United States presidential election, 1808

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United States presidential election, 1808
United States
1804 ←
November 4 – December 7, 1808 → 1812

176 electoral votes of the Electoral College
89 electoral votes needed to win
  James Madison.jpg CharlesCPinckney.png
Nominee James Madison Charles C. Pinckney
Party Democratic-Republican Federalist
Home state Virginia South Carolina
Running mate George Clinton Rufus King
Electoral vote 122 47
States carried 12 5
Popular vote 124,732 62,431
Percentage 64.7% 32.4%


Presidential election results map. Green denotes states won by Madison, burnt orange denotes states won by Pinckney, yellow denotes states won by Clinton. Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state.

President before election

Thomas Jefferson

Elected President

James Madison

The United States presidential election of 1808 was the 6th quadrennial presidential election, held from Friday, November 4, to Wednesday, December 7, 1808. The Democratic-Republican candidate James Madison defeated Federalist candidate Charles Cotesworth Pinckney decisively. Madison was serving as United States Secretary of State under incumbent Thomas Jefferson, and Pinckney had been the unsuccessful Federalist candidate in the election of 1804.

Madison's strongest challenge came from members of his own party. Sitting Vice President George Clinton and former Ambassador James Monroe both challenged Madison for leadership of the party prior to the general election. Clinton received six electoral votes in the general election, all from New York.

This election was the first of only two instances in American history in which a new President would be selected but the incumbent Vice President would continue to serve. (The re-election of John C. Calhoun in 1828 was the other instance.)


Democratic-Republican Party nomination[edit]

Presidential candidates[edit]

Vice-Presidential candidates[edit]


Nominations for the 1808 presidential election were made by congressional caucuses. With Thomas Jefferson ready to retire, supporters of Secretary of State James Madison of Virginia worked carefully to ensure that Madison would succeed Jefferson. Madison's primary competition came from former Ambassador James of Virginia and Vice President George Clinton. Monroe was supported by a group known as the tertium quids, who supported a weak central government and were dissatisfied by the Louisiana Purchase and the Compact of 1802. Clinton's support came from Northern Democratic-Republicans who disapproved of the Embargo Act (which they saw as potentially leading towards war with Great Britain) and who sought to end the Virginia Dynasty. The Congressional caucus chose Madison as its candidate for president and Clinton as its candidate for vice president.[1]

Many supporters of Monroe and Clinton refused to accept the result of the caucus. Monroe was nominated by a group of Virginia Democratic-Republicans, and although he did not actively try to defeat Madison, he also refused to withdraw from the race.[2] Clinton was also supported by a group of New York Democratic-Republicans for president even as he remained the party's official vice presidential candidate.[3]


Presidential Ballot Total Vice Presidential Ballot Total
James Madison 83 George Clinton 79
James Monroe 3 John Langdon 5
George Clinton 3 Henry Dearborn 3
John Quincy Adams 1

Federalist Party nomination[edit]

The Federalist caucus renominated General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney of South Carolina and former Senator Rufus King of New York.

Presidential candidates[edit]

Vice-Presidential candidates[edit]

General election[edit]


Results by county explicitly indicating the percentage of the winning candidate in each county. Shades of blue are for Madison (Democratic-Republican), shades of yellow are for Pinckney (Federalist), and shades of green are for Monroe (Democratic-Republican).

The election was marked by opposition to Jefferson's Embargo Act of 1807, a halt to trade with Europe that disproportionately hurt New England merchants and was perceived as favoring France over Britain. Nonetheless, Jefferson was still very popular with Americans generally and Pinckney was soundly defeated, though not as badly as in 1804. Pinckney received few electoral votes outside of New England.


Pinckney retained the electoral votes of the two states that he carried in 1804 (Connecticut and Delaware), and he also picked up New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and three electoral districts in North Carolina besides the two electoral districts in Maryland that he carried earlier. Except for the North Carolina districts, all of the improvement was in New England.

Monroe won a portion of the popular vote in Virginia and North Carolina,[2] while the New York legislature split its electoral votes between Madison and Clinton.[3]

Presidential candidate Party Home state Popular vote(a), (b) Electoral
Running mate
Count Pct Vice-presidential candidate Home state Elect. vote(c)
James Madison Democratic-Republican Virginia 124,732 64.7% 122 George Clinton New York 113
John Langdon New Hampshire 9
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney Federalist South Carolina 62,431 32.4% 47 Rufus King New York 47
George Clinton Democratic-Republican New York 6 James Madison Virginia 3
James Monroe Virginia 3
James Monroe Democratic-Republican Virginia 4,848 2.5% 0 (none) (n/a) 0
(unpledged electors) (none) (n/a) 680 0.4% 0 (n/a) (n/a) 0
Total 192,691 100% 175 175
Needed to win 88 88

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 10 of the 17 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 Kentucky did not vote.

Electoral college selection[edit]

Method of choosing Electors State(s)
Each Elector appointed by state legislature Connecticut
New York
South Carolina
Each Elector chosen by voters statewide New Hampshire
New Jersey
Rhode Island
State is divided into electoral districts, with one Elector chosen per district by the voters of that district Kentucky
North Carolina

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sabato, Larry; Ernst, Howard (1 January 2009). Encyclopedia of American Political Parties and Elections. Infobase Publishing. pp. 302–304. 
  2. ^ a b Ammon, Harry (1963). "James Monroe and the Election of 1808 in Virginia". The William and Mary Quarterly 20 (1): 33–56. Retrieved 12 October 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Kaminski, John P. (1993). George Clinton: Yeoman Politician of the New Republic. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 281–288. Retrieved 12 October 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Brant, Irving, "Election of 1808" in Arthur Meier Schlesinger and Fred L. Israel, eds. History of American presidential elections, 1789-1968: Volume 1 (1971) pp 185-249
  • Carson, David A. "Quiddism and the Reluctant Candidacy of James Monroe in the Election of 1808," Mid-America 1988 70(2): 79–89

External links[edit]