Facts are Stubborn Things

Posted in: Club Newsletter, Featured, In The News, Reflections Articles


Facts are Stubborn Things
by Drew Edmondson

Rotary Club 29 survived another election.  From president to board members we were voting, vying and surviving.  The results are in and there were no challenges, no court actions, few surprises and not much comment.  It is a credit to our nominating committee members that our elections run smoothly and it is a credit to our membership that those elections are without visible rancor and negative acts.  As to other elections, local, state and national, not so much so.

The presidential election in 1824 is a case in point.

In defending British soldiers in the aftermath of the Boston Massacre, John Adams is credited with the argument, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”  December 4, 1770

Adams son, John Quincy Adams had occasion to question the validity of that argument half a century later when he vied for the Presidency in 1824.  His chief opponent in that contest was none other than the hero of the Battle of New Orleans, Andrew Jackson.

The race made history.  Adams and Jackson were not the only big names to compete in that affair.  Henry Clay of Kentucky, the fiery orator and speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, believed he had earned the position.  William Harris Crawford of Georgia, who served in President James Monroe’s cabinet as Secretary of the Treasury was also in the race.

Of interest to journalists and political hacks, on July 24th of the election year a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania newspaper published the first results of the first public opinion poll which showed a clear lead for Andrew Jackson.  It proved to be accurate but somewhat irrelevant in the wake of subsequent events.  If you hear any candidate say “the only poll that counts is the one on election day”, it means the polls show him to be losing.

The results were fractured:  Jackson did led with 151,271 votes, 41.36% of the total, and 99 electoral votes.  Adams came in second with 113,122 votes, 30.92% and 84 electoral votes, Crawford was third with over 40,000 votes and 41 electors and last was Clay with more votes than Crawford but fewer electoral votes, 37.

Twenty years earlier, in 1804, the nation had ratified the 12th Amendment to the Constitution dealing with the election of the President and Vice President.  Under the terms of that Amendment, if no one receives a majority of the electoral vote, the top candidates, limited to three, vie for a second vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, with each state getting one vote.  Jackson, Adams and Crawford were the top three.  Jackson was confident he would win there, having received more popular votes and more electoral votes than the other two.

There are times, however, when stubborn facts must give way to politics.

John Quincy Adams won the Congressional vote and became our sixth President but only managed one term.  Jackson took him out in the next election to become our seventh President and went on to serve two terms.  Jackson credited his 1824 loss to a “corrupt bargain” where Clay, Speaker of the House, swayed support to Adams in return for being appointed Secretary of State.

Under the 12th Amendment if the race goes to Congress each state gets one vote, so the number of states in your column is paramount.  The population of a state is irrelevant, as is the electoral college vote.

The son of a president becoming president did not happen again until George W. Bush.  No election has gone to Congress in modern times, although that happened several times after 1824.  The 12th Amendment is still on the books.

Would that our national elections were as civil and orderly as those conducted by  Rotary Club 29.

3 Comments for : Facts are Stubborn Things
    • Dick Hefton
    • January 29, 2024

    So much for “The Heirs of the Founders?”
    Great “facts,” Drew!

    • Donna Lawrence
    • January 29, 2024

    Thanks, Drew! Interesting history!

    • Johnny Settle
    • January 29, 2024

    Very interesting and informative Drew. Thanks!

Comments are closed.

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