1840 United States presidential election

← 1836 October 30 – December 2, 1840 1844 →

294 members of the Electoral College
148 electoral votes needed to win
Turnout80.3% [1] Increase 23.9 pp
Nominee William Henry Harrison Martin Van Buren
Party Whig Democratic
Alliance Anti-Masonic
Home state Ohio New York
Running mate John Tyler No Nominee[a]
Electoral vote 234 60
States carried 19 7
Popular vote 1,275,390 1,128,854
Percentage 52.9% 46.8%

1840 United States presidential election in Maine1840 United States presidential election in New Hampshire1840 United States presidential election in Massachusetts1840 United States presidential election in Rhode Island1840 United States presidential election in Connecticut1840 United States presidential election in New York1840 United States presidential election in Vermont1840 United States presidential election in New Jersey1840 United States presidential election in Pennsylvania1840 United States presidential election in Delaware1840 United States presidential election in Maryland1840 United States presidential election in Virginia1840 United States presidential election in Ohio1840 United States presidential election in Michigan1840 United States presidential election in Indiana1840 United States presidential election in Illinois1840 United States presidential election in Kentucky1840 United States presidential election in Tennessee1840 United States presidential election in North Carolina1840 United States presidential election in South Carolina1840 United States presidential election in Georgia1840 United States presidential election in Alabama1840 United States presidential election in Mississippi1840 United States presidential election in Louisiana1840 United States presidential election in Arkansas1840 United States presidential election in Missouri
Presidential election results map. Yellow denotes states won by Harrison/Tyler and Blue by Van Buren. Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes cast by each state.

President before election

Martin Van Buren

Elected President

William Henry Harrison

The 1840 United States presidential election was the 14th quadrennial presidential election, held from Friday, October 30 to Wednesday, December 2, 1840. Economic recovery from the Panic of 1837 was incomplete, and Whig nominee William Henry Harrison defeated incumbent President Martin Van Buren of the Democratic Party. The election marked the first of two Whig victories in presidential elections, but was the only one where they won a majority of the popular vote. This was the third rematch in American history, which would not occur again until 1892.

In 1839, the Whigs held a national convention for the first time. The 1839 Whig National Convention saw 1836 nominee William Henry Harrison defeat former Secretary of State Henry Clay and General Winfield Scott. Van Buren faced little opposition at the 1840 Democratic National Convention, but controversial Vice President Richard Mentor Johnson was not re-nominated. The Democrats thus became the only major party since 1800 to fail to select a vice presidential nominee.

Referencing vice presidential nominee John Tyler and Harrison's participation in the Battle of Tippecanoe, the Whigs campaigned on the slogan of "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too." With Van Buren weakened by economic woes, Harrison won a popular majority and 234 of 294 electoral votes. Voter participation surged as white male suffrage became nearly universal,[2] and a contemporary record of 42.4% of the voting age population voted for Harrison.[3] Van Buren's loss made him the third president to lose re-election.

The Whigs did not enjoy the benefits of victory. The 67-year-old Harrison, the oldest U.S. president elected until Ronald Reagan won the 1980 election, died a little more than a month after inauguration. Harrison was succeeded by John Tyler, who unexpectedly proved not to be a Whig. While Tyler had been a staunch supporter of Clay at the convention, he was a former Democrat, a passionate supporter of states' rights, and effectively an independent. As President, Tyler blocked the Whigs' legislative agenda and was expelled from the Whig Party, subsequently the second independent (after Washington) to serve as president. Van Buren would be the last incumbent president to lose his reelection bid in a general election until Grover Cleveland in 1888.



Whig Party nomination

1840 Whig Party ticket
William Henry Harrison John Tyler
for President for Vice President
U.S. Senator
from Ohio
U.S. Senator
from Virginia
President pro tempore of the Senate

The first national convention of the Whig Party was called for by members of the party in Congress and it was attended by almost 250 delegates in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Henry Clay, William Henry Harrison, and Winfield Scott ran for the party's presidential nomination. The delegations of each state balloted separately before meeting together with the other representatives of the states. Clay initially led on the first ballot, but Harrison won on the final ballot with 148 votes compared to Clay's 90 votes and Scott's 16 votes after supporters from Scott switched to Harrison. John Tyler was selected as a factional and geographical balance to Harrison.[4]

Democratic Party nomination

1840 Democratic Party ticket
Martin Van Buren None
for President for Vice President
President of the United States

Democratic members of the New Hampshire General Court made a call for the 1840 Democratic National Convention which was held in Baltimore, Maryland in May 1840. Delegates from twenty-two states attended the convention, but the sizes of the delegations varied with New Jersey having fifty-nine delegates to cast its eight votes while Massachusetts only had one delegate to cast its fourteen votes.[4]

A committee was formed to make recommendations for the nominations and the committee supported Van Buren for renomination which was approved by acclamation. However, the vice-presidential nomination was left vacant due to opposition to Vice President Richard M. Johnson's personal life.[4]

Anti-Masonic Party nomination


After the negative views of Freemasonry among a large segment of the public began to wane in the mid-1830s, the Anti-Masonic Party disintegrated. Many leaders began to move to the Whig party. Remaining leaders met in September 1837 in Washington, and agreed to maintain the party. The third Anti-Masonic Party National Convention was held in Philadelphia on November 13–14, 1838. By this time, the party had been almost entirely supplanted by the Whigs. The delegates unanimously voted to nominate William Henry Harrison for president (who the party had supported for president the previous election along with Francis Granger for vice president) and Daniel Webster for vice president. However, when the Whig National Convention nominated Harrison with John Tyler as his running mate, the Anti-Masonic Party did not make an alternate nomination and ceased to function and was fully absorbed into the Whigs by 1840.

Convention vote
Presidential vote Vice presidential vote
William Henry Harrison 119 Daniel Webster 119

Liberty Party nomination


James G. Birney, Myron Holley, Joshua Leavitt, and Gerrit Smith proposed the creation of an anti-slavery party. In July 1839, two resolutions proposed by Holley at the American Anti-Slavery Society's meeting in Cleveland, called for the creation of an abolitionist party. They failed. Nevertheless, the supporters nominated Birney and Francis Julius LeMoyne as a presidential ticket at a meeting in Warsaw, New York. However, Birney declined the presidential nomination as he preferred a nomination to be made by a regular body of abolitionists and LeyMoyne also declined the vice-presidential nomination. Smith and Holley made a call for an abolitionist nominating convention to be held on April 1, 1840, in Albany, New York. 121 delegates attended the delegation and selected a presidential ticket of Birney and Thomas Earle. which was accepted. It took the name Liberty Party.[5]

Birney was unable to campaign during the election as he was in England until November. The Liberty Party received opposition from followers of William Lloyd Garrison and abolitionist Whigs. The Liberty Party received 7,453 votes.[5]

General election



Caricature on the aftermath of the panic of 1837

In the wake of the Panic of 1837, Van Buren was widely unpopular, and Harrison, following Andrew Jackson's strategy, ran as a war hero and man of the people while presenting Van Buren as a wealthy snob living in luxury at the public expense. Although Harrison was comfortably wealthy and well educated, his "log cabin" image caught fire, sweeping all sections of the country.

Harrison avoided campaigning on the issues, with his Whig Party attracting a broad coalition with few common ideals. The Whig strategy overall was to win the election by avoiding discussion of difficult national issues such as slavery or the national bank and concentrate instead on exploiting dissatisfaction over the failed policies of the Van Buren administration with colorful campaigning techniques.

Log cabin campaign of William Henry Harrison


Harrison was the first president to campaign actively for office. He did so with the slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler too". Tippecanoe referred to Harrison's military victory over a group of Shawnee Native Americans at a river in Indiana called Tippecanoe in 1811. For their part, Democrats laughed at Harrison for being too old for the presidency, and referred to him as "Granny", hinting that he was senile. Said one Democratic newspaper: "Give him a barrel of hard cider, and ... a pension of two thousand [dollars] a year ... and ... he will sit the remainder of his days in his log cabin."[6]

Results by county explicitly indicating the percentage of the winning candidate in each county. Shades of yellow are for Harrison (Whig) and shades of blue are for Van Buren (Democrat).

Whigs took advantage of this quip and declared that Harrison was "the log cabin and hard cider candidate", a man of the common people from the rough-and-tumble West. They depicted Harrison's opponent, President Martin Van Buren, as a wealthy snob who was out of touch with the people. In fact, it was Harrison who came from a family of wealthy planters, while Van Buren's father was a tavernkeeper. Harrison however moved to the frontier and for years lived in a log cabin, while Van Buren had been a well-paid government official.[citation needed]

Nonetheless, the election was held in the wake of the Panic of 1837, one of the worst economic depressions in the nation's history,[7] and voters blamed Van Buren, seeing him as unsympathetic to struggling citizens. Harrison campaigned vigorously and won.



This was the first time that a majority of southern voters participated in the election, unlike in the north which has occurred in 1828.[8]

Harrison won the support of western settlers and eastern bankers alike. The extent of Van Buren's unpopularity was evident in Harrison's victories in New York, the president's home state, and in Tennessee, where Andrew Jackson himself had come out of retirement to stump for his former vice-president.

Of the 1,179 counties/independent cities making returns, Harrison won in 699 (59.29%) while Van Buren carried 477 (40.46%). Three counties (0.25%) in the South split evenly between Harrison and Van Buren.

This was the first time a Democratic president lost re-election, as well as the first of only two times (the other being 1980) that a Democratic president lost re-election and lost the popular vote.

Harrison's victory won him precious little time as chief executive of the United States. After giving the longest inauguration speech in U.S. history (lasting about 1 hour and 45 minutes, in cold weather and rain), Harrison served only one month as president before dying of pneumonia on April 4, 1841. This was also the first election in U.S. history in which a candidate won more than a million popular votes.

This was the last election where Indiana voted for the Whigs. It was also the only election where the Whigs won Maine, Michigan, and Mississippi. The election was also the last time that Mississippi voted against the Democrats until 1872, the last in which Indiana did so until 1860, and the last in which Maine and Michigan did so until 1856. This is the only election in American history in which Alabama and Mississippi voted for different candidates.

The 1840 presidential election was the only U.S. presidential election in which four people who either had been or would become a U.S. President (Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler, and Polk) received at least one vote in the Electoral College.[9]

Electoral results
Presidential candidate Party Home state Popular vote(a) Electoral
Running mate
Count Percentage Vice-presidential candidate Home state Electoral vote
William Henry Harrison Whig Ohio 1,275,583 52.87% 234 John Tyler Virginia 234
Martin Van Buren Democratic New York 1,129,645 46.82% 60 Richard Mentor Johnson Kentucky 48
Littleton W. Tazewell Virginia 11
James K. Polk Tennessee 1
James G. Birney Liberty New York 7,453 0.31% 0 Thomas Earle Pennsylvania 0
Other 13 0.00% Other
Total 2,412,694 100% 294 294
Needed to win 148 148

Source (Popular Vote): Leip, David. "1840 Presidential Election Results". Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. Retrieved July 27, 2005. Source (Electoral Vote): "Electoral College Box Scores 1789–1996". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved July 31, 2005.[10]

(a) The popular vote figures exclude South Carolina where the Electors were chosen by the state legislature rather than by popular vote.

Popular vote
Van Buren
Electoral vote
Van Buren

Geography of results


Results by state


Source: Data from Walter Dean Burnham, Presidential ballots, 1836–1892 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1955) pp 247–257.

States/districts won by Van Buren
States/districts won by Harrison/Tyler
William Henry Harrison
Martin Van Buren
James G. Birney
Margin State Total
State electoral
# % electoral
# % electoral
# % electoral
# % #
Alabama 7 0001361828,515 45.62 - 0004866933,996 54.38 7 no ballots -5,481 -8.76 62,511 AL
Arkansas 3 5,160 43.58 - 6,679 56.42 3 no ballots -1,519 -12.84 11,839 AR
Connecticut 8 31,598 55.55 8 25,281 44.45 - no ballots 6,317 11.10 56,879 CT
Delaware 3 5,967 54.99 3 4,872 44.89 - no ballots 1,095 10.10 10,852 DE
Georgia 11 40,339 55.78 11 31,983 44.22 - no ballots 8,356 11.56 72,322 GA
Illinois 5 45,574 48.91 - 47,441 50.92 5 160 0.17 - -1,867 -2.01 93,175 IL
Indiana 9 65,302 55.86 9 51,604 44.14 - no ballots 13,698 11.72 116,906 IN
Kentucky 15 58,488 64.20 15 32,616 35.80 - no ballots 25,872 28.40 91,104 KY
Louisiana 5 11,296 59.73 5 7,616 40.27 - no ballots 3,680 19.46 18,912 LA
Maine 10 46,612 50.23 10 46,190 49.77 - no ballots 422 0.46 92,802 ME
Maryland 10 33,528 53.83 10 28,752 46.17 - no ballots 4,776 7.66 62,280 MD
Massachusetts 14 72,852 57.44 14 52,355 41.28 - 1,618 1.28 - 20,497 16.16 126,825 MA
Michigan 3 22,933 51.71 3 21,096 47.57 - 321 0.72 - 1,837 4.14 44,350 MI
Mississippi 4 19,515 53.43 4 17,010 46.57 - no ballots 2,505 6.86 36,525 MS
Missouri 4 22,954 43.37 - 29,969 56.63 4 no ballots -7,015 -13.26 52,923 MO
New Hampshire 7 26,310 43.88 - 32,774 54.66 7 872 1.45 - -6,464 -10.78 59,956 NH
New Jersey 8 33,351 51.74 8 31,034 48.15 - 69 0.11 - 2,317 3.59 64,454 NJ
New York 42 226,001 51.18 42 212,733 48.18 - 2,809 0.64 - 13,268 3.00 441,543 NY
North Carolina 15 46,567 57.68 15 34,168 42.32 - no ballots 12,399 15.36 80,735 NC
Ohio 21 148,157 54.10 21 124,782 45.57 - 903 0.33 - 23,375 8.53 273,842 OH
Pennsylvania 30 144,010 50.00 30 143,676 49.88 - 340 0.12 - 334 0.12 288,026 PA
Rhode Island 4 5,278 61.22 4 3,301 38.29 - 42 0.49 - 1,977 22.93 8,621 RI
South Carolina 11 no popular vote no popular vote 11 no popular vote - - - SC
Tennessee 15 60,194 55.66 15 47,951 44.34 - no ballots 12,243 11.32 108,145 TN
Vermont 7 32,445 63.90 7 18,009 35.47 - 319 0.63 - 14,436 28.43 50,773 VT
Virginia 23 42,639 49.35 - 43,757 50.65 23 no ballots -1,120 -1.30 86,394 VA
TOTALS: 294 1,275,585 52.87 234 1,129,645 46.82 60 7,453 0.31 - 145,938 6.05 2,412,694 US
TO WIN: 148

States that flipped from Democratic to Whig


States that flipped from Whig to Democratic


Close states


States where the margin of victory was under 1%:

  1. Pennsylvania 0.12% (334 votes)
  2. Maine 0.46% (422 votes)

States where the margin of victory was under 5%:

  1. Virginia 1.3% (1,120 votes)
  2. Illinois 2.01% (1,867 votes)
  3. New York 3.0% (13,268 votes)
  4. New Jersey 3.59% (2,317 votes) (tipping point state)
  5. Michigan 4.14% (1,837 votes)

States where the margin of victory was under 10%:

  1. Mississippi 6.86% (2,505 votes)
  2. Maryland 7.66% (4,776 votes)
  3. Ohio 8.53% (23,375 votes)
  4. Alabama 8.76% (5,481 votes)

Campaign songs/slogans




"Tippecanoe and Tyler too"

Van Buren

Rockabye, baby, Daddy's a Whig
When he comes home, hard cider he'll swig
When he has swug
He'll fall in a stu
And down will come Tyler and Tippecanoe.
Rockabye, baby, when you awake
You will discover Tip is a fake.
Far from the battle, war cry and drum
He sits in his cabin a'drinking bad rum.
Rockabye, baby, never you cry
You need not fear of Tip and his Ty.
What they would ruin, Van Buren will fix.
Van's a magician, they are but tricks.

Election paraphernalia


Electoral college selection

Method of choosing electors State(s)
Each Elector appointed by state legislature South Carolina
Each Elector chosen by voters statewide (all other States)

In the 1997 film Amistad, Van Buren (played by Nigel Hawthorne) is seen campaigning for re-election. These scenes have been criticized for their historical inaccuracy.[12]

See also



  1. ^ While there was no official Democratic nominee, the majority of the Democratic electors still cast their electoral votes for incumbent vice president Richard Mentor Johnson.


  1. ^ "National General Election VEP Turnout Rates, 1789-Present". United States Election Project. CQ Press.
  2. ^ "White Manhood Suffrage". National Museum of American History. Archived from the original on June 29, 2021. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  3. ^ Between 1828–1928: "Voter Turnout in Presidential Elections: 1828–2008". The American Presidency Project. UC Santa Barbara. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c National Party Conventions, 1831-1976. Congressional Quarterly. 1979.
  5. ^ a b Hesseltine, William B. (1962). Third-Party Movements in the United States. Van Nostrand Company. p. 33.
  6. ^ "1840: The Log Cabin and Hard Cider Campaign · Voices and Votes: Democracy on Delmarva · Nabb Research Center Online Exhibits". libapps.salisbury.edu. Retrieved January 7, 2023.
  7. ^ Campbell, Stephen (November 12, 2020). "Panic of 1837". The Economic Historian. Retrieved January 7, 2023.
  8. ^ Black & Black 1992, p. 214.
  9. ^ "1840 Presidential Election". 270toWin. Retrieved November 23, 2020.
  10. ^ "1840 Presidential General Election Results". Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. Archived from the original on January 20, 2022.
  11. ^ Boston Harrison Club. Harrison melodies: Original and selected. Boston: Weeks, Jordan and company, 1840. Google books
  12. ^ Foner, Eric (March 1998). "The Amistad Case in Fact and Film".

Works cited


Further reading


Primary sources