Campaigns from 1800 to 1850 - Pre-Television Strategies

Introduction:

Candidates for the office of President of the United States of America have been selected by the people for over 200 years but the way that these candidates have been presented to the public has changed throughout the history of America. This is primarily due to the constant evolution of mass media and the ways in which it is used. As mass media has evolved it has has even had a massive impact on the message of a candidate.
Originally the framers of the Constitution had never expected that we would ever have such large Presidential campaigns and powerful political parties. In addition to this they could not have foreseen the massive advancements in technology that has taken place concerning mass media. The elections of 1789 and 1792 were unanimously decided by the Electoral College who chose George Washington as President. There was no competition for the office of President and parties had yet to take root in American society. These two elections were relatively uneventful in the sense that there was no campaigning.
Come 1796 the nation saw its first competitive Presidential election. Two political parties had formed: the Democratic Republicans and the Federalists. The Democratic Republicans posted Thomas Jefferson as their candidate and the Federalists backed John Adams and Adams won the election. To learn about how elections have continued to evolve check out Campaigns from 1854 to 1908.


Election of 1800:

The election of 1800 was a competition between the same two candidates as the previous election (Thomas Jefferson and John Adams). This election was noted to be extremely hostile. Both candidates and their respective political parties used many types of media to paint a bad image of their adversary. Partisan newspapers, portraits, political cartoons, and letters were all used to help gather support for a specific candidate. Partisan newspapers are newspapers that are owned either by a member of a political party or a political party itself that gives one-sided versions of the news. These were one of the most widely used forms of media at this time period. Political cartoons are an illustration or comic strip containing a political or social message. During this time period and even today these cartoons focused on creating a poor image of candidates. By 1800 the Federalist party had began its decline and Jefferson had won.

Election of 1828:

The next major election of this time period was the election of 1828 which pitted Andrew Jackson and the Democratic Republicans against John Quincy Adams and the National Republicans. This was a fairly hostile and was marked by an impressive amount of mudslinging. Mudslinging is the use of insults and accusations, especially unjust ones, with the aim of damaging the reputation of an opponent. One example of this hostility is that a pro John Quincy Adams newspapers actually attacked Andrew Jackson for marrying a woman before her divorce had been finalized. They accused him of violating marital virtue and called him a seducer. The same types of media were used as the previous election. Andrew Jackson realized the importance of media and he spent about $50,000 on the press. The political center of gravity had shifted westward towards the new states which is where much of the campaigning took place in the form of political cartoons and biased newspapers. The electorate has also expanded due to the lifted property qualifications. Due to these two factors there were many more impressionable voters that needed to be reached and both candidates used different forms of media to do so. Jackson came to win the election with a vast majority of the electoral vote.

Poster from 1828 election
Poster from 1828 election


Election of 1832:

The election of 1832 was a relatively easy victory for President Andrew Jackson, representing the Democratic Party. He ran for reelection against Henry Clay, representing the National Republican Party, and William Wirt, representing the Anti-Masonic Party. Jackson realized his investment in the media in his last election worked for him. He continued his same strategy in using the media to his advantage. Just as he did in the previous election, he invested heavily in newspapers. Newspapers continued to be a huge contributing factors in elections as did political cartoons. This relatively new concept helped candidates negatively represent their opposition. Since they were created in the previous election, they were not used as frequently as they were in the election of 1832. They became more powerful and more useful to candidates. Another useful media tactic, that was a new concept, was posters. A poster is a paperboard sign or notice posted in a public place for advertising. Posters are large and eye-catching that display a candidate’s name and anything that can help get their message across. They are usually very bold and stand out. Jackson used his same strategy as his last election and even added a new approach in this election. He ended up winning the election with a landslide majority of electoral votes.
Election of 1840:

In this election, Martin Van Buren ran for re-election against William H. Harrison. Van Buren represented the Democratic Party and Harrison represented the Whig Party. Recognizing the importance of the media in past elections, these two candidates took full advantage of the same types of media used before. Newspapers, political cartoons, and posters still contributed to this election. They both used the media to portray one another in a negative way. Van Buren was widely unpopular due to the Panic of 1937 and Harrison used that to his advantage. Van Buren in return presented Harrison as a wealthy snob. There was also a new form of media that both candidates took advantage of. Songbooks are simply a book of songs put together. Candidates developed campaign songs as another tool either positive portray themselves and/or negatively portray their opposition. Campaign songs are songs that are created specifically for a candidate running for a position. They can be extremely helpful because of their ability to spread quickly amongst people. Using media strategies, and now including songbooks and campaign songs, William H. Harrison was able to win the presidency.

The Penny Press: becoming popular in the 1830s, it provided candidates a fast cheap way to mass produce newspapers
The Penny Press: becoming popular in the 1830s, it provided candidates a fast cheap way to mass produce newspapers



Campaign Strategies:
In the early elections, from the years 1800 to 1850, the strategies varied. The main strategy parties used was to portray the other candidate to be as evil as possible. This was done through Partisan newspapers such as the many Federalist newspapers which claimed that Jefferson would cause “teachings of murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest,” while newspapers on the other side claimed that the Federalists were a “reign of witches” and they were “adverse to liberty.” Also, frequently used for mudslinging were political cartoons. These were very popular and very negative. These strategies are similar to the partisanship of media today such as FOX news or MSNBC criticizing one another but back in the early 1800s there was much less regulation and therefore much harsher and less honest words causing greater slander and partisanship. Back in the early 1800s the way of portraying information was very different favoring written words and political cartoons to the pictures, speeches, and videos that can be seen with more modern campaigns. Overall, compared to today, the campaigns were much more negative.


Section Review:

1) During which election were songbooks and campaign songs introduced?
a) 1800 b) 1828
c) 1832 d) 1840

2) What is the definition of mudslinging?




3) During the election of 1832, this form of media was introduced:
a) posters b) newspapers
c) songbooks d) political cartoons

4) How were/are posters effective in campaigns?




5) Campaigns in the 1800s differed from campaigns today because: (choose all that apply)
a) campaigns in the 1800s were much more negative
b) there was much more political funding in the 1800s
c) political cartoons were not used in the 1800s
d) the electorate includes more people today than in the 1800s

6) How much money did Andrew Jackson spend on the press?
a) $10,000 b) $25,000
c) $40,000 d) $50,000


Vocabulary Terms:

Partisan newspapers- Newspapers that are owned either by a member of a political party or a political party itself that gives one-sided versions of the news.
Political cartoons- An illustration or comic strip containing a political or social message.
Mudslinging- The use of insults and accusations, especially unjust ones, with the aim of damaging the reputation of an opponent.
Posters- A poster is a paperboard sign or notice posted in a public place for advertising.
Songbooks- Are simply a book of songs put together.
Campaign songs- Songs that are created specifically for a candidate running for a position.

See Also:
http://www.ithaca.edu/looksharp/PDF_Files/Media_Construction_of_Presidential_Campaigns.pdf

http://books.google.com/bookshl=en&lr=&id=1lWeZ_r7OnUC&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=use+media+in+the+election+of+1828&ots=l0GIzpDNfI&sig=c6v0Oo01kcDt9KsKIOHPnVI13s#v=onepage&q=use%20media%20in%20the%20election%20of%201828&f=false

Works Cited:
"The 1828 Presidential Election Had Plenty of Mudslinging." TriCities.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012
"Center for Journalism Ethics." Center for Journalism Ethics. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012
"American Presidents Blog." : The Election of 1800. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.
"Election of 1832." Election of 1832. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.
"1840 Presidential Election." Presidential Election of 1840. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012


Quiz Answers:

1) b

2) Mudslingingis the use of insults and accusations, especially unjust ones, with the aim of damaging the reputation of an opponent.

3) a

4) Posters are large and eye-catching that display a candidate’s name and anything that can help get their message across and are very bold and stand out.

5) a&d

6) d


By: Lauren Fountain, Jack Bonadies (editor), and Patrick Morley