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Home : American History : 20th Century 
AMERICAN HISTORY : 20th Century

 

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Great Presidential Races 
(A look at the elections of 1812, 1844, 1912 & 1964)

 

1812

The election of 1812 consisted of a battle between James Madison, and DeWitt Clinton. Madison had represented both Democratic and Republican beliefs, while Clinton was a Federalist.  

James Madison was born in Port Conway, Va., on March 16, 1751. A Princeton graduate, he joined the struggle for independence on his return to Virginia in 1771. He had been an active politician in the 1770's and 1780's. He was greatly know for championing the Jefferson reform program, and in the Continental Congress. Madison, in collaboration, had participated greatly in the, Federalist, a paper who's main purpose was to ratify the constitution. Madison first became president in 1809, when he bested Charles C. Pickney. He had led the U.S. in a very unpopular war, in which the U.S. hadn't been prepared for...the War of 1812.

De Witt Clinton was a Federalist, who's main purpose of the election was to get the U.S. out of a war in which he felt was very unnecessary. DeWitt held every major elective office in New York between 1797 and 1828--assemblyman, senator, mayor of New York City, lieutenant governor, and governor. He was a philanthropist and patron of the arts and science and, as canal commissioner, championed construction of the Erie and Champlain canals.

The method in which these candidates received nomination was by the Electoral College, or by King Caucus. The idea of political conventions had not been present at this time. There were no third-party candidates in this election.

The major issue of this election was the War of 1812. The War of 1812, or "Mr. Madison's War", had been very unpopular among different sections of America. Mainly the ship owners in New England. The war was supposed to protect. This war was supposed to help their shipping, but instead, it had kept them from trading and making money.

The winner of the election of 1812 was James Madison. Madison collected 128 electoral votes, while Clinton received 89, and the number of "No Votes Cast" was 1. The Vice-presidential candidate, who won the election was Elbridge Gerry, who received 131 electoral votes, while Jared Ingersoll received 86. There was no record of the number of popular votes for this election.

My opinion of why Madison had won the election is because he had led the country into the War of 1812, and therefore, he should be allowed to fight it. He was also much more popular than De Witt Clinton. Madison's part in ratifying the Constitution, and his other early deeds, were also influential on the voters minds. He also did pretty well during his first term.

1844

The candidates for the election of 1844 were James K. Polk, and Henry Clay. Two very respectable men, who had great plans for the U.S. Polk represented the Democratic party, while Clay represented the Whigs.

James Knox Polk was born in Mecklenburg County, N.C., on November 2, 1795.  He graduated from the University of North Carolina, from which he then moved to Tennessee, where he became prominent in state politics. He was elected to the house of representatives in 1825. He was elected Speaker of the House in 1835. Four years later, he was elected governor of Tennessee, but was beaten in tries for re-election in 1841, and 1843. Martin Van Buren, the president prior to the 1844 election, counted on Polk as his running mate; but when Van Buren's stand on Texas alienated Southern support, the convention swung to Polk on the Ninth ballot.

Henry Clay, a key figure in U.S. politics during the first half of the 19th century, was a master of the art of political compromise. Born in Hanover County, Va., on April 12, 1777, he studied law in Richmond and moved to the frontier state of Kentucky in 1797. Clay became more and more important in Kentucky politics, becoming speaker of the state assembly in 1807, and winning election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1811. Clay made his first try for the presidency in 1824. Four men ran, including Andrew Jackson, who was on the ballot. When no candidate won a majority, Clay threw his support to John Quincy Adams. Adams won and promptly named Clay his secretary of state.

The party members won their candidacy by primary. The major upset of this time happened during the Democratic convention. Everyone expected Van Buren to be named the Democratic candidate, but because of Van Buren's stand on Texas, the nomination went to Polk. This election had no third-party candidates.

The major issue of this election was the issue of Texas. Polk and the Democrats, wanted Texas in the Union. Clay also wanted Texas, but he was afraid that the acquisition of Texas would lead to war with Mexico. Clay never made it clear just where the Whig party stood. The Oregon territory had also been a big part of this election. Oregon was the name given to all the land between Alaska and California, west of the Rocky Mountains.

Both Great Britain and the U.S. claimed it. Polk said that the Oregon territory would be America's, even if it led to war.  The winner of the election was James K. Polk. He pulled in 170 electoral votes, while Henry Clay received 105. There is no record of the number of popular votes for this election.

My opinion of why Polk won this election is because of his stand on land.  He believed greatly in "Manifest Destiny", and this was very popular at the time. Clay, and the Whig party never made it clear as to where they stood on Texas. Perhaps if the voters had known for sure on which side of the line they stood, this election might have had a different outcome.

1912

The election of 1912 was a three-man race between Theodore Roosevelt, who was a Progressive, William H. Taft, a Republican, and Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat. Each one had their own ideas on how to change America, but only one would get a chance to do so.

Born in NYC on October in 1858, Theodore Roosevelt was a Harvard graduate.  His interests included ranching, politics, and writing. Roosevelt was a Republican member of the New York assembly from 1882-1884. He was an unsuccessful candidate for mayor of NYC in 1886, but became police commissioner of NYC in 1895. Roosevelt assumed the job of president in 1901, after the assassination of McKinley. Theodore Roosevelt embarked mainly on conserving natural resources. He was very anit-big-buisness.

After his term was up, he was defeated in presidential primary as a Republican, so he chose to start his own party, known as the "Progressives". Teddy pulled most of the votes in election of 1912, but the split between him and Taft caused Wilson to become president.

Born in Cincinnati on September 15, 1857, William Taft was a Yale graduate, who went on to serve for the Ohio supreme court from 1890-92. He became the Secretary of war under President Roosevelt. Taft won the republican nomination over Roosevelt during their political convention, causing Roosevelt to form Progressive party. Lost election, thus causing Wilson to become president. Taft had been chosen by Roosevelt essentially to carry on Roosevelt's progressive policies. In a certain sense he did: he instituted and completed more antitrust cases than his "trust-busting" predecessor; he supported the proposed income-tax amendment to the U.S. Constitution; he helped enact a system of postal savings and a measure, the Mann-Elkins Bill, to regulate the railroads more effectively; and he backed several social reforms, including an employer's liability law for work done on government jobs and a mandatory 8-hour day in federal employment.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson was born in Staunton, Va., on Dec. 28, 1856. He was profoundly influenced by a devoutly religious household headed by his father, Joseph Ruggles Wilson, a Presbyterian minister, and his mother, Janet Woodrow Wilson, the daughter of a minister. Wilson studied at the University of Virginia Law School, briefly practiced law in Atlanta, and in 1883 entered The Johns Hopkins University for graduate study in political science. His book, Congressional Government, was published a year before he received his doctoral degree. Success in New Jersey made him a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination. Although Wilson entered the 1912 Democratic National Convention a poor second to Speaker of the House Champ Clark, his strength increased as Clark's faded, and he won the nomination after 46 ballots. Offering a program of reform that he called the New Freedom, Wilson ran against a divided Republican party. In November, with only 42 percent of the popular vote, he won 435 electoral votes to 88 for Progressive candidate Theodore Roosevelt and 8 for the Republican candidate, President William Howard Taft.

The candidates for this election, excluding Roosevelt, were all elected in a convention. Because Roosevelt lost his convention, he formed his own party, allowing him a place on the ballot.

The third party candidate for this election was Theodore Roosevelt. His party, the Progressives main issue were, they believed that abuses of power by government and business could be ended (i.e., bribery and corruption), business regulations, importance of technology.

The main issues in this election were Big Business abusing powers by monopolizing others. "Trust Busting" was the major idea of this period. Many felt that government should get involved to stop power abusing. The idea of regulations, such as the on the meat packing industry, were very much supported, after being exposed by the muckrakers of the time.

The winner of this election was Woodrow Wilson. Wilson received a total popular vote count of 6,286,214, and a total electoral vote count of 435. Roosevelt's popular vote total was 4,126,020, with an electoral vote count of 88. Finally, Taft's popular vote accumulations were 3,483,922, and 8 electoral votes.

The main reason Woodrow Wilson won the election in my opinion, was because Roosevelt took many votes away from Taft. As is in many third-party elections, the number of votes significantly changes, thus causing some major upsets. Wilson won because congress voted him in, not because he was elected. If Roosevelt hadn't formed his own party, Taft would have had a better chance of becoming President of the United States. 1936

The candidates in the election of 1936 were, Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, Alfred M. Landon, a Republican, and Norman Thomas, a Socialist.

Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882, at Hyde Park, N.Y., to James Roosevelt. He was an average student at Harvard University, edited the Harvard Crimson in his senior year, and after graduation attended Columbia Law School. He dropped out of law school upon admission to the New York bar and worked for a Wall Street law firm. Franklin married a distant cousin, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, on March 17, 1905. Her uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt, gave the bride away. Their children were Anna Eleanor, James, Elliott, Franklin Delano, Jr., and John; a sixth child died in infancy. The Roosevelt's were active in New York social circles but at the same time devoted considerable energy to the plight of the less fortunate. Franklin's handling of small-claims cases in the municipal court system deepened his concern for the common people. Although a Democrat, he admired the progressivism of Uncle Teddy and decided early upon a political career.

Alfred Mossman Landon, born in West Middlesex, Pa., on September 9, 1887, was a key figure in the U.S. Republican party in the 1930s and ran unsuccessfully for president in 1936. "Alf" Landon first entered the national political arena in 1912, campaigning for Theodore Roosevelt, who was that year the Progressive party candidate for president. Landon continued to be associated with progressive politics within the Republican party. In 1932, Landon was elected governor of Kansas, and two years later he was the only incumbent Republican governor to be reelected in an otherwise Democratic landslide. This success made Landon a strong candidate to oppose President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936. Although he won 17,000,000 votes, Landon carried only two states, Maine and Vermont. Following his defeat Landon retired from national politics.

Norman Mattoon Thomas, born in Marion, Ohio, November 20, 1884, was six times an unsuccessful Socialist Party candidate for president of the United States between 1928 and 1948. A Presbyterian minister in East Harlem's slums, he became a pacifist and opposed American entry into World War I. In 1917 he helped found what became the American Civil Liberties Union. Thomas joined the Socialist party in 1918 and became its leader in 1926. Defending a moderate, non-Marxist brand of socialism, he failed (except in the 1932 election) to halt the decline of his party.

Each candidate in this election, won his nomination via a presidential convention.

The third party candidate, Norman Thomas, was a Socialist. Socialist's believed mainly in public ownership of the means by which goods and services are produced, distributed, and exchanged.

The main issue of the day for this election was the Great Depression. People were living in the hardest economic times America had ever seen, and were looking for someone to get them out of it.

The winner of the election was F.D.R. Roosevelt received a popular vote total of 27,751,597, and an electoral vote total of 523. Landon received 16,679,583 popular votes, and 8 electoral votes, and Thomas received 884,781 popular votes, and 0 electoral votes.

Why F.D.R. won the election in my opinion is because he was a great president. The American people loved him, and his style of government. He gained the trust of the American people, by getting them out of the Great Depression. That is why he was elected to the presidency more than any other president before his time.

1964

The election of 1964 was a contest between Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat, and Barry M. Goldwater, a Republican.

Johnson was born on August 27, 1908, near Johnson City, Texas, the eldest son of Sam Early Johnson, Jr., and Rebekah Baines Johnson. Johnson attended public schools in Johnson City and received a B.S. degree from Southwest Texas State Teachers College in San Marcos. He then taught for a year in Houston before going to Washington in 1931 as secretary to a Democratic Texas congressman, Richard M. Kleberg. In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President. Johnson greatly admired the president, who named him, at age 27, to head the National Youth Administration in Texas. In 1937, Johnson sought and won a Texas seat in Congress, where he mastered public works, reclamation, and public power programs. When war came to Europe he backed Roosevelt's efforts to aid the Allies. During World War II he served a brief tour of active duty with the U.S. Navy in the Pacific, but returned to Capitol Hill when Roosevelt recalled members of Congress from active duty. Johnson continued to support Roosevelt's military and foreign-policy programs. In 1953 he won the job of Senate Democratic leader. The next year he was easily reelected as senator and returned to Washington as majority leader, a post he held for the next 6 years despite a serious heart attack in 1955.

Barry Morris Goldwater, born in Phoenix, Arizona on January 1, 1909, was the unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate in 1964. Goldwater was elected to the Senate from Arizona in 1952. A firm conservative, he became a spokesman for right-wing Republicans in their campaign against big government, advocating instead greater state and local powers. He vigorously opposed federal welfare appropriations as socialistic and sought to curb public ownership of utilities. A strong anti-Communist, Goldwater supported American military intervention in Vietnam and criticized efforts to achieve detente with the USSR. He was decisively defeated by Lyndon Johnson in the 1964 presidential election. Goldwater served in the Senate until retirement in 1987.

Each candidate won his nomination by a Presidential Convention, with the process of primary elections. There were no third-party candidates in this election.

The main issue of this election was civil rights. Many people opposed Lyndon B. Johnson's laws, claiming them to be too "pro-black". Many liberals and blacks themselves believed that the laws didn't go far enough. Race riots broke out in a number of cities because of these conflicts.

The winner of the election was Johnson, by a landslide. He brought in a popular vote total of 43,129,484, and an electoral vote total of 486. Goldwater, on the other hand, won a popular vote total of 27,178,188, and an electoral vote total of 52.

The reason Johnson won the election of 1964, in my opinion is because of his prior term. He was able to regain control of the White House, after taking over for the assassinated John F. Kennedy. It was a time of equality and civil rights, and many people liked and agreed with where he stood on these issues. 1988

The election of 1988 was a contest between George Bush, and Michael Dukakis. Bush was a Republican, while Dukakis was a Democrat.

Born on June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts, to Dorothy Walker Bush, daughter of a wealthy investor, and Prescott Sheldon Bush, a banker and later Republican U.S. senator from Connecticut, George Bush grew up in the New York City suburb of Greenwich, Connecticut and attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. During World War II he became the navy's youngest bomber pilot. Shot down over the Pacific island of Chichi Jima and rescued by a submarine, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals. In 1945 he married Barbara Pierce and then matriculated at Yale University, where he majored in economics, was captain of the baseball team, and graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors in 1948.

Michael Stanley Dukakis, born in Brookline, Massachusetts, November 3, 1933, a three-term governor of Massachusetts, was the Democratic presidential candidate in 1988. The son of immigrants from Greece, Dukakis graduated from Swarthmore College and Harvard Law School. He was elected to the Massachusetts legislature in 1962, serving four terms. Elected governor of Massachusetts in 1974, Dukakis was denied re-nomination in 1978. Re-elected in 1982 and 1986, he claimed credit for part of the period's economic resurgence--the "Massachusetts miracle." The state's economy had soured when he declined to run again in 1990. Stressing "competence" over "ideology," Dukakis campaigned for the presidency in 1988 in a manner that many observers found uninspiring. He and his running mate, Sen. Lloyd Bensten of Texas, lost to the Republican team, George Bush and Dan Quayle, by 46% to 54% of the popular vote. After leaving office as governor of Massachusetts, Dukakis declared that he planned to do some lecturing and teaching, as well as encouraging young people to enter public service.

Each candidate in this election was elected by the process of primary elections, and nominated at their Presidential Convention. There were no third-party candidates in this election.

The main issue of this election was taxes. Bush's promise of "no new taxes" won over the American public.

Bush won the election with a popular vote total of 48,886,097, and an electoral vote of 426. Dukakis received a popular vote total of 41,809,074, and an electoral vote total of 111.

The reason Bush won the election in my opinion was because of his promise of "no new taxes." The American people just came off of a "Regan High", with good economic times. People thought the things would remain like they did during the "Reagan Era" if they elected Bush.

The most important election in my opinion of all of these was the election of 1812. America was heading into a war which we weren't prepared for. This was a crucial time for someone to take the reigns, and lead America into a situation in which we would come out on top. Madison was the right man for the job, at such a crucial time in American History.

 



 

 



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