United States presidential election, 1820: Wikis


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1816 United States 1824
United States presidential election, 1820
Jm5.gif JohnQAdams.png
Nominee James Monroe John Quincy Adams
Party Democratic-Republican Democratic-Republican
Home state Virginia Massachusetts
Running mate Daniel D. Tompkins Richard Rush
Electoral vote 228 / 231 1
States carried 23
Popular vote 108,359
Percentage 100%
Presidential election results map. Green denotes states won by Monroe, light yellow denotes New Hampshire elector William Plumer's vote for John Quincy Adams. Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state. Missouri's statehood status and subsequent electoral votes disputed.

Previous President
James Monroe

The United States presidential election of 1820 was the third and last presidential election in United States history in which a candidate ran effectively unopposed. (The previous two were the presidential elections of 1789 and 1792, in which George Washington ran without serious opposition.)

President James Monroe and Vice President Daniel D. Tompkins were re-elected without a serious campaign.



Despite the continuation of single party politics (known in this case as the Era of Good Feelings), serious issues emerged during the election in 1820. The nation had endured a widespread depression following the Panic of 1819 and the momentous issue of the extension of slavery into the territories was taking center stage. Nevertheless, James Monroe faced no opposition party or candidate in his reelection bid, although he did not receive all the electoral votes (see below).

Massachusetts had been entitled to 22 electoral votes four years earlier, but cast only 15 in 1820. This diminishing of power was brought about by the Missouri Compromise of that year that had made the region of Maine — long part of Massachusetts — a free state to balance the pending admission of slave state Missouri.

Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Mississippi each cast one fewer electoral vote than the state was entitled to, on account of one elector dying before the electoral meeting. This explains the anomaly of Mississippi casting only two votes, when any state is always entitled to a minimum of three.

Mississippi, Illinois and Alabama also participated in their first presidential election in 1820, but it would be almost 15 years before another state was admitted to the Union.[1]



Democratic-Republican Party nomination

Democratic-Republican candidates

Since President Monroe's renomination was never in doubt, few Republicans bothered to attend the nominating caucus in April 1820. Only 40 delegates attended, with few or no delegates from the large states of Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Rather than name the president with only a handful of votes, the caucus declined to make a formal nomination. Richard M. Johnson offered the following resolution: "It is inexpedient, at this time, to proceed to the nomination of persons for the offices of President and Vice President of the United States." After debate, the resolution was unanimously adopted, and the meeting adjourned. Thus, President Monroe and Vice President Daniel D. Tompkins became de facto candidates for reelection.

Informal Ballot
Presidential Ballot Vice Presidential Ballot
James Monroe 40 Daniel D. Tompkins 40

General election


There was effectively no campaign, since there was no serious opposition to Monroe and Tompkins.


On March 9, 1820, Congress had passed a law directing Missouri to hold a convention to form a constitution and a state government. This law stated that “…the said state, when formed, shall be admitted into the Union, upon an equal footing with the original states, in all respects whatsoever.”[2] However, Congress reconvened in November 1820, the admission of Missouri became an issue of contention. Proponents claimed that Missouri had fulfilled the conditions of the law and therefore it was a state; detractors contended that certain provisions of the Missouri constitution violated the United States Constitution.

By the time Congress was due to meet to count the electoral votes from the election, this dispute had lasted over two months. The counting raised a ticklish problem: if Congress counted Missouri's votes, that would count as recognition that Missouri was a state; on the other hand, if Congress failed to count Missouri's vote, that would count as recognition that Missouri was not a state. Knowing ahead of time that Monroe had won in a landslide and that Missouri's vote would therefore make no difference in the final result, the Senate passed a resolution on February 13, 1821 stating that if a protest were made, there would be no consideration of the matter unless the vote of Missouri would change who would become President. Instead, the President of the Senate would announce the final tally twice, once with Missouri included and once with it excluded.[3]

The next day this resolution was introduced in the full House. After a lively debate, it was passed. Nonetheless, during the counting of the electoral votes on February 14, 1821, an objection was raised to the votes from Missouri by Representative Arthur Livermore of New Hampshire. He argued that since Missouri had not yet officially become a state that Missouri had no right to cast any electoral votes. Immediately, Representative John Floyd of Virginia argued that Missouri's votes must be counted. Chaos ensued, and order was only restored with the counting of the vote as per the resolution and then adjournment for the day.[4]

The sole electoral vote against Monroe came from William Plumer, an elector from New Hampshire and former United States senator and New Hampshire governor. Plumer cast his electoral ballot for then-Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. While some accounts say that this was to ensure that Washington remained the only American president unanimously chosen by the Electoral College, others assert that he was instead calling attention to his friend Adams as a potential future presidential candidate or protesting against the "wasteful extravagance" of the Monroe Administration.[5] Plumer also eschewed voting for Tompkins for Vice President as "grossly intemperate" and having "not that weight of character which his office requires," and also "because he grossly neglected his duty" in his "only" official role as president of the senate by being "absent nearly three-fourths of the time";[6] Plumer instead voted for Richard Rush.


Even though every member of the Electoral College was pledged to James Monroe, there were still a number of Federalist electors who voted for a Federalist vice president. The votes for Richard Stockton came from Massachusetts. The entire Delaware delegation voted for Daniel Rodney for Vice President. Finally, Robert Goodloe Harper's vice presidential vote was cast by an elector from his home state of Maryland.

Presidential Candidate Party Home State Popular Vote(a), (b) Electoral Vote
Count Percentage
James Monroe Democratic-Republican Virginia 108,359 100% 228/231(c)
Total 108,359 100.0% 229/232(c)
Needed to win 115/117(c)

Source (Popular Vote): U.S. President National Vote. Our Campaigns. (February 9, 2006).
Source (Electoral Vote): Electoral College Box Scores 1789–1996. Official website of the National Archives. (July 30, 2005).

(a) Only 15 of the 24 states chose electors by popular vote.
(b) Those states that did choose electors by popular vote had widely varying restrictions on suffrage via property requirements.
(c) There was a dispute as to whether Missouri's electoral votes were valid, due to the timing of its assumption of statehood. The first figure excludes Missouri's votes and the second figure includes them.

Vice Presidential Candidate Party State Electoral Vote
Daniel D. Tompkins Democratic-Republican New York 215/218(a)
Richard Stockton Federalist New Jersey 8
Daniel Rodney Federalist Delaware 4
Robert Goodloe Harper Federalist Maryland 1
Richard Rush Federalist Pennsylvania 1
Total 229/232(a)
Needed to win 115/117(a)

Source: Electoral College Box Scores 1789–1996. Official website of the National Archives. (July 30, 2005).

(a) There was a dispute over the validity of Missouri's electoral votes, due to the timing of its assumption of statehood. The first figure excludes Missouri's votes and the second figure includes them.

Breakdown by ticket

Presidential Candidate Running Mate Electoral Vote
James Monroe Daniel D Tompkins 215/218(a)
James Monroe Richard Stockton 8
James Monroe Daniel Rodney 4
James Monroe Robert Goodloe Harper 1
John Quincy Adams Richard Rush 1

(a) There was a dispute over the validity of Missouri's electoral votes, due to the timing of its assumption of statehood. The first figure excludes Missouri's votes and the second figure includes them.

Note that all of these tickets except Monroe/Tompkins and Adams/Rush are split tickets, with a Democratic-Republican presidential candidate and a Federalist vice presidential candidate. Note also that these split tickets represent only 5.6% of the electoral vote.

Electoral college selection

Method of choosing Electors State(s)
Each Elector appointed by state legislature Alabama
New York
South Carolina
Each Elector chosen by voters statewide Connecticut
New Hampshire
New Jersey
North Carolina
Rhode Island
State is divided into electoral districts,
with one Elector chosen per district by
the voters of that district
  • Two Electors chosen by voters statewide
  • One Elector chosen per Congressional district by the voters of that district

See also


  1. ^ Election of 1820
  2. ^ United States Congress (1820). United States Statutes at Large. Act of March 6, ch. 23, vol. 3. pp. 545–548. http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/hlaw:@field(DOCID+@lit(sj06845)). Retrieved 2006-08-09. 
  3. ^ United States Congress (1821). Senate Journal. 16th Congress, 2nd Session, February 13. pp. 187–188. http://rs6.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/hlaw:@field(DOCID+@lit(sj01070)). Retrieved 2006-07-29. 
  4. ^ Annals of Congress. 16th Congress, 2nd Session, February 14, 1821. Gales and Seaton. 1856. pp. 1147–1165. http://rs6.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/hlaw:@field(DOCID+@lit(sj01070)). Retrieved 2006-07-29. 
  5. ^ [www.nevadaseniors.com/archive/NSC20060914.pdf "How Important is One Vote?"] The NSC Foghorn newsletter.
  6. ^ "Daniel D. Tompkins, 6th Vice President (1817-1825)" United States Senate web site. On the other hand, an editorial in the New York Herald-Tribune on June 21, 1932, argued that "The name of Daniel Tompkins deserves to be more kindly remembered than it has been."


External links



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