Dirty Politics! The 1828 Edition!

The good news? Election Day is tomorrow! That means we will soon be rid of maddening political ads and crazy-eyed politicians.

The bad news? This election cycle has been just plain exhausting. I am desperate for public conversation to veer away from "polling" and "electoral college" to more light-hearted topics like "puppies!" and "Hey, that's Jean-Luc Picard!" 

A girl can dream, right? 

Anyway, in honor of the election, I thought I'd re-publish a post I wrote four years ago about the 1828 presidential race. If you think this current election is dirty, it ain't got nothin' on John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson! 

Without further adieu....

From time to time, it's tempting to think about the "good ol' days" when politics was gentler and when candidates would set aside their differences for the greater good of the nation.

Oh, wait! That's never happened before. Politics has always been a dirty business. Case in point: the election of 1828.

On one side of the ring, we have John Quincy Adams: long-time member of Congress, former ambassador to Russia, and son of the 2nd president of the United States. 

And on the other side of the ring, we have Andrew Jackson: a military man known for his hot temper and the hero of the Battle of New Orleans.

But before we dig into the dirt of the 1828 election, we need to go back a little further for some background info. See, in 1824, John Quincy Adams won the presidency by what is now called "The Corrupt Bargain." In short, none of the presidential candidates secured a majority of electoral votes (there were four men in the running) so the House of Representatives stepped in to determine the next president. Eventually the House declared victory for Adams, which completely incensed Jackson and his supporters but the decision had been made. 

Four years later though, Andrew Jackson was ready for payback. 

The two candidates differed sharply on the issues of their day but both campaigns tossed these issues aside, resorting to personal attacks and rumor-mongering. (Regina George would approve!)

The Adams camp focused on Jackson's incendiary temper and how he ordered the execution of militiamen accused of desertion. But they hit a particularly low blow when they attacked Jackson's beloved wife, accusing her of bigamy and questioning the legitimacy of her marriage.

The Jackson camp was quick to fire back. They called Adams an elitist. They alleged he had bought a billiards table for the White House and charged the government for the purchase. (How shocking!) And yet, these were petty charges compared to what came next: the Jackson cronies spread a rumor saying how Adams purchased a prostitute for the Russian czar. The attack was wholly unsubstantiated, but the Jackson campaign delighted in the false accusations--to the point of calling the president a "pimp." Adams was so offended that he refused to write in his diary until the election ended. Hmph!

When the votes were finally cast, Jackson defeated Adams and secured his spot as president--but his victory was a bittersweet one. Shortly before his inauguration, his wife Rachel passed away. Consequently, Jackson blamed the Adams' camp for weakening her spirits and thus contributing to her death.

The 1828 campaign stayed bitter to the very end.

And so, if you're sick and tired of this election... If you're counting down the days until November 4th... If you're restraining yourself from punching those robo-callers in the face...

Take heart, my friends. Be grateful you didn't live in 1828!