An Analysis of the Presidential Election of 1820

An Analysis of the Presidential Election of 1820

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An Analysis of the Presidential Election of 1820

The Presidential Election of 1820 was during a time of sincere peace and harmony within America. Previous to the election, the Federalists disappeared during the war of 1812 because they were labeled as traitors. Because of this, political rivalries and conflicts were at an all time low, and only one political party with one candidate would run for office. This period was called the “Era of Good Feelings” (MultiEducator) and was a time of nationalism and little sectionalism.

The Candidates
James Monroe, a Democratic Republican, ran for a second term and was the third and last candidate to run effectively unopposed or without any serious competition. Monroe was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, on April 28, 1758. He was the son of a humble and lowly farmer, Spence, who was an active supporter of the protest against British control over the colonies. In 1774, Spence Monroe died and the law of Virginia states that the eldest son, James, was to inherit the land. Later that year he entered the College of William and Mary. However, studying was not a priority as he got caught up in the excitement and passion of a revolution. He dropped out of school and enlisted in the Third Virginia Regiment. Monroe was soon promoted to a lieutenant and saw many battles as an aide to General William Alexander. He was accounted for at the Battles of New York, Trenton, Monmouth, Valley Forge and Germantown. After a strenuous two years of combat, Monroe resigned and attempted to create a Virginia regiment under his command, but failed due to lack of sufficient funds (America The Beautiful).

Monroe’s Previous Political Careers
When Monroe returned from the army, he studied law with his political role model, Thomas Jefferson, who had political ambitions for individual rights that he admired. Monroe’s first public office was in the Virginia state assembly, also called the Council of State. Soon, he was elected to the Continental Congress in New York. Monroe then retired, but in less than a year was back in politics, serving in the first state assembly, and then in the state convention called to ratify the United States Constitution. He had voted against ratification because of the lack of a bill of rights but turned to support the Constitution once Virginia ratified and adopted it. In 1790, Monroe was elected to the Senate, where he vigorously contested the Federalist power of Congress.

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Monroe teamed up with James Madison in forming the Democratic Republican Party. Washington then appointed Monroe Minister of France because of his strong pro-French Republican ideals and support for the French Revolution. In 1811, President Madison appointed Monroe Secretary of State, the stepping stone to Presidency. Monroe then entered and won the next presidential election, in 1816, and served two terms as president.
Campaign of 1820
With the disappearance of the Federalist, America’s government was dominated by one party. Because of this, there was little opposition to Monroe. The Federalists vanished after the war of 1812 because of the Hartford Convention. Federalist delegates from all New England states met in Hartford were they drafted proposals for constitutional amendments. By the time their ideas got to Washington, the war was over and they were all seen as traitors. They were destroyed as a political force and sent their last presidential candidate in 1816. Monroe had been trying to create the United States under what he called the “Era of Good Feelings.” Monroe believed this new era, by eliminating the Federalists, he was destroying political rivalries and thus creating a stronger government. Since he got rid of the idea of a two-party system, Monroe could no longer rely on party loyalty to gain support and power. He had in his first term appointed renowned cabinet members that later boosted his reputation and helped him solidify the 1820 election.

Debate over the Votes
On March 6th, 1820, Congress created a law telling Missouri to hold a convention to form a state constitution and a state government so they could be admitted into the Union. However, this became an issue as some said Missouri has completed and the conditions and by law should be considered a sate. Others debated that, saying certain requirements of the Missouri constitution violated the United States Constitution. Once it was time for Congress to meet to count the electoral votes, the Missouri dispute was still going on. Congress was hesitant to count Missouri’s votes, unsure if Missouri was an official state or not. The decision was made, that since Monroe would clearly win, and Missouri’s vote would make no difference in the final result, they would tally two votes, one included Missouri and one excluding Missouri.

Electoral College
Overall, there were 235 appointed electors, but three died and were not replaced prior to the election. Monroe received all the votes, for obvious reasons, except for one. The only vote against Monroe came from William Plumer, an elector from New Hampshire. Plumer had used his vote for the then Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams. There are two known reasons as to why he voted against Monroe. Some say it was to ensure that George Washington still remained the only American President to be unanimously selected by the Electoral College. Others argue that Plumer had a genuine belief that Monroe was not the best choice.
Popular Vote
The popular vote was as well a landslide win for Monroe. Monroe received 87,343 votes which was over 80% of the country. John Quincy Adams received no votes since he was not on the ballet. Dewitt Clinton, from New York, received less than 2% at 1,893 votes. The remaining 18% went to any federalist electors, who got 17,465 votes.

“James Monroe.” MultiEducator History Central. 2000

“Monroe, James.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopedia Britannica Online School Edition. .

“Monroe, James.” Compton’s Encyclopedia. 2007. Encyclopedia Britannica Online School Edition. .

Electoral College Map: 1820 [IMAGE]

"James Monroe." The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002. 13 Apr. 2007.
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