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United States presidential election, 1836

The United States presidential election of 1836 was the 13th quadrennial presidential election, held from Thursday, November 3, to Wednesday, December 7, 1836. In the third consecutive election victory for the Democratic Party, incumbent Vice President Martin Van Buren defeated four candidates fielded by the nascent Whig Party.

United States presidential election, 1836

← 1832 November 3 – December 7, 1836 1840 →

All 294 electoral votes of the Electoral College
148 electoral votes needed to win
Turnout 57.8%[1] Increase 2.4 pp
  MVanBuren.png William Henry Harrison by James Reid Lambdin, 1835-crop.jpg HLWhite.jpg
Nominee Martin Van Buren William H. Harrison Hugh L. White
Party Democratic Whig Whig
Home state New York Ohio Tennessee
Running mate Richard M. Johnson Francis Granger John Tyler
Electoral vote 170 73 26
States carried 15 7 2
Popular vote 764,176 550,816 146,109
Percentage 50.8% 36.6% 9.7%

  DanielWebster.png Willie p magnum.jpg
Nominee Daniel Webster Willie Person Mangum
Party Whig Whig
Home state Massachusetts North Carolina
Running mate Francis Granger John Tyler
Electoral vote 14 11
States carried 1 1
Popular vote 41,201 -
Percentage 2.7% -

Presidential election results map. Blue denotes states won by Van Buren and Johnson or Smith, pale grey-purple denotes those won by Harrison and Granger or Tyler, purple denotes those won by White/Tyler, coral pink denotes those won by Webster/Granger, and bluegrass green denotes those won by Mangum/Tyler. Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state.

President before election

Andrew Jackson

Elected President

Martin Van Buren

Under the leadership of Andrew Jackson, the Democrats had established a stable party, but the Whigs had only recently emerged and were primarily united by their opposition to Jackson. Unable to agree on a single candidate, and hoping to compel a contingent election in the House of Representatives by denying the Democrats an electoral vote majority, the Whigs ran two primary tickets. Northern and border state Whigs supported the ticket led by former Senator William Henry Harrison of Ohio, while Southern Whigs supported the ticket led by Senator Hugh Lawson White of Tennessee. Two other Whigs, Daniel Webster and Willie Person Mangum, would also receive electoral votes. The 1835 Democratic National Convention chose a ticket of Van Buren, who was Jackson's handpicked successor, and Congressman Richard Mentor Johnson.

The Whig strategy failed, as Van Buren won a majority of the electoral and popular vote. Van Buren's victory made him the third sitting vice president to win election as president, a feat that would not be repeated until the 1988 presidential election. Harrison finished in second place in both the popular and electoral vote, and his strong showing in this election would help win his party's nomination in the 1840 presidential election. As Virginia's electors refused to vote for Johnson, the vice president was elected by the United States Senate, marking the first and (to date) only such occurrence. The Senate decided between Johnson and Francis Granger, who were the top two vice presidential electoral vote winners. Johnson was elected on the first ballot.

The election of 1836 marked an important turning point in American political history because of the part it played in establishing the Second Party System. In the 1830s the political party structure was still changing. The Democratic Party was organized, but factional and personal leaders still played a major role in politics. By the end of the campaign of 1836, the new party system was almost complete, as nearly every faction had been absorbed by either the Democrats or the Whigs.[2]



Democratic Party nominationEdit

Democratic Party Ticket, 1836
Martin Van Buren Richard M. Johnson
for President for Vice President
Vice President of the United States
U.S. Representative
for Kentucky's 13th

Incumbent President Andrew Jackson decided to retire after two terms. Jackson publicly endorsed a ticket consisting of Vice President Martin Van Buren of New York and Congressman Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky, the latter of whom had gained national notoriety for his role in the War of 1812. Several Southerners opposed Johnson's nomination due to Johnson's relationship with his African-American slave, and the Virginia delegates supported Senator William Cabell Rives against Johnson. Rives's candidacy failed to galvanize support, and Jackson's preferred ticket was nominated at the 1835 Democratic National Convention held in Baltimore, Maryland.[3]

Convention vote
Presidential vote Vice Presidential vote
Martin Van Buren 265 Richard M. Johnson 178
William C. Rives 87

Whig Party nominationEdit

Whig candidates
  William Henry Harrison
Former U.S. senator from Ohio
  Daniel Webster
U.S. senator from Massachusetts
  Hugh L. White
U.S. senator from Tennessee
  Willie Person Mangum
U.S. senator from North Carolina

The Whig Party emerged during the 1834 mid-term elections as the chief opposition to the Democratic Party. The party was formed from members of the National Republican Party, the Anti-Masonic Party, disaffected Jacksonians, and small remnants of the Federalist Party (people whose last political activity was with them a decade before). Some Southerners who were angered by Jackson's opposition to states' rights, including Sen. John C. Calhoun and the Nullifiers, also temporarily joined the Whig coalition.[3]

Unlike the Democrats, the Whigs did not hold a national convention. Instead, state legislatures and state conventions put forward candidates. Southern Nullifiers placed Tennessee Senator Hugh Lawson White into contention for the presidency in 1834 soon after his break with Jackson. White was a moderate on the states' rights issue, which made him acceptable in the South, but not in the North. The state legislatures of Alabama and Tennessee officially nominated White. The South Carolina state legislature nominated Senator Willie Person Mangum of North Carolina. By early 1835, Whigs in the North were lining up behind Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster. Both Webster and White used debates in the Senate to establish their positions on the issues of the day, and newspapers nationwide carried the text of their speeches. The Pennsylvania legislature nominated popular former general William Henry Harrison, who had led American forces at the Battle of Tippecanoe. The Whigs hoped that Harrison's reputation as a military hero could win their parties votes. Harrison quickly gained the backing of other Northern Whigs, and by mid 1836, the Northern free states except for Massachusetts and three border states supported Harrison as the Whig candidate. State legislatures, especially in larger states, also nominated various vice presidential candidates.[3]

Despite the large number of candidates, there was only one Whig ticket in each state. The Whigs ended up with two primary tickets: William Henry Harrison for president and Francis Granger for vice-president in the North and the border states, and Hugh Lawson White for president and John Tyler for vice-president in the middle and lower South. In Massachusetts, the ticket was Daniel Webster and Granger. In South Carolina, the ticket was Mangum for president and Tyler for vice-president.[3]

Anti-Masonic Party nominationEdit

After the negative views of Freemasonry among a large segment of the public began to wane in the mid 1830s, the Anti-Masonic Party began to disintegrate. Some of its members began moving to the Whig Party, which had a broader issue base than the Anti-Masons. The Whigs were also regarded as a better alternative to the Democrats.

A state convention for the Anti-Masonic Party was held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania from December 14–17, 1835, to choose Presidential Electors for the 1836 election. The convention unanimously nominated William Henry Harrison for President and Francis Granger for Vice President. The Vermont state Anti-Masonic convention would follow suit on February 24, 1836. Anti-Masonic leaders were unable to obtain assurance from Harrison that he was not a Mason, so they called a national convention. The second national Anti-Masonic nominating convention was held in Philadelphia on May 4, 1836. The meeting was divisive, but a majority of the delegates officially stated that the party was not sponsoring a national ticket for the presidential election of 1836 and proposed a meeting in 1837 to discuss the future of the party.

General electionEdit


Results by county explicitly indicating the percentage of the winning candidate in each county. Shades of blue are for Van Buren (Democratic), shades of orange are for Harrison (Whig), shades of green are for White (Whig), and shades of red are for Webster (Whig).

In the aftermath of the Nat Turner slave rebellion and other events, slavery emerged as an increasingly prominent political issue. Calhoun attacked Van Buren could not be trusted to protect Southern interests and accused the sitting Vice President of affiliating with abolitionists.[3] Van Buren defeated Harrison by a margin of 51.4% to 48.6% in the North, and he defeated White by a similar margin of 50.7% to 49.3% in the South.


A dispute similar to that of Indiana in 1817 and Missouri in 1821 arose during the counting of the electoral votes. Michigan only became a state on January 26, 1837, and had cast its electoral votes for president before that date. Anticipating a challenge to the results, Congress resolved on February 4, 1837, that during the counting four days later the final tally would be read twice, once with Michigan and once without Michigan. The counting proceeded in accordance with the resolution. The dispute had no bearing on the final result: either way Van Buren was elected, and either way no candidate had a majority for vice-president.[4]


The Whigs' strategy ultimately failed to prevent Van Buren's election as President, though he earned a somewhat lower share of the popular vote, and fewer electoral votes, than Andrew Jackson had in either of the previous two elections. The key state in this election would ultimately be Pennsylvania, which Van Buren won from Harrison with a narrow majority of just 4,000 votes. Had Harrison been able to win the state, Van Buren would have been left eight votes short of an Electoral College majority, meaning that the Whig goal to force the election into the House of Representatives would have succeeded, and the House would have been forced to choose between Van Buren, Harrison, and White, as the three candidates with the most electoral votes. Given that the Democrats still held a majority in the House, however, Van Buren would likely still have been victorious.

Virginia's 23 electors were all pledged to Van Buren and his running mate, Richard Mentor Johnson. However, all 23 of them became faithless electors due to dissension related to his interracial relationship with a slave[5] and refused to vote for Johnson, instead casting their votes for former South Carolina senator William Smith. This left Johnson one electoral vote short of the 148-vote majority required to be elected. Thus, in accordance with the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the Senate decided between the top two vote recipients, and chose Johnson over Francis Granger.

This was the last election in which the Democrats won Connecticut, Rhode Island, and North Carolina until 1852. This was also the only election where South Carolina voted for the Whigs and the last time it voted against the Democrats until 1868.

Presidential candidate Party Home state Popular vote(a) Electoral vote
Count Percentage
Martin Van Buren Democratic New York 764,176 50.8% 170
William Henry Harrison Whig Ohio 550,816 36.6% 73
Hugh Lawson White Whig Tennessee 146,107 9.7% 26
Daniel Webster Whig Massachusetts 41,201 2.7% 14
Willie Person Mangum Whig North Carolina (b) 11
Other 1,234 0.1% 0
Total 1,503,534 100.0% 294
Needed to win 148

Source (Popular Vote): Leip, David. "1836 Presidential Election Results". Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. Retrieved July 27, 2005.  Source (Electoral Vote): "Electoral College Box Scores 1789–1996". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved July 31, 2005. 

(a) The popular vote figures exclude South Carolina where the Electors were chosen by the state legislature rather than by popular vote.
(b) Mangum received his electoral votes from South Carolina where the Electors were chosen by the state legislatures rather than by popular vote.

Popular vote
Van Buren
Electoral vote
Van Buren
Vice Presidential candidate Party State Electoral vote
Richard Mentor Johnson Democratic Kentucky 147
Francis Granger Whig New York 77
John Tyler Whig Virginia 47
William Smith Democratic Alabama 23
Total 294
Needed to win 148

Source: "Electoral College Box Scores 1789–1996". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved July 31, 2005. 

Geography of resultsEdit

Cartographic galleryEdit

Results by stateEdit

Source: Data from Walter Dean Burnham, Presidential ballots, 1836-1892 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1955) pp 247-57.

Martin Van Buren
William H. Harrison
Hugh L. White
Daniel Webster
Willie Person Mangum
Margin Total
State electoral
Votes cast % electoral
Votes cast % electoral
Votes cast % electoral
Votes cast % electoral
# % #
Alabama 7 20,638 55.34 7 no ballots 16,658 44.66 0 no ballots no ballots 3,980 10.68 37,296 AL
Arkansas 3 2,380 64.08 3 no ballots 1,334 35.92 0 no ballots no ballots 1,046 28.16 3,714 AK
Connecticut 8 19,294 50.65 8 18,799 49.35 0 no ballots no ballots no ballots 495 1.30 38,093 CT
Delaware 3 4,154 46.70 0 4,736 53.24 3 no ballots no ballots no ballots -582 -6.54 8,895 DE
Georgia 11 22,778 48.20 0 no ballots 24,481 51.80 11 no ballots no ballots -1,703 -3.60 47,259 GA
Illinois 5 18,369 54.69 5 15,220 45.31 0 no ballots no ballots no ballots 3,149 9.38 33,589 IL
Indiana 9 32,478 44.03 0 41,281 55.97 9 no ballots no ballots no ballots -8,803 -11.94 73,759 IN
Kentucky 15 33,229 47.41 0 36,861 52.59 15 no ballots no ballots no ballots -3,632 -5.18 70,090 KY
Louisiana 5 3,842 51.74 5 no ballots 3,583 48.26 0 no ballots no ballots 259 3.48 7,425 LA
Maine 10 22,825 58.92 10 14,803 38.21 0 no ballots no ballots no ballots 8,022 20.71 38,740 ME
Maryland 10 22,267 46.27 0 25,852 53.73 10 no ballots no ballots no ballots -3,585 -7.46 48,119 MD
Massachusetts 14 33,486 44.81 0 no ballots no ballots 41,201 55.13 14 no ballots -7,715 -10.32 74,687 MA
Michigan 3 7,122 56.22 3 5,545 43.78 0 no ballots no ballots no ballots 1,577 12.44 12,667 MI
Mississippi 4 10,297 51.28 4 no ballots 9,782 48.72 0 no ballots no ballots 515 2.56 20,079 MS
Missouri 4 10,995 59.98 4 no ballots 7,337 40.02 0 no ballots no ballots 3,658 19.96 18,332 MO
New Hampshire 7 18,697 75.01 7 6,228 24.99 0 no ballots no ballots no ballots 12,469 50.02 24,925 NH
New Jersey 8 25,592 49.47 0 26,137 50.53 8 no ballots no ballots no ballots -545 -1.06 51,729 NJ
New York 42 166,795 54.63 42 138,548 45.37 0 no ballots no ballots no ballots 28,247 9.26 305,343 NY
North Carolina 15 26,631 53.10 15 no ballots 23,521 46.90 0 no ballots no ballots 3,110 6.20 50,153 NC
Ohio 21 96,238 47.56 0 104,958 51.87 21 no ballots no ballots no ballots -8,720 -4.31 202,333 OH
Pennsylvania 30 91,457 51.18 30 87,235 48.82 0 no ballots no ballots no ballots 4,222 2.36 178,692 PA
Rhode Island 4 2,964 52.24 4 2,710 47.76 0 no ballots no ballots no ballots 254 4.48 5,674 RI
South Carolina 11 no popular vote no popular vote no popular vote no popular vote 11 - - 0 SC
Tennessee 15 26,170 42.08 0 no ballots 36,027 57.92 15 no ballots no ballots -9,857 -15.84 62,197 TN
Vermont 7 14,037 40.07 0 20,994 59.93 7 no ballots no ballots no ballots -6,957 -19.86 35,031 VT
Virginia 23 30,556 56.64 23 no ballots 23,384 43.35 0 no ballots no ballots 7,172 13.29 53,940 VA
TOTALS: 294 763,291 50.79 170 549,907 36.59 73 146,107 9.72 26 41,201 2.74 14 11 213,384 14.20 1,502,811 US
TO WIN: 148

Breakdown by ticketEdit

Candidate Total Martin Van Buren
William H. Harrison
Hugh L. White
Daniel Webster
Willie P. Mangum
Electoral Votes for President 294 170 73 26 14 11
For Vice President, Richard Mentor Johnson 147 147        
For Vice President, Francis Granger 77   63   14  
For Vice President, John Tyler 47   10 26   11
For Vice President, William Smith 23 23        

1837 contingent electionEdit

Since no candidate received a majority of the electoral votes, the vice-presidential election was thrown into a contingent election in the U.S. Senate. Following the provisions of the Twelfth Amendment, the Senate was required to choose between Richard Johnson and Francis Granger as the next vice president. On February 8, 1837, Johnson was elected easily on the first ballot by a vote of 33 to 16.[6]

for Richard M. Johnson
for Francis Granger





Electoral college selectionEdit

Method of choosing electors State(s)
Each Elector appointed by state legislature South Carolina
Each Elector chosen by voters statewide (all other States)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Voter Turnout in Presidential Elections". The American Presidency Project. UC Santa Barbara. Archived from the original on January 12, 2017. 
  2. ^ Cole, Donald B. (1984). Martin Van Buren and the American Political System. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 279. ISBN 0-691-04715-4. Retrieved March 23, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Deskins, Donald Richard; Walton, Hanes; Puckett, Sherman (2010). Presidential Elections, 1789-2008: County, State, and National Mapping of Election Data. University of Michigan Press. pp. 106–107. 
  4. ^ United States Congress (1837). Senate Journal. 24th Congress, 2nd Session, February 4. pp. 203–204. Archived from the original on April 4, 2015. Retrieved August 20, 2006. 
  5. ^ Burke, Window To The Past
  6. ^ "A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774 - 1875". Archived from the original on April 9, 2018. 


External linksEdit