At this writing, we are entering the final act of a political season that has seemingly lasted longer, plumbed deeper lows, and stretched our patience more than any other. Indeed, sometimes it seems as though the very fabric of our Republic is beginning to unravel as Hillary and The Donald launch salvo after salvo at each other. Yet before all is declared lost, I offer you a healthy dose of perspective from the history books: the Election of 1828.
Not only was the 1828 contest the first to see campaigns organize picnics to meet with voters as well as the first reported instance of politicians kissing babies, it also was among the most vile, personal, and mean-spirited contests in the history of our great land. A rematch from four years prior, incumbent President John Quincy Adams faced off against General Andrew Jackson, hero of the War of 1812. Jackson’s legendary temper and violent life gave his opponents plenty of room to question his temperament: he had been an active participant in several duels, including one in which he killed his opponent and as general, Jackson oversaw the execution of six deserters of his force. Adams supporters chronicled Jackson’s alleged brutality and distributed posters across the country starkly emblazoned with six black coffins. Even harsher were the accusations that Jackson’s marriage to his wife Rachel, who had been previously married, was illegitimate and that Mrs. Jackson was somehow an adulterer and bigamist.
Adams, the President son of a President, was painted as a silver spoon baby and faced accusations of corruption within his administration. Worse yet, Jackson-backers spread the story that while serving as a diplomat in Russia, JQA had provided the czar with an American woman for companionship, likening the President to a pimp. In the end Jackson won handily but Rachel died shortly before the inauguration, an unfortunate event the incoming President blamed on the vagaries of the campaign. JQA went on to a successful second act as a Member of Congress and ardent warrior for the abolition of slavery.
I share this to supply some perspective on the current political pugilism in hopes that history can provide some comfort. America has survived bruising and ugly campaigns in the past and we will undoubtedly get through this one as well. America is strong and Americans are resilient even if our process for selecting leadership can be hard on ‘We The People.’