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The Election Of 1836: Martin Van Buren vs. The Whig Party

Hello, and welcome back to another edition of Lace ‘Em Up’s Presidential Election series. Today we will be going over the Election of 1836, Martin Van Buren is looking to become the new President of the United States, but there’s a new political party who are looking to stop Van Buren and Democrats this time around.

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Martin Van Buren

Following two terms as commander-in-chief, Andrew Jackson decided to step down in order for his friend and Vice President, Martin Van Buren to continue where he left off. Van Buren has a very accomplished political career in addition to being one of the founders of the Democratic Party alongside Andrew Jackson, he also is a great political organizer. He was a former Senator and later Governor of his home state of New York, a former Secretary of State and of course, the VP under the Jackson Administration and he ends up getting the party’s nomination unanimously.

Van Buren’s running mate in this election was Richard Mentor Johnson, a U.S. Representative from Kentucky and allegedly the person who killed the Shawnee Indian Chief, Tecumseh in the Battle of Thames during the War of 1812.

Despite this and the fact he was a Southern politician, Johnson was disliked by many Democrats due to his habit of having affairs with his female slaves. One of these slaves, Julie Chinn is described as Johnson’s wife by the man himself although it’s unknown how consensual these relationships were from the slave’s perspectives; nevertheless, no serious competition was made to change Johnson for the VP slot and resulted in him getting the nomination.

The Rise Of The Whig Party

The Whig Party

Following their defeats to Andrew Jackson in 1828 and 1832, the National Republican Party would cease to exist. Soon a new political party which was made up of former Federalists, National Republicans, members of the Anti-Masonic Party and Democrats who disagreed with Jackson would soon form to create ‘The Whig Party’.

Founded by Kentucky politician and Speaker of the House Henry Clay, the Whigs idealogy centred around restoring the national bank, supporting high tariffs for industrial goods and a bigger focus on infrastructure projects. The group first rose to prominence following their success in the 1834 midterm elections where they won seats in the House of Representatives and by the 1836 election they thought they had what it would take to beat the Democrats.

When the time came to choose a candidate to represent them, the Whigs decided to use a unique strategy where instead of having one candidate go up against Van Buren. They ran four candidates in different parts of the country, hoping these candidates would eat away at Martin Van Buren’s chances of winning the presidency.

The four Whig Candidates running in the 1836 Election were:

  • Hugh Lawson White- Senator from Tennessee
  • Willie Person Magnum- Senator from North Carolina
  • Daniel Webster- Senator from Massachusetts
  • William Henry Harrison- Former Senator and Governor from Ohio

The Whigs chose two different people to be the running mates for their candidate with Francis Granger who was a U.S. Representative of New York being the VP pick for Harrison and Webster, while John Tyler who was a Senator from Viriginia became the VP pick for Magnum and White.

The overall plan for the Whigs in this election was to deadlock the electoral college, so that Van Buren couldn’t win and instead throw the results into the House of Representatives where the Whigs believed they could be able to decide the winner…But did this strategy work? Well, let’s look at the results and find out.

Election of 1836: The Results

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Before I go over the results, it’s important to mention that the areas of land that would become Arkansas and Michigan officially became states thereby making the electoral votes needed to win in this election was 148 or more. However, Michigan became an official state in 1837 so a compromise was made in which the votes would be continued twice: one with Michigan’s votes included and one without it.

But as you can see from looking at the map, this didn’t make much of a difference as Martin Van Buren came out on top with 170 electoral votes and 50.8% of the popular vote making him the 8th President in U.S. history.

The Whigs strategy of divide and conquer backfired in this election as Van Buren was able to secure more than enough votes to win the presidency due to multiple candidates spliting up the vote in places that the Whigs could’ve won.

In terms of the results for the Whigs:

William Henry Harrison got 73 electoral votes and 36.6% of the popular vote winning several states like Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky among others.

Hugh Lawson White got 26 electoral votes from the state of Kentucky and Georgia and received 9.7% of the popular vote.

Daniel Webster won 14 electoral votes from his home state of Massachusetts and 2.7% of the popular votes

And Willie P. Magnum got 11 electoral votes from the state of South Carolina, but due to South Carolina still not have a popular vote, Magnum didn’t win any…Now that Van Buren has won the election, you’d think that would be the end of it, but we’re not done yet as we have some controversy regarding the Vice Presidency and for that we will have to send this to the Senate.

The Battle Of The Vice Presidents

Election of 1836

Despite the fact Martin Van Buren won the Presidency, Richard Mentor Johnson had some problems with his bid for the Vice Presidency as 23 electors in the state of Virginia threw their support to a Senator from South Carolina named William Smith as these electors didn’t like Johnson due to his history with female slaves, so they voted for Smith as a protest vote.

This decision by the Virginia electors have basically left Johnson short of the electoral votes needed to win and so the race for Vice Presidency was thrown into the Senate where they had to choose who will win between Johnson and Granger (who had more votes than Tyler but was also short).

Due to the fact that the Democrats had a majority of support in the Senate, they voted for Richard Johnson who became the 9th Vice President in U.S. History and to date the only VP to win their position by way of a Congenital Election within the Senate.

Be sure to come back for the next Presidential Election, as will be talking about the Election of 1840, but If you are interested in learning more about U.S. political history on this site, be sure to leave your thoughts down below in the comment section and be sure to follow Lace ‘Em Up on Twitter @laceemupoffice you can follow me also on Twitter @hakeemfullerton and I’ll see you in the next article.

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