Election of 1840

Martin Van Buren was re-nominated unenthusiastically by the Democrats in 1840; no candidate was nominated for the vice presidency. To many of those countrymen who had suffered through years of depression, he was "Martin Van Ruin."

Henry Clay felt his time had finally arrived and anticipated receiving the Whig nomination. Other forces in the party, however, knew that Clay's prominence over the years had earned him many enemies and they backed William Henry Harrison once again. Harrison was an old war hero and had made few pronouncements on public issues¬—a situation similar to Andrew Jackson in 1824. For regional balance, John Tyler of Virginia was selected as the vice-presidential candidate; Tyler was a former Democrat and would later return to many of his earlier beliefs. The campaign slogan was, "Tippecanoe and Tyler, too!"

Hard Cider Campaign

The campaign of 1840 was heavy on image-making, less so on substance¬—a harbinger of things to come. One Democratic wag observed that Harrison would probably be just as happy with a jug of hard cider to sip in front of his log cabin as serving as president. The Whigs turned this contemptuous statement to their advantage and launched the "log cabin and hard cider" campaign, playing up Harrison's appeal to the masses and serving large quantities of hard cider at rallies. On the other side Van Buren was attacked for alleged elitism; he was a well-dressed dandy and consumer of fine wines and exotic foods. Aspiring political poets of the day offered such verse as:

Let Van from his coolers of silver drink wine
And lounge on his cushioned settee,
Our man on a buckeye bench can recline,
Content with hard cider is he.

Neither portrayal was accurate. Harrison had many aristocratic qualities and came from a wealthy family, while Van Buren was a self-made man who was a firm believer in democratic values.

The election results appeared to be a landslide in the Electoral College, but the popular vote was close.

Election of 1840
Candidates

Party

Electoral Vote

Popular
Vote

William Henry Harrison (OH)
John Tyler (VA)

Whig

234

1,275,612

Martin Van Buren (NY)
(no vice presidential nominee)

Democratic

60

1,130,033


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