1836 United States presidential election

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1836 United States presidential election

← 1832 November 3 – December 7, 1836 1840 →

All 294 electoral votes of the Electoral College
148 electoral votes needed to win
Turnout 57.8%[1] Increase 2.4 pp
  Francis Alexander - Martin Van Buren - Google Art Project.jpg x160px HLWhite.jpg
Nominee Martin Van Buren William H. Harrison Hugh L. White
Party Democratic Whig Whig
Home state New York Ohio Tennessee
Running mate Richard M. Johnson Francis Granger John Tyler
Electoral vote 170 73 26
States carried 15 7 2
Popular vote 764,176 550,816 146,109
Percentage 50.8% 36.6% 9.7%

  x160px x160px
Nominee Daniel Webster Willie P. Mangum
Party Whig Whig
Home state Massachusetts North Carolina
Running mate Francis Granger John Tyler
Electoral vote 14 11
States carried 1 1
Popular vote 41,201 -
Percentage 2.7% -

Template:United States presidential election, 1836 imagemap
Presidential election results map. Blue denotes states won by Van Buren and Johnson or Smith, pale grey-purple denotes those won by Harrison and Granger or Tyler, purple denotes those won by White/Tyler, coral pink denotes those won by Webster/Granger, and bluegrass green denotes those won by Mangum/Tyler. Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state.

President before election

Andrew Jackson

Elected President

Martin Van Buren

The 1836 United States presidential election was the 13th quadrennial presidential election, held from Thursday, November 3 to Wednesday, December 7, 1836. In the third consecutive election victory for the Democratic Party, incumbent Vice President Martin Van Buren defeated four candidates fielded by the nascent Whig Party.

Under the popular leadership of Andrew Jackson, the Democrats had established a stable party. The 1835 Democratic National Convention chose a ticket of Van Buren, Jackson's handpicked successor, and Congressman Richard Mentor Johnson. By contrast, the Whigs had only recently emerged and were primarily united by opposition to Jackson. Not yet sufficiently organized to agree on a single candidate, Whigs hoped to compel a contingent election in the House of Representatives by denying the Democrats an electoral majority, similarly to the election of 1824. Thus, the Whigs ran two main tickets. Most Northern and border state Whigs supported the ticket led by former Senator William Henry Harrison of Ohio, while most Southern Whigs supported the ticket led by Senator Hugh Lawson White of Tennessee. Two other Whigs, Daniel Webster and Willie Person Mangum, carried Massachusetts and South Carolina respectively on single-state tickets.

The Whig strategy failed, as Van Buren won both an electoral majority and a popular majority, though in South Carolina no popular vote was held and the state legislature chose Whig electors. The Whig strategy nearly succeeded[2] in forcing the contingent election, as in 1835, a severe state-level Democratic Party split in Pennsylvania had propelled the Whig-aligned Anti-Masonic Party to statewide power. Party alignments by state in the House of Representatives suggest that a contingent election would have had an uncertain outcome, with Van Buren favored but no candidate enjoying a clear path to victory. However, Van Buren overcame the split, narrowly carrying Pennsylvania and winning the Presidency.

Van Buren was the third incumbent vice president to win election as president, which would happen next only in 1988. Harrison finished second in both the popular and electoral vote. His strong performance helped him win the Whig nomination in the 1840 presidential election.

As Virginia's electors voted for Van Buren but refused to vote for his running mate Johnson, Johnson lacked an electoral majority. The Twelfth Amendment contingent election procedure mandated that the United States Senate choose the vice president. The Senate chose Johnson over Francis Granger on the first ballot.

The election of 1836 was crucial in developing the Second Party System and a stable two-party system more generally. By the end of the election, nearly every independent faction had been absorbed by either the Democrats or the Whigs.[3]


Democratic Party nomination

Democratic Party Ticket, 1836
Martin Van Buren Richard M. Johnson
for President for Vice President
Francis Alexander - Martin Van Buren - Google Art Project.jpg
Vice President of the United States
U.S. Representative
for Kentucky's 13th District

Incumbent President Andrew Jackson decided to retire after two terms. Jackson publicly endorsed a ticket consisting of Vice President Martin Van Buren of New York and Representative Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky, the latter of whom had gained popular favor for his role in the War of 1812. Several Southerners opposed Johnson's nomination due to Johnson's relationship with his African-American slave, and the Virginia delegates supported Senator William Cabell Rives against Johnson. Rives's candidacy failed to galvanize support, and Jackson's preferred ticket was nominated at the 1835 Democratic National Convention held in Baltimore, Maryland.[4]

Convention vote
Presidential vote Vice Presidential vote
Martin Van Buren 265 Richard M. Johnson 178
William C. Rives 87

Whig Party nomination

Whig candidates
75px William Henry Harrison
Former U.S. senator from Ohio
75px Daniel Webster
U.S. senator from Massachusetts
HLWhite.jpg Hugh L. White
U.S. senator from Tennessee
75px Willie Person Mangum
U.S. senator from North Carolina

The Whig Party emerged during the 1834 mid-term elections as the chief opposition to the Democratic Party. The party was formed from members of the National Republican Party, the Anti-Masonic Party, disaffected Jacksonians, and small remnants of the Federalist Party (people whose last political activity was with them a decade before). Some Southerners who were angered by Jackson's opposition to states' rights, including Sen. John C. Calhoun and the Nullifiers, also temporarily joined the Whig coalition.[4]

Unlike the Democrats, the Whigs did not hold a national convention. Instead, state legislatures and state conventions nominated candidates. Southern Nullifiers placed Tennessee Senator Hugh Lawson White into contention for the presidency in 1834 soon after his break with Jackson. White was a moderate on the states' rights issue, which made him acceptable in the South, but not in the North. The state legislatures of Alabama and Tennessee officially nominated White. The South Carolina state legislature nominated Senator Willie Person Mangum of North Carolina. By early 1835, Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster was building support among Northern Whigs. Both Webster and White used Senate debates to establish their positions on the issues of the day, as newspapers carried the text of their speeches nationwide. The Pennsylvania legislature nominated popular former general William Henry Harrison, who had led American forces at the Battle of Tippecanoe. The Whigs hoped that Harrison's reputation as a military hero could win voter support. Harrison soon displaced Webster as the preferred candidate of Northern Whigs. State legislatures, particularly in larger states, also nominated various vice presidential candidates.[4]

Despite multiple candidates, there was only one Whig ticket in each state. The Whigs ended up with two main tickets: William Henry Harrison for president and Francis Granger for vice-president in the North and the border states, and Hugh Lawson White for president and John Tyler for vice-president in the middle and lower South. In Massachusetts, the ticket was Daniel Webster and Granger. In South Carolina, the ticket was Mangum for president and Tyler for vice-president.[4]

Anti-Masonic Party nomination

After the negative views of Freemasonry among a large segment of the public began to wane in the mid 1830s, the Anti-Masonic Party began to disintegrate. Some of its members began moving to the Whig Party, which had a broader issue base than the Anti-Masons. The Whigs were also regarded as a better alternative to the Democrats.

A state convention for the Anti-Masonic Party was held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania from December 14–17, 1835, to choose Presidential Electors for the 1836 election. The convention unanimously nominated William Henry Harrison for President and Francis Granger for Vice President. The Vermont state Anti-Masonic convention followed suit on February 24, 1836. Anti-Masonic leaders were unable to obtain assurance from Harrison that he was not a Mason, so they called a national convention. The second national Anti-Masonic nominating convention was held in Philadelphia on May 4, 1836. The meeting was divisive, but a majority of the delegates officially stated that the party was not sponsoring a national ticket for the presidential election of 1836 and proposed a meeting in 1837 to discuss the future of the party.

Nullifier Party nomination

The Nullifier Party had also begun to decline sharply since the previous election, after it became clear that the doctrine of nullification lacked sufficient support outside of the party's political base of South Carolina to ever make the Nullifiers more than a fringe party nationwide. Many party members began to drift towards the Democratic Party, but there was no question of the party endorsing Van Buren's bid for the presidency, as he and Calhoun were sworn enemies. Seeing little point in running their own ticket, Calhoun pushed the party into backing the White/Tyler ticket, as White had previously sided against Jackson during the Nullification Crisis.

General election


Results by county explicitly indicating the percentage of the winning candidate in each county. Shades of blue are for Van Buren (Democratic), shades of orange are for Harrison (Whig), shades of green are for White (Whig), and shades of red are for Webster (Whig).

In the aftermath of the Nat Turner slave rebellion and other events, slavery emerged as an increasingly prominent political issue. Calhoun attacked Van Buren, saying that he could not be trusted to protect Southern interests and accusing the sitting Vice President of affiliating with abolitionists.[4] Van Buren defeated Harrison by a margin of 51.4% to 48.6% in the North, and he defeated White by a similar margin of 50.7% to 49.3% in the South.


A dispute similar to that of Indiana in 1817 and Missouri in 1821 arose during the counting of the electoral votes. Michigan only became a state on January 26, 1837, and had cast its electoral votes for president before that date. Anticipating a challenge to the results, Congress resolved on February 4, 1837, that during the counting four days later the final tally was read twice, once with Michigan and once without Michigan. The counting proceeded in accordance with the resolution. The dispute had no bearing on the final result: either way Van Buren was elected, and either way no candidate had a majority for vice-president.[5]


The Whigs' strategy ultimately failed to prevent Van Buren's election as President, though he earned a somewhat lower share of the popular vote, and fewer electoral votes, than Andrew Jackson had in either of the previous two elections. The key state in this election was ultimately Pennsylvania, which Van Buren won from Harrison with a narrow majority of just 4,000 votes. Had Harrison been able to win the state, Van Buren would have been left eight votes short of an Electoral College majority, meaning that the Whig goal to force the election into the House of Representatives would have succeeded, and the House would have been forced to choose between Van Buren, Harrison, and White, as the three candidates with the most electoral votes. Given that the Democrats still held a majority in the House, however, Van Buren would likely still have been victorious.

Virginia's 23 electors were all pledged to Van Buren and his running mate, Richard Mentor Johnson. However, all 23 of them became faithless electors due to dissension related to his interracial relationship with a slave[6] and refused to vote for Johnson, instead casting their votes for former South Carolina senator William Smith. This left Johnson one electoral vote short of the 148-vote majority required to be elected. Thus, in accordance with the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the Senate decided between the top two vote recipients, and chose Johnson over Francis Granger.

This was the last election in which the Democrats won Connecticut, Rhode Island, and North Carolina until 1852. This was also the only election where South Carolina voted for the Whigs and the last time it voted against the Democrats until 1868.

Presidential Candidate Party Home State Popular Vote(a) Electoral Vote
Count Percentage
Martin Van Buren Democratic New York 764,176 50.83% 170
William Henry Harrison Whig Ohio 550,816 36.63% 73
Hugh Lawson White Whig Tennessee 146,107 9.72% 26
Daniel Webster Whig Massachusetts 41,201 2.74% 14
Willie Person Mangum Whig North Carolina (b) 11
Other 1,234 0.08% 0
Total 1,503,534 100.0% 294
Needed to win 148

Source (Popular Vote): Leip, David. "1836 Presidential Election Results". Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. Retrieved July 27, 2005.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Source (Electoral Vote): "Electoral College Box Scores 1789–1996". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved July 31, 2005.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

(a) The popular vote figures exclude South Carolina where the Electors were chosen by the state legislature rather than by popular vote.
(b) Mangum received his electoral votes from South Carolina where the Electors were chosen by the state legislatures rather than by popular vote.

Popular vote
Van Buren
Electoral vote
Van Buren
Vice Presidential Candidate Party State Electoral Vote
Richard M. Johnson Democratic Kentucky 147
Francis Granger Whig New York 77
John Tyler Whig Virginia 47
William Smith Democratic Alabama 23
Total 294
Needed to win 148

Source: "Electoral College Box Scores 1789–1996". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved July 31, 2005.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Geography of results

Cartographic gallery

Results by state

Source: Data from Walter Dean Burnham, Presidential ballots, 1836-1892 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1955) pp 247–57.

Martin Van Buren
William H. Harrison
Hugh L. White
Daniel Webster
Willie Person Mangum
Margin Total
State electoral
Votes cast  % electoral
Votes cast  % electoral
Votes cast  % electoral
Votes cast  % electoral
# % #
Alabama 7 20,638 55.34 7 no ballots 16,658 44.66 0 no ballots no ballots 3,980 10.68 37,296 AL
Arkansas 3 2,380 64.08 3 no ballots 1,334 35.92 0 no ballots no ballots 1,046 28.16 3,714 AR
Connecticut 8 19,294 50.65 8 18,799 49.35 0 no ballots no ballots no ballots 495 1.30 38,093 CT
Delaware 3 4,154 46.70 0 4,736 53.24 3 no ballots no ballots no ballots -582 -6.54 8,895 DE
Georgia 11 22,778 48.20 0 no ballots 24,481 51.80 11 no ballots no ballots -1,703 -3.60 47,259 GA
Illinois 5 18,369 54.69 5 15,220 45.31 0 no ballots no ballots no ballots 3,149 9.38 33,589 IL
Indiana 9 32,478 44.03 0 41,281 55.97 9 no ballots no ballots no ballots -8,803 -11.94 73,759 IN
Kentucky 15 33,229 47.41 0 36,861 52.59 15 no ballots no ballots no ballots -3,632 -5.18 70,090 KY
Louisiana 5 3,842 51.74 5 no ballots 3,583 48.26 0 no ballots no ballots 259 3.48 7,425 LA
Maine 10 22,825 58.92 10 14,803 38.21 0 no ballots no ballots no ballots 8,022 20.71 38,740 ME
Maryland 10 22,267 46.27 0 25,852 53.73 10 no ballots no ballots no ballots -3,585 -7.46 48,119 MD
Massachusetts 14 33,486 44.81 0 no ballots no ballots 41,201 55.13 14 no ballots -7,715 -10.32 74,687 MA
Michigan 3 7,122 56.22 3 5,545 43.78 0 no ballots no ballots no ballots 1,577 12.44 12,667 MI
Mississippi 4 10,297 51.28 4 no ballots 9,782 48.72 0 no ballots no ballots 515 2.56 20,079 MS
Missouri 4 10,995 59.98 4 no ballots 7,337 40.02 0 no ballots no ballots 3,658 19.96 18,332 MO
New Hampshire 7 18,697 75.01 7 6,228 24.99 0 no ballots no ballots no ballots 12,469 50.02 24,925 NH
New Jersey 8 25,592 49.47 0 26,137 50.53 8 no ballots no ballots no ballots -545 -1.06 51,729 NJ
New York 42 166,795 54.63 42 138,548 45.37 0 no ballots no ballots no ballots 28,247 9.26 305,343 NY
North Carolina 15 26,631 53.10 15 no ballots 23,521 46.90 0 no ballots no ballots 3,110 6.20 50,153 NC
Ohio 21 96,238 47.56 0 104,958 51.87 21 no ballots no ballots no ballots -8,720 -4.31 202,333 OH
Pennsylvania 30 91,457 51.18 30 87,235 48.82 0 no ballots no ballots no ballots 4,222 2.36 178,692 PA
Rhode Island 4 2,964 52.24 4 2,710 47.76 0 no ballots no ballots no ballots 254 4.48 5,674 RI
South Carolina 11 no popular vote no popular vote no popular vote no popular vote 11 - - 0 SC
Tennessee 15 26,170 42.08 0 no ballots 36,027 57.92 15 no ballots no ballots -9,857 -15.84 62,197 TN
Vermont 7 14,037 40.07 0 20,994 59.93 7 no ballots no ballots no ballots -6,957 -19.86 35,031 VT
Virginia 23 30,556 56.64 23 no ballots 23,384 43.35 0 no ballots no ballots 7,172 13.29 53,945 VA
TOTALS: 294 763,291 50.79 170 549,907 36.59 73 146,107 9.72 26 41,201 2.74 14 11 213,384 14.20 1,502,811 US
TO WIN: 148

Breakdown by ticket

Candidate Total Martin Van Buren
William H. Harrison
Hugh L. White
Daniel Webster
Willie P. Mangum
Electoral Votes for President 294 170 73 26 14 11
For Vice President, Richard Mentor Johnson 147 147        
For Vice President, Francis Granger 77   63   14  
For Vice President, John Tyler 47   10 26   11
For Vice President, William Smith 23 23        

1837 contingent election

Since no candidate for vice president received a majority of the electoral votes, the U.S. Senate held a contingent election in which the top two electoral vote recipients, Richard Johnson and Francis Granger, were the candidates. On February 8, 1837, Johnson was elected on the first ballot by a vote of 33 to 16. This is the only time that the Senate has exercised this power.[7]

1837 Contingent United States vice presidential election
February 8, 1837
Party Candidate Votes  %
Democratic Richard M. Johnson 33 63.46%
Whig Francis Granger 16 30.77%
    Not voting 3 5.77%
Total membership 52 100
Votes necessary 27 >50
Members voting for:
Johnson Granger

 Thomas H. Benton of Missouri
 John Black of Mississippi
 Bedford Brown of North Carolina
 James Buchanan of Pennsylvania
 Alfred Cuthbert of Georgia
 Judah Dana of Maine
 William Lee D. Ewing of Illinois
 William S. Fulton of Arkansas
 Felix Grundy of Tennessee
 William Hendricks of Indiana
 Henry Hubbard of New Hampshire
 William R. King of Alabama
 John P. King of Georgia
 Lewis F. Linn of Missouri
 Lucius Lyon of Michigan
 Samuel McKean of Pennsylvania
 Gabriel Moore of Alabama
 Thomas Morris of Ohio
 Alexandre Mouton of Louisiana
 Robert C. Nicholas of Louisiana
 John M. Niles of Connecticut
 John Norvell of Michigan
 John Page of New Hampshire
 Richard E. Parker of Virginia
 William C. Rives of Virginia
 John M. Robinson of Illinois
 John Ruggles of Maine
 Ambrose H. Sevier of Arkansas
 Robert Strange of North Carolina
 Nathaniel P. Tallmadge of New York
 John Tipton of Indiana
 Robert J. Walker of Mississippi
 Silas Wright of New York

 Richard H. Bayard of Delaware
 Henry Clay of Kentucky
 Thomas Clayton of Delaware
 John J. Crittenden of Kentucky
 John Davis of Massachusetts
 Thomas Ewing of Ohio
 Joseph Kent of Maryland
 Nehemiah R. Knight of Rhode Island
 Samuel Prentiss of Vermont
 Asher Robbins of Rhode Island
 Samuel L. Southard of New Jersey
 John Selby Spence of Maryland
 Benjamin Swift of Vermont
 Gideon Tomlinson of Connecticut
 Garret D. Wall of New Jersey
 Daniel Webster of Massachusetts

Members not voting:

 John C. Calhoun of South Carolina    William C. Preston of South Carolina
 Hugh L. White of Tennessee

Sources: [8][9]

Electoral college selection

Method of choosing Electors State(s)
Each Elector appointed by state legislature South Carolina
Each Elector chosen by voters statewide (all other States)

See also


  1. "Voter Turnout in Presidential Elections". The American Presidency Project. UC Santa Barbara. Archived from the original on January 12, 2017.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. https://www.raabcollection.com/william-henry-harrison-autograph/william-henry-harrison-signed-sold-whig-party-first-presidential
  3. Cole, Donald B. (1984). Martin Van Buren and the American Political System. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 279. ISBN 0-691-04715-4. Retrieved March 23, 2017.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Deskins, Donald Richard; Walton, Hanes; Puckett, Sherman (2010). Presidential Elections, 1789-2008: County, State, and National Mapping of Election Data. University of Michigan Press. pp. 106–107.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. United States Congress (1837). Senate Journal. 24th Congress, 2nd Session, February 4. pp. 203–204. Archived from the original on April 4, 2015. Retrieved August 20, 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Burke, Window To The Past
  7. "The Senate Elects a Vice President". Washington, D.C.: Office of the Secretary of the Senate. Retrieved August 11, 2019.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Cong. Globe, 24th Cong., 2nd Sess. 166(1837)". A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774–1875. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress. Retrieved August 8, 2019.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "24th Congress Senate Vote 334 (1837)". voteview.com. Los Angeles, California: UCLA Department of Political Science and Social Science Computing. Retrieved August 8, 2019.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


External links