Did you watch the inauguration Monday?
No matter our politics, it was a great day. In this week’s column, Dr. Calvin Davis continues sharing interesting facts about elections and I’ll continue his memories and facts of elections in a few weeks. We’re lucky that the local, national and international historian and author chose to retire to his home county and is so willing to share his knowledge.
Davis: Three times in our history there have been four candidates for the Presidency: 1824, 1860 and 1912. John Quincy Adams, son of President John Adams, had had a stellar career as minister to European governments and secretary of state. In that position he negotiated the so-called transcontinental treaty with Spain which secured Florida for the United States and drawn the boundary between the United States and the Spanish Kingdom of New Spain – soon to be Mexico. It also drew a line between Spanish possessions and the disputed Oregon Country. Slavery was the principal inspiration behind those paragraphs in President Monroe’s annual message of Dec. 2, 1823 which proclaimed the Monroe Doctrine.
Andrew Jackson won fame for his victory over the British at New Orleans in January 1815. Wm. H. Crawford, secretary of the treasury, was another contender. Henry Clay of Kentucky was yet another. The results of the election: Jackson had 99 electoral votes, Adams had 83, Crawford had 41 and Clay 37. A stroke virtually ended Crawford’s political career. Clay threw his support to Adams and Adams won. The four years of John Q’s presidency were marked by constant maneuvering by the Jacksonians who yelled much about a corrupt bargain. (Clay had been appointed secretary of state.)
The 1824 election led to the splitting of the old National Republican Party. Out of this came the election of Andrew Jackson in 1828, the birth of the Democratic Party – and soon – the Whig Party.
The 1860 election was another with four candidates: Abraham Lincoln, Republican; Stephen A. Douglas, Northern Democrat; John C. Breckinridge, Southern Democrat and John Bell, Constitutional Union party.
The election of 1912 was another four cornered race. It involved four important and interesting men: President William Howard Taft, Republican; Former President Theodore Roosevelt, Progressive Party; Governor Woodrow Wilson, Democrat; Eugene Debs, Socialist.
Wilson won 6,286,214 popular votes and 435 electoral votes. Roosevelt won 4,126,020 popular votes and 88 electoral votes. President Taft won 3,483,922 popular votes and eight electoral votes. Debs won 897,011 popular votes and no electoral votes.
Note how close these men were in age. Roosevelt was born in New York City Oct. 27, 1858 and died at Oyster Bay Jan. 6, 1919. Taft was born Sept. 15, 1857 in Cincinnati and died in Washington March 8, 1930. Wilson was born in Staunton. Va. Dec. 28, 1856 and died in Washington Feb. 3, 1924. Debs was born in Terre Haute, Ind. Nov. 5, 1855 and died in Elmhurst, Ill. Oct. 20, 1926. Roosevelt, Taft and Wilson were graduates of very prestigious universities. Roosevelt graduated from Harvard, Taft from Yale and Wilson from Princeton.
Roosevelt was a member of the Dutch Reformed Church, Taft a Unitarian, and Wilson a Presbyterian. Wilson’s Presbyterian background was extraordinarily important as president of Princeton, governor of New Jersey and as President of the United States. It was an important part of his success – and his failures. I would encourage everyone to read about the careers of Roosevelt and Wilson.
Henry F. Pringle in 1931 published the first good, scholarly biography of Theodore Roosevelt. In recent years, several excellent biographies have been published but I still like Pringle’s. I would also recommend reading some of T. Roosevelt’s speeches. Not long ago George Will declared that T. Roosevelt “went haywire” in about 1911. This is nonsense. He tried hard to help direct the U.S. towards more satisfactory handling of modern economic problems. His “New Nationalism” speech at Osawatomie, Kansas Aug. 3, 1910 is of particular importance. Wilson’s New Freedom speeches during the 1912 presidential campaign should be compared with it.
Note: Next week - a hero living right here in Decatur County. Every person that has worn the uniform of our Armed Forces is a hero. Occasionally, however, someone is thrust into extraordinary circumstances and lives to tell about it. This man’s experience have been the subject of at least two books.
Thanks to all who wished me luck on my quest to avoid sweets. Alice Woodhull’s “Fudge Pudding Cake” was soooo good. Don’t you agree that it’s a shame to deprive oneself of such wonderful things?
Be sure to watch House Hunters on HGTV this coming Friday. It will feature an episode of Ripley and Franklin counties.