The Age of Jackson 1824-1840

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The Age of Jackson 1824-1840


What do ‘The Age of Jackson” and “Jacksonian Democracy” mean?

The “Age of Jackson” was a time period during the early to mid 1800’s where popular politics became the norm. This period is also referred to as the Age of the “Common Man.” There was a political movement away from the domination by a wealthy elite, and an expansion in the idea of political equality. This expansion left out some very significant portions of the American population including women, African Americans, and Native Americans; whose situations actually got collectively worse during this time period. Jacksonian Democracy proposed small government, strong leadership, and a movement toward the participation and the values of the common man.


What political changes led to increased political participation?

During this time period, there was a movement toward universal male suffrage. Starting in the West, many white men were allowed to participate in the political process for the first time since property and religious requirements for voting were abolished or relaxed. Also, there was a new political concept during this time period where candidates began directly campaigning to the voters. During the early years of the Republic, candidates for major offices would often make their views on specific issues known, but would do little to appeal to the voters directly. This all changed as aggressive campaigning became the norm. Parades and rallies with entertainment and food were organized to get the name of the candidate out to the public. Negative campaigning directed toward the voters also originated during this period.


Why was the election of 1824 called the “corrupt bargain?”

This strange election saw four members of the same political party, the Democratic Republicans, running for the Presidency. Following the general election, none had the required amount of electoral votes, so the decision fell on the members of the House of Representatives. Although Andrew Jackson had an overwhelming majority of the popular votes and a healthy lead in electoral votes, the House with the support of another candidate, Henry Clay, selected John Quincy Adams as the President. Soon after the election, Adams appointed Clay to the powerful office of Secretary of State. Jackson’s supporters accused Adams and Clay of stealing the election away from the candidate that Americans wanted.


What do you need to know about John Q Adam’s presidency?

Adams sought to promote business and industry in the United States during his Presidency. One of his major goals was to improve the transportation system throughout the growing United States. To help fund these improvements, and his critics said to help aid his northern manufacturing supporters, Adams helped to get a large tariff passed. The 1828 tariff came to be known as the Tariff of Abominations since it was seen as having potentially terrible consequences on southern sales of agricultural products, especially cotton. The tariff led to the Nullification crisis where several southern states claimed that they were not required to support federal laws if they thought they were unconstitutional or against their best interest.


What do you need to know about the election of 1828?

The election of 1828 was a rematch between Adams and Jackson. Adams was from the Northeast and represented the commercial and manufacturing interests there. He promoted the idea of a strong federal government. The academic and businessman were his best supporters. He was a member of the National Republican Party, many of who would eventually become the Whig Party. Jackson was from the West. He mostly represented the interest of farmers and developers in the west. The “common man” was his best supporter. His political party was the Democratic Republicans, but would later turn into the Democratic Party. The campaign was filled with personal attacks/mudslinging. Three times the number of voters voted in this election than had in any American election to date. Jackson won, carrying every state west of the Appalachians.


What do you need to know about Jackson’s first term as President?

Jackson saw himself as the protector and representative of the common man. He repeatedly shunned the ideas of the “elite” and replaced them with other ideas. He implemented the spoils system to get his people into positions of authority and decision-making. He vetoed more congressional bills than all six presidents before him. One of his most famous vetoes, was a veto of the Second National Bank. His veto effectively shut down the institution that had been started by Alexander Hamilton. His interpretation of the Constitution was very strict and he followed many of the ideals that Thomas Jefferson brought to the office. He used his cabinet as a source of decision making far less than any of the previous presidents, instead using his insider supporters who he referred to as the kitchen cabinet. During his term of office, Jackson had to deal with the Peggy Eaton affair. The wife of Jackson’s Secretary of War, Eaton was accused of adultery prior to her second marriage. Jackson, who had faced a similar situation with his deceased wife Rachel, refused to back down from supporting Eaton socially. It became such a divisive issue that most members of the cabinet resigned. His Vice President, John C. Calhoun also resigned, but his reason was that Jackson refused to support the south in the nullification crisis. Jackson empathized with the south, but felt that the preservation of the Union was too important to allow nullification to undo.

What do you need to know about Jackson’s treatment of Native Americans?

American settlers continued to push west during Jackson’s first term as President. Many in the American government wanted to protect and encourage the movement west. By 1835, most eastern tribes had been forced west and out of the way of the current wave of white settlers. Some, such as the Cherokee, were still in the east, however. Many of the Cherokee who stayed in the east had settled in communities that were similar to traditional American communities, but they still were pushed out. Georgia passed a law requiring the removal of tribes to the west. The Cherokee challenged the law in the Supreme Court case Worcester v. Georgia and the court ruled that the laws of Georgia had no authority over the Cherokee. Jackson openly challenged the court and supported the Georgia law. He refused to support the decision and was quoted as saying “John Marshall (the Supreme Court Chief Justice) has made his decision, now let him enforce it.” Because of Jackson, the Native American Tribes were forced out of their land by the Indian Removal Act and were not given the protection that the Supreme Court had granted them. A horrific consequence of these decisions came to be known as the Trail of Tears as tens of thousands of Cherokee were uprooted and at least 4000 died as they were moved west.


 What were the major events of Jackson’s second term?

The removal of Native Americans continued well beyond the presidency of Jackson. In other issues, there were several banking crises that arose as the validity of loans and paper money came into question, the most famous being the Panic of 1837 which led to an economic depression. Jackson still maintained his relative popularity in spite of the economic issues as his supporters blamed his opponents in Congress for the problems. The political parties became more divided as the Democrats and Whigs fought to see the development of their vision of the nation. Jackson followed precedent and chose not to run for a third term. His hand picked successor, Vice President Martin Van Buren, easily won the election of 1832.


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