1808

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & ELECTIONS

OVERVIEWS & CHRONOLOGIES: 1808

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

OVERVIEW

Election Year: 1808

Election Day Date: November 4-December 6, 1808; December 7 the electors cast their ballots

Winning Ticket:

  • James Madison (57, Episcopalian) VA, George Clinton (69, Presbyterian) NY, Dem.-Rep. 122 69.3% 113 64.2%

Losing Ticket(s):

  • Charles Pinckney (62, Episcopalian) SC, Rufus King (58, Episcopalian) NY, Federalist 47 26.7% 47 26.7%
  • John Langdon (67, Congregationalist) NH Dem.-Rep. 9 5.1%
  • George Clinton NY, 6
  • James Madison VA Dem.-Rep. 6 3.4% 3 1.7%
  • James Monroe (50, Episcopalian) VA Dem.-Rep. 3 1.7%
  • Non-voting Electors – – 1 0.6% 1 0.6%

Electoral Vote:

  • Winner:  122
  • Main Opponent: 47
  • Total/Majority: 175/88

Voter Turnout: States carried 12/5 Popular vote 124,732/62,431 Percentage 64.7%/32.4%

Central Forums/Campaign Methods for Addressing Voters:

Partisan press, pamphlets, handbills,

Election Law/Campaign Finance Changes:

Last election where Virginia held the most electoral votes

Incumbent President and Vice President on Election Day: Thomas Jefferson, George Clinton Democratic-Republican 1805-1809

Population: 1808: 6,797,000

Nominal GDP (billions of dollars): $0.64 Real GDP (billions of 2005 dollars): $9.35
GDP Deflator (index 2005=100%) 6.84 Nominal GDP per capita (current dollars): $94 Real GDP per capita (year 2005 dollars): $1,376

Method of Choosing Electors:

  • Appointed by state legislature: Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, South Carolina, Vermont
  • Popular statewide vote (General Ticket system, usually winner take all): New Hampshire, New Jersey (superseded by legislature), Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia
  • Popular vote, one elector per district: Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee

Method of Choosing Nominees: Congressional Caucus

Central Issues (Nomination/Primaries):

  • Quids – Democratic-Republicans who were against James Madison, dismissed as “Quids” from the Latin for “what” to mock their lack of firm principles

Main Controversies (Nomination/Primaries):

James Madison, position on France; Federalist accused him of being weak, under Jefferson control; Old Republicans accused him of being a crypto-Federalist

Campaign Innovations (Nomination/Primaries):

Major Personalities (Nomination/Primaries):

Turning Points (Nomination/Primaries):

  • James Madison, his position on France; supported June 1781 pro-France Peace instructions, disclosure of responses to French insults ended the issue.

Conventions (Dates & Locations):

  • Republican Caucus, late January 1808
  • Federalist Caucus, late August 1808

Number of Ballots to Choose Nominees:

Republican:

  • Presidential Ballot James Madison 83 James Monroe 3 George Clinton 3, not voting 5.
  • Vice Presidential Ballot George Clinton 79 John Langdon 5 Henry Dearborn 3 John Q. Adams 1

General Election Controversies/Issues:

  • Embargo Act of 1807 (“Dambargo”)
  • Favoring France over Britain
  • Impressment

Campaign Innovations (General Election): 

Major Personalities (General Election): John Langdon, George Clinton, Robespierre

Campaign Tactics:

  • Avoid “self-serving electioneering”; Party workers were in charge of the campaigning worked with partisan presses; work on the campaign through letter writing from behind the scenes
  • As of March 1808, Madison’s official dispatches on the Embargo are published; letters from the rejected Monroe Pickney treaty. Letters between Madison and British Envoy George Rose. In April, an insulting letter from Champagny is made public. In November, Jefferson releases a final batch of letters to Congress, demonstrates Madison was not partial to France.

Turning Points (General Election):

  • June 30, 1808: Madison supporters in New York State decide to punish Clinton. Convene at a convention in Fishkill and endorse James Madison for President and nominate New Hampshire’s Democratic Republican Governor John Langdon for Vice President, despite the fact that Langdon was the head of the slate of electors pledged to the Madison-Clinton ticket
  • September 9, 1808: Opposition to the Embargo Act by Democratic Republican Party; Vice President Clinton and New Hampshire Governor John Langdon.  Langdon denies accusations in the Boston MA Democrat that he supported the Embargo.
  • Albany Register claims Jefferson and Madison were naturalized French citizens, by the revolutionary parliament in 1793; Federalists called Madison “Frenchman.” In reality a year before Robespierre came into power the French Revolutionary Assembly conferred honorary citizenship on Washington and Hamilton as well as Madison, but not Jefferson
  • October 20, 1808: Newspapers discuss the anomaly of having four candidates. The Connecticut Journal write that only James Madison is worthy from the four. Federalists controlled the Connecticut legislature and therefore the electors would vote for Pinckney.
  • As of March 1808, Madison’s official dispatches on the Embargo are published; letters from the rejected Monroe Pickney treaty. Letters between Madison and British Envoy George Rose. In April, an insulting letter from Champagny is made public. In November, Jefferson releases a final batch of letters to Congress, demonstrates Madison was not partial to France.

Influential Campaign Appeals or Ads:

  • A New York cartoon pictured a huge turtle labeled “O-grab-me” snapping at the backside of an American shipowner:

“Our ships all in motion once whitened the ocean;
They sailed and returned with a cargo.
Now doomed to decay they are fallen a prey
To Jefferson, worms and EMBARGO.

Federalists:

  • Gazette of the United States: The Pinckney-King ticket is the “Washington and anti-Embargo ticket”
  • Commercial Advertiser: America’s troubles “originated in that jealous Virginia spirit, which pines at the prosperity and opulence of the North” and devastates “the commerce of the Union” like a “pestilent flock of insects.”
  • Commercial Advertiser: “French Citizens at the head of an American government.” Jefferson and Madison “inexorably bound to the skirts of Napoleon’

Campaign Song: Democratic Republicans, James Madison: Huzzah for Madison, Huzzah

Defining Quotation (Winning Candidate):

Defining Quotation (Losing Candidate):

Campaign Quotes:

  • “Our President delights in the measure because the name hides so well his secret wishes. Read it backward, and you have the phrase, ‘Ograb-me.’ Divide it into syllables and read backward, and you have the Jeffersonian injunction, ‘Go bar ’em.’ Transpose the seven letters of the word, and you will have what the embargo will soon produce, ‘mobrage.'” Federalist
  • (Madison) “best fitted to guide us through the impending storm… irreproachable morals, solid talents, intelligence, fidelity and zeal… He had invariably displayed a dignity and moderation which are at once the best evidence, and the surest preservative of republican principles. National Intelligencer 

Further Reading:

Irving Brant, The Fourth President: A Life of James Madison (1990)

Lasting Legacy of Campaign:

  • First time when a new President was elected and the incumbent Vice-President was re-elected.

 

CHRONOLOGY

  • June 4, 1805: “The United States and Tripoli sign a Treaty of Peace and Amity in Tripoli, effectively ending the Tripolitan War.”
  • July 23, 1805: “The British justify seizure of American ships in neutral ports with the invocation of the Rule of 1756.”
  • December 3-4, 1805: “Jefferson makes two addresses, one public and one before Congress, regarding land in Florida. In the public address, Jefferson cites the need to prepare for war with Spain. Privately, Jefferson informs Congress of secret negotiations with France in order to buy the territory from them and asks for five million dollars to be appropriated. The request receives a controversial response from Congress.”
  • April 18, 1806: “Congress passes a law prohibiting the importation of many British products into the United States to protest against the seizure of American ships and the impressment of American sailors by Britain.”
  • August 27, 1806: “American envoys James Monroe and William Pinckney commence talks with British official Lord Holland on the current naval hostilities.”
  • December 12, 1806: “Jefferson appeals to Congress asking for a ban on the slave trade.”
  • March 2, 1807: “Congress passes a law prohibiting the importation of slaves into any place within the jurisdiction of the United States after January 1, 1808.”
  • March 12, 1807: “The Embargo Act, modified and authorized by President Jefferson, now permits vessels to transport American goods from foreign ports.”
  • June 22, 1807: Leopard incident occurs. The British ship Leopard fires upon the United States frigate Chesapeake in Chesapeake Bay after the latter’s commander, James Barron, refuses to surrender four British deserters on board. Many on the U.S. frigate are killed and wounded.”
  • October 17, 1807: “Despite Thomas Jefferson’s protest, the British government announces it will continue to impress seamen on American ships thought to be British.”
  • November 11, 1807: “Britain issues its “Order in Council,” forbidding neutral nations and her allies from trading with France except under tribute to England.”
  • December 22, 1807: Congress passes the Embargo Act of 1807, cut off trade with the entire world and predominantly to warring France and Britain.
  • January 11, 1808: “The Second Embargo Act comes into force. It is more stringent than the first and is commonly known as the “O grab me Act.””
  • January 23, 1808: The Democratic Republican Caucus nominates James Madison for President. James Monroe and George Clinton, continued to campaign as independents, though Clinton was also running for VP on the Madison ticket.
  • January 29, 1808: The Salem Gazette reports that dissident Democratic Republican Party members of Congress nominate Clinton for President and Monroe for Vice President, only New York Legislature nominates the ticket
  • June 29, 1808: Vice Presidential Clinton continues to campaign for the Presidency, annoying the Madison campaign. The newspaper the National Aegis writes an editorial threatening that if Clinton would not abandon his Presidential bid the Democratic-Republicans would drop him as the Vice Presidential nominee.
  • June 30, 1808: Madison supporters in New York State decide to punish Clinton. Convene at a convention in Fishkill and endorse James Madison for President and nominate New Hampshire’s Democratic Republican Governor John Langdon for Vice President, despite the fact that Langdon was the head of the slate of electors pledged to the Madison-Clinton ticket.
  • Late August 1808: Federalist Caucus nominates Charles Pickney for President
  • September 9, 1808: Opposition to the Embargo Act by Democratic Republican Party, Vice President Clinton and New Hampshire Governor John Langdon.
  • September 17, 1808: John Langdon denies accusations in the Boston MA Democrat that he supported the Embargo.
  • 1808: Albany Register claims Jefferson and Madison are naturalized French citizens, by the revolutionary parliament in 1793; Federalists called Madison “Frenchman.” In reality a year before Robespierre came into power the French Revolutionary Assembly conferred honorary citizenship on Washington and Hamilton as well as Madison, but not Jefferson
  • October 20, 1808: Newspapers discuss the anomaly of having four candidates. The Connecticut Journal write that only James Madison is worthy from the four. Federalists controlled the Connecticut legislature and therefore the electors would vote for Pinckney.
  • November 4 until December 6, 1808: Seventeen states choose their presidential electors
  • December 7, 1808: Electors cast their ballots in their state capitals
  • February 8, 1809: A joint session of Congress counts the electoral vote. Democratic-Republicans James Madison is elected President, and George Clinton is elected Vice President.
  • March 1, 1809: “After the U.S. economy suffers at the hands of the embargo, Congress repeals the Embargo Act. Jefferson signs the Non-Intercourse Act the same day, closing U.S. ports only to France and England. Trade with the two countries is to be resumed when they agreed to respect the rights of U.S. citizens and vessels.”
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