History teachers could not help but chuckle when they saw this picture from the second presidential debate during the 2012 campaign. In it, the incumbent Obama and the challenger Romney seemed to be sparring aggressively. As confrontational as this picture seems, though, history teachers cannot help but laugh when they compare this relatively mild scene to the Election of 1824.
The Election of 1824 spelled the end of the Era of Good Feelings. During the Monroe administration, it seemed to many Americans that partisan politics has eased significantly. With the death of the Federalist Party as a formal body, there only appeared to be one political party in operation, that being the party of the Jeffersonian Republicans. However, partisanship returned in full force when the followers of the two major candidates, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, began spewing vile at each other. The Adams’ camp leveled charges of adultery, illiteracy, and homicidal violence at the feet of Jackson, whilst the Jacksonites claimed that Adams wore silk underwear, gambled, and had served as a “pimp” for the Russian czar. Indeed, both parties continued to duke it out even after the election, as charges were leveled that Adams had won because of a Corrupt Bargain.
Edsitement is a wonderful resource for teachers. It includes a digital library full of lesson plans. Here is one lesson that helps students understand the issues behind the Election of 1824. Perhaps this lesson can help students have some context for truly partisan campaigns to compare to this current one.