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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. As the third consecutive election victory for the Democratic Party, it ushered incumbent Vice President Martin Van Buren into the White House with 170 electoral votes to 124 electoral votes for William Henry Harrison and other Whigs. The popular vote was closer; Martin Van Buren attracted 764,000 votes to the 738,000 won by the various Whig candidates.

United States presidential election, 1836
United States
← 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

The election of 1836 is principally remembered for three distinctive circumstances:

  • The Whig Party ran four candidates in different parts of the country in hopes that each would be popular enough to defeat Democrat Martin Van Buren in their respective region. The strategy failed, but had three of the four received more electoral votes than Van Buren, it would have been left to the House of Representatives to decide between the competing Whig candidates.
  • Richard Mentor Johnson became the first (and to date only) Vice President elected by the United States Senate. Although pledged to Van Buren and Johnson (his running mate), Virginia's 23 electors refused to vote for Johnson, which left him one electoral vote short of the 148-vote majority required to be elected. As such, it was left to the Senate to decide between the top two vote recipient recipients, Johnson and Francis Granger. Johnson was elected on the first ballot 33 to 16.
  • This was the last election until the 1988 election (of George H. W. Bush) in which the incumbent Vice President was elected to succeed the president under whom he served.

The election of 1836 also 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, rapidly, 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 and supported his vice-president, Martin Van Buren, to serve as the next president. Although Southerners disliked the New Yorker Van Buren as well as his intended running mate, Colonel Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky, Van Buren secured the nomination at the 1835 Democratic National Convention held in Baltimore, Maryland.

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, were temporarily part of the Whig coalition.

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. 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. Beginning at the end of 1835, some Whig state conventions in the North began to shift from Webster to popular former general William Henry Harrison. By mid 1836, the Northern free states except for Massachusetts and three border states supported Harrison as the Whig candidate. Southern Whigs felt betrayed by Northern Whigs for abandoning White, who was still very popular there.[citation needed]

Unable to agree on a single candidate, 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 Willie P. Mangum for president and Tyler for vice-president.

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).

The Whigs attacked Van Buren on all sides, even disrupting the Senate where he presided. Harrison was the most effective of his opponents, but Van Buren's superior party organization carried the day, earning him a majority of the popular vote. 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.[3]


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[4] and refused to vote for Johnson. 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
State Votes cast electoral
Votes cast  % electoral
Votes cast  % electoral
Votes cast  % electoral
Votes cast  % electoral
Votes cast  % electoral
Alabama 37,296 7 20,638 55.34 7 no ballots 16,658 44.66 0 no ballots no ballots
Arkansas 3,714 3 2,380 64.08 3 no ballots 1,334 35.92 0 no ballots no ballots
Connecticut 38,093 8 19,294 50.65 8 18,799 49.35 0 no ballots no ballots no ballots
Delaware 8,895 3 4,154 46.70 0 4,736 53.24 3 no ballots no ballots no ballots
Georgia 47,259 11 22,778 48.20 0 no ballots 24,481 51.80 11 no ballots no ballots
Illinois 33,589 5 18,369 54.69 5 15,220 45.31 0 no ballots no ballots no ballots
Indiana 73,759 9 32,478 44.03 0 41,281 55.97 9 no ballots no ballots no ballots
Kentucky 70,090 15 33,229 47.41 0 36,861 52.59 15 no ballots no ballots no ballots
Louisiana 7,425 5 3,842 51.74 5 no ballots 3,583 48.26 0 no ballots no ballots
Maine 38,740 10 22,825 58.92 10 14,803 38.21 0 no ballots no ballots no ballots
Maryland 48,119 10 22,267 46.27 0 25,852 53.73 10 no ballots no ballots no ballots
Massachusetts 74,687 14 33,486 44.81 0 no ballots no ballots 41,201 55.13 14 no ballots
Michigan 12,667 3 7,122 56.22 3 5,545 43.78 0 no ballots no ballots no ballots
Mississippi 20,079 4 10,297 51.28 4 no ballots 9,782 48.72 0 no ballots no ballots
Missouri 18,332 4 10,995 59.98 4 no ballots 7,337 40.02 0 no ballots no ballots
New Hampshire 24,925 7 18,697 75.01 7 6,228 24.99 0 no ballots no ballots no ballots
New Jersey 51,729 8 25,592 49.47 0 26,137 50.53 8 no ballots no ballots no ballots
New York 305,343 42 166,795 54.63 42 138,548 45.37 0 no ballots no ballots no ballots
North Carolina 50,153 15 26,631 53.10 15 no ballots 23,521 46.90 0 no ballots no ballots
Ohio 202,333 21 96,238 47.56 0 104,958 51.87 21 no ballots no ballots no ballots
Pennsylvania 178,692 30 91,457 51.18 30 87,235 48.82 0 no ballots no ballots no ballots
Rhode Island 5,674 4 2,964 52.24 4 2,710 47.76 0 no ballots no ballots no ballots
South Carolina 0 11 no popular vote no popular vote no popular vote no popular vote no popular vote 11
Tennessee 62,197 15 26,170 42.08 0 no ballots 36,027 57.92 15 no ballots no ballots
Vermont 35,031 7 14,037 40.07 0 20,994 59.93 7 no ballots no ballots no ballots
Virginia 53,940 23 30,556 56.64 23 no ballots 23,384 43.35 0 no ballots no ballots
TOTALS: 1,502,811 294 763,291 50.79 170 549,907 36.59 73 146,107 9.72 26 41,201 2.74 14 0 0 11
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        

Contingent electionEdit

The Senate was required to choose between Richard Johnson and Francis Granger as the next vice-president. Johnson was elected easily in a single ballot by 33 to 16.[5]

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. 
  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. ^ United States Congress (1837). Senate Journal. 24th Congress, 2nd Session, February 4. pp. 203–204. Retrieved August 20, 2006. 
  4. ^ Burke, Window To The Past
  5. ^


External linksEdit