icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Research & Thoughts

US Political Parties 1788 to 1856



1788: Washington was a Federalist, John Adams was as well, with Clinton as anti-Federalist.

Washington won election and Adams got the second most votes to get VP. Jefferson worries that the Federalist are becoming monarchists, no better than the Brits they broke away from.


1792:  Washington wins again, and takes great offense to being told he's trying to be king. Says he never wanted this honor in the first place. Clinton now called himself a Democratic-Republican. This is the start of the Democratic party, as it was formed out of meetings from working class people.


1796: John Adams, Federalist, won. Thomas Jefferson wins VP with second most votes. This is the only election where they were from opposing parties. Jefferson represented Democratic-Republicans. Thomas Pickney and Aaron Burr were the next two vote getters. Pickney was Federalist and Burr Anti-Federalist.


1800: Thomas Jefferson wins. He has a running mate for VP, Aaron Burr. He's against John Adams, Federalist, who he had served as VP under. The vote was close enough that Jefferson worries about a tie. Remember, it took a good month before all votes were tallied. He is referred to as "the Negro president," because it was felt the 3/5ths clause in the constitution gave the South an advantage in the electoral college, by adding in their number of slaves to the total population count.


1804: Thomas Jefferson wins, with running mate George Clinton, against Federalist Charles Pinckney, running mate Rufus King. Bit of a landslide here. Charles was Thomas's brother.


1808: James Madison, Democratic-Republican with George Clinton as VP beats Charles Pinckney, Federalist.


1812: The first wartime election. Madison gets us into war against Brits in 1812, and he is up against Dewitt Clinton, also a Democratic-Republican but against the War. The Federalists throw in with Clinton and he picks a Federalist VP, Jerod Ingersoll. Madison's VP is Elbridge Gerry. Dewitt was George's nephew. Madison wins by the closest margin ever, supposedly, although in 1800 it was a tie for a while.


1816:  James Monroe, Democratic-Republican, wins against Rufus King, Federalist. It seems the Federalists have been falling out of favor since Adams. Their VPs are not of consequence.


1820: James Monroe, Democratic-Republican, ran unopposed in what they called the Era of Good Feelings. Wow, 200 years ago and look where we are now. Era of Bad Feelings. He was the last president from the Revolutionary Generation. It appears that one vote was cast for John Q. Adams, secretary of state at the time.


1824:  This was a weird year. I'm going to copy what Wikipedia had in its entirety:


The 1824 United States presidential election was the tenth U.S. presidential election. It was held from Tuesday, October 26 to Wednesday, December 1, 1824. Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay and William Crawford were the primary contenders for the presidency. The result of the election was inconclusive, as no candidate won a majority of the electoral vote. In the election for vice president, John C. Calhoun was elected with a comfortable majority of the vote. Because none of the candidates for president garnered an electoral vote majority, the U.S. House of Representatives, under the provisions of the Twelfth Amendment, held a contingent election. On February 9, 1825, John Quincy Adams was elected as president.


The Democratic-Republican Party had won six consecutive presidential elections and by 1824 was the only national political party. However, as the election approached, the presence of multiple viable candidates resulted in there being multiple nominations by the contending factions, signaling the splintering of the party and an end to the Era of Good Feelings.


Adams won New England, Jackson and Adams split the mid-Atlantic states, Jackson and Clay split the Western states, and Jackson and Crawford split the Southern states. Jackson finished with a plurality of the electoral and popular vote, while the other three candidates each finished with a significant share of the votes. Clay, who had finished fourth, was eliminated, but influential within the contingent election, threw his support behind Adams, who shared many of his positions on the major issues. With Clay's backing, Adams won the contingent election on the first ballot.


This is one of two presidential elections (along with the 1800 election) that have been decided in the House. It is also one of five in which the winner did not achieve at least a plurality of the national popular vote.


What this appears to be is that, though Jackson had the most votes and the most states and the most electoral votes, it wasn't enough to win, and then Clay threw in with Adams, which swung the election to him. The other really odd thing is that both Adams and Jackson appear to have selected John C. Calhoun as their VP!


The winner, decided by the House, was John Q. Adams.


1828: Now we see two distinct parties again; Democrats, who get behind Jackson, and the National Republicans (I kid you not) supporting John Q. Adams. Adams had picked up some Federalist notions and it would be worth exploring the split in the parties here.


But Jackson beat out the incumbent by quite a margin and not surprising, since he actually did have more votes before. But in 1824, there was a four-way presidential candidate race, which kept any one of them from getting enough. Realize that there were no political conventions at this time, either.


Still in popular vote, it was pretty close.


After this, the Congressional nominating caucus disintegrated.


1832: Jackson, Democrat, beat Henry Clay, National Republican. Martin Van Buren was Jackson's VP. Here was the first using of nominating conventions. There was something called an Anti-Masonic Party that also held a convention. As an early third party, they nominated William Wirt, former attorney general. There was also a candidate for something called the Nullifier Party.


After this loss, the National Republicans joined with the Anti-Masonic party, whose candidate had received over 100,000 votes, to form the Whig Party.


FROM Britannica.com

Anti-Masonic Movement, in the history of the United States, popular movement based on public indignation at and suspicion of the secret fraternal order known as the Masons, or Freemasons. Opponents of this society seized upon the uproar to create the Anti-Masonic Party. It was the first American third party, the first political party to hold a national nominating convention, and the first to offer the electorate a platform of party principles. The movement was ignited in 1826 by the mysterious disappearance of William Morgan, a bricklayer in western New York who supposedly had broken his vow of secrecy as a Freemason by preparing a book revealing the organization's secrets. When no trace of Morgan could be discovered, rumours of his murder at the hands of Masons swept through New York and then into New England and the Mid-Atlantic states. As Anti-Masonic candidates proved successful in state and local elections, politicians saw the issue's vote-catching possibilities. Anti-Masonic newspapers flourished in the heated political atmosphere. In September 1831, the Anti-Masonic Party held a national convention in Baltimore, Md., nominated William Wirt for president, and announced a party platform condemning Masonry for its secrecy, exclusivity, and undemocratic character.


1836: Good thinking, Whigs, running several candidates against Martin Van Buren. 


Here's how Wikipedia explains it:

The 1835 Democratic National Convention chose a ticket of Van Buren, President Andrew Jackson's handpicked successor, and Congressman Richard Mentor Johnson. The Whig Party, which had only recently emerged and were primarily united by opposition to Jackson, were not yet sufficiently organized to agree on a single candidate. Hoping to compel a contingent election in the House of Representatives by denying the Democrats an electoral majority, the Whigs ran multiple candidates.


The most memorable is William Henry Harrison. And his showing got him the nod in 1840. But this defeat became crucial in helping the Whigs to stabilize, and before the next election every other faction (third party) had been absorbed by either Democrats or Whigs.


As we can see, the Democrats have been pretty solid since Jefferson, with the Republicans struggling for their voice.


1840: This time Harrison, Whig, defeated Van Buren, partly due to the crash of 1837, a real sweep of the electoral college. John Tyler was Harrison's running mate, and here we remember the first slogan from a candidacy – Tippecanoe and Tyler too. They held their first national convention in 1839. Oddly, Van Buren ran without a VP. By this time white male suffrage was universal.


Harrison lived only one month into his presidency. Tyler, the Vice President, was actually a Democrat, didn't support the Whig platform and eventually was expelled from the Whig party. Tyler was from Virginia.


From Wikipedia:

Tyler was initially a Democrat, but he opposed Andrew Jackson during the Nullification Crisis, seeing Jackson's actions as infringing on states' rights, and he criticized Jackson's expansion of executive power during the Bank War. This led Tyler to ally with the Whig Party. Tyler signed into law some of the Whig-controlled Congress's bills, but he was a strict constructionist and vetoed the party's bills to create a national bank and raise the tariff rates. He believed that the president should set policy rather than Congress, and he sought to bypass the Whig establishment, most notably senator Henry Clay of Kentucky. Most of Tyler's Cabinet resigned soon into his term, and the Whigs dubbed him His Accidency and expelled him from the party. Tyler was the first president to see his veto of legislation overridden by Congress. Tyler was a firm believer in manifest destiny and saw its annexation as providing an economic advantage to the United States, so he worked diligently to make it happen.


1844: Tyler initially sought election to a full term as president, but he failed to gain the support of either Whigs or Democrats and withdrew in support of Democrat James K. Polk, who favored the annexation of Texas. Polk won the election, Tyler signed a bill to annex Texas three days before leaving office, and Polk completed the process.

Democrat Polk defeated Henry Clay, neither having a memorable running mate. The election was close, no one getting 50%. They fought over two controversial issues: slavery and the annexation of Texas. James Birney of the anti-slavery Liberty party got 2.3% of the vote.


1848: The Democrat this time was Lewis Cass from Michigan, a man who's appeared often in my histories of Wisconsin. He was beaten by Zachary Taylor of the Whigs, but not by a lot. Martin Van Buren ran as a third-party Free-Soil candidate and achieved 10% of the vote.


It's interesting to see Van Buren, former Democrat, unable to get nominated again after being defeated in 1840 so he forms third parties. Teddy Roosevelt would try this, as well. Martin Van Buren deserves a closer look for his persistence, and our general lack of knowledge about him.


Zachary Taylor was a general in the Mexican American war. Interesting choice, as his politics weren't clear and the Whigs had opposed that war. Millard Fillmore was his vice president, known for his moderate views on slavery. Polk for some reason had promised not to seek re-election. But the Whigs were desperate for someone who could win (this was repeated with Eisenhower).


"The Democrats had a record of prosperity and had acquired the Mexican cession and parts of Oregon country. It appeared almost certain that they would win unless the Whigs picked Taylor."


Van Buren's Free-Soil party opposed the extension of slavery into the territories. Obviously Jefferson's Northwest Ordinance had an expiration date, making this an issue again. 


How did the 3/5ths slave clause effect the electoral college? I'll look for that answer for the 2nd edition of "From Lincoln to Trump."


Taylor died during his term, making Fillmore president.


This is the first election that saw the first Tuesday in November become the statutory election day.


1852: Fillmore tended to side more with the South, so he didn't receive the nomination. Franklin Pierce, Democrat, beat Winfield Scott, another general as the Whig candidate, and their last. The Free-Soil Party ran John Hale.

The Whigs had become badly divided and Scott's anti-slavery reputation damaged those voters in the southern sector. The Whigs collapsed due to bitter divisions over slavery.


1856:  Because of the on-going war in Kansas, Democrat Pierce was defeated at the nominating convention by James Buchanan. Buchanan's running mate was John Breckinridge.  The newly formed Republican Party nominated John C. Fremont.


Millard Fillmore ran as the American Party candidate, although not willingly. They were also known as the "Know Nothing" Party. As third party, he got 21.5% of the vote. Buchanan beat Fremont 45% to 33%, so it can be assumed Van Buren took some of those votes from Fremont. The Know Nothings openly competed with Republicans to defeat the Democrats.


For information on the formation of the Republican Party and what happened to the Know Nothings, see "From Lincoln to Trump."


Buchanan warned that the Republicans were extremists whose positions would lead to civil war. They had virtually no backing in the South.


This political party information continues in "From Lincoln to Trump." But in 1860 it becomes Democrats V. Republicans, with occasional third parties thrown in, all the way to the present.


Under Trump we're seeing the Republicans fractionalize again, with The Lincoln Party forming to oppose Trump and his nascent racism supporters.












Be the first to comment