CHAPTER XV. THE ELECTION OF 1824 (1822-1825)
Clay was again chosen speaker, on his return to the House of Representatives in December, 1823, by a triumphant majority, and, as the session advanced, he and Calhoun, with all the arts of fascinating conversation, plied the old and new members. At this critical period in his campaign, Crawford was overwhelmed by a stroke of paralysis (September, 1823), which wrecked his huge frame and shattered his career. Shut in a darkened room, threatened with blindness and the loss of speech, bled by the doctors twenty-three times in three weeks, unable to sign his official papers with his own hand, he was prevented from conducting his own political battle. But he kept his courage and his purpose, concealing his real condition from all but his most trusted intimates. Not until April, 1824, was he able to attend cabinet meetings, and within a month after that he suffered a relapse, which prevented his active participation in his duties until the fall. [Footnote: National Intelligencer, September 15, 1824; Life of W. W. Seaton, 160; King, Life and Corresp. of King, VI., 539; Adams, Memoirs, VI., 130, 270, 275, 356, 357, 387, 428, 435, 439; Univ. of North Carolina, James Sprunt Hist. Monographs, No. 2, pp. 69, 71; Edwards, Illinois, 492.]
Adams had the New England scruples against urging his cause personally, and took the attitude that the office of president should come from merit, not from manipulation. [Footnote: Adams, Memoirs, IV., 64, 242, 298, V., 89, 129, 298, 525; Dwight, Travels, I., 266.] Moreover, he saw that the practice of soliciting votes from members of Congress would render the executive subservient to that body. Although his uncompromising temper unfitted him for the tactics of political management, he was an adept in the grand strategy of the contest, and he noted every move of his adversaries. His replies to attacks were crushing, for he had the gift of clear and forcible exposition. [Footnote: Adams, Memoirs, V., 361, 496- 535, VI., 116-118; King, Life and Corresp. of King, VI., 475; Gallatin, Writings, II., 246.] But his greatest strength in the presidential contest lay in the fact that he was the only promising northern candidate.
Early in the campaign, Calhoun commented on the fact that five candidates were from the slave-holding states - a circumstance which, in his opinion, would give Adams great advantages if he knew how to improve them. [Footnote: Edwards, Illinois, 492.] Naturally, therefore, Adams gained the influential support of Rufus King, the chief antagonist of the slave section. At first decidedly hostile, King's final adhesion was given to him, not out of personal regard, but because he believed that the public should be aroused against "longer submission to a Southern Master.... He is the only northern Candidate, and as between him and the black Candidates I prefer him." [Footnote: King, Life and Corresp. of King, VI., 508, 510.] Steadily Adams increased his following in reluctant New England. [Footnote: Niles' Register, XXIII., 322, 342; Clay, Private Corresp., 98; Adams, Memoirs, VI., 235.] In New York he had an element of strength in the fact that the population was nearly evenly divided between the natives of that state and the settlers from New England. Of the delegation from the state of New York in the seventeenth Congress, for example, those who were born in New England were about equal to those born in the state itself. Nearly forty per cent, of the members of the New York constitutional convention of 1821 were born in New England. [Footnote: King, Life and Corresp. of King, VI., 413; Carter and Stone, Reports of New York Convention, 637; Force, Calendar (1823).] The adhesion of ex- Speaker Taylor, another of the champions of restriction in the Missouri struggle, furnished an able manager in New York.
Even the attitude of Van Buren was for a time in doubt, for he would gladly have retired from politics to accept a place on the bench of the supreme court of the United States; but Adams and King pressed his candidacy for this position in vain upon the president, and Van Buren finally gave his full support to Crawford. [Footnote: King, Life and Corresp. of King, VI., 512-517, 518-527; Adams, Memoirs, VI., 168, 173; Crawford to Van Buren, August 1, 1823, Van Buren Papers (MSS.); Am. Hist. Assoc., Report 1904, p. 178.] So little did Adams appreciate the popular movement that was gathering about Jackson's name, that he advised his followers to support the "Old Hero" for the vice-presidency, "a station in which the General could hang no one, and in which he would need to quarrel with no one. His name and character would serve to restore the forgotten dignity of the place, and it would afford an easy and dignified retirement to his old age." [Footnote: Adams, Memoirs, VI., 333.] In January, 1824, on the anniversary of the victory of New Orleans, Adams gave a great ball, attended by over a thousand people, in honor of his rival. [Footnote: Ibid., 220; Sargent, Public Men and Events, I., 48-51.]
After Jackson's return from the governorship of Florida, in 1821, his star steadily rose in the political horizon. His canvass was conducted by his neighbor, Major Lewis, who was one of the most astute politicians in American history, able subtly to influence the attitude of his volcanic candidate and to touch the springs of political management. On July 20, 1822, the legislature of Tennessee formally nominated the general for the presidency. [Footnote: Parton, Jackson, III., 20; Niles' Register, XXII., 402.]