Thursday, July 7, 2016

Until this year............................

     And yet even as the candidates comported themselves in public according to the code of ethics inherited from the Founding Fathers, the nation's real political culture had changed radically.  Looking back no further than 1812, which was the last time there had been a serious contest for the presidency, the number of states had increased from eighteen to twenty-four;  the population of the country had almost doubled, to about 11 million; and the West, where five of the six new states were located, had gained vastly in power.  The 1812 contest had pitted a  Republican incumbent, James Madison, against a Federalist, DeWitt Clinton; now there would be neither and incumbent nor a party nor even an obvious favorite, since Monroe chose not to indicate one.  The 1824 election would thus be a strange hybrid: structurally, or organizationally, it bore the marks of an old-fashioned contest among political elites, but the traditional institutions were now subject to influences from new men and new places.  And the collapse of the party system had created a vacuum that would be filled by representatives of regional or economic or cultural interests, all in search of suitable candidate.  For all these reasons, the election of 1824 was the most confused and wide-open national political contest America had ever seen.

-James Traub,  John Quincy Adams:  Militant Spirit

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