It’s the Election of 1808, as Charles Pinckney is trying to take down another Democratic-Republican who’s looking to become president in the form of James Madison…
The Embargo Act Of 1807
Incumbent Democratic-Republican President, Thomas Jefferson decides to follow George Washington’s footsteps and refused to run for a third term thereby officially honouring the two-term tradition Washington started back in 1796.
While Jefferson was popular with many in his party, most of the country was more than happy to seem Jefferson out of the White House mostly thanks to Jefferson’s signing into law ‘The Embargo Act Of 1807’ which was used as a way to stop all trading with Great Britain in the hopes of punishing them for making a fool out of the U.S. when it came to taking American soldiers and naval ships.
Unfortunately, the only nation that was suffering from the Embargo Act was the U.S. itself as their economy began to go down over the lack of overseas trading, plus Britain didn’t get all that affected in the short or long term. This led to states that found trading a necessity like New England to sour on the Jefferson Administration and helped to give the Federalist Party hope that they could be able to defeat the Democratic-Republicans in the next election.
Despite the embarrassment of the Embargo Act, Jefferson still left very popular and his Secretary of State, James Madison decides to be the next guy run for the high office; Madison is famously known as the ‘Father of the Constitution as he took part in ratifying the U.S. Constitution as well as making the Articles of Confederation, the Bill of Rights and his one of the writers of the Federalist papers so this is a guy who has a lot of accomplishments under his belt.
Madison was also a former member of the Federalist Party until he had a falling out with some of its members and he ends up becoming Thomas Jefferson’s ally thus leading to the creation of the Democratic-Republican Party, however, some don’t want to see Madison become president due to the fact his from Virginia and some aren’t liking what appears to be ‘The Virginia Dynasty’ aka politicians like Washington and Jefferson who come from Virginia becoming president.
The second reason is due to James Madison being a former Federalist and many Democratic-Republicans believing that if Madison was to win, it would be like electing a D.R.I.N.O (or Democratic-Republican In Name Only) to the white house.
Because of this, Madison had a few challenges trying to get the nomination like James Monroe, who at the time was the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom and the man for whom ‘The Monroe Doctrine’ will be named after years down the road. Monroe like a lot of people within the Democratic-Republican party aren’t too please with the amount of expansion that has been occurring within the Jefferson Administration thanks to things like the Louisiana Purchase or the Compact of 1802 which allowed the U.S. to acquire areas of land that will be Alabama and Mississippi.
On the other side, you have a group of Democratic-Republicans who aren’t happy with the Embargo Act and the possibility of another Virginian as President, so they try to nominate Jefferson’s vice president, George Clinton but at the end of the day, Madison gets the nomination thanks to the congressional caucus which was used to nominate candidates for president at the time.
Even though Madison got the nomination, Monroe refused to drop out of the race although he didn’t actively challenge Madison after becoming the nominee and George Clinton didn’t even want to run for president but other people in a district of his home state of New York wanted him to, despite the fact Clinton was named as Madison’s running mate…awkward. So now that we have the candidates for the Democratic-Republicans, it’s time to turn to the Federalist Party.
Guess Who’s Back… Back Again… Pinckney’s Back with Rufus King
As mentioned previously, The Embargo Act of 1807 screwed over many states that found trading with foreign nations like Great Britain a necessity, so the Federalists are believing that with this backlash over the Embargo Act and the fact that many Democratic-Republicans isn’t too keen on Madison because of where he comes from or his Federalist past, they think might have a chance at winning the election.
The Federalists nominated the same people they did in 1804 for president and vice president in Charles Pinckney and Rufus King; Pinckney’s popularity in the South and Rufus King’s connections in the North again seemed like an appealing ticket.
This combined with the fact that the Federalists could easily win votes in New England because of the Embargo Act, gave the party hope that they could win…but let’s see if that’s the case as we look at the results of this election.
So, you see on the map above, the Federalists did much better than they did in 1804 winning the states of New England, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Massachusetts while also keeping the states they won previously like Delaware, Connecticut and even got a few votes in Maryland and North Carolina.
In the end, though, it’s just not enough as James Madison becomes the fourth president in American History with 122 electoral votes to Charles Pinckney only getting 47 votes.
In terms of the popular vote, it was another lopsided defeat for the Federalists as Madison received 64.7% to Pinckney getting 32.4% which is half of what James Madison got. Six electors in New York refused to vote for Madison and instead voted for George Clinton who ended up getting 6 electoral votes, despite the fact he was running as the vice president. With this election, George Clinton became the first of two vice presidents in American history to be re-elected to the position of VP with a different person heading the ticket.
And that will do it for the election of 1808, the Democratic-Republicans continue to reign supreme as the Federalists lose another presidential election, but James Madison will have his hand full on two fronts when he not only has to contend with America’s involvement in the War of 1812, but he also has to find a way to get re-elected when it comes time for the election of 1812.