Theo Lippman Jr.

September 01, 1992|By Theo Lippman Jr.

This is the 52nd presidential election.

The seventh was the nation's first wartime election. President Madison preferred diplomacy to war to deal with British interference with American shipping (in connection with its waging of war against France), but Congress was dominated by "War Hawks," young Western and Southern members of his party like Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun.

The War Hawks said they objected to violations of neutrality rights in principle. But as expansionists they also saw in war a pretext for annexing Canada and Florida. Madison was renominated by the congressional caucus only after signaling his willingness to declare war.

Federalist leaders informally nominated DeWitt Clinton of New York, an anti-Madison Democratic-Republican. Clinton tried to appeal to both the War Hawks and opponents of the war. His strategy drew much criticism, but worked better than any Federalist campaigning in the new century, especially in the Northeast.

With the war not going well in the fall of 1812, Madison won by the relatively narrow margin of 128 electoral votes to Clinton's 89.

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