PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & ELECTIONS
OVERVIEWS & CHRONOLOGIES: 1820
By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS
Election Year: 1820
Election Day Date: November 1, 1820- December 6, 1820
Winning Ticket: James Monroe (62, Episcopalian) VA Daniel Tompkins (46, Presbyterian) NY Dem.-Rep. 231 98.3% 218 92.8%
- Richard Stockton (56, Presbyterian) NJ Dem.-Rep. 8 3.4%
- Daniel Rodney (56, Episcopalian) DE Dem.-Rep. 4 1.7%
- Robert Harper (55, Presbyterian)MD Dem.-Rep. 1 0.4%
- John Q. Adams (53, Unitarian) MA Richard Rush (50)PA Dem.-Rep. 1 0.4% 1 0.4%
- Non-voting Electors – – 3 1.3% 3 1.3%
Voter Turnout: Probably less than 1% of the male population – one of the smallest votes on record
Election Law/Campaign Finance Changes: Of the 5 new states (including Missouri), Maine and Illinois chose electors by district, and Mississippi by general ticket system. By 1820, 163 of the 235 electors were chosen by direct suffrage.
Incumbent President and Vice President on Election Day: James Monroe Daniel D Tompkins Democratic-Republican 1817-1825
Population: 1820: 9,618,000
Nominal GDP (billions of dollars): $0.70 Real GDP (billions of 2005 dollars): $14.41
GDP Deflator (index 2005=100%) 4.88 Nominal GDP per capita (current dollars): $73 Real GDP per capita (year 2005 dollars): $1,499
Number of Daily Newspapers: 1820: 42
Method of Choosing Electors:
- Appointed by state legislature: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, South Carolina, Vermont
- Popular statewide vote (General Ticket system, usually winner take all): Connecticut, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia
- Popular vote, one elector per district: Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Tennessee.
- Two Electors chosen by voters statewide, One Elector chosen per Congressional district by the voters of that district: Maine, Massachusetts
Method of Choosing Nominees: Congressional Caucus
Central Issues (Nomination/Primaries):
- The admission of Missouri to the Union as a slave state under the Missouri Compromise;
- Panic of 1819: banks failed, land values plummeted, thousands lost their jobs.
Leading Candidates (Nomination/Primaries):
- James Monroe, President of the United States (Virginia)
Main Controversies (Nomination/Primaries):
- Major tensions roiled the nation economically, over slavery, despite the “Era of Good Feelings” label
- Monroe was not even formally renominated due to, Lynn Turner writes, “a heavy rainstorm and an even heavier blanket of indifference.”
- Struggle over vice presidency between Daniel Tompkins, DeWitt Clinton and Henry Clay
Major Personalities (Nomination/Primaries):
Turning Points (Nomination/Primaries):
Conventions (Dates & Locations):
- Informal nomination, April 8, 1820, Democratic Republican Caucus, U.S. House chamber at 7:30. 40 delegates attended, with few or no delegates from VA, PA, NC, MA, and NJ. A large portion of the New York delegation attended to ensure Tompkins nomination as VP.
Convention/Caucus Turning Points:
- President James Monroe and Vice-president Daniel Tompkins were not formally nominated. Monroe was unopposed, but there were several Federalist Vice-Presidential candidates.
Number of Ballots to Choose Nominees:
Informal Ballot (unanimous)
- Presidential Ballot James Monroe 40
- Vice Presidential Ballot Daniel D. Tompkins 40
- Richard Stockton Federalist New Jersey (8)
- Daniel Rodney Federalist Delaware (4)
- Robert Goodloe Harper Federalist Maryland (1)
- Richard Rush Federalist Pennsylvania (1)
Convention/Caucus Chairmen: Hugh Nelson, VA
Campaign Tactics: No serious opposition to Monroe and Tompkins
Major Personalities (General Election): Henry Clay; Daniel Webster; William Plumer, Sr.
Turning Points (General Election):
- Missouri Compromise calmed the electorate, at least temporarily.
- William Plumer, Sr., of New Hampshire cast the sole electoral vote against Monroe and for John Quincy Adams. Plumer was a harsh critic of Monroe and had heard that Daniel Webster wanted to advance Adams as Vice President. Plumer decided to cast his vote for Adams for President.
- An American myth grew – despite no evidence backing it — that Plumer voted for Adams and not Monroe to preserve Washington’s distinction as being the only President elected unanimously.
- With Monroe’s reelection almost certain, local issues prevailed:
- (In several states, such as Ohio, Illinois, Maine, and Mississippi, the election became a free for all as the official DRP slate of Electors was challenged by anti-caucus Electors who did not always run as a team. William Henry Harrison was elected a Presidential Elector as an anti-caucus candidate in Ohio. In Pennsylvania, a slate of Electors was raised in support of DeWitt Clinton, though its support was limited mainly to Philadelphia. In Massachusetts, former President John Adams agreed to run on the Federalist slate of Electors if the ticket would agree to support Monroe. Slates of Federalist Electors also ran in CT, MD, and NC.)
Defining Quotation (Winning Candidate):
- “Having no pretensions to the high and commanding claims of my predecessors, whose names are so much more conspicuously identified with our Revolution, and who contributed so preeminently to promote its success, I consider myself rather as the instrument than the cause of the union which has prevailed in the late election.” James Monroe, Second Inaugural Address, March 5, 1821
- “It is inexpedient, at this time, to proceed to the nomination of persons for the offices of President and Vice President of the United States.” Richard M. Johnson Washington Gazette, 4/10/1820
- “The unanimous re-election of Mr. Monroe is morally certain as certain as almost any contingent event can be.” National Intelligencer, October 17, 1820
- “There appears no great excitement in any quarter, concerning the next presidential election. In most of the States the elections occur with great quietness, too great, perhaps, for the general safety of the Republic.” Ohio Monitor (Columbus), April 1820.
- Noble E. Cunningham Jr., The Presidency of James Monroe (1996);
- Despite the Missouri Compromise, the Missouri constitution had unacceptable clauses regarding slavery and bans on free blacks voting that kept it from being admitted to the Union before the electoral ballots were counted. Some in Congress wanted to count Missouri’s votes nevertheless, other objected. To end the impasse, the President of the Senate announced the tallies – nearly unanimously for Monroe – with Missouri’s 3 electoral votes, and without.
Lasting Legacy of Campaign:
- The third and last presidential election in United States history in which a candidate effectively ran unopposed.
- 1816: Democratic Republican Party wins 30 more seats from the Federalists in the U.S. House.
- June-September, 1817: “Monroe embarks on a lengthy, sixteen-week tour of New England. In the absence of his major cabinet appointees, Monroe uses the tour to foster a sense of national unity through local political contact, public appearances, and private meetings with opposing Federalists. The tour gives birth to the designation of Monroe’s administration as the “Era of Good Feelings.””
- December 26, 1817: “Secretary of War John C. Calhoun orders General Andrew Jackson to quell Seminole Indian uprisings in the Floridas and southern Georgia; Jackson also receives a private letter from Monroe urging such action.”
- March 1818: “Jackson pursues the Seminoles into Spanish Florida — where he suspects they are receiving assistance — takes the fort of St. Marks on March 6, forces the surrender of Fort Carlos de Barrancas, and executes, among others, a Scot Indian trader and a British lieutenant. After capturing the Spanish capital in May, Jackson returns to Tennessee.”
- June 18, 1818: “Monroe learns of Jackson’s exploits and, along with his cabinet (except John Quincy Adams), disapproves of Jackson’s actions. Following protests from the ministers of Britain, Spain, and France, Monroe concedes that Jackson’s behavior in Pensacola amounted to acts of war. The President repudiates Jackson and orders that Pensacola be handed back to Spain.
- July 1818: “Adams writes in a letter his support of Jackson’s tactics, blaming Spain for its inability to control the Indians. Despite his concession, Monroe recognizes that Jackson’s activities in the Floridas provide the United States with a favorable strategic position for negotiations with Spain.”
- January 1819: The Panic of 1819 begins, banks fail, land values plummet, and thousands lose their jobs. The financial instability lasts until 1823.
- February 22, 1819: “The Transcontinental Treaty, also known as the Adams-Onis treaty, is resolved in February after the conclusion of negotiations dating back to July 1818. The treaty transfers the Floridas from Spain to the United States for $5 million, and advances the U.S. border across Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. Spain also relinquishes claims to the Oregon Territory. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams orchestrates the proceedings with the Spanish minister to Washington, Luis de Onis.”
- November 1818: Mid Term elections Democratic Republican win 12 additional seats.
- December 6, 1819: 16th Congress assembles, House consists of Democratic- Republicans: 154, Federalists: 29, Independents: 2. Federalists went from 14 to seven seats in the Senate.
- April 8, 1820: Democratic Republican Caucus, U.S. House chamber at 7:30. Chairman: Hugh Nelson. Informal nomination, 40 delegates attend, with few or no delegates from Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. A large portion of the New York delegation attended to ensure Tompkins’ Vice Presidential nomination.
- April 10, 1820: Richard M. Johnson states, “It is inexpedient, at this time, to proceed to the nomination of persons for the offices of President and Vice President of the United States.”
- April 1820: “Ohio Monitor (Columbus) reports, “There appears no great excitement in any quarter, concerning the next presidential election. In most of the States the elections occur with great quietness, too great, perhaps, for the general safety of the Republic.”
- March 3, 1820: “After months of fierce debate, Congress agrees to the first Missouri Compromise, addressing congressional jurisdiction over the conditions of statehood.” (“After Maine petitions Congress for statehood, the balance of free and slave states in Senate will be maintained with a free Maine and a slave Missouri. The Compromise also addresses all land in the Louisiana Purchase territory and establishes that land north of the 36 degree, 30′ line with the exception of Missouri — will be free, while territory below the line will be slave.”)
- March 5, 1820: The admission of Missouri to the Union as a slave state under the Missouri Compromise passes by the Senate.
- March 6, 1820: President James Monroe ratifies the Missouri Compromise. Missouri Compromise calms the electorate, at least temporarily.
- March 15, 1820: “Maine is admitted as the twenty-third state of the Union.”
- October 17, 1820: National Intelligencer reports, “The unanimous re-election of Mr. Monroe is morally certain as certain as almost any contingent event can be.”
- November 1, 1820- December 6, 1820: Democratic Republicans James Monroe is reelected President, and Daniel Tompkins is reelected Vice President.
- December 6, 1820: William Plumer, Sr., of New Hampshire cast the sole electoral vote against Monroe and for John Quincy Adams. Plumer was a harsh critic of Monroe and had heard that Daniel Webster wanted to advance Adams as Vice President. Plumer decided to cast his vote for Adams for President.
- February 14, 1821: Joint session of Congress counts the Electoral votes. James Monroe is reelected President and Daniel Tompkins is reelected Vice President.
- February 24, 1821: Despite the Missouri Compromise, the Missouri constitution has unacceptable clauses regarding slavery and bans on free blacks voting that keeps it from being admitted to the Union before the electoral ballots are counted. Some in Congress want to count Missouri’s votes nevertheless, others object. To end the impasse, the President of the Senate announces the tallies – nearly unanimously for Monroe – with Missouri’s 3 electoral votes, and without.
- March 5, 1821: James Monroe gives his Second Inaugural Address, “Having no pretensions to the high and commanding claims of my predecessors, whose names are so much more conspicuously identified with our Revolution, and who contributed so preeminently to promote its success, I consider myself rather as the instrument than the cause of the union which has prevailed in the late election.”