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Jonathan White: 1824 & Contentious Elections | BRI Scholar Talks

BRI Senior Teaching Fellow Tony Williams sits down with Jonathan White, associate professor of American Studies at Christopher Newport University and author of several books on the Civil War, to discuss his essay on the presidential election of 1824 in our new digital history textbook, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Together, they piece together the historical background behind one of the most contentious elections in American history. In 1824, none of the four candidates—Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, or William Crawford—were able to obtain a majority of the Electoral College vote. The Twelfth Amendment required the election be sent to the U.S. House of Representatives, where John Quincy Adams was chosen as the sixth U.S. president. Can we learn any lessons about democracy from contentious elections? Was the election a crisis or a demonstration of the successful workings of constitutional principles?

About Jonathan White:

Jonathan White is an associate professor of American Studies at Christopher Newport University and is the author or editor of ten books, including "Abraham Lincoln and Treason in the Civil War: The Trials of John Merryman and Emancipation" and "Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln," which was a finalist for both the Lincoln Prize and the winner of the Abraham Lincoln Institute’s 2015 book prize. He serves on the Boards of Directors of the Abraham Lincoln Institute, the Abraham Lincoln Association, the Lincoln Forum, and the John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History at the University of Virginia. His most recent books include "Lincoln on Law, Leadership and Life" and “Our Little Monitor: The Greatest Invention of the Civil War." He is presently writing a biography of a convicted slave trader named Appleton Oaksmith. Check out his website at or follow him on Twitter at @CivilWarJon.

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