Corrupt Bargain

Corrupt Bargain

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The term Corrupt Bargain refers to three separate events that each involved a United States presidential election
United States presidential election
Elections for President and Vice President of the United States are indirect elections in which voters cast ballots for a slate of electors of the U.S. Electoral College, who in turn directly elect the President and Vice President...

 and a deal that was struck that many viewed to be corrupt
Political corruption
Political corruption is the use of legislated powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain. Misuse of government power for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents and general police brutality, is not considered political corruption. Neither are illegal acts by...

 from many standpoints, such as in the Election of 1824 controversy over the House of Representative
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

's choice for president with accused corruption on the part of the Speaker of the House
Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, or Speaker of the House, is the presiding officer of the United States House of Representatives...

, or in 1876 wherein accusations of corruption stemmed from officials involved in counting hotly needed electoral votes on both sides.

Election of 1824




After the votes were counted in the U.S. presidential election of 1824, no candidate had received a majority of the Presidential Electoral votes, thereby putting the outcome in the hands of the House of Representatives
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

. To the surprise of many, the House elected John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams was the sixth President of the United States . He served as an American diplomat, Senator, and Congressional representative. He was a member of the Federalist, Democratic-Republican, National Republican, and later Anti-Masonic and Whig parties. Adams was the son of former...

 over rival Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the United States . Based in frontier Tennessee, Jackson was a politician and army general who defeated the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend , and the British at the Battle of New Orleans...

. It was widely believed that Henry Clay
Henry Clay
Henry Clay, Sr. , was a lawyer, politician and skilled orator who represented Kentucky separately in both the Senate and in the House of Representatives...

, the Speaker of the House
Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, or Speaker of the House, is the presiding officer of the United States House of Representatives...

 at the time, convinced Congress to elect Adams, who then made Clay his Secretary of State
United States Secretary of State
The United States Secretary of State is the head of the United States Department of State, concerned with foreign affairs. The Secretary is a member of the Cabinet and the highest-ranking cabinet secretary both in line of succession and order of precedence...

. Supporters of Jackson, a Senator from Tennessee at the time, who won a plurality of those popular votes which had been counted (though not necessarily of all votes) as well as the greatest number of electoral votes, denounced this as a "corrupt bargain."

More recently, analysis by means of game theory
Game theory
Game theory is a mathematical method for analyzing calculated circumstances, such as in games, where a person’s success is based upon the choices of others...

 mathematics has proposed that, contrary to the assertions of Jackson, his supporters, and countless historians since, the results of the election were consistent with so-called "sincere voting"—that is, those Members of the House of Representatives who were unable to cast votes for their most-favored candidate apparently voted for their second- (or third-) most-favored candidate, as the Constitution requires. This suggests that the result was not a consequence of any "corrupt bargain" between Adams and Clay, but was instead a natural consequence of an electoral field that was fundamentally divided between those who supported Jackson and those who would support anyone other than Jackson. The latter united behind Adams—who was the natural alternative to Jackson, since third place candidate William H. Crawford
William H. Crawford
William Harris Crawford was an American politician and judge during the early 19th century. He served as United States Secretary of War from 1815 to 1816 and United States Secretary of the Treasury from 1816 to 1825, and was a candidate for President of the United States in 1824.-Political...

 was in poor health and had no realistic chance of winning the House vote—and so prevailed. Clay was also from the same subdivision of the Democratic-Republican Party as Adams, making him the natural choice. The persistence of the "corrupt bargain" charge appears, therefore, to be the subject of serious dispute.

Regardless of the various theories concerning the matter, John Quincy Adams was a one-term President, and his rival, Jackson, was elected President by a large majority of the Electors in the election of 1828. The corrupt bargain theory, however, still carries sufficient merit not because of the decision of electing John Quincy Adams, but as a result of the agreement to give the Secretary of State
United States Secretary of State
The United States Secretary of State is the head of the United States Department of State, concerned with foreign affairs. The Secretary is a member of the Cabinet and the highest-ranking cabinet secretary both in line of succession and order of precedence...

 position to Henry Clay. While it had occurred in a few previous elections that the incumbent President had been succeeded by his Secretary of State (James Madison
James Madison
James Madison, Jr. was an American statesman and political theorist. He was the fourth President of the United States and is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” for being the primary author of the United States Constitution and at first an opponent of, and then a key author of the United...

, who had served as Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

's Secretary of State, succeeded Jefferson as President; James Monroe
James Monroe
James Monroe was the fifth President of the United States . Monroe was the last president who was a Founding Father of the United States, and the last president from the Virginia dynasty and the Republican Generation...

, Madison's Secretary of State, followed Madison into the presidency), this result was not inevitable. Still, it is possible that Clay saw his installation in this office as likely to enhance the likelihood of his someday becoming President. Clay being offered the position of Secretary of State may be the strongest indication that he might have made an agreement with Adams to secure his election in return for the post.

Election of 1876


The presidential election of 1876
United States presidential election, 1876
The United States presidential election of 1876 was one of the most disputed and controversial presidential elections in American history. Samuel J. Tilden of New York outpolled Ohio's Rutherford B. Hayes in the popular vote, and had 184 electoral votes to Hayes's 165, with 20 votes uncounted...

 is sometimes considered to be a second "corrupt bargain." Three Southern
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

 states had contested vote counts, and each sent the results of two different slates of electors. Since both candidates needed those electoral votes to win the election, Congress appointed a special Electoral Commission to settle the dispute over which slates of electors to accept. After the commission awarded all the disputed electoral votes to the Republican candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes
Rutherford B. Hayes
Rutherford Birchard Hayes was the 19th President of the United States . As president, he oversaw the end of Reconstruction and the United States' entry into the Second Industrial Revolution...

, and Congress voted to accept their report, some dissatisfied Democrats claimed that Hayes or his supporters had made a secret compromise to secure the support of some Congressional Democrats. Most of the items in this alleged "Compromise of 1877
Compromise of 1877
The Compromise of 1877, also known as the Corrupt Bargain, refers to a purported informal, unwritten deal that settled the disputed 1876 U.S. Presidential election and ended Congressional Reconstruction. Through it, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes was awarded the White House over Democrat Samuel J...

" were either never acted on (calling into question whether they were ever agreed to) or had already been the established position of Hayes from the time of his accepting the Republican nomination (hence not a sudden "compromise" at all).

Hayes's detractors labeled the alleged compromise a "Corrupt Bargain" and mocked him with the nickname "Rutherfraud."

The most often cited item in the "compromise" was the agreement to accept Southern "home rule," withdrawing the remaining Northern troops from Southern capitals. This would remove an important tool the federal government had used to insure that the South would uphold the 13th
Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution officially abolished and continues to prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. It was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864, passed by the House on January 31, 1865, and adopted on December 6, 1865. On...

, 14th
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted on July 9, 1868, as one of the Reconstruction Amendments.Its Citizenship Clause provides a broad definition of citizenship that overruled the Dred Scott v...

 and 15th
Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits each government in the United States from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude"...

 amendments, which were intended to protect the rights of African-Americans, especially the right to vote.

In fact, political support for maintaining these troops had dissipated during Grant's second term, and Hayes had little choice but to accept some form of "home rule." He attempted to do so, as stated in his nomination acceptance letter, by gaining promises from Southern states that they would respect the rights, and especially the voting rights, of the freedmen. (The Democratic platform of Samuel Tilden, on the other hand, promised removal of troops with no mention of any attempts to guarantee the freedmen's rights.) For a time Hayes's approach had some success, but gradually Southern states moved to build new barriers to the franchise.

Ford's 1974 Nixon pardon


Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford
Gerald Rudolph "Jerry" Ford, Jr. was the 38th President of the United States, serving from 1974 to 1977, and the 40th Vice President of the United States serving from 1973 to 1974...

's 1974 pardon of Richard Nixon was widely described as a "corrupt bargain" by critics of the disgraced former president. These critics claim that Ford's pardon was quid pro quo
Quid pro quo
Quid pro quo most often means a more-or-less equal exchange or substitution of goods or services. English speakers often use the term to mean "a favour for a favour" and the phrases with almost identical meaning include: "give and take", "tit for tat", "this for that", and "you scratch my back,...

 for Nixon's resignation, which elevated Ford to the presidency. The most prominent example was then Representative Elizabeth Holtzman
Elizabeth Holtzman
Elizabeth Holtzman is an American lawyer and former Democratic politician, pioneer woman officeholder, four term U.S. Representative , two term District Attorney of Kings County , and New York City Comptroller .Her role on the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate scandal drew national...

who, as the lowest ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, was the only congressperson to explicitly ask whether the pardon was a quid pro quo. Ford cut Holtzman off declaring, “There was no deal, period, under no circumstances.”