Considering the controversy with the 2000 and 2016 elections, what happened in 1824 is probably the most controversial presidential election in American history.
From 1775 to 1783, the American colonies fought a war for independence from Great Britain.
On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress agreed and signed the Declaration of Independence.
On September 17, 1787, the United States Constitution was written.
On June 21, 1788, the United States Constitution was ratified and became the foundation for law and government in the newly won nation.
In 1789, George Washington became the first President of the United States. He served two terms.
In 1797, John Adams was elected as the second President of the United States. He served only 1 term.
In 1801, Thomas Jefferson was elected as the third President of the United States. He served two terms.
In 1809, James Madison was elected as the fourth President of the United States and served two terms.
In 1817, James Monroe was elected as the fifth President of the United States and served two terms.
In 1824, the presidential election was anything but routine.
Four men ran for the presidency, all from the same Democratic-Republican Party. The first was John Quincy Adams, son of the second president, John Adams. John Quincy Adams had a long political career, serving as UN Minister to the Netherlands (1794-1797), to Prussia (1797-1801), US Senator from Massachusetts (1803-1808), US Minister to Russia (1809-1814), US Envoy to Great Britain (1815-1817) and US Secretary of State (1817-1825) under President James Monroe.
Andrew Jackson, the second candidate, was also popular with a long political career. In addition to being a war hero, Jackson served as a US Representative from Tennessee (1796-1797), US Senator from Tennessee (1797-1798), Military Governor of Florida in 1821, and US Senator from Tennessee (1823-1825).
The third presidential candidate in the 1824 election was William H. Crawford, another career politician. He served as US Senator from Georgia (1807-1813), US Minister to France (1813-1815), US Secretary of War (1815-1816) under President James Madison, and US Secretary of the Treasury (1816-1825) under Presidents James Madison and James Monroe.
The fourth candidate was the famous orator and politician from Kentucky, Henry Clay. Clay’s political history included US Representative from Kentucky (1811-1825). While serving in the House, Clay was Speaker of the House three different times (1811-1814; 1815-1820; and 1823-1825).
On this day, December 1, 1824, the popular and Electoral votes were finally counted. When the popular votes were counted, Jackson won. The popular votes were 153,544 for Jackson, 108,740 for John Quincy Adams, 47,531 for Henry Clay and 40,856 for William Crawford.
When the Electoral College votes were counted, once again, Jackson seemed to be the winner. The Electoral counts were 99 for Jackson, 84, for Adams, 41 for Crawford and only 37 for Clay.
However, it took 131 Electoral votes to be declared winner of the presidency and since none of the candidates, including Jackson received enough Electoral votes, the final decision fell to the US House of Representatives.
“The Electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate; — the President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted; — The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. [And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President. –]* The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.”
On February 9, 1825, after a great deal of debate and campaigning by the candidates, the House of Representatives cast their votes to decide the outcome of the presidential election. Adams won the majority votes from Representatives from 13 states, Jackson won 7 states and Crawford won four.
Although Andrew Jackson won the popular and electoral vote, John Quincy Adams ended up winning the presidency as a result of the 12th Amendment vote by the House of Representatives. The results caused a division in the Democratic-Republican Party. Quincy only served 1 term before Andrew Jackson won the election in 1829 and served 2 terms.
Sources for the above includes: This Day in History — December 1 – Elections; Congress Decides Outcome of Presidential Election; 1824 Presidential Election; The 1824 Election and the “Corrupt Bargain”; United States Presidential Election of 1824; Adams v. Jackson: The Election of 1824; Presidents & Vice Presidents; Amendments 11-27 to the US Constitution