United States Elections: Congressional Elections (1814)

Figure 1.--There are very few images of early American elections, let alone specific elections. This is a close as can come to the 1814 Congressional election, John Lewis Krimmel's 1815 painting in front of the Peensylvania State House in Philadelphia. The German born Krimmel was America's first genre painting. The Constitution provided no guidance as to when elections should be held. As a result they were held at different times throughout the states, including elections for Federal offices. Notice that this election was held during the summer. This did not begin to change until Congress passed an election law designating the first tuesday after the first monday in Novmber (1845). November was chosen because America was still lrgely rural and by that time the harvest had been completed. The choice of day is a matter of debate. Here we see a detail of the Krimmel painting. Click on the imqge for a full view. Go to full screen for the best view.

The 1814 campaign was the first American election held during a major war--the War of 1812. The main issue in the election of 1814 was the War with Britain. The United States had been led into the War by the War Hawks, a faction of the Democratic-Republicans. President Madison had acceeded to their calls for war in large measure to secure his renomination. The same Democratic-Republicas refused to approve the appropriations needed to prepare for War or build a professional military. The War Hawks blithely felt that war could be waged by militias without major expendutures to train or arm them. The American invasion of Canada failed, but the frigates of the small American Navy performed brilliantly. This was the same Navy that the Federalists had built and the Democratic Republicans had strongly opposed. The War by 1814 had caused severe economic dislocations in the United States. America was still a largely agricultural country, but trade and maritime commerce was important, especilly in the Northeast. The Royal Navy had closed off all major ports, except in New England hoping to create division. After the 1814 voting was over, the British as part of their Cheaspeake campaign burned Washington (August 1814). Despite the very real failures in the War, the Democratic-Republicans were not punished by the voters. They actually gained 5 House seats.


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Created: 5:24 PM 12/30/2016
Last updated: 5:24 PM 12/30/2016