Teaching With Documents Lesson Plan:
Tally of the 1824 Electoral College Vote
This lesson correlates to the National History Standards.
- Era 3 -The Revolution and New Nation (1754-1820s)
- Standard 3A -Demonstrate understanding of the issues involved in the creation and ratification of the United States Constitution and the new government it established.
- Standard 3D -Demonstrate understanding of the development of the first American party system.
This lesson correlates to the National Standards for Civics and Government.
- Standard III.A.1. -Explain how the U.S. Constitution grants and distributes power to national and state government and how it seeks to prevent the abuse of power.
This lesson relates to the role of the Electoral College in the election of the president and vice-president as specified in the U.S. Constitution in Article II, Section 1, Clauses 2 and 4, and the 12th Amendment.
Share this document and teaching suggestions with your history, government, and language arts colleagues.
Analyzing the Document
1. Direct students to identify the document . Lead a class discussion using the following questions: What does the title or heading indicate? When was the document drawn up? What do the numbers to the left of each state name represent? What do the three main columns represent? List the names at the top of each column. Who are they? What do the numbers in the columns below each name represent? Instruct students to calculate the percentage of the total electoral votes each candidate for president and vice-president received, and ask them who they think the winners should be. If they already have a working knowledge of the Electoral College system, they will recognize that Jackson received a plurality rather than a majority of votes. If this document is being used as an introduction to the Electoral College constitutional provisions, then discuss its significance as an example of what happens when a candidate, despite winning the largest share of the popular vote (40.3%) and the electoral vote, does not win a majority of the Electoral College. Discuss the distinction between plurality and majority.
Constitutional Connection and "Correction"
2. Instruct students to read the original plan the framers outlined for the election of the president as detailed in Article II, Section 1, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution and to describe the framers' provisions should a majority vote not be reached by the Electoral College. Then ask them to analyze the balloting procedure described in the clause, considering the following questions: How many ballots did each elector cast for president and vice-president (one ballot, with two names on each)? If electors had party or candidate loyalties, what possible problems could be presented when the votes were tallied? After brainstorming potential problems, instruct students to read the 12th Amendment and describe how it modified the original provisions. Ask them what weakness it addressed. Introduce the situation surrounding the election of 1800 when all of the 73 Democratic-Republicans voted for Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr on the same ballot. It produced a tie for president even though the party wished Burr to be vice-president. Point out that these two elections, 1800 and 1824, were the only two elections ever to be decided by the House of Representatives.
3. Obtain the addresses of your state's two U.S. senators as well as your representatives in the House from the Senate and House of Representatives web sites. Instruct students to compose letters asking the congressional representatives their opinions on the effectiveness and necessity of the present Electoral College system. The letters can be written individually or as a class and signed by each student. Seek information from state representatives as well.
4. The Electoral College system is under constant scrutiny, yet to change it would require a constitutional amendment. There are critics as well as proponents of the system. Guide students in researching the various proposed alternatives as well as the rationale for retaining the present system. Allow each student to select one scenario (present system, district plan, proportional plan, direct popular election, national bonus plan) to defend, making sure all the options are assigned. Challenge students to write persuasive speeches describing why one specific process of electing the president would be the best alternative, while also speaking to its detractors. Ask for volunteers to present their speeches, and take a vote within the class (if all options are represented).
Research Local Politics
5. One of the reasons for the many candidates in the election of 1824 was that the election occurred at the peak of a political and public outcry against the caucus system of nominating candidates. William Crawford was the official nominee of the Republican caucus, while Adams, Jackson, and Clay challenged the caucus system. Armed with information about the distinctions between the various ways of nominating candidates (self-nominating, caucus, nominating conventions, direct primaries), ask student volunteers to investigate and report to the class how candidates are nominated for political offices in your town, county, and state. Examples of offices could include your local school board, town council, mayor, state representative, governor, and electoral college voter.
6. Andrew Jackson never accepted his defeat in the election of 1824 and almost immediately set about to ensure his election in 1828. Some historians have described the election of 1828 as one of the "dirtiest" of all American elections. Ask students to research the campaign issues and strategies on the part of both parties as well as the contrast in background, personality, and experience of Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams. Write the steps for a cinquain poem and a biopoem on the board and ask students to write two separate poems about one candidate, one from each party's point of view.
Line 1: one word of two syllables (may be the title)
Line 2: four syllables (describing the subject or title)
Line 3: six syllables (showing action)
Line 4: eight syllables (expressing a feeling or observation about the subject)
Line 5: two syllables (describing or renaming the subject)
Line 1: First name
Line 2: Four traits that describe the person
Line 3: Position or job
Line 4: Longing for (three things or ideas)
Line 5: Who feels (list three things)
Line 6: Who needs (three things)
Line 7: Who fears (three things)
Line 8: Who gives (three things)
Line 9: Who would like to see (three things)
Line 10: Last name
The document included in this project is from Record Group 233, Records of the House of Representatives. It is available online through the National Archives Catalog:
National Archives Identifier 306207
The National Archives Catalog replaces its prototypes, the Archival Research Catalog (ARC) and NARA Archival Information Locator (NAIL). You can still perform a keyword, digitized image and location search. The online catalog's advanced functionalities also allow you to search by organization, person, or topic.
The online catalog is a searchable database that contains information about a wide variety of NARA holdings across the country. You can use the online catalog to search record descriptions by keywords or topics and retrieve digital copies of selected textual documents, photographs, maps, and sound recordings related to thousands of topics.
Currently, about 80% of NARA's vast holdings have been described in the online catalog. Thousands of digital images can be searched in the online catalog. In keeping with NARA's Strategic Plan, the percentage of holdings described in the online catalog will grow continually.
The document is also featured in the online American Originals Exhibit.
This article was written by Mary Frances Greene, a teacher at Marie Murphy School, Avoca District 37, Wilmette, IL.