When you are asked to imagine yourself as a voter in the United States in 1828, there are several restrictions you must acknowledge and several decisions you must make about your identity. First, at that time, only white men were allowed to vote: at the federal level, African American men’s right to vote was recognized only in 1868, and the voting rights of all women, regardless of race, only in 1920. Other restrictions and requirements were also in place, depending on the state, such as property ownership. In addition, consider your experience in relationship to your opinion of the candidates: Are you satisfied with President Adams’s performance in office, or do you think the country is ready for a change?
Another important factor is the state and part of the country in which you reside, as sub-national loyalties significantly affect voters’ perception of the issues and the relative merits of the candidates. If you live in the north, perhaps you will view J. Q. Adams as the better option: having served in the Senate from Massachusetts, he understands the northern people’s needs. Adams’s ticket further supports the north, as his vice presidential candidate, Richard Rush, is from Pennsylvania. If you live in the south, you might identify with Andrew Jackson, a former Senator from Tennessee and former Governor of Florida. And you will note that his ticket is more regionally balanced, as his running mate, Martin Van Buren, hails from New York.
President Adams had been raised in national politics, as his father had not only served as president but was also one of the Founding Fathers. J. Q. Adams was a federalist as much as the senior Adams, but he recognized the need to change with the times. You would likely consider whether the reforms of the National Republican party still uphold the values of traditional federalism or have adapted far enough to the kind of Republican vision a larger, and ever-growing, nation requires today.
Indeed, the domestic concerns of the nation, especially in light of the rapid westward expansion, need to address issues such as transportation but balance the costs with reasonable taxes. Both candidates favor additional taxation, but the allocation of the resources and the states’ ability to administer their own budgets (in contrast to federal oversight) are places where their platforms differ. Jackson and Van Buren have crafted a platform that favors states’ rights, including the controversial issue of slavery. As western states are added to the Union, should slavery be allowed there? Is this a federal government decision, or should each state decide for itself?
In evaluating President Adams’s contributions so far, you can evaluate what he delivered based on his earlier promises, and what he did not achieve. Although protection of American industry through tariffs was a point of agreement in 1824, the tariffs that were subsequently enacted may have done more harm than good. Do you favor expanding this system to guarantee further protection? Or do you think that the financial burden outweighs any competitive advantage?
You may also notice that in this electoral campaign, much more than in 1824, the Jackson side in particular is actively seeking your vote with many novelty items. If you decide to support him, you might attend one of his rallies wearing an “Old Hickory” campaign button.