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Jacksonion Democracy

Jacksonion Democracy

The early nineteenth century was a time of radical political change in the United States, as the country began shifting in an increasingly democratic direction. While overt legal racial and gender based voting restrictions would not disappear until the late eighteenth and well into the twentieth centuries, the early eighteenth century significantly increased the democratization of the American political process. The result was the election of Andrew Jackson, who served as president from 1829 to 1837. What was the balance between these new rights for some, and a leader who was regarded as a tyrant by his opponents?

US History Andrew Jackson StudySmarterFig. 1: Andrew Jackson

The Rise of Jacksonian Democracy

Jacksonian Democracy rested upon the many political reforms of the early eighteenth century. At the turn of the eighteenth century, most states only allowed property owning, tax paying, white males to vote. By the 1830s, any white male was able to vote in most states. Further reforms included the switch from open to secret voting and the nomination of candidates by directly elected representatives. These reforms allowed the election of Andrew Jackson, a candidate who would have been unthinkable decades before.

Jacksonian Democracy Summary

The New Democratic Party coalesced nationally around the personality of Andrew Jackson. At the time, many regional political parties existed, but the Democrat-Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson had long held national power. The Democratic Party developed around the personality of Andrew Jackson first and a political platform second.

Andrew Jackson as Personality

Andrew Jackson came from meager beginnings to become a successful lawyer, businessman, and slave plantation owner in Tennessee. He also served as a military officer in the War of 1812 and in conflicts with the indigenous Americans. Around these elements developed the image of Jackson as a fighter and common man. This image resonated with the newly enfranchised white men who viewed Jackson as a relatable and heroic figure, struggling against the old money elites.

New Democracy Andrew Jackson

Jacksonian Democracy centered on ideas of equality and limited government. This equality extended to issues of religion and national origin, but only went as far as white men. Democrats argued that big government allowed elites to enrich themselves and control the nation's interests. They opposed the creation of a national bank on the idea that it was a corrupt monopoly, giving the wealthy elites too much power over the national economy and politics.

Andrew Jackson appears on the twenty dollar bill, yet was strongly opposed to paper currency created by the national bank and favored hard currency such as gold.

US History political cartoon of Andrew Jackson opposing the national bank StudySmarterFig. 2: Political Cartoon of Andrew Jackson Opposing the National Bank

Jacksonian Democracy and Race

The equality and freedom of Jacksonian Democracy only applied to White males. White farmers looking to expand their operations supported the Indian Removal Act that forced indigenous tribes to move to land West of the Mississippi River. Jackson was a slave owner himself, and the Jacksonian Democrats did what they could to halt the abolitionist movement. Eventually, this would lose them their supporters, as their silencing of White abolitionists was viewed as a civil rights violation and White Americans in free states viewed human enslavement as a threat to the value of free labor.

Despite his focus on White Americans, Jackson did adopt and raise an indigenous American child. Jackson stated that as an orphan himself, he had an "unusual sympathy" for the child. Historians have argued over the meaning of the adoption in contrast with Jackson's brutal treatment of indigenous people during the rest of his life.

Rotation of Office Holders

Jackson believed that the will of the voters should determine the course of government. He believed that appointed federal employees should be rotated with the administration. This political firing and hiring extended not just to cabinet level positions, but to much lower career level employees. The result of this was eventually the Spoils System, where government jobs became the rewards of political supporters instead of merit-based assignments.

Jeffersonian Democracy vs. Jacksonian Democracy

The Democracy practiced by Thomas Jefferson and that practiced by Andrew Jackson had significant differences, yet the men had many similarities. Both of them opposed a national bank for the power they believed it would bestow upon wealthy businessmen. They both favored farmers and opposed industrialists. Still, many differences existed between the democracy of their eras, roughly thirty years apart.

Jeffersonian
Jacksonian
Rule by the elite Any white male can run for office
Voting limited to property ownersVoting limited to all White males
Believed public education was important Placed little value on public education
Party nominations by political elites Nomination by convention
Supported lifetime appointments to federal positions Believed in rotating federal officeholders
US History political cartoon about President Andrew Jackson StudySmarterFig. 3: Political Cartoon Depicting Andrew Jackson as a Monarch

Jacksonian Democracy Era

Two major crises tested the era of Jacksonian Democracy. One would test Jackson's ability to achieve his goals and the other would test his commitment to his own beliefs. Both crises would be resolved with a strong hold on executive power.

The Bank, Mr. Van Buren, is trying to kill me. But I will kill it." 1

–Andrew Jackson

National Bank

Andrew Jackson believed that a national bank created too much centralization and would be exploited by the wealthy elite at the expense of White farmers and workers. In 1832, Jackson vetoed a new charter for the national bank, and the action became a central feature of his reelection campaign. While the opposition tried to portray Jackson as overstepping his authority and engaging in class warfare to lure the rabble of society to his side, the bank funneling massive amounts of money to oppose his reelection provided some vindication of Jackson's contention that the bank held too much power over politics. After his reelection, Jackson withdrew federal deposits from the national bank. When the national bank manipulated credit to raise interest rates in an attempt to force Jackson to concede, public opinion blamed the bank for the crisis and reinforced support for Jackson's move to end the institution.

Elements of Jackson's presidency where he strengthened executive power with actions such as replacing federal appointees and vetoing the nation bank recharter illustrated a new approach to authority. Those who opposed Jackson attempted to portray him as a tyrant who exercised absolute control over what should be a representative democracy. To Jackson and his supporters, he had been elected by popular will, and a newly egalitarian electorate of common people, to carry out an agenda and that was what he was going to do.

Nullification Crisis

Andrew Jackson was known for his opposition to centralization in favor of states' rights, yet when the state of South Carolina attempted to nullify a 1928 tariff, Jackson found himself on the side of strong central power. Southern planters opposed the bill that they felt aided only Northern manufacturers while increasing the costs of Southern farmers. Upon his election, Jackson had been expected to oppose the bill, but declared that the bill was constitutional. South Carolina attempted to nullify the bill and set off a crisis over whether states could cancel federal laws which opposed their individual state interests. When Jackson threatened to use military force to ensure South Carolina's compliance with federal laws, the state accepted the compromise of a significantly reduced tariff rate.

The Nullification Crisis created major cracks in the Jackson Administration and even caused the Vice President, John C. Calhoun, to leave his position for a seat in the Senate.

Indian Removal

In 1830, Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act. The act forced indigenous people to leave their land because it was coveted by White farmers and gold prospectors. Federal troops forced the indigenous people East of the Mississippi river to move West of the river. Thousands of people died on the forced march known as the "Trail of Tears."

Although many tribes had assimilated into American society, some even owning enslaved people and running plantations, many states took away the rights of indigenous people as a precursor to the Indian Removal Act.

US History Andrew Jackson StudySmarterFig. 4: Andrew Jackson

End of Jacksonian Democracy

Although Jackson himself left office in 1837, his personality and ideas inspired the Democratic party through the 1850s, until the election of Abraham Lincoln and the onset of the Civil War. The party maintained its focus on small farmers and laborers throughout this period. In the election of 1960, the party split over the issue of human enslavement, allowing Lincoln to win the presidency.

Jacksonian Democracy - Key takeaways

  • Andrew Jackson served as president from 1829 to 1837
  • Enfranchisement of all White males brought Jackson to office
  • Opposed centralization and the national bank
  • Forcibly relocated indigenous people and opposed abolition
  • Replaced many federal appointees, creating the spoils system

References

  1. Frank Freidel and Hugh Sidey. The Presidents of the United States of America.

Frequently Asked Questions about Jacksonion Democracy

Jacksonian Democracy is a product of the Democratic Party.

The period of Jacksonian Democracy can be characterized by universal white male sufferage and opposition to wealthy elites control of central institutions. 

Jacksonian Democracy developed around universal White male suffrage giving a larger voice to farmers and laborers. 

Jacksonian democracy refers to a period where the enfranchisement of all White males placed less less power in the hands of cultural elites and more in the hands of political parties. 

Jacksonian Democracy represented represented the interests of White male farmers and laborers against elites. 

Final Jacksonion Democracy Quiz

Question

When was the Indian Removal Act passed? 

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Answer

1830

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When was the Treaty of New Echota signed?

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1830

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When did the Trail of Tears begin with the forced removal of the Cherokee people?

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1837

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When did the Trail of Tears end?

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1839

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True or False: In the early 1830s there were over 100,000 Native Americans living on millions of acres in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and Florida. 

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True 

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Where did the Cherokee people live before the Trail of Tears? 

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Georgia

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True or False: By the 1840s, there were very few Native Americans residing on the east coast. 

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True, the majority were relocated to Indian Territory. 

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Native Americans were seen as civilized when they 

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learned to read and speak English

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The Indian Removal Act was passed under president 

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Andrew Jackson

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True or False: The phrase Trail of Tears describes a series of forced relocations of native tribes in a twenty-year span of time between 1830 and 1850

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True

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The Treaty of New Echota said that 

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the Cherokee had to resettle in the Indian Territory by May of 1838.

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When was the Second Great Awakening?

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1790s - 1850s

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Which of the following was not a cause of the Second Great Awakening?

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Industrialization 

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The nationalistic American identity excluded which two denominations? 

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Calvinists and Deists

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What do you call a preacher who travels from church to church along a circuit? 

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Circuit Preacher

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Which two denominations were known for circuit preachers?

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Baptist and Methodist 

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Southern preachers received criticism for preaching about equality for which two groups of people?

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Black People and White Women

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Who led a slave rebellion that resulted in authorities making life more difficult for black people? 

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Nat Turner

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Which famous Second Great Awakening preacher was an abolitionists and women's rights activist? 

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Charles Grandison Finney

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What was the movement to end slavery called?

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Abolition 

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Who was a Second Great Awakening preacher who was a teetotaler and abolitionist?

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Lyman Beecher

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Which Second Great Awakening preacher encouraged charity work?

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John Rodgers

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What issue caused the Northern and Southern Baptist and Methodist churches to divide?

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Slavery

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Why did women heavily participate in church?

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They had no political power

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What did the Temperance Movement popularize?

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Safe ways to drink water without alcohol 

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Which of these is not a difference between the First and Second Great Awakenings? 

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Different views of religion and America

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Which historical event can be seen as the beginning of the era of Native American Removal?

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The Louisiana Purchase 

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The establishment of The Bureau of Indian Affairs was important because 

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helped the federal government craft treaties 

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______________ refers to a federal bill forcing the relocation of thousands of indigenous people

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Indian Removal Act 

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__________ refers to the idea that God's plan was for Americans to take and settle new territory

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Indian Removal Act 

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How did the Indian Removal Act work?

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They would sign a treaty and then be relocated onto protected, federal land

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What happened to tribes that didn't want to relocate?

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They had the option to become American citizens 

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Native Americans were viewed as 

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Uncivilized 

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When was the Bureau of Indian Affairs established?

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1820

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True or False: The Indian Removal Act led to the Trail of Tears.

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True 

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True or False: By the 1840s, there were few Native Americans left in the south.  

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True 

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Who was president during the panic of 1837?

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Martin Van Buren

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Whose economic policies contributed to the Panic of 1837?

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President Andrew Jackson

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True or False: Andrew Jackson wanted to renew the charter of the Second Bank of the United States?

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False. Andrew Jackson was against a federal central bank.

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What is specie?

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Metal coins such as gold or silver.

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What are specie payments?

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The receipt of paper money from banks in exchange for gold or silver.

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What is land speculation?

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Purchasing land with the expectation that the value of the land will increase.

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What contributed to land speculation prior to the Panic?

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The new availability of land in the South and West.

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What was “Specie Circular”?

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An executive order made by Andrew Jackson which required public lands to be paid for in specie.

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What is inflation?

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Inflation is the the decline in value of a given currency over time, meaning each unit of currency has less purchasing power. 

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What contributed to inflation prior to the Panic of 1837?

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Federal funds were redistributed to state banks, which printed more money than they had in specie, and gave out risky loans for speculative investments.

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What occurred following the “Specie Circular”?

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Citizens began to attempt to withdraw specie from banks to pay their loans, but the banks did not have enough specie on reserve.

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Whose enfranchisement led to the era of Jacksonian Democracy?

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All white males 

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Why did Andrew Jackson oppose a national bank?

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It placed too much power in the hands of wealthy elites 

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Question

What party came together around Andrew Jackson?


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Democratic Party 

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