Nationwide, party politics was growing increasingly fractured. The original two-party system collapsed in the early 1820s under the weight of sectional rivalries and the growing mass participation (of white men) in politics. Conflict between the North and South was increasing. In Vermont, slavery, tarrifs, temperance (abstaining from alcohol), Masonry (a secret men's society with political clout), all galvanized public opinion and divided voters. For example, four gubernatorial elections (1830, 1831, 1832, and 1835) were decided by the Vermont legislature.
Like religion, political changes allowed Vermonters to participate more fully. Now Vermonters had the opportunity to voice their opinions on issues and know that they were responsible to a greater cause. Vermont's government underwent a constitutional change when the appointed Council of Censors was replaced with the democratically elected Senate. Vermont's party politics were volatile and ever changing as citizens became more caught up in issues such as anti-masonry, temperance, and slavery.
The 1840 presidential election—Tippecanoe and Tyler too!
In the early 1790s, William Henry Harrison left his medical training to begin service in the United States Infantry. By the turn of the century, Harrison was ready to move onto politics and became the Governor of the new Indiana Territory. He believed in building and establishing friendly relations with the Native Americans upon whose land U.S. expansion was increasingly encroaching. Harrison, however, was ordered by Thomas Jefferson to obtain Indian lands using any means necessary. His attempts to befriend the Indian leaders was challenged in 1810 when a Shawnee leader, Tecumseh, warned Harrison that the Indians would not give up anymore land peacefully and were prepared to defend their land. Harrison did not back down from this warning and amassed about 1,000 troops. A terrible battle ensued along the Tippecanoe River killing 179 Americans. Although Harrison initially received criticism for his handling of the situation, the story was eventually romanticized and he was nicknamed, Old Tippecanoe. This lead to the campaign slogan, "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too." Harrison served as governor of Indiana until 1813. His other political accomplishments include: U.S. Congressman from Ohio (1816-1819), U.S. Senator from Ohio (1825-1828), and Minister to Columbia (1828-1829). Due to financial problems, caused by debt and a damaging flood in 1832, Harrison stepped out of the public and political realm and remained in North Bend, Indiana with his family until the mid-1830s.
In 1839, the Whig Party chose William Henry Harrison as their presidential candidate. There were other strong leaders in the Whig party, such as Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, but it was believed that William Henry Harrison was the most electable. The Whig party advocated for a weak president and a strong Congress, and were involved in anti-masonry activity. They started campaigning early in 1839 and marketed Harrison as a war hero and reluctant candidate from an impoverished background. Unlike the image of a poor Harrison portrayed in his "Log Cabin Campaign," Harrison was a classically educated Virginian whose father had signed the Declaration of Independence. The opposing party—the Democrats—supported the incumbent, President Martin Van Buren, nicknamed Old Kinderhook by his supporters for his native Kinderhook, New York.
People on both sides ignored the real issues (the economy, states' rights, and slavery) and made outlandish claims mostly about their opponent's character. Van Buren's supporters, for example, tried to paint the Whig candidate as a country bumpkin, a lover of hard cider, and too old for the presidency. Whig supporters used these claims to their advantage, describing their candidate as a humble "man of the people." They used log cabins in parades, on banners and buttons and in songs; they rolled huge canvas balls with campaign slogans on them from town to town; and they provided free cider at their rallies to win support (and votes).
In the end, Van Buren was the one seen as old and responsible for much of the economic hardship the country was enduring at the time. More voters than ever before went to the polls in 1840 (82% of eligible voters), mostly in support of the hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe and John Tyler, his vice-presidential running mate. Harrison and Tyler received 1,274,624 popular votes and 234 electoral votes. (Van Buren received 1,127, 781 popular votes and 60 electoral votes.) Van Buren had lost the election to William Henry Harrison, who became our ninth President just long enough to catch a cold (which turned to pneumonia) and die exactly one month after his in inauguration. That meant that John Tyler, the man neither Whigs nor Democrats wanted as their leader, became America's 10th President, serving out the remainder of Harrison's term before losing the election of 1844 to Democratic candidate James K. Polk.
The Whigs presented their candidate William Henry Harrison as a simple frontier Indian fighter, living in a log cabin and drinking cider, in sharp contrast to an aristocratic champagne-sipping Van Buren. For the 1840 presidential election, numerous rallies were held across the country to generate excitement for their candidate just as candidates today do. Harrison’s campaign became the best-organized and most exciting up to that time. Music, hard cider and barbecues were a staple of this campaign. Log cabins were also erected for rallies and conventions.