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Why was the 1824 election called the Corrupt Bargain?

December 1st

John Quincy AdamsDecember 1, 1824 — Today, the debate began to decide the outcome of a deadlock between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson in the US House of Representatives.

For the first time no candidate ran as a Federalist, while five significant candidates competed as Democratic-Republicans including William Crawford, who was the secretary of the treasury, Andrew Jackson, a hero of the War of 1812, and John Quincy Adams, the son of the second president and Monroe’ secretary of state.

The winner in the all-important Electoral College was Andrew Jackson, with 99 votes. Adams secured 84 votes. Meanwhile Crawford trailed well behind with 41 votes.

Although Jackson seemed to have won a narrow victory, receiving 43 percent of the popular vote vs. 30 percent for Adams, he would not be seated as the country’s 6th president. Because nobody had received a majority of votes in the electoral college, the House of Representatives had to choose between the top two candidates.

Adams wins, of course, and the election is denounced immediately as a “Corrupt Bargain” by supporters of Jackson. To Jacksonians the Adams-Clay alliance symbolized a corrupt system where elite insiders pursued their own interests without heeding the will of the people.

Words of Wisdom

[I] will save the nation from the rule of demagogues who by intrigue are, and have been attempting to cheat the people out of their constitutional rights, by a caucus of congressional members.

— Andrew Jackson, 1824

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