1812

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & ELECTIONS

OVERVIEWS & CHRONOLOGIES: 1812

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

OVERVIEW

Election Year: 1812

Election Day Date:

Prior to 1845, elections days were held in the 34 days prior to when the electors would vote on the first Wednesday in December.

Winning Ticket:

  • James Madison (61, Episcopalian) VA, Elbridge Gerry (68, Episcopalian) MA, Dem.-Rep. 128 58.7% 131 60.1%

Losing Ticket(s):

DeWitt Clinton (43, Presbyterian) NY Jared Ingersoll (63, Presbyterian) PA

  • Non-voting Electors – – 1 0.5% 1 0.5%

Breakdown by ticket:

  • Democratic Republican James Madison, Elbridge Gerry, 128
  • Federalist DeWitt Clinton, Jared Ingersoll 86
  • Dissident Democratic-Republican DeWitt Clinton Elbridge Gerry 3

Electoral Vote:

  • Winner:  128
  • Main Opponent:  89
  • Total/Majority:  217/109

One Elector from Ohio did not vote.

Voter Turnout: varied by state but frequently 60 to 80% of white adult males

Incumbent President and Vice President on Election Day:

James Madison, George Clinton, Democratic-Republican, 1809-1813

Population: 1812: 7,651,000

Nominal GDP (billions of dollars): $0.78 Real GDP (billions of 2005 dollars): $11.55
GDP Deflator (index 2005=100%) 6.74 Nominal GDP per capita (current dollars): $102 Real GDP per capita (year 2005 dollars): $1,510

Number of Daily Newspapers: 1810: 26

Method of Choosing Electors:

  • Appointed by state legislature: Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Vermont
  • Popular statewide vote: (General Ticket system, usually winner take all) New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia
  • Popular vote, one elector per district: Kentucky, Maryland, Tennessee
  • Two Electors chosen by voters statewide, One Elector chosen per Congressional district by the voters of that district: Massachusetts

Method of Choosing Nominees: Congressional Caucus

  • Democratization of nominating procedures includes more conventions, evolving county organizations, proliferation of voluntary societies like the Tammany Society to stir public interest (limited to the north; in the south, party caucus still ruled).

Central Issues (Nomination/Primaries):

  • British Impressment, War of 1812, June 12, 1812, a month after the Democratic-Republican caucus, Congress voted to go to war with Britain

Leading Candidates (Nomination/Primaries):

Democratic-Republican candidates

  • James Madison, President of the United States from Virginia

Federalist candidates

  • DeWitt Clinton, Mayor of New York City

Main Controversies (Nomination/Primaries):

  • Factions of anti- and pro-war Democratic-Republicans opposed Madison and sought their own candidate.
  • The Federalists’ “fusion” ticket with dissident Democratic-Republicans endorsed Dewitt Clinton and nominated for Vice-President Jared Ingersoll, United States Attorney in Pennsylvania.
  • The Federalists’ dilemma: “I am far enough from desiring Clinton for President of the United States…. But I would vote for any man in preference to Madison,” Timothy Pickering.

Campaign Innovations (Nomination/Primaries):

A major political party’s faction decides to nominate its own candidate

More semi-secret fraternal societies spreading: Federalists:  Washington Benevolent Societies; New York Democrats: Tammany Societies

Major Personalities (Nomination/Primaries): Dewitt Clinton, John Marshall, Rufus King

Turning Points (Nomination/Primaries):

  • Vice President George Clinton, a leader of the Democratic-Republican opposition to Madison’s re-nomination, died in office on April 12, 1812.
  • The Vice President’s nephew, DeWitt Clinton, stepped in as Madison’s leading opponent.

Conventions (Dates & Locations):

  • Democratic-Republican Congressional nominating caucus May 18, 1812
  • Dissident Democratic-Republicans nominating caucus May 29, 1812, New York Legislature
  • Federalist nominating caucus September 1812, New York City

Convention/Caucus Turning Points:

  • Federalist nominating caucus: The Federalist Party conducts a caucus that resembles a nominating convention. Federalists divided over nominating Clinton, especially concern over ruining Clinton chances in the West with an official nomination. The Federalists’ “fusion” ticket with dissident Democratic-Republicans endorsed Dewitt Clinton and nominated for Vice-President Jared Ingersoll, United States Attorney in Pennsylvania.

Number of Ballots to Choose Nominees:

Democratic-Republican

First Caucus Balloting Presidential Ballot

  • James Madison 81
  • Abstaining 1

Vice Presidential Ballot

  • John Langdon 64  (declined because of his age)
  • Elbridge Gerry 16
  • Scattering 2

Second Caucus Balloting Vice Presidential Ballot

  • Elbridge Gerry 74
  • Scattering 3

Dissident Democratic-Republicans

  • Dewitt Clinton

Federalists

  • President Dewitt Clinton
  • Vice-President Jason Ingersoll

General Election Controversies/Issues:

  • British Impressment; War of 1812;
  • “Khaki election” For the first time US involvement in a war was the major campaign issue; resulted in peace groups; critics; supporters

Campaign Innovations (General Election): Altering campaign messages and strategies for regional & audience differences; first nominating Convention, although officially still considered a caucus

Major Personalities (General Election): John Adams, Rufus King

Campaign Tactics:

  • Madison: Avoid “self-serving electioneering”; Party workers were in charge of the campaigning worked with partisan presses;
  • Clinton a Hawk in the South and West, and a Dove in the Northeast; varied his pamphlets and speeches by region and audience of War Republicans, Peace Republicans, or Anti-War Federalists.

Turning Points (General Election):

  • September 14, 1812: The Baltimore Whig publishes a letter (the NYC Statesman reprints it) by a North Carolinian which predicts almost accurately the election results, only two errors placing North Carolina and Vermont in the Clinton column. The author however, predicts a Clinton win 110-108.
  • Federalists decide not to nominate a candidate and instead leave the decision to the states to create Clinton fusion tickets. Only Federalists in Virginia nominate instead Rufus King for President.
  • Former President John Adams heads the Madison electoral ticket in his Quincy district.
  • October 30, 1812: Ohio and Pennsylvania the first states to vote. Many dissident Democratic Republican Party leaders support Clinton, however there is an overwhelming majority which votes for Madison.

Popular Campaign Slogans:

  • Federalists: “Madison and War! or Clinton and Peace”
  • Clinton slogan: “Peace and Commerce”

Influential Campaign Appeals or Ads:

Federalists and Dissident Democratic Republicans:  

  • “It is time to have a change,” Albany Register
  • “Mr. Madison’s War”
  • “The Little Man in the Palace”
  • Madison’s foreign policy one of “Jesuitical tergiversation, of futile experiments, and pusillanimous subterfuges.” from the “Republican Crisis, An Exposition of the Political Jesuitism of James Madison.” By an Observant Citizen of the District of Columbia.
  • “In this awful crisis, the finger of heaven points to Dewitt Clinton, as the saviour of his country, under the good providence of the Most High.”

Defining Quotation (Winning Candidate):

  • Praising South Carolina’s “Fidelity to the national rights and sensibility to the national character,” James Madison proclaims: “It is a war worthy of such a determination. Having its origin neither in ambition or in vain glory, and for its object neither an interest of the Government distinct from that of the People, nor an interest of part of the people in opposition to the welfare of the whole.”

Defining Quotation (Losing Candidate):

  • “That base wretch . . . who is for WAR”…. base, outrageous WAR shall cease.” Dewitt Clinton

Campaign Quotations:

  • “The day is past — th’ Election’s o’er And Madison is King once more! Ye demagogues lift up your voice — Mobs and banditti — all rejoice!”
  • “The father of the Constitution, while a candidate for the Presidency, no one, however intimate, ever heard him open his lips or say one word on the subject.” Charles Ingersoll

Further Reading:

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

Lasting Legacy of Campaign:

  • First wartime election
  • Highest popular vote turnout thus far; Massachusetts the first state to have over 50,000 votes for a candidate (Clinton) the next time would be in 1828.

CHRONOLOGY

  • April 19, 1809: After negotiations with British minister Erskine, Madison issues a proclamation — known as the Erskine Agreement — revoking the embargo on Britain, effective June 10. For his part, Erskine leads Madison to believe that Britain will revoke its Orders in Council. On March 25, however, the American envoy in Britain learns that British foreign secretary Canning has canceled the Erskine Agreement; news reaches Madison six weeks later. On August 9, Madison rescinds his proclamation establishing trade with Britain and resumes a policy of nonintercourse.”
  • January 3, 1810: “Prompted by tensions with Spain over West Florida, Madison calls for renewal of an act authorizing the President to call out 100,000 militiamen, fill up the regular army to its authorized strength, establish a force of 20,000 volunteers for immediate emergencies, and reactivate idle components of the naval fleet.”
  • May 1, 1810: “Congress passes Macon’s Bill Number 2, which replaces the Nonintercourse Act, allowing American ships to carry French or English goods while barring belligerent powers from American ports.” (“The bill further promises to renew nonintercourse with one of the two belligerent nations if the other withdraws its decrees. Trade with France and Britain is restored so long as the European nations respect American trade rights.”)
  • October 27, 1810: “Madison issues a proclamation authorizing occupation of West Florida, also claimed by Spain, as part of the Louisiana Purchase.”
  • May 16, 1811: The U.S. battleship President fires on the British ship HMS Little Belt after it is attacked.”
  • June 23, 1811: “The British foreign secretary announces an end to the Orders in Council. The announcement comes too late, however, as Madison requested a declaration of war against Britain on June 1.”
  • July 24, 1811: “Madison calls a special session of Congress to convene November 4 in preparation for war against Britain.”
  • November 5, 1811: “Madison delivers a tentative war message to Congress, indicating his shift in policy.”
  • May 18, 1812: Democratic-Republican Congressional nominating caucus nominates President James Madison for a second term.
  • May 29, 1812: Dissident Democratic-Republicans nominating caucus, New York Legislature nominates DeWitt Clinton for President.
  • June 1, 1812: Madison sends a message to Congress that they should decide if the country should go to war with Britain and defend itself.
  • June 12, 1812: “Madison delivers a message to Congress, justifying war against Britain and asking for a declaration of war.” War of 1812 commences, a month after the Democratic-Republican caucus.
  • June 4, 1812: Congress votes 79-49 to go to war with Britain.
  • June 17, Senate votes 19-13 for a declaration of war.
  • June 18, 1812: Madison issues a declaration of war against Britain.
  • July 1812: Secretary of War William Eustis prepares the U.S. Army and militias for an invasion of Canada; the invasion is a failure.
  • August 11, 1812: “Michigan governor and general William Hull, in charge of the American offensive from Detroit into Upper Canada, gives up his attack on Fort Malden.”
  • August 16, 1812: U.S. forces surrender to the British at Detroit.
  • September 14, 1812: The Baltimore Whig publishes a letter (the NYC Statesman reprints it) by a North Carolinian which predicts almost accurately the election results, only two errors placing North Carolina and Vermont in the Clinton column. The author however, predicts a Clinton win 110-108.
  • September 15-17, 1812: Federalist nominating caucus convenes in New York City; The Federalist Party conducts a caucus that resembles a nominating convention. Federalists are divided over nominating Clinton, especially concern over ruining Clinton chances in the West with an official nomination. The Federalists’ “fusion” ticket with dissident Democratic-Republicans endorses Dewitt Clinton and nominated for Vice-President Jared Ingersoll, United States Attorney in Pennsylvania.
  • September 17, 1812: Federalists decide not to nominate a candidate and instead leave the decision to the states to create Clinton fusion tickets. Only Federalists in Virginia nominate instead Rufus King for President
  • Clinton a Hawk in the South and West, and a Dove in the Northeast; varied his pamphlets and speeches by region and audience of War Republicans, Peace Republicans, or Anti-War Federalists.
  • Former President John Adams heads the Madison electoral ticket in his Quincy district
  • October 30, 1812: Ohio and Pennsylvania the first states to vote. Many dissident Democratic Republican Party leaders support Clinton, however there is an overwhelming majority which votes for Madison.
  • November 1812: Federalists gain 32 U.S. House seats; double the amount they had in the elections.
  • February 13, 1813: Joint session of Congress counts the Electoral votes. Democratic-Republicans James Madison is reelected President, and Elbridge Gerry elected is Vice President.
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