of political "handling," or public image-making, in an American presidential race. While Van Buren tried to run an intelligent, issues-driven campaign—not the best of strategies when one's country is mired in depression—Harrison's went straight for the emotional heart.

Since Jackson's 1832 presidential campaign, politics had become a form of entertainment for the masses. Campaign rallies, meetings, bonfires and barbecues were now firmly entrenched in American life. The Whigs employed these tactics from Jackson (whose campaign was managed by Van Buren) to turn the tables on the Democrats.

One group of Whig party members pushed a ten foot, paper and tin ball emblazoned with pro-Harrison slogans for hundreds of miles. Others handed out whiskey in log cabin-shaped bottles supplied by the E.C. Booz distillery. (Thus came two additions to the American vocabulary: "keep the ball rolling" and "booze.") The Whigs mass-marketed their candidate, flooding America with cups, plates, flags, and sewing boxes with Old Tip pictured on them. Countless popular songs left little doubt who the Whigs were for and against. One of the campaign song lyrics included:

Roughly translated, this ballad said that while Harrison was a humble, simple man in the dress of the working class, Van Buren was a decadent snob who ate off expensive dinnerware and liked to perfume himself.

The name-calling came next: Van Buren was called "Martin Van Ruin" and "A First-Rate Second-Rate Man." Above all else, Harrison inspired the first and most famous of campaign slogans: "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too."

The Whigs also ridiculed Van Buren's vice president, Richard Johnson. Even though Johnson was an old comrade of Harrison's who was widely credited with killing Tecumseh, Johnson's Indian fighter fame was not enough to deflect the revelations that he had sexual relations with African American women. In response, the Democrats dropped him from the ticket and fought back with campaign propaganda. Meanwhile, Van Buren stayed in the White House, trying to appear above all the indignities.

In contrast, Harrison got into the act on the campaign trail, sharing and entertaining the public with his impressions of Native American war whoops (loud calls). These sorts of events were popular because they took people's minds off the nation's economic troubles. In June 1840, a Harrison rally at the site of the Tippecanoe battle drew 60,000 people! By the end of the campaign, there were parades three miles long of voters singing, chanting and drinking.

During the 1840 presidential campaign, political cartoons captured the themes, events and sentiments of the times. Many of the cartoons poked fun at Van Buren's ill-fated attempts to follow in Jackson's footsteps as well as the President's inability to effectively deal with the country's economic problems. A comparison between the two candidates also served as the focal point in some of the cartoons. Parodies of both rival political parties were also fair game. Most biting were the cartoons that showed Harrison having a clear lead in the presidential race.

Perhaps the political cartoons were correct in their predictions of the election results. When all the ballots had been counted, Harrison won nearly quadruple the number of electoral votes as Van Buren. The incumbent President had only won seven states, compared to Harrison's nineteen.

At age sixty-eight, Harrison was the oldest President elected in his century. It is possible that he was already feeling unwell, for in addressing supporters before leaving for the White House, he said he probably would not see any of them again. His wife, too, expressed similar misgivings. Now sixty-five, her health had declined badly in recent years several papers described her as an "invalid." Yet another one of their offspring had died in recent weeks, and she was reportedly very saddened. On advice of her doctor, she did not accompany her husband to Washington. There were reports of an unusually cold winter there, and she decided to stay behind and wait for warmer weather. Harrison, however, was far from alone journeying to Washington. The Whigs, thrilled with their newfound power, escorted him there in grand style.


Presidential Election of 1832: Platforms

Democratic: The Democratic party under Martin Van Buren planned to carry on the same policies as Andrew Jackson. Van Buren was a master politician and political strategist who knew that the easiest way to win the election was to appeal to the people.

Whigs: The Whigs had four different platforms, but their main platform was to beat the Democratic Canditate. Their plan was to regionalize their candidates and hopefully send the election to the house. By regionalizing the candidates it would allow them to peel enough electoral votes from Van Buren that would allow them to steal the election.


Electoral College History

The Founding Fathers established the Electoral College in the Constitution, in part, as a compromise between the election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens. However, the term “electoral college” does not appear in the Constitution. Article II of the Constitution and the 12th Amendment refer to “electors,” but not to the “electoral college.”

Since the Electoral College process is part of the original design of the U.S. Constitution it would be necessary to pass a Constitutional amendment to change this system.

The ratification of the 12th Amendment, the expansion of voting rights, and the States’ use of the popular vote to determine who will be appointed as electors have each substantially changed the process.

Many different proposals to alter the Presidential election process have been offered over the years, such as direct nation-wide election by the eligible voters, but none has been passed by Congress and sent to the States for ratification as a Constitutional amendment. Under the most common method for amending the Constitution, an amendment must be proposed by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress and ratified by three-fourths of the States.

What proposals have been made to change the Electoral College process?

Reference sources indicate that over the past 200 years more than 700 proposals have been introduced in Congress to reform or eliminate the Electoral College. There have been more proposals for Constitutional amendments on changing the Electoral College than on any other subject. The American Bar Association has criticized the Electoral College as “archaic” and “ambiguous” and its polling showed 69 percent of lawyers favored abolishing it in 1987. But surveys of political scientists have supported continuation of the Electoral College. Public opinion polls have shown Americans favored abolishing it by majorities of 58 percent in 1967 81 percent in 1968 and 75 percent in 1981.

Opinions on the viability of the Electoral College system may be affected by attitudes toward third parties. Third parties have not fared well in the Electoral College system. For example, third party candidates with regional appeal, such as Governor Thurmond in 1948 and Governor Wallace in 1968, won blocs of electoral votes in the South, but neither come close to seriously challenging the major party winner, although they may have affected the overall outcome of the election.

The last third party, or splinter party, candidate to make a strong showing was Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 (Progressive, also known as the Bull Moose Party). He finished a distant second in Electoral and popular votes (taking 88 of the 266 electoral votes needed to win at the time). Although Ross Perot won 19 percent of the popular vote nationwide in 1992, he did not win any electoral votes since he was not particularly strong in any one state. In 2016, Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate, qualified for the ballot in all 50 States and the District of Columbia but also failed to win any electoral votes.

Any candidate who wins a majority or plurality of the popular vote nationwide has a good chance of winning in the Electoral College, but there are no guarantees (see the results of 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016 elections).

Where can I find the names and voting records of presidential electors for all previous Presidential elections back to 1789?

OFR is not aware of a centralized, comprehensive source.

This website lists links to State websites relating to the presidential election. Maryland has posted the names and voting records of its electors on the web.

How many times has the Vice President been chosen by the U.S. Senate?

Once. In the Presidential election of 1836, the election for Vice President was decided in the Senate. Martin Van Buren’s running mate, Richard M. Johnson, fell one vote short of a majority in the Electoral College. Vice Presidential candidates Francis Granger and Johnson had a run-off in the Senate under the 12th Amendment, where Johnson was elected 33 votes to 17.

. a Process, not a Place

The Office of the Federal Register (OFR) is a part of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and, on behalf of the Archivist of the United States, coordinates certain functions of the Electoral College between the States and Congress. It has no role in appointing electors and has no contact with them.


Time Periods:

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Joe E. Ericson, &ldquoConstitution of the Republic of Texas,&rdquo Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/constitution-of-the-republic-of-texas.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and &ldquoFair Use&rdquo for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


Conspiracy Theories Abounded in 19th-Century American Politics

From claims that NASA faked the moon landing to suspicions about the U.S. government’s complicity in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Americans love conspiracy theories. Conspiratorial rhetoric in presidential campaigns and its distracting impact on the body politic have been a fixture in American elections from the beginning, but conspiracies flourished in the 1820s and 1830s, when modern-day American political parties developed, and the expansion of white male suffrage increased the nation’s voting base. These new parties, which included the Democrats, the National Republicans, the Anti-Masons, and the Whigs, frequently used conspiracy accusations as a political tool to capture new voters—ultimately bringing about a recession and a collapse of public trust in the democratic process.

During the early decades of the American republic, the Federalist and Jeffersonian Republican Parties engaged in conspiratorial rhetoric on a regular basis. Following the War of 1812, the Federalist Party faded from the political landscape, leaving the Republicans as the predominant national party. Their hold was so great that in 1816 and 1820, James Monroe, the Republican presidential candidate, ran virtually unopposed, but in 1824, the Republicans splintered into multiple and disparate factions. Five viable candidates ran in that election cycle, and John Quincy Adams won the presidency.

The controversy around Adams’s victory quickly fueled suspicions: Tennessean Andrew Jackson had won the most electoral and popular votes and the most regions and states, but because he did not win the majority of electoral votes, the U.S. House of Representatives was constitutionally required to choose the president in a runoff of the top three vote-getters. Jackson’s supporters believed that House Speaker Henry Clay, who had placed fourth in the regular election, helped Adams win the House election in return for being appointed secretary of state. The Jacksonians’ charges of a “corrupt bargain” between Adams and Clay ensured that the 1828 election would, in part, be fought over this conspiracy theory.

The Coming of Democracy: Presidential Campaigning in the Age of Jackson

Drawing on period newspapers, diaries, memoirs, and public and private correspondence, The Coming of Democracy is the first book-length treatment to reveal how presidents and presidential candidates used both old and new forms of cultural politics to woo voters and win elections in the Jacksonian era.

During the hotly contested 1828 campaign, Jackson’s opponents, too, trafficked in conspiracy theories: In particular, administration men accused Jackson’s supporters of plotting a coup d’état if their candidate lost to President Adams. This “theory” held that pro-Jackson congressmen, upset about the national government’s attempts to impose a new tariff on imports, held “secret meetings” to discuss “the dissolution of the Union.” One pro-Jackson supporter “declared that he should not be astonished to see Gen. Jackson, if not elected, placed in the Presidential Chair, at the point of fifty thousand bayonets. ” The thought of a national military hero such as Jackson leading a military rebellion had no basis in reality, but the conspiracy theory fit the tenor of the times.

Jackson won—and conspiratorial rhetoric remained ever-present throughout his presidency. In the run-up to the 1832 election, the national organization of Freemasonry drew conspiracy theorists’ attention. Spurred on by the murder of a New York Mason named William Morgan, who had threatened to disclose the fraternal order’s secrets, an Anti-Masonic political party had emerged during the 1828 election. Frequently repeated accusations that Freemasonry was secretive and elitist reflected larger concerns about the ways in which the ruling elite undermined the nation’s democratic institutions through corruption. And for the Anti-Masons, Jackson was no better than Adams in their view, the Tennessean’s promise of “rotation of office” was simply cronyism.

Four years later, the Anti-Masons had gained enough supporters to run William Wirt for president against the Democratic incumbent Jackson and the National Republican candidate Henry Clay. During the 1832 campaign, they accused Freemasons of a number of transgressions beyond Morgan’s murder, including subversion of free speech and democracy. Rhode Island Anti-Masons, for example, warned that Freemasons were “darkening the public mind” by attempting to quash public criticism of their organization in the state’s newspapers. Vermont’s William Strong charged the Democrats with following the Masonic dogma of “the end justifies the means” to elect Jackson in 1828 and secure government patronage for party members.

But in that same election of 1832, Anti-Masons themselves became the target of conspiracy theorists. New York Democrats saw a plot afoot in the coalition of the Anti-Masonic Party and the National Republicans in their state. How was it possible, one New York newspaper asked, that the Anti-Masons had nominated Wirt, yet had allied themselves with Clay? It was not because of principled opposition to Freemasonry, as all three presidential candidates were Masons. The only answer was that it was a “deep laid conspiracy to defeat the wishes of the people” to elect Andrew Jackson.

During Jackson’s second term, much of the conspiratorial rhetoric centered on the Bank War, the political battle between the president and the Second Bank of the United States, the nation’s chief financial institution, which held both government and private funds and was supposed to remain non-partisan in its loans. Jackson, however, believed that the bank’s president Nicholas Biddle had used the institution’s deposits and influence to assist John Quincy Adams in the 1828 election. If true, this was a blatant misuse of the people’s money. Consequently, Jackson exerted his power as chief executive to remove government funds from the Second Bank, which would cripple its financial power. In retaliation, Biddle began calling in the bank’s loans across the country, precipitating a financial recession to pressure the president to restore the government’s deposits.

As a result, accusations of conspiracy flew on both sides. The anti-Jackson Whig Party (which had replaced the National Republican Party of the 1832 campaign) accused Vice President Martin Van Buren of being “at the bottom of all this hostility to the Bank.” Allegedly, the “Little Magician” was using his “arts and tricks” against the Second Bank to further his presidential prospects in 1836.

Democrats then responded by constructing their own conspiracy theory about “the Boston Aristocracy” and its control of the Second Bank. Stretching back to the early days of the republic, they claimed this “nefarious conspiracy” had used the Second Bank to target the anti-aristocratic Southern and mid-Atlantic states, “producing universal panic and distress” by constricting the money supply in those regions. These same conspirators, according to Democrats, were now employing “the whole power of the present Bank to embarrass the administration and distress the country,” not to mention hurting the Democratic Party’s chances of retaining the White House.

In the 1836 presidential campaign, which pitted Van Buren against three Whig candidates—William Henry Harrison, Daniel Webster, and Hugh Lawson White—the Whigs used conspiracy theories in an attempt to derail the Democrats’ chances for a political victory. They accused Van Buren of being a member of the Catholic Church and of participating in a “popish plot” intended “to conciliate the Catholics, in the U States for Political purposes.” Van Buren, who was raised in the Dutch Reformed Church, denied the accusation.

Whigs also accused Democratic vice-presidential candidate Richard M. Johnson of wanting to force Washington society to accept his two daughters, who were the product of his relationship with an enslaved African-American woman. According to one Richmond Whig, Johnson’s “depraved tastes” threatened to destroy the racial barrier that kept African-Americans in a subordinate position, and endangered “the purity of our maidens, the chaste dignity of our matrons.” Van Buren and Johnson won in 1836, but Johnson’s family circumstances continued to plague his political career and harmed Van Buren’s standing with some Southern voters in 1840.

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly how many votes changed because of conspiratorial rhetoric, either then or now. It seems clear, though, that American politicians believe that this type of rhetoric makes a difference—and that American voters have always had to be politically literate to determine the difference between conspiracy theories and actual conspiracies.

This enduring belief in vast, unexplainable conspiracies has often contributed to voters’ feelings of powerlessness, increasing their cynicism and apathy. And of course, conspiratorial rhetoric undermines the nation’s democratic institutions and practices. Politically motivated conspiracy theories, ultimately, bring the same result as conspiracies themselves: a small number of elite Americans wielding immense power over the future of the United States, power that may not account for the will of the majority.


Time Periods:

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Ralph W. Steen, &ldquoConvention of 1836,&rdquo Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/convention-of-1836.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and &ldquoFair Use&rdquo for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


Activity 1. Changes in Voter Participation

In Lesson One, students saw examples of changes in state constitutions that tended to give more white males the right to vote. But did the increased right to vote translate into an increase in the percentage and totals of white males who actually voted? Share with the class the chart Voter Participation in Presidential Elections by State: 1824-1836. Clarify with students how to read the chart. Distribute the handout "Analyzing Changes in Voter Participation, Part 1" on page 3 of the PDF (see Preparing to Teach This Curriculum Unit for download instructions). Working individually or in small groups, students should answer the questions. Reconvene the class and discuss students' analyses.

Now students will look for connections between the candidacy of Andrew Jackson and trends in voter participation to answer the questions on "Analyzing Changes in Voter Participation, Part 2" on page 4 of the PDF (see Preparing to Teach This Curriculum Unit for download instructions). Working individually or in small groups, students should make comparisons between the voter totals from 1824 to 1836, in terms of the results of the popular vote for Andrew Jackson and others. Information can be gleaned from the chart Voter Participation in Presidential Elections by State: 1824-1836 and the following charts from Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections, also a link from Explore DC:

Before embarking on their analysis, some classes would benefit from reading the following relatively brief yet comprehensive essays, which provide background on the election of 1824 and the election of 1828 and its aftermath. All essays are available on Digital History, a project of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, a link from the EDSITEment-reviewed website History Matters.

(NOTE: Table A2 in the appendix to Alexander Keyssar's book The Right to Vote (Basic Books, 2000) was an invaluable source of information for state voting requirements cited in this lesson.)

In a whole-class setting, discuss the following:

  • What can we learn by making connections between voter participation and the results of the 1828 election?
  • Do the data tend to prove or disprove the idea that Andrew Jackson appealed to the common man?

Here is a sample of the kinds of conclusions students might reach:

In general, voting participation tended to be much higher in states that voted solidly for Andrew Jackson than those states that went solidly for John Quincy Adams. In Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, which Adams won handily, voting participation was less than 30 percent, with only a small increase in participation over 1824. In more closely contested states won by Adams, such as New Jersey and Maryland, voting participation was high and had greatly increased over 1824. In general, states with very large percentage increases in voting participation tended to be closely contested or to vote solidly for Jackson. In the election of 1832, with Jackson's re-election virtually assured, voting participation tended to drop. In 1836, voting participation tended to increase again. The data indicate that Jackson's popularity was an important factor in the increase in voter participation and that first-time voters—represented by the percentage increase in voter participation—tended to vote for Jackson. There is also an indication that the increase in voter participation due to the expansion of the base and, at least in part, to Jackson's popularity, led to an extended period of higher voter participation after Jackson's presidency ended.


Watch the video: . Presidential Elections 1789-2012