US History: The Election of 1832 – ‘Old Hickory’ Doesn’t Crack

“Old Hickory” Andrew Jackson is looking to get re-elected for another term but he got to deal with a number of obstacles and an old rival in order to make that happen… So with all said, let’s get into it.

Jackson’s Presidency

By the early 1830s, Jackson and many southern politicians pushed for the removal of various Indian tribes to other territories as the U.S. was looking to acquire the gold and other resources found in those areas and they even passed ‘The Indian Removal Act’ in 1830 to make certain this happened.

A supreme court case called ‘Worcester v. Georgia’ ruled in favour of the Cherokee Indians who were being pushed out of the state and claimed that Georgia and other states attempting to do this was unconstitutional, however, Andrew Jackson for a time was quoted in saying “John Marshall Has Made His Decision, Now Let Him Enforce It.” but this has proven not to be the case. Regardless, 45,000 Indians were forced to move from the states that they once called home in what has infamously been referred to as “The Trail of Tears” which actually occurred under the presidency of his successor.

While this move by Jackson may have endeared him even more to Southerners, his actions regarding tariffs certainly didn’t and this would lead to his vice president, John C. Calhoun resigning from his position before the election, and it would lead to the Nullification Crisis but more on that a little later. Due to this Jackson decided to run for re-election with Martin Van Buren, the co-founder of the Democratic Party and Secretary of State as his running mate.

But there is a bigger issue going on in the country and it has a whole lot to do with the Second National Bank of the United States. 

The Bank War

When he wasn’t kicking the Indians off of their land or hoping to get rid of the electoral college, Jackson had to tackle another major issue in form of the National Bank as the charter for the bank needed to be renewed by 1836 but much to the disdain of many in Congress, Jackson vetoed the charter while at the same time withdrawing federal deposits from the bank and placing them in local banks spread throughout the country.

Opponents to Jackson claimed that his refusal to renew the charter for the Second National Bank would lead to horrendous consequences for the country on an economic level later down the road. Jackson on the other hand responded that by not renewing the bank, he was keeping the wealth out of the hands of elites who most certainly would’ve kept it all for themselves and used it to prevent his re-election.

As a result of Jackson’s decision regarding the National Bank as well as his pension for vetoing a lot of legislation that came to his desk, many detractors claimed that “Old Hickory” was nothing more than a tyrant which led to political cartoons of “King Andrew” dressed as a monarch while also stepping all over the U.S. Constitution.

But we’re not done just yet as Andrew Jackson has another problem going on within his administration and the reason behind all of it comes back to the one thing that always seems to plague politicians: sex scandals…

The Petticoat Affair

The issues between Jackson and Calhoun reached their breaking point thanks to the Eaton Affair also known as ‘The Petticoat Affair’ which saw John Eaton, Jackson’s Secretary of War getting into a relationship with a woman named Peggy O’Neal whose first name was actually Margaret if you can believe.

The story goes that Peggy/Margaret was with a man by the name of John Timberlake but once he died, John Eaton who knew about the relationship between Peggy and Timberlake decides to marry the now-widowed O’Neal.

The union of John and Peggy Eaton was supported by Andrew Jackson, which makes sense as “Old Hickory” himself was a widower after winning the presidency in 1828, however many people are not too happy about this due to Peggy’s reputation of showing up at bars that usually had men and interacting with various people.

One of the biggest critics of Peggy Eaton was Floride Calhoun, the wife of John Calhoun and Floride tells all of the cabinet wives to not interact or socialize with the Eatons at all and many politicians follow suit. 

This scandalous affair plus the backlash facilitated by Mrs Calhoun results in John Eaton and Martin Van Buren stepping down from their positions within the administration before Andrew Jackson fires everyone else from his cabinet who refused to work with the Eatons (except for John Calhoun who resigned as previously mentioned) and “Old Hickory” ends upbringing in a new group of people made entirely out of Andrew Jackson’s closest friends and advisors which included John Eaton and Martin Van Buren.

So, Andrew Jackson’s first term has seen him deal with a conflict relating to the national bank, his fired everyone from his cabinet, his VP resigns, people in Congress hate him and there’s a sex scandal to boot…Now amongst all of this, his going to have to run for re-election. 

Clay Is Back!

While Andrew Jackson has to deal with the problems going on within his administration, his opponents from the National Republican Party decide to use this and the major issue surrounding the National Bank as justification to make ‘Old Hickory’ a one-term president.

The biggest rival “Old Hickory” had to deal with around this time was the former Speaker of the House and Secretary of State, Henry Clay who was believed to be responsible for why Jackson didn’t win the presidency in 1824 and blamed alongside John Quincy Adams for causing the death of his wife Jackson’s wife, Rachel.

Clay realizes that with Jackson now vulnerable amidst all these scandals, he could do what he wasn’t able to do before and that’s defeat Jackson and become president of the United States.

This election marked the first time in which political parties had nominating conventions to determine who would be the running on the party’s ticket for president and Clay got the nomination for the National Republicans and his bringing along with him John Sergeant, a former U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania as his running mate. The reason being that the state of Pennsylvania is where the Second National Bank was located, and Sergeant had some connections with the Bank, so having him on the ticket would help Clay in theory win the state. Now there are two more candidates running in this election and the first one revolves around the state of South Carolina and the issue of tariffs.

The Nullification Crisis

Before the Petticoat Affair and the appointment of Martin Van Buren as the next VP completely soured the relationship between John C. Calhoun and Andrew Jackson, there was the ‘Nullification Crisis’.

The Nullification Crisis stems from the passing of the Tariff of 1828, which increased the rates on imported goods by 60% and with many Southern states not investing in the industry, they were the most affected by what they would call “The Tariff of Abomination”.

Arguably, the state that got affected the worse by this tariff was the state of South Carolina, which threatened to nullify it but hesitated at least until ‘The Tariff of 1832’ was passed only for the South Carolina legislator to nullify it.

This would lead to “Old Hickory” Andrew Jackson enacting ‘The Force Bill’ which allowed the president to use the military against the state in order to get those taxes paid and collected. John Calhoun, who was from the state of South Carolina as you can imagine wasn’t too pleased over the whole tariff stuff and soon after resigning from his position as vice president went on to head the newly created ‘Nullifier Party’.

Calhoun refused to run for president under the Nullifier Party and instead the party supported Virginia Governor, John Floyd to head their ticket as Floyd had disagreements with Jackson over a number of issues. The Nullifiers only ran in the state of South Carolina, and they hoped to use Floyd’s candidacy for president as a protest vote against Old Hickory’s bid for re-election.

The Anti Masonic Party

And now we come to the last player in this story and what most historians call the very first third party to run in a presidential election in American history: The Anti-Masonic Party.

The party comes into the existence following the disappearance of William Morgan, who was a ‘Freemason’ or someone who was a part of a mysterious group of people using their influence behind the scenes to control the United States. After a falling out between the two sides, William Morgan threatens to expose the secret society by writing a book on them, which ultimately results in his disappearance and presumed death.

In response, a group calling themselves ‘The Anti-Masonic Party’ joined together to stop the continuing influence of the Masons aka the elites and those they saw as corrupt which in this case includes President Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay. Names like Richard Rush and John Quincy Adams were seen as possible names to run for the party’s nomination, but it never worked out.

The Anti Masonic Party nominated the legendary U.S. Attorney General and lawyer from Maryland, William Wirt even though he was a Mason and he hoped to get an endorsement by Herny Clay and the National Republicans but that doesn’t happen. Reluctantly, Wirt ran for president under the Anti Masonic Party with fellow attorney general and politician from Pennsylvania, Amos Ellmaker.

So that’s all of the candidates and the major issues discussed, Andrew Jackson is running a vicious campaign against a very cunning opponent in Henry Clay and two reluctant candidates in Wirt and Floyd…Now let’s look at the results.

The Results

As you can see from the electoral map, Andrew Jackson wins this election in a landslide with 219 electoral votes out of 286 with the most votes needed to become president for this election being 145 or more… So Old Hickory easily wins not just with the electoral vote but the popular vote with 54.2% and Martin Van Buren becomes the 8th vice president in U.S. history.

Much like James Madison in 1812, Jackson won despite having less of the popular vote in the next election.

Herny Clay received 49 electoral votes and 37.4% in another crushing defeat for the Presidency as “Old Hickory” Andrew Jackson beats the man who screwed him out of the presidency in 1824.

William Wirt and the Anti Masonic Party don’t favour too well either as they only receive 7 electoral votes, which was just the state of Vermont and 7.8% of the popular vote. John Floyd won all of South Carolina’s 11 electoral votes, but the state didn’t have a popular vote going into this election; By the way, the Nullification Crisis that created the whole Nullifier Party would be settled with the passing of the Compromise Tariff of 1833, which made the South Carolina happy and thereby ended the lifespan of the Nullifier Party.

And that was the election of 1832, a lot of twists and turns, scandals, third parties rising to the surface and an undisputed winner with “Old Hickory” Andrew Jackson winning another term thanks to the support of the middle class.

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