There is Nothing New Under the Sun Part One - The Election of 1828

8 October 2018

Exploring some outrageous episodes in American political history and examining the Election of 1828.

*Disclaimer: This series of articles should in no way be taken as an endorsement of any political group, party or candidate. It is simply a look back at historical events to illustrate the fact that heated political discourse is not a modern phenomenon. There is nothing new under the sun.

Part One
In America we have a rich history of colorful political discourse. The combination of our unique freedoms and rugged individuality have always made for interesting debate with a healthy dose of mudslinging. This four-part series will explore some of the more outrageous episodes in American political history, illustrating there is nothing new under the sun.

I was given a gift one year, I forget the holiday. It was the book A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House: Foolhardiness, Folly, and Fraud in the Presidential Elections, from Andrew Jackson to George W. Bush by David E. Johnson and Johnny R. Johnson. It is an interesting and illuminating read. We often get lost in our current events and think the political climate has never been this bad. Au contraire. Indeed, some of the most rancorous discourse during American elections comes from what we may consider gentler, more polite times.

To help calm the nerves of a polarized nation, let's take a trip down memory lane and examine a few political contests from times past.

The Election of 1828
Match Up - John Quincy Adams, Incumbent vs. Andrew Jackson

Today, some say the next presidential campaign cycle begins as soon as the last winner is inaugurated, but this appears to have actually been the case in 1828. The rivalry between Adams and Jackson was actually a repeat of the 1824 election and observers believed the next contest began as soon as the previous one ended. And in a bit of electoral foreboding, this election was decided, not by the voters, but by the House of Representatives, not unlike the 2000 election where the Supreme Court was The Decider.1 The House chose Adams, angering Jackson, and causing him to believe the election was stolen from him, well before hanging chads were a thing.2

Because of Adams and Jackson's long history of animosity, the 1828 election promised to be especially nasty. Though early American presidential candidates tended to shy away from openly politicking, their surrogates did not hold back and personal insults were just as prolific as they are today.3 And in a day when duels, and not Twitter, were the way to get the last word in, a verbal slight may very well cost you your life.4

The rhetoric of the 1828 election rivaled the put-downs that were on display during the 2016 election. Jackson's supporters accused Adams of being a “usurper” with a gambling problem. Adams' camp was even more vicious, calling Jackson a “bigamist,” a drunk, a slave trader and a wife-stealer.5 The press joined in with over-the-top political cartoons depicting Jackson as a hog roasting over hot coals and a Cincinnati newspaper calling Jackson's mother a “common prostitute.” Not to be outdone, Jackson's supporters countered that Adams was a “pimp,” saying he provided young girls to foreign heads of state.6 Some of the bombast took a macabre turn when Henry Clay, who served as Adams' Secretary of State, celebrated the death of Adams' political foe, New York Governor DeWitt. Indeed, when Clay was defeated by Jackson in the next presidential election, Clay's supporters were encouraged to pray for Jackson's demise.7

The heated back-and-forth of 1828 culminated in Jackson's landslide electoral victory. He had a powerful impact on the office of the presidency and the future course of a young America.8

Bonus Fact: John Quincy Adams was the son of former president, John Adams, 172 years before another president's son won the top job.9

Stay tuned for Part Two: The Election of 1864

1 David E. Johnson and Johnny R. Johnson, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House: Foolhardiness, Folly, and Fraud in the Presidential Elections, from Andrew Jackson to George W. Bush (Lanham, Maryland : Taylor Trade Publishing, 2004), page 9.
2 Virginia Museum of History & Culture Staff. "Elections from 1789 to 1828," VirginiaHistory.org (https://www.virginiahistory.org/collections-and-resources/virginia-history-explorer/getting-message-out-presidential-campaign-0 : September 25, 2018, 5:45:24 PM : last accessed 25 September 2018), para. 17.
3 Johnson and Johnson, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House, page 5.
4 Ross Drake. "Duel!," SmithsonianMag.com (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/duel-104161025/ : published March 2004: last accessed 25 September 2018), para. 4.
5 Johnson and Johnson, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House, pages 11 & 16.
6 Johnson and Johnson, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House, pages 12 & 14.
7 Johnson and Johnson, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House, page 18.
8 History .com Editors. "Andrew Jackson," History.com (https://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/andrew-jackson : published 29 October 2009, updated 4 September 2018: last accessed 8 October 2018), paras. 10 &11.
9 History .com Editors. "John Quincy Adams," History.com (https://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/john-quincy-adams : published 27 October 2009, updated 21 August 2018: last accessed 8 October 2018), para. 1.

There is Nothing New Under the Sun Part One - The Election of 1828

8 October 2018

Exploring some outrageous episodes in American political history and examining the Election of 1828.

*Disclaimer: This series of articles should in no way be taken as an endorsement of any political group, party or candidate. It is simply a look back at historical events to illustrate the fact that heated political discourse is not a modern phenomenon. There is nothing new under the sun.

Part One
In America we have a rich history of colorful political discourse. The combination of our unique freedoms and rugged individuality have always made for interesting debate with a healthy dose of mudslinging. This four-part series will explore some of the more outrageous episodes in American political history, illustrating there is nothing new under the sun.

I was given a gift one year, I forget the holiday. It was the book A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House: Foolhardiness, Folly, and Fraud in the Presidential Elections, from Andrew Jackson to George W. Bush by David E. Johnson and Johnny R. Johnson. It is an interesting and illuminating read. We often get lost in our current events and think the political climate has never been this bad. Au contraire. Indeed, some of the most rancorous discourse during American elections comes from what we may consider gentler, more polite times.

To help calm the nerves of a polarized nation, let's take a trip down memory lane and examine a few political contests from times past.

The Election of 1828
Match Up - John Quincy Adams, Incumbent vs. Andrew Jackson

Today, some say the next presidential campaign cycle begins as soon as the last winner is inaugurated, but this appears to have actually been the case in 1828. The rivalry between Adams and Jackson was actually a repeat of the 1824 election and observers believed the next contest began as soon as the previous one ended. And in a bit of electoral foreboding, this election was decided, not by the voters, but by the House of Representatives, not unlike the 2000 election where the Supreme Court was The Decider.1 The House chose Adams, angering Jackson, and causing him to believe the election was stolen from him, well before hanging chads were a thing.2

Because of Adams and Jackson's long history of animosity, the 1828 election promised to be especially nasty. Though early American presidential candidates tended to shy away from openly politicking, their surrogates did not hold back and personal insults were just as prolific as they are today.3 And in a day when duels, and not Twitter, were the way to get the last word in, a verbal slight may very well cost you your life.4

The rhetoric of the 1828 election rivaled the put-downs that were on display during the 2016 election. Jackson's supporters accused Adams of being a “usurper” with a gambling problem. Adams' camp was even more vicious, calling Jackson a “bigamist,” a drunk, a slave trader and a wife-stealer.5 The press joined in with over-the-top political cartoons depicting Jackson as a hog roasting over hot coals and a Cincinnati newspaper calling Jackson's mother a “common prostitute.” Not to be outdone, Jackson's supporters countered that Adams was a “pimp,” saying he provided young girls to foreign heads of state.6 Some of the bombast took a macabre turn when Henry Clay, who served as Adams' Secretary of State, celebrated the death of Adams' political foe, New York Governor DeWitt. Indeed, when Clay was defeated by Jackson in the next presidential election, Clay's supporters were encouraged to pray for Jackson's demise.7

The heated back-and-forth of 1828 culminated in Jackson's landslide electoral victory. He had a powerful impact on the office of the presidency and the future course of a young America.8

Bonus Fact: John Quincy Adams was the son of former president, John Adams, 172 years before another president's son won the top job.9

Stay tuned for Part Two: The Election of 1864

1 David E. Johnson and Johnny R. Johnson, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House: Foolhardiness, Folly, and Fraud in the Presidential Elections, from Andrew Jackson to George W. Bush (Lanham, Maryland : Taylor Trade Publishing, 2004), page 9.
2 Virginia Museum of History & Culture Staff. "Elections from 1789 to 1828," VirginiaHistory.org (https://www.virginiahistory.org/collections-and-resources/virginia-history-explorer/getting-message-out-presidential-campaign-0 : September 25, 2018, 5:45:24 PM : last accessed 25 September 2018), para. 17.
3 Johnson and Johnson, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House, page 5.
4 Ross Drake. "Duel!," SmithsonianMag.com (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/duel-104161025/ : published March 2004: last accessed 25 September 2018), para. 4.
5 Johnson and Johnson, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House, pages 11 & 16.
6 Johnson and Johnson, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House, pages 12 & 14.
7 Johnson and Johnson, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House, page 18.
8 History .com Editors. "Andrew Jackson," History.com (https://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/andrew-jackson : published 29 October 2009, updated 4 September 2018: last accessed 8 October 2018), paras. 10 &11.
9 History .com Editors. "John Quincy Adams," History.com (https://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/john-quincy-adams : published 27 October 2009, updated 21 August 2018: last accessed 8 October 2018), para. 1.

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