United States presidential election, 1792
|Presidential election results map. Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state.|
The United States presidential election of 1792 was the 2nd quadrennial presidential election. It was held from Friday, November 2 to Wednesday, December 5, 1792. Incumbent President George Washington was re-elected to a second term by a unanimous vote in the electoral college. As in the first presidential election, Washington is considered to have run unopposed. Electoral rules of the time, however, required each presidential elector to cast two votes without distinguishing which was for president and which for vice president. The recipient of the most votes would then become president, and the runner-up vice president. Incumbent Vice President John Adams received 77 votes and was also re-elected (Washington received 132 votes, or one from each elector).
This election was the first in which each of the original 13 states appointed electors (in addition to newly added states of Kentucky and Vermont). It was also the only presidential election that was not held exactly four years after the previous election, although part of the previous election was technically held four years prior. The first inauguration was on April 30, 1789 at Balcony of Federal Hall in New York City and the second inauguration was on March 4, 1793 at the Senate Chamber Congress Hall in Philadelphia. All subsequent inaugurations were held on March 4 up until 1933 when the ratification of the Twentieth Amendment to the United States Constitution changed the inaugural date to January 20.
Until the ratification of the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1804, each of the electors in the electoral college that elected the president were to cast two votes, but they were not permitted to specify which of their votes was president and which for vice president. As a result, each of the main political parties nominated two candidates, both nominally for president. President Washington's widespread popularity, however, led both parties to nominate him as one of their candidates, and as a result he ran without serious opposition. The same could not be said for the vice-presidential race. The Federalist party nominated Vice President John Adams, while the Democratic-Republicans supported Governor George Clinton of New York. Democratic Republicans also threw their support behind Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson of Virginia and Senator Aaron Burr of New York, splitting the opposition's vote.
- George Washington, President of the United States from Virginia
- John Adams, Vice President of the United States from Massachusetts
- George Washington, President of the United States from Virginia
- George Clinton, Governor of New York
By 1792, a party division had emerged between Federalists led by Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, who desired a stronger federal government with a leading role in the economy, and the Democratic-Republicans led by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and Representative James Madison of Virginia, who favored states' rights and opposed Hamilton's economic program. Madison was at first a Federalist until he opposed the establishment of Hamilton's First Bank of the United States in 1791. He formed the Democratic-Republican Party along with Anti-Federalist Thomas Jefferson in 1792.
The elections of 1792 were the first ones in the United States to be contested on anything resembling a partisan basis. In most states, the congressional elections were recognized in some sense as a "struggle between the Treasury department and the republican interest," to use the words of Jefferson strategist John Beckley. In New York, the race for governor was fought along these lines. The candidates were Chief Justice John Jay, a Hamiltonian, and incumbent George Clinton, who was allied with Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans.
Although Washington had been considering retiring, both sides encouraged him to remain in office to bridge factional differences. Washington was supported by practically all sides throughout his Presidency and gained more popularity with the passage of the Bill of Rights. However, the Democratic-Republicans and the Federalists contested the vice-presidency, with incumbent John Adams as the Federalist nominee and George Clinton as the Democratic-Republican nominee. With some Democratic-Republican electors voting against their nominee George Clinton – voting instead for Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr – Adams easily secured re-election.
The Electoral College chose Washington unanimously. John Adams was again elected vice-president as the runner-up, this time getting the vote of a majority of electors. George Clinton won the votes of only Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, his native New York, and a single elector in Pennsylvania. Thomas Jefferson won the votes of Kentucky, newly separated from Jefferson's home state of Virginia. A single South Carolina elector voted for Aaron Burr. All five of these candidates would eventually win election to the offices of President or Vice President.
Only 13,332 popular votes were cast for presidential electors, a record low turnout for a United States presidential election.
|Slate||Popular Vote(a), (b), (c)|
(a) Only 6 of the 15 states chose electors by any form of popular vote.
(b) Less than 0.5% of the population voted: the 1790 Census counted a total United States population of 3.9 million with 3.2 million free population and 700 thousand slaves
(c) Those states that did choose electors by popular vote had widely varying restrictions on suffrage via property requirements.
|Presidential Candidate||Party||Home State||Popular Vote(a)||Electoral Vote(b)|
|George Clinton||Democratic-Republican||New York||—||—||50|
|Aaron Burr||Democratic-Republican||New York||—||—||1|
|Needed to win||67|
(a) Popular vote figures are suspect because (1) only 6 of the 15 states chose electors by any form of popular vote, (2) pre-Twelfth Amendment electoral vote rules obscure the intentions of the voters, and (3) those states that did choose electors by popular vote often restricted the vote via property requirements.
(b) Two electors from Maryland and one elector from Vermont did not cast votes.
Electoral college selection
|Method of choosing Electors||State(s)|
|state is divided into electoral districts, with one elector chosen per district by the voters of that district||Kentucky
|each elector chosen by voters statewide||Maryland
|each elector appointed by the state legislature||(all other states)|
- Berg-Andersson, Richard (September 17, 2000). "A Historical Analysis of the Electoral College". The Green Papers. Retrieved March 20, 2005.
- Elkins, Stanley; McKitrick, Eric (1995). The Age of Federalism. Oxford University Press.
- A New Nation Votes: American Election Returns, 1787-1825