QUESTION: Was a presidential election ever decided by one electoral vote?

Rutherford B. Hayes

 

ANSWER: It has happened three times. The first was the 1800 election, which revealed a serious flaw in the US Constitution. Thomas Jefferson and his running mate Aaron Burr each received 73 electoral votes.
The original wording of the Constitution didn’t distinguish between electoral votes for president and vice president, so the decision had to be made in the House of Representatives where each state had one vote.
The voting went on for several days, and in the first 35 ballots, Jefferson had the support of 8 states while Burr had 6. 9 states were needed to win and Jefferson obtained that on the 36th ballot. He would be the next president and Aaron Burr was declared vice president.
The dispute led to ratification of the 12th Amendment, which changed the way the electoral college functioned. The only time the amendment was used was 1824.
That year Andrew Jackson received a plurality, but not a majority, of electoral votes cast. Jackson received 99 electoral votes, John Quincy Adams 84, William H. Crawford 41 and Henry Clay 37.
All the candidates were members of the same party and each had fallen short of the 131 votes necessary to win. The election was again thrown to the House.
According to the 12th Amendment, the House had to choose the president out of the top 3 candidates. This meant Clay was eliminated and he endorsed Adams.
Crawford’s poor health following a stroke made his election unlikely. Because Adams later named Clay his Secretary of State, Jackson’s supporters claimed there was a “corrupt bargain.”
It came down to the vote of single representative from upstate New York, Stephen van Rensselaer III, the founder of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Once again, each state was given one-vote, and Adams had the support of twelve states, one short of what was needed.
When Congressman van Rensselaer entered the Chamber that day, he was ushered into the office of Speaker Henry Clay, who along with Daniel Webster tried to persuade him to vote for Adams. They were unsuccessful, but the combination of the best persuaders in American history may have had an effect.
Before voting, van Rensselaer bowed his head in prayer. When he opened his eyes the first thing he saw on the floor was a slip of paper with Adams’ name on it. Accepting it is a sign from God, he put the slip into the ballot box. Adams carried New York by one vote, and it was the final state needed for his election.
The election of 1876 saw the highest voter turnout in U.S. history, a whopping 82 percent. The nation was enduring a severe depression. Because of the economy, Democrats won a 74 seat majority in the House during the 1874 off year election, but the GOP would reduced that to just 9 seats two years later.
Gov. Samuel Tilden (D-NY) won the popular vote, and Gov. Rutherford B. Hayes (R-OH) initially conceded.
Then the electoral votes in three states were disputed. A single electoral vote decided the outcome in Hayes’ favor. A Democratic-controlled Congress had admitted Colorado in time to participate in the presidential election, when without its votes, Tilden would have won.
The story is told in “By One Vote: The Disputed Presidential Election of 1876” by Michael Holt

Trivia Question: Do You Know Me?


I was considered a great beauty in my youth and I married a Yale educated attorney. We had 10 children and over 50 servants (you would call them slaves). Our large estate is now part of a well known university with over 20,000 students. Continue reading

John Quincy Adams: A Gentleman Would Not Campaign for President

"The Adams Chronicles" was a 1976 Emmy award winning series which covered 150 years of family history. This episode portrayed the future first family at the beginning of the American Revolution in 1776. Back row, John Quincy Adams, Abigail Adams II, First Lady Abigail Adams. Front row, Thomas Adams, President John Adams and Charles Adams.


John Quincy Adams was intent on being President of the United States in 1822. At work he focused on what would become known as the “Monroe Doctrine.” It would be named after President James Monroe, but it was Adams idea. The election was two years away but Adams fretted because few people were coming forward in support of his candidacy. Continue reading

Trivia Questions About the First Ladies

QUESTIONS
1) Which brilliant First Lady used her own money to send 46 disadvantaged young people to college? The press never knew of her generosity and neither did her husband. He only discovered what she had done after her death. Continue reading

Samuel F. B. Morse as an Artist


It was 188 years ago today that this painting by Samuel F. B. Morse was first displayed. The 1822 canvas can now be seen at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Morse is best remembered for inventing the telegraph, Morse code and daguerreotype photography.
Since 1864, the Old Hall of the U.S. House of Representatives has been known as Statuary Hall. It served as the original House chamber from 1807 to 1857. The Presidential inaugurations of James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson and Millard Fillmore all occurred in this room. Adams, “old man eloquent,” served 17 years in the House after his presidency and suffered a fatal stroke in this room on February 21, 1848. “The Art Book” (Phaidon) describes the painting by saying:
“A moment of quiet harmony reigns in the US House of Representative as members and visitors gather for an evening session. At the center of this monumental canvas is a chandelier whose light casts an abstract pattern of shadows throughout the grand Classical space of the hall, which had been recently rebuilt by architect Benjamin Latrobe following the 1814 devastation of the Capitol by the English . . . Morse ultimately quit painting in 1837, disappointed by the country’s slow cultural advancement. He devoted the rest of his life to politics and inventing.”

John Quincy Adams and Amistad: The 170th Anniversary

Today marks the 170th anniversary of the date the Amistad slaves were arrested at Montauk, NY. The speech by former President John Quincy Adams before the Supreme Court was portrayed in the movie “Amistad,” and it is an outstanding defense of liberty. In 1841, Adams represented the defendants pro bono before the Supreme Court. He successfully argued that the Africans should not be deported to Cuba but should be considered free.
Adams won their freedom, with the chance to stay in the United States or return to Africa. He made the argument on the grounds that the U.S. had prohibited the international slave trade, although it allowed internal slavery.
In his last term, Adams served in the House of Representatives and spoke with freshman Rep. Abraham Lincoln (IL). Adams is the only major figure in American history who knew Lincoln as well as all of the Founding Fathers.