United States presidential election, 1812
|Presidential election results map. Green denotes states won by Madison, burnt orange denotes states won by Clinton. Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state.|
The United States presidential election of 1812 was the 7th quadrennial presidential election. It was held from Friday, October 30 to Wednesday, December 2, 1812. It took place in the shadow of the War of 1812. It featured an intriguing competition between incumbent Democratic-Republican President James Madison and a dissident Democratic-Republican, DeWitt Clinton, nephew of Madison's late Vice President. The Federalist opposition threw their support behind Clinton. Nonetheless, Madison was re-elected with 50.4 percent of the popular vote, making the 1812 election the closest up to that point in history.
Residual military conflict resulting from the Napoleonic Wars in Europe had been steadily worsening throughout James Madison's first term, with the British and the French both ignoring the neutrality rights of the United States at sea and seizing American ships. The British provided additional provocations by impressing American seamen, maintaining forts within United States territory in the Northwest, and supporting American Indians at war with the United States in both the Northwest and Southwest.
Meanwhile, expansionists in the south and west of the United States coveted British Canada and Spanish Florida and wanted to use British provocations as a pretext to seize both areas. The pressure steadily built, and the United States declared war on the United Kingdom on June 12, 1812. This occurred after Madison had been nominated by the Democratic-Republicans, but before the Federalists had made their nomination.
Democratic-Republican Party nomination 
On May 18, a Democratic-Republican Congressional nominating caucus nominated President James Madison of Virginia. Seeking a New Englander for a running mate, the caucus initially chose New Hampshire governor John Langdon to balance the ticket, but after Langdon declined due to his age, a second caucus nominated Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts for the Vice Presidency, which had been vacant since George Clinton's death a month earlier.
|Presidential Ballot||Vice Presidential Ballot|
|James Madison||81||John Langdon||64|
|Vice Presidential Ballot|
Dissident Democratic-Republican nomination 
Dissident Democratic-Republican candidate:
- DeWitt Clinton (New York), Lieutenant Governor of New York, Mayor of New York City, former United States Senator from New York
On May 29, a caucus of dissident Democratic-Republicans in the New York legislature nominated DeWitt Clinton, the nephew of the late Vice President, who had served as Senator and now was Mayor of New York City and Lieutenant Governor of New York, for president. Clinton's campaign tailored their pamphlets and speeches by region. In the Northeast, Clinton was portrayed as the anti-war candidate. Meanwhile, in the South and West, where there were few people opposed to the war, Clinton ran on the basis of a more vigorous prosecution of the war.
In September, after fierce debate, a Federalist nominating caucus in New York City decided to support Clinton as their best chance to defeat the Democratic-Republicans since the election of 1800. The caucus then picked former United States Attorney Jared Ingersoll of Pennsylvania as his running mate.
General election 
Clinton continued his regional campaigning, anti-war in a Northeast most harmed by the war, and pro-war in the South and West. Although the Federalists made gains in Congress and although Clinton did better than any Federalist candidate since Adams, taking New York and New Jersey, Madison still won the Presidency by a comfortable margin. Madison was the first of just four presidents in US history to win re-election with a lower percentage of the electoral vote than in their prior elections, as Madison won 69.3% of the electoral vote in 1808, but only won 58.7% of the electoral vote in 1812. The other three are Woodrow Wilson in 1916, Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940 and 1944 and Barack Obama in 2012. Additionally, Madison was the first of only five presidents to win re-election with a smaller percentage of the popular vote than in prior elections, although in 1812, only 6 of the 18 states chose electors by popular vote. The other four are Andrew Jackson in 1832, Grover Cleveland in 1892, FDR in '40 and '44 and Obama in '12.
|Presidential Candidate||Party||Home State||Popular Vote(a), (b)||Electoral Vote(c)|
|DeWitt Clinton||Federalist||New York||132,781||47.6%||89|
|Rufus King||Federalist||New York||5,574||2.0%||0|
|Needed to win||109|
Source (Popular Vote): U.S. President National Vote. Our Campaigns. (February 10, 2006).
Source (Electoral Vote): Electoral College Box Scores 1789–1996. Official website of the National Archives. (July 30, 2005).
(a) Only 9 of the 18 states chose electors by popular vote.
(b) Those states that did choose electors by popular vote had widely varying restrictions on suffrage via property requirements.
(c) One Elector from Ohio did not vote.
|Vice Presidential Candidate||Party||State||Electoral Vote|
|Needed to win||109|
Breakdown by ticket 
|Presidential Candidate||Running Mate||Electoral Vote|
|James Madison||Elbridge Gerry||128|
|DeWitt Clinton||Jared Ingersoll||89|
|DeWitt Clinton||Elbridge Gerry||3|
The split-party ticket of the Federalist DeWitt Clinton and the Democratic-Republican Elbridge Gerry was the result of two Federalist Electors in Gerry's home state of Massachusetts and one in New Hampshire voting for the New England region's favorite.
Electoral college selection 
|Method of choosing Electors||State(s)|
|Each Elector appointed by state legislature||Connecticut
|Each Elector chosen by voters statewide||New Hampshire
|State is divided into electoral districts, with one Elector chosen per district by the voters of that district||Kentucky
See also 
- Boller, Paul F., Jr. (2004). Presidential Campaigns: From George Washington to George W. Bush. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 26–28. ISBN 0-19-516716-3.
- Siry, Steven Edwin (1985). "The Sectional Politics of "Practical Republicanism": De Witt Clinton's Presidential Bid, 1810-1812". Journal of the Early Republic (Society for Historians of the Early American Republic) 5 (4): 441–462. doi:10.2307/3123061. JSTOR 3123061.
- "A Historical Analysis of the Electoral College". The Green Papers. Retrieved March 20, 2005.
- "DeWitt Clinton Candidacy". OurCampaigns.com. Retrieved February 16, 2007.
- A New Nation Votes: American Election Returns, 1787-1825