This election takes place amid sable-rattling between America and Britain. The British have been accused of causing Native American uprisings and for impressing American sailors. Much of the country favors war with Britain for these grievances as well as for the opportunity to take Canada as a war prize; however, others believe the country has not the military to fight the world’s great superpower. Northerner’s, especially New Englanders, oppose the war because the overwhelming majority of their trade is with the British. Many in New England are considering secession. Overall, President Madison’s popularity has taken a hit, which gives his opponents (a combination of Northern Republicans and Federalists) a hope for victory in this election.
For Republicans (later called Democratic-Republicans), incumbent president James Madison runs mostly unopposed. His chief competition was his own VP, George Clinton. However, Clinton died early in the campaign.
The Federalists have decided to rally behind a Northern Republican that they can tolerate. By selecting George Clinton’s nephew and New York City mayor, DeWitt Clinton, they enhance their chance for victory by aiming to take New England, New York and any state opposed to Madison and Southern domination.
There was no 3rd party; however, some Federalists refused to follow Clinton and gave their votes to Rufus King.
This election allows for many what-if scenarios:
- What if Madison faced opposition from leading Republican candidates such as conservative leader James Monroe, Sen. William Crawford, NY Gov. Daniel Tompkins, PA Gov. Simon Snyder, Rep. John Randolph, former Federalist John Quincy Adams, 35-year old speaker Henry Clay, or MA Gov. Elbridge Gerry?
- What if former President Thomas Jefferson ran for a 3rd non-consecutive term in an attempt to save his party?
- What if VP George Clinton, the favorite of Northern Republicans, had not died in early 1812?
- What if politician-turned-generals Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison attempted to become war presidents rather than fighting the British personally?
- What if the Federalists had not rallied behind Northern Republican DeWitt Clinton and selected their own candidate, such as Rufus King, two-time nominee Charles Coatsworth Pinckney, Chief Justice John Marshall, John Jay or Harrison Gray Otis.
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