This Day in History: Corrupt Bargain In House Decides Presidency

February 9, 1825

Andrew Jackson
Grand Master of Masons of
Tennessee 1822-24
 Andrew Jackson ran against three other candidates in 1824: Henry Clay, who was Speaker of the House of Representatives at the time, William Crawford, and John Quincy Adams. An-drew Jackson received the largest share of the popular vote and the most electoral votes as well, but with four candidates, no candidate had the majority, so it was up to the House of Representatives to decide the election. Jackson had ninety-nine electoral votes, John Quincy Adams eighty-four, Crawford forty-one and Clay thirty-seven. Clay’s votes, however, were not considered because he was Speaker of the House. Since most of Clay’s backers considered Jackson their second choice for President, the general consensus was that Clay’s votes would go to Jackson and that he would win the Presidency. However, in what was later dubbed a “corrupt bargain,” Clay gave his votes to John Quincy Adam—an act which surprised many. Very shortly after John Quincy Adams was announced the winner of the election on February 9, 1825, he made Henry Clay the Secretary of State. It was pretty obvious even to the elitists in government that Adams and Clay had made a dirty deal.

Jackson was outwardly calm. He even attended a reception for the President-elect given by President Monroe. Adams wrote in his diary, "It was crowded to overflowing. General Jackson was there, and we shook hands. He was altogether placid and courteous."

John Quincy Adams
 But Jackson was livid. He was convinced, as were his many supporters, that Henry Clay had traded his votes for the Secretary of State position. Jackson later said, "The Judas of the West has closed the contract and will receive the thirty pieces of silver. His end will be the same." Jackson supporters claimed they had been robbed. The Nashville Gazette declared Jackson a candidate for President in 1828 without even consulting him, but Jackson was more than willing to make another run for the Presidency. It was the beginning of one of the longest and ugliest campaigns in the history of American politics—even by today’s standards.

For the next four years, shots were exchanged between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams in the press. Jackson accused Adams of being a dishonest and corrupt politician—a perfect example of what was wrong with government. Adams accused Jackson of being a murderer and a dangerous militant, as well as immoral in his personal life.  With little popular support, Adams' time in the White House was for the most part ineffectual, and the so-called Corrupt Bargain continued to haunt his administration. In 1828, he was defeated in his reelection bid by Andrew Jackson, who received more than twice as many electoral votes than Adams.

Excerpt from Famous American Freemasons: Volume I  ISBN: 978-1435703452

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