As the term of Monroe came to a close the Virginia dynasty began to fall apart. By 1824 a new presidential hopeful had appeared on the field. Andrew Jackson was held up by a new wave of voters who had been created by legislation which relaxed voting requirements. Although this new voting populace failed to place the “common man” in office, the effect they had was far from insignificant. This created a new trend in which the majority of the American white male population could vote, for better or worse.
Before the election of 1828, voter participation was at a miserable 27%, However immediately following Andrew Jackson’s election the statistic skyrocketed to 58% and then eventually peaked at 80% in 1840. It did not drop below 70% for the remainder of the century. What would have caused such a peak in public interest? Before Jackson’s time and since 1800, the president was chosen by the kings caucus. Usually one person was selected only to be confirmed by the many republican voters. In the 1810s voting requirement rules regarding the payment of taxes as well as the requirements of property had been weakened.
Soon almost any free white male could vote. These new voters tended to be poor, uneducated and live in rural areas. When the election of 1824 arrived many of them chose to through their vote towards Andrew Jackson as he appeared to relate to them the best. However despite the fact that Jackson had the largest amount of votes, no one managed to secure a majority of electoral votes. Therefore the contest was to be decided by the house of representatives.
When Henry Clay used his political influence to sway the vote in Adam’s favor Jackson supporters labeled it as “the corrupt bargain”. Skillfully using this argument to put down his opponents Jackson claimed he had the mandate of the people as he had won the popular vote. However the argument was based on flawed data as only 6 states actually used the popular vote to decided who the president would be. Although it was flawed the argument was both persuasive and effective.
In 1828 Jackson enjoyed a clear majority in the electoral college that guaranteed him the seat of the president. The “common man” at the time of Jackson was a rather uneducated frontiersman. Therefore the issues seemed irrelevant to the outcome of the election. From every direction mud flew in an attempt to tarnish the name of the opposing candidate. Various scandals surrounding Jackson’s wife and many other scandals were hurled.
The corrupt bargain argument was also a successful ploy. From the perspective of the more educated North Easterners this new base of voters was only bringing disaster. This popularity contest did not give a favorable perspective on common voting however it was not going to revert back and it still plays a huge role in American politics.