In 1824 the United States faced a situation they hadn’t before – or since. No presidential candidate received a majority vote of the electoral college. This triggered the use of the 12th amendment which sets authority on the House of Representatives to choose the president from among the top three candidates from the electoral college.
On February 9, 1825, the U.S. House of Representatives selected John Quincy Adams to be the sixth President of the United States.
The controversy was immediate. Andrew Jackson had received 99 electoral college votes and 153,544 popular votes. John Quincy Adams had received only 84 electoral college votes and 108,740 popular votes. (There were other candidates, but those did not receive anything close to these two.) In essence, the U.S. House of Representatives went against the will of the people and usurped the authority of the electoral college. Both of which it had the constitutional power to do.
It forever crippled the presidency of John Quincy Adams.
A large part of the controversy was that Adams appointed William Clay as his Secretary of State. Clay was the Speaker of the House but had been excluded from the House vote for president because he had also been a candidate for the office. Instead, he wielded his power to support Adams. Many saw this as a Quid Pro Quo move. (However, it should be remembered that Adams and Clay had served on the diplomatic team who presided over the Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812. The men were a proven team who worked well together.)
John Quincy Adams – like his father, the 2nd president, John Adams – was staunchly anti-slavery. That didn’t help him with the pro-Jackson element in Congress. He wanted to fund a system of roads and canals to connect the growing nation, but the pro-Jackson people shot that down as exceeding the federal authority. In all, Adams accomplished very little in the four years he served that office. Pitted against Andrew Jackson again in 1828, he was soundly defeated.
But Adams didn’t quit service. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1830 by his home state of Massachusetts. He served there until his death – in the U.S. Capitol Building – in 1848.