John Q. Adams Won Presidency With 31% Of Vote in 1824—In My Darker Moments About Democracy, This Warms My Heart
This is the Texas Liberal Election Fact of the Day.
In a four-way race, Mr. Adams (photo above) finished second to Andrew Jackson in the popular vote total.
31% is the lowest popular percentage ever received by a successful candidate for the Presidency.
Because no candidate won a majority of the electoral college, the race went to the House of Representatives. ( Here is information about the Electoral College including what happens when no candidate wins an electoral vote majority.)
In the House, Mr. Jackson’s arch-rival, Henry Clay, gave his support to Mr. Adams. This allowed Mr. Adams to win the election in the House. Mr. Clay was subsequently selected by Mr. Adams to serve as Secretary of State. The position of Secretary of State was seen then as a stepping stone to the Presidency.
The charge was made, denied by both President Adams and Secretary Clay of a “Corrupt Bargain.” The allegation was that a deal had been cut exchanging Mr. Clay’s support for the Secreatry of State’s office.
Corrupt Bargain or not, Andrew Jackson easily defeated President Adams in 1828 by a margin 0f 56%-44%.
Some days, when I am down on the people, I take a small measure of satisfaction from this 31% President. He made all those Indian-hating, slave-keeping Jacksonians wait another four years.
Abe Lincoln won the White House with 39.9% of the vote in his 1860 four-way race. Mr. Lincoln ,however, won enough electoral votes on Election Day. Mr. Lincoln’s total is the second lowest percentage total for a winning candidate.
I believe in democracy, but sometimes, as we all realize, the majority gets it wrong.