Election of 1824

Despite his successes as a diplomat and as secretary of state, John Quincy Adams did not enter the presidency with resounding support. The election of 1824 was unique because none of the candidates declared a party. In fact, no major caucuses or national conventions existed to nominate candidates. John Quincy Adams had three major opponents: Andrew Jackson, William Crawford, and Henry Clay. The campaign was full of sectional strife. Jackson was much more a “man of the people” than Adams and had widespread support. He won 42 percent of the popular vote versus Adams's 32 percent. However, Jackson received 37 percent of the electoral vote and Adams got only 32 percent. Since no one received a majority, the election was sent to the House of Representatives as required by the U.S. Constitution.

With the election to be decided in the House, each state could cast one vote for president. Henry Clay dropped out of the race and his supporters backed John Quincy Adams. Adams was elected to be president on the first vote. He was the only president to be elected with both less popular votes and less electoral votes than his opponent.


Opponents of John Quincy Adams claimed that he and Henry Clay had made a “corrupt bargain.” After a private meeting between Clay and Adams, Clay's supporters switched their votes to Adams. When Adams became president, one of his first actions was to name Clay his secretary of state. Both Adams and Clay denied any wrongdoing.

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