In that era the candidates did not campaign themselves. The actual campaigning was left to managers and surrogates, and throughout the year various partisans spoke and wrote in favor of the candidates.
When the votes were tallied from across the nation, Andrew Jackson had won a plurality of the popular as well as the electoral vote. In the electoral college tabulations, John Quincy Adams came in second, Crawford third, and Henry Clay finished fourth.
Incidentally, while Jackson won the popular vote that was counted, some states at that time picked electors in the state legislature and thus did not tally a popular vote for president.
No One Met the Constitutional Requirement for Victory
The US Constitution dictates that a candidate needs to win a majority in the electoral college, and no one met that standard. So the election had to be decided by the House of Representatives.
In an odd twist, the one man who would have a huge advantage in that venue, the Speaker of the House Henry Clay, was automatically eliminated. The Constitution said only the top three candidates could be considered.
Henry Clay Supported John Quincy Adams, Became Secretary of State
In early January 1824 John Quincy Adams invited Henry Clay to visit him at his residence and the two men spoke for several hours. It is unknown whether they reached some sort of deal, but suspicions were widespread.
On February 9, 1825, the House of Representatives held its election, in which each state delegation would get one vote. Henry Clay had made it known that he was supporting Adams, and thanks to his influence, Adams won the vote and was thus elected president.
The Election of 1824 Was Known as “The Corrupt Bargain”
Andrew Jackson, already famous for his temper, was furious. And when John Quincy Adams named Henry Clay to be his secretary of state, Jackson denounced the election as “the corrupt bargain.” Many assumed Clay sold his influence to Adams so he could be secretary of state and thus increase his own chance of being president someday.
Andrew Jackson was so wildly angry about what he considered manipulations in Washington that he resigned his senate seat. He returned to Tennessee and began planning the campaign that would make him president four years later. The 1828 campaign between Jackson and John Quincy Adams was perhaps the dirtiest campaign ever, as wild accusations were thrown about by each side.
Jackson would serve two terms as president, and would begin the era of strong political parties in America.
As for John Quincy Adams, he served four years as president before being defeated by Jackson when he ran for reelection in 1828. Adams then retired briefly to Massachusetts. He ran for the House of Representatives in 1830, won the election, and would ultimately serve 17 years in Congress, becoming a strong advocate against slavery.
Adams always said being a congressman was more gratifying than being president. And Adams actually died in the US Capitol, having suffered a stroke in the building in February 1848.
Henry Clay ran for president again, losing to Jackson in 1832 and to James Knox Polk in 1844. And while he never gained the nation’s highest office, he remained a major figure in national politics until his death in 1852.