*This scenario was greatly updated by the Historical Scenario Commission on July 23, 2017. Version 2.0 can be downloaded here: United States – 1840 v. 2.0
This election takes place during the “Panic of 1837” economic depression. Economic policies under Andrew Jackson, including the removal of the national bank, are considered causes for this depression. However, as the repercussion did not occur until Van Buren’s presidency, and because Jackson was his party’s icon, the incumbent president is feeling all the heat. Van Buren, like many Democrats at the time, did not believe the federal government could constitutionally aid in helping people hurt by the economic depression. For these reasons, Van Buren and his party are not finding favor among voters going into this election.
For the Whigs, the party has decided to regroup after a blunderous campaign strategy in last election, which called for the running of four separate Whigs in the general election. This time, they’ve set their convention early with the idea of running around one of three men: General William Henry Harrison, General Winfield Scott or their party leader, Henry Clay.
For the Democrats, despite Martin Van Buren’s unpopularity, he still is the power of the Democratic Party (outside of Jackson). As such, he is the unanimous nominee in his reelection bid.
The third party is a very weak Liberty Party, which is campaigning on abolitionism.
This election allows for many what-if scenarios:
- What if Daniel Webster tried for the Whig nomination?
- What if the governor of New York, William H. Seward used the power of his state to win the nomination?
- What if former president John Quincy Adams attempt a non-consecutive second term on the Whig ticket? Could his belief in government activism defeat Van Buren’s laissez faire governmental beliefs?
- What if Van Buren had faced challengers such as James K. Polk, Lewis Cass, James Buchanan, Richard Mentor Johnson and John C. Calhoun. Could a Nullifier, such as Calhoun, or the unpopular Johnson, a slave-holder with a common law slave-wife who is the mother of his children, win the election? If Johnson won, would a slave become First Lady?
- What if Andrew Jackson tried to save his party from defeat by running for a non-consecutive 3rd term?
Note: I thought I wouldn’t have time for another scenario before I went out of town. Obviously, I was wrong.