The Elections of 1808 and 1812

1808: James Madison 122  Charles Pinckney 47

1812:  James Madison 128  DeWitt Clinton 89

In 1808, Jefferson reinforced Washington’s precedent by voluntarily retiring after two terms.  The Republican congressional caucus nominated Jefferson’s protégé and Secretary of State, James Madison, to succeed him.  The major issue of the election was foreign policy, especially the American stance in the long-running war between Great Britain and Napoleonic France.  Jefferson and Madison had persuaded Congress to enact an Embargo Act, which closed American ports to foreign shipping in order to compel the belligerents to respect American neutrality.  The act caused economic hardship at home, especially in commercial New England, without inducing the European powers to a greater respect for American neutrality.  The continuing disputes over respect for neutrality on the high seas led to war with Great Britain, which the United States entered with naïve hopes of conquering Canada.  The American military suffered early disasters in War of 1812; despite this, Madison was reelected in the first presidential election conducted during wartime.  The war ultimately confirmed American independence.

Leave a Reply