The 1808 presidential election was the sixth presidential election in the United States. James Madison, who had been Secretary of State, emerged as the strongest contender for the presidency in the 1808 election, defeating Federalist candidate Charles Cotesworth Pinckney to become the fourth President of the United States.
James Madison was a close associate of Thomas Jefferson (the third president), and a believer of strong central government, which earned him the support of the Democratic-Republican Party. Vice President George Clinton under Thomas Jefferson’s second term as president stood as an Independent-Republican candidate in the 1808 election. His main supporters came from a faction within the Democratic-Republican Party that disapproved of Madison’s nomination.
The nomination of the Democratic-Republican Party candidate was a toss-up between James Madison and Vice President George Clinton, after Jefferson decided to step down from the presidential race. Madison won the caucuses, and Clinton was nominated to be his running mate for his second consecutive term. The Federalist Party put their faith in Charles Pinckney for the second election in a row, and Rufus King was chosen again to be Pinckney’s running mate.
The campaigns revolved around the issue of the Embargo Act, which was put in place in 1807 under Jefferson’s presidency, with the support of Madison. The Embargo Act, which restricted trade with Britain, became highly unpopular. Jefferson was still distrustful of the British, and preferred to keep them at a distance to avoid conflict. The Embargo Act sought to protect the United States, but the trading communities of the country, particularly in New England, disapproved of the move.
However, despite the growing unpopularity of the Embargo Act, James Madison attained the highest number of electoral votes (122) in the election and became the President of the United States. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney received forty-seven votes. George Clinton gained 6 electoral votes, mostly from Democratic-Republicans who disapproved of Madison’s nomination.
This election brought a unique situation in which the incumbent vice president continued in his capacity, while a new president assumed office. The only other time the situation has repeated itself in U.S. history was in 1828, when John C. Calhoun became vice president to Andrew Jackson after previously serving as the vice president of John Quincy Adams.
James Monroe received about 65 percent of the popular vote, while Pinckney ended up with a little over 32 percent of the popular vote.
The detailed election results are as follows: