The Election of 1820 is one of the strangest elections in American History up to that point, as incumbent James Monroe runs unopposed… So with that, all said, let’s get into it.
The Era of Good Feelings
As mentioned in the intro, the election of 1820 is a strange one because it’s the third and last time someone will be running for the presidency unopposed and it’s also the last one to include a founding father running for the position of president.
Since the War of 1812, the country has been feeling a large fervour of nationalism which has been called ‘The Era of Good Feelings’ due to it being at a time when some Americans were living their best lives (unless of course, you’re an Indian, a slave, or an Africa American in general).
After beating Rufus King in a landslide victory in the previous election, James Monroe has been doing his best to keep the country united and making balanced decisions which not only is keeping the U.S. together but also prevents the Federalists from having any major issues to run against him, then again the Federalist Party by this point was pretty much finished as the events of the Hartford Convention and their previous losses in the general elections made certain of that.
While the remaining Federalists weren’t able to nominate a candidate to go against Monroe in the 1820 election, they did nominate a vice-presidential pick in the form of Richard Stockton from New Jersey but without a major candidate heading the ticket… The Federalists didn’t stand a chance. Many Democratic-Republicans knew that Monroe and his vice president, Daniel D. Tompkins would win the election so most of the party didn’t even show up to the nominating caucus. While Monroe’s presidency did see an era of nationalism sweeping the country, a few issues are leading into this election that does need to be discussed.
The Panic Of 1819 & The Missouri Compromise
The first major issue going into this election is that the economy is struggling after the U.S. suffered its first financial crisis in 1819 called…”The Panic of 1819″, where accounts of land speculation and a relaxed attitude to regulating the Second National Bank of the United States led to the country suffering inflation for the first time and as a result many places were foreclosed, unemployment rose, and many people were getting upset with both the bankers and elites with how things came about. While President Monroe and his Secretary of the Treasury, William H. Crawford would find a way to settle the financial crisis, it wouldn’t be until 1821 that the panic came to an end.
The other major issue surrounds the state of Missouri as plans were set in place to bring Missouri in as an official state and that it’s votes would be counted for the 1820 election, however some had issues with this due to the fact that if Missouri was to be brought in the Union it would be brought in as a slave state which would upset the balance of free states (aka states that didn’t have slavery) and slave states in the U.S. Missouri’s inclusion was further a point of controversy after states like Illinois, Alabama and Mississippi were added to the Union as well with the last two states becoming slave states. Ultimately Missouri was added to the Union but not before a few things were cleared up first. For one thing, the area of land that would become Maine was officially a part of the Union as a free state and secondly, a number of agreements called “The Missouri Compromise” was made in order to draw a line between the northern parallel of the Louisiana Territories and the southern boundary of Missouri for which those areas of land would not have slavery in it. As you already know the issue of slavery and balancing the amount of free and slave states will play a big role in future presidential elections; So, with all of that taken care of let’s look at the results.
As you can see from the map, James Monroe wins all 24 states with the electoral votes from Missouri being counted but there are some strange caveats regarding his victory. First of all, three electors had died and weren’t replaced in time which is why the state of Mississippi only had two electors instead of three or more like all the other states.
Second, around 16% of the population (all of whom were Federalists) voted for ‘No Candidate’ and DeWitt Clinton, the Governor of New York and former presidential candidate in 1812 got 1.8% of the popular vote even though he wasn’t running.
And finally, as you can see from the electoral map, Monroe got all but one electoral vote with the faithless elector in question being a man by the name of William Plumber who voted for then-Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams. While some speculated that Plumber voting for someone else was a way of keeping George Washington’s record as the only president to win all of the electoral votes intact, however, this was proven to be false as Plumber disliked James Monroe…Maybe Plumber wasn’t a fan of the whole “Virginia Dynasty” thing. Nevertheless, James Monroe also won with 80.6% of the popular vote which was the third-highest percentage of the popular vote for a candidate in an election since the George Washington elections of the 1780s and 1790s.
So, that’s the election of 1820 as the Era of Good Feelings continues under James Monroe, we will begin to see in the partisanship that’s been bubbling underneath reach to the surface during the election of 1824.