After 1824 Election, What If ‘Corrupt Bargain’ Was Not Struck?

Donald Trump’s favorite president is fellow populist Andrew Jackson. He restored Jackson’s portrait to a place of honor in the White House, and shortly after becoming president, visited Jackson’s estate, the Hermitage, near Nashville, TN. Both ran campaigns against “economic elites” and were known for emotional volatility and eccentric hairstyles.

If Trump’s campaign failed, the most likely presidents would have been relatives of previous presidents, Hillary Clinton or George Bush, or a career politician, not a businessman without government experience. In other words, part of an inherited elite like John Quincy Adams, son of the second president who himself was selected the sixth president. The 1924 election was the first in which the popular vote was even counted.

Trump called Jackson “a swashbuckler.” Cherokees call him an “Indian killer.” A Trump White House event honoring Native Americans was held in front of a portrait of Jackson, who signed the Indian Removal Act and led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Native Americans who were forced to follow the Trail of Tears and relocate West.

If Jackson had not been elected, perhaps the Trail of Tears would not have occurred. But something much worse probably would have occurred. Jackson actually saw it as a humanitarian gesture, because he knew Georgia’s frontiersmen would massacre the Cherokee Indians and steal their land if he did not intervene.

Despite his reputation for being virulently anti-Indian, Jackson respected many Native Americans, adopted Native orphans and raised them as his own.

Johnson’s terrible faults — a slaveholder who was hostile to Native American autonomy — were actually the faults of the vast majority of white Southerners at the time.

Jackson, in contrast to Trump, devoted his life to public service. He considered himself champion of the Scotch-Irish settlers, indeed a Scottish chieftain who protected members of his clan, and had close connections to Scotland’s Clan Donald, and Northern Ireland’s Clan McDonnell. He despised the British and the economic elites they spawned in New England.

He first ran for president in 1824, and unlike Trump, won a plurality, 42 percent of the popular vote that year, but not enough electoral votes, so the election was thrown to the US House of Representatives. There, John Quincy Adams, who won 30 percent of the popular vote, invited House Speaker Henry Clay of Kentucky to dinner and struck a bargain. If Clay could deliver the presidency, Adams would make him Secretary of State, which he did.

Jackson denounced this “corrupt bargain,” charged that it was symbolic of a corrupt system where elite insiders pursue their own interests without heeding the will of the people. He denounced Adams, Clay and their cronies for “using government favors to reward their friends and economic elites. By contrast, Jackson presented himself as a champion of the common man and by doing so furthered the democratization of American politics.”

Before Adams even took office in 1825, Jackson started running for president in 1828, split the Democratic-Republican Party and became the country’s first Democratic Party president.

If Adams did not invite Clay to dinner and bargain with him, presumably Adams would never have become president and Jackson would have become president four years sooner. At AlternateHistory.com, commenters ask “How does this affect the road to the Civil War? The Mexican-American War? Indian Policy? What about Jackson’s monetary policies which caused the Panic of 1837? What about the National Bank?”

Some responses:

  1. “Clay hated Jackson. He thought him a petty military tyrant in the making. The question might be how to shift the election a bit probably by avoiding Crawford’s entry (or re-entry).  I’ve always thought an earlier Jackson presidency might be pretty interesting, though, since he won’t be as politically organized as he was in OTL. Also, he’ll provide a foil for Clay and Adams to counter-organize.”
  2. “Jackson would be less vindictive in this timeline as he would not have stewed for 4 years about the injustice of the election. He would have Rachel with him as a softening influence. And he would have not built up his personality cult.” I think there a possibility that the Tariff of Abominations could be avoided. Maybe even vetoed?”Jackson’s reelection in 1828 will not be as easy as it was in 1832 OTL but I would see it as probable.” I see the Second Bank of America surviving with no Panic of 1837.” By 1829 much of Jackon’s hatred of the British had ameliorated. In 1825 he might evince more of the old hostility.” He would definitely favor Indian Removal from day one but his big opportunity did not come until the Treaty of New Erchota in 1835 and in TTL he would no longer be President by then so the Trail of Tears might be avoided. Of course this raises the question of who is his successor. Is President Calhoun even remotely possible??” I see the Jacksonian faction as neither as well defined nor as strong as OTL. One impact of this could be Davey Crockett wins the House seat in 1834 and does not go to Texas.”

3. “The movie “Amistad” never gets made, because without John Quincy Adams as an ex-President serving as their attorney, no one really cares about a movie about a slave rebellion aboard a ship (and they might have even lost their case, without ex-President Adams as their lawyer).”

4. Jackson’s presidency is unorganized and corrupt. After four years of this, the anti-Jacksons rally around John Q. Adams again, with Henry Clay as his vice president. “The ’28 race is close, but Jackson’s bad government allows the Republicans to win.

“Andrew Jackson will be remembered as a mediocre president, whose worth was largely in helping to provide the rallying point for the anti-Jackson forces to create the Republican Party and its “American Program”. The next 12 years (2 terms of J.Q. Adams, 1 for Clay- poor Clay, but maybe he comes back to win in ’44) are spent improving the country.

5. “Under this TL, not only do we get no Age of Jackson, we also get no James K. Polk Presidency. I predict a milquetoast America goes on to lose Louisiana and Mississippi to Spain in the Spanish-American War. Pancho Villa later burns Omaha.

6. “Well, I’d certainly have voted for such a party. (And I agree on the name, for what it’s worth). However, this “American Program” would not be without its detractors. For one, it would rely on support of the Bank, which was hated in the West and in parts of the rural East. If backwoods populism doesn’t get expressed in Jacksoniansim it won’t go away. And while the Bank was good in the sense of providing central controls, it did encourage an awful lot of nepotism and could cause potential corruption.

“Furthermore, what happens to Texas? Sam Houston may not end up in Texas if can avoid political humiliation in the 1830s. If Jackson is out of power, then he well may because Houston is Jackson’s best hope for a political successor. And Houston is essentially an Indian-liking Jackson. Texas is still going to revolt in 1835, unless something keeps Santa Anna from revoking the Constitution of 1824. Without Houston, though, the Texans may be defeated. If Texas doesn’t win its independence, then the trajectory of Western expansion and thus of the slavery debate will be significantly altered.

“If Nat Turner’s Rebellion can be avoided, then Virginia may pursue some form of gradual manumission in the 1830s, particularly if John Floyd doesn’t have competition from Jacksonian Democrats.

“There’s really a ton of stuff that can be changed.”

7. “And without Texas, we still have westward expansion, but it will more towards Oregon, meaning we might actually come to blows with the British over it. And all the new territory will be conveniently above the line of the Missouri Compromise, there will be no need for the Wilmot Proviso or anything else in that area. A problem I see arising is the Southern demand for a southern transcontinental route. Which may cause us to go to war with Mexico anyway or it may cause tensions between the South and the North to arise even earlier.”

Crash Course US History: Age of Jackson

“John Green teaches you about the presidency of Andrew Jackson So how did a president with astoundingly bad fiscal policies end up on the $20 bill? That’s a question we can’t answer, but we can tell you how Jackson got to be president, and how he changed the country when he got the job. Jackson’s election was more democratic than any previous presidential election. More people were able to vote, and they picked a doozie. Jackson was a well-known war hero, and he was elected over his longtime political enemy, John Quincy Adams. Once Jackson was in office, he did more to expand executive power than any of the previous occupants of the White House. He used armed troops to collect taxes, refused to enforce legislation and supreme court legislation, and hired and fired his staff based on support in elections. He was also the first president to regularly wield the presidential veto as a political tool. Was he a good president? Watch this video and draw your own conclusions.” Transcript.

Documents

On of Andrew Jackson’s most lasting and memorable policies was that of Indian removal: His speech to Congress on Indian Removal.
Jackson’s promotion of this cause led to the infamous Trail of Tears: Excerpt from Trail of Tears Diary.

Jackson’s Veto Message Against Re-Chartering Second Bank of the US.

What If Andrew Jackson’s Populist Movement Was Thwarted? 

Before Jackson, the young American nation’s leadership was exceedingly aristocratic. If he never became president — if his bid for election was thwarted in both 1924 and 1928, the nation may well have remained aristocratic, elitist, and far more class-conscious, like England. Jackson succeeded in challenging elitism, aristocracy, and expanded democracy.

As historian H.W. Brands observed in Politico, early presidents chose their successors. Thomas Jefferson of Virginia chose James Madison of Virginia, who chose James Monroe of Virginia, who chose the son of the second president as his successor, John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts. “By frustrating Adams’ bid for reelection, Jackson broke the mold. He became president at a time when states had abandoned their property requirements for voting and stopped insisting on long residency.”

England, in sharp contrast, did not abolish property requirements for voting until 1928.

The people vindicated Jackson. In 1828, he won the presidential election with 56 percent of the popular vote, 12 points more than Adams, the incumbent president, and his opponent.

If Only Jackson Avoided A ‘Very Costly Mistake’ That Led to 75 Years of Financial Instability

Jackson ran against the “big banks,” asserting that they had an unfair advantage due to their government charter. Bank owners used their wealth to lobby legislatures, buy off politicians and corrupt American democracy, he charged. He sought to eliminate the Second Bank of the US.

Clay, who ran against Jackson in 1832, made rechartering the Second Bank a central issue in his campaign. Jackson vetoed the recharter, framing his objections as blocking the rich from becoming richer and “the potent more powerful.” Using this platform, Jackson handily defeated Clay in the 1932 campaign. After the election, however, the president of the bank, Nicholas Biddle, sought to lobby Congress to override Jackson’s veto and renew the charter.  Jackson retaliated by removing most of the deposits from the bank and reducing its political power. Biddle retaliated by calling in the bank’s loans, causing a recession and damaging the economy.

Historian Donald J. Fraser says Jackson and Biddle should have compromised on the matter, thereby averting numerous financial panics, boom-and-bust cycles over the next 75 years in which the citizens suffered.

On History News Network, he wrote: “There were numerous missed opportunities for compromise over the Bank that could have preserved its role in managing the money supply and acting as fiscal agent for the government, while still strengthening governmental oversight. Over the next 75 years, “the U.S. economy seemed to move from one financial crisis to another,” as the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank noted in a December 2010 report on the Second Bank of the United States. Central banking would not appear again until the Federal Reserve System was established by Woodrow Wilson in 1913. The inability of Jackson and Biddle to find some middle ground was a very costly mistake.”

Newt Gingrich Perspective

What if Andrew Jackson Won the 1824 election?

Drill Deeper:

  • Andrew Jackson and Donald Trump.
  • Politifact.org: “Barack Obama’s Treasury Department in 2016 to take Jackson off the front of the $20 bill, making way for a portrait of abolitionist Harriet Tubman. The move drew criticism from Trump, then a presidential candidate, who saw it as an example of political correctness.”

7 thoughts on “After 1824 Election, What If ‘Corrupt Bargain’ Was Not Struck?

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