Feb-9, 1825: The “Corrupt Bargain” and the Tennessee Curse

The “Corrupt Bargain” and the Tennessee Curse

Tennessee native Al Gore once said,

But you know the old saying: you win some, you lose some. And then there’s that little-known third category.

Gore won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote to George Bush in the controversial 2000 race.  While the Bush-Gore recount battle carried on there was often talk about whether the election would get thrown to the House of Representatives to decide.

Under the 12th Amendment, if no candidate receives an electoral vote majority the House of Representatives selects among the top 3 candidates.  Each state delegation votes en bloc and if a candidate must get a majority of the state delegations (which today would be 26 states).

The Corrupt Bargain

The last time this occurred was on this day in 1825, when the House voted to select a President following the 1824 election. In that election, all four candidates were from the same party, the Democratic-Republican Party and Andrew Jackson, who like Gore was a former Senator from Tennessee, led the pack with 41.4% of the vote and 99 electoral votes (from 12 states). The other candidates were:

  • Secretary of State John Quincy Adams (the son of President John Adams) of Massachusetts with 30.9% and 84 electoral votes (from 7 state);
  • Treasury Secretary William Harris Crawford of Georgia with 11.2% and 41 electoral votes (from 2 states); and
  • House Speaker Henry Clay of Kentucky with 13% and 37 electoral votes (from 3 states).

All were shy of the 131 electoral votes needed for a majority.

While Clay (pictured left) finished 3rd in the popular vote, the House of Representatives only selected from the top 3 candidates in electoral votes. Clay detested Jackson and threw his support to Adams, although rumors swirled that Clay sold his support for being appointed Secretary of State.

To win, a candidate had to claim 13 of the 24 state delegations.  Adams held the 10 states he and Clay had carried and won the three states he had split electors with Jackson to give him a majority on the first ballot.

Clay went on to become Adam’s Secretary of State.  Jackson supporters were stunned and called the vote a “a corrupt bargain”.  Adams and Jackson would face each other again four years later, with Jackson handily winning the rematch.

State Electoral Vote House Vote Adams vote Jackson vote Crawford vote
Alabama Jackson Jackson 0 3 0
Connecticut Adams Adams 6 0 0
Delaware Crawford 2, Adams 1 Crawford 0 0 1
Georgia Crawford Crawford 0 0 7
Illinois Jackson 2, Adams 1 Adams 1 0 0
Indiana Jackson Jackson 0 3 0
Kentucky Clay Adams 8 4 0
Louisiana Jackson 3, Adams 2 Adams 2 1 0
Maine Adams Adams 7 0 0
Maryland Jackson 7, Adams 3, Crawford 1 Adams 5 3 1
Massachusetts Adams Adams 12 1 0
Mississippi Jackson Jackson 0 1 0
Missouri Clay Adams 1 0 0
New Hampshire Adams Adams 6 0 0
New Jersey Jackson Jackson 1 5 0
New York Adams 26, Crawford 5, Clay 4, Jackson 1 Adams 18 2 14
North Carolina Jackson Crawford 1 2 10
Ohio Clay Adams 10 2 2
Pennsylvania Jackson Jackson 1 25 0
Rhode Island Adams Adams 2 0 0
South Carolina Jackson Jackson 0 9 0
Tennessee Jackson Jackson 0 9 0
Vermont Adams Adams 5 0 0
Virginia Crawford Crawford 1 1 19
Votes by state 13 (54%) 7 (29%) 4 (17%)
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