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Saturday, February 11, 2012

February 11 Presidential Losers: Henry Clay and William Wirt

Presidential Losers #13 and 14: Henry Clay and William Wirt, 1832

Henry Clay


William Wirt
Henry Clay, who’d been walloped by Andrew Jackson in a four-way race back in ’24, came back for another try in spite of the fact Jackson’s popularity had only increased during his presidency; the Indian Removal Act proved to be a huge success that exceeded everyone’s expectations.  If you ever want to be reelected as president, a good way to do it is take a bunch of land from people who can’t vote and give it to people who can.  The Trail of Tears was not all bad – Jackson was fond of pointing out in speeches that the government was undertaking the removal at its own expense; it wasn’t as if the Cherokee had to pay to leave.  You have to wonder what Clay was thinking to run against such a visionary and magnanimous chief executive.  The third party in the race was the Anti-Masonic Party, which in my personal opinion is really cool.  I think it’s great to have a party whose sole purpose is to be against a men’s philanthropic organization.  Why can’t we have an Anti-Rotary Club Party, too, and an Anti-Elks Club Party?  Anyway, the Anti-Masons were fed up with those damn red fezzes and those secret handshakes and what-not, and weren’t going to take it any more.  (There had also been a small matter of possible homicide when a Mason threatened to reveal his lodge’s secrets, but I think it was mostly a matter of the red fezzes, like I said.)  The Anti-Masonic candidate was William Wirt, who himself was a Mason, which indicates a certain amount of confusion on the part of the nominating committee.  Apparently, during his acceptance speech, William Wirt praised the good work of the Masons, which perhaps explains why his party didn’t do better than it did.  If you’re going to take a stand, by golly, take it – don’t shilly-shally.  Where would Andrew Jackson have gotten if sometimes he’d been for Indian rights and sometimes against them?  No, he had his principles and he stuck to them.1

Result

Andrew Jackson: 219
Henry Clay: 49
William Wirt: 7

1. William Wirt's tomb was later robbed, and the skull sold to a private collector.  The skull was eventually returned, though.  It could be identified because the purchaser had written "William Wirt" on it in gold letters.

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