Jacksonian Democracy

American politics became increasingly democratic in the 1820’s-1830’s.
 -local and state offices that earlier were appointive became elective
-right to vote was increased by lifting restrictions on ownership of property within states.
-printed ballot replaced an earlier system of voice voting, secret ballot grew in favor.
-Conventions of elected delegates replaced legislative and congressional caucuses as agencies to make party nominations.
-System changed of nominating candidates by self-appointed cliques meeting in secret
 NOW a system of open selection of candidates by democratically elected bodies.


Most of these changes came before the emergence of Jackson’s Democratic Party, some were even accomplished over objection to the Jacksonians.
 -There were men in all sections who feared the spread of political democracy, but by 1830’s few were willing to publicly voice it.

 -sought to fix the impression that they alone were champions of democracy
 -that they alone were engaged in a mortal struggle against aristocratic opponents.
The accuracy of this propaganda depended on local circumstances.

The great political reforms of the early 19th century was conceived by no faction or party. The real question about these reforms concerns the extent  to which they truly represented the victory of democracy in the US.

Let’s look closer at these reforms
1. Small cliques or entrenched “machines” dominated democratically elected nominating conventions just as they had controlled caucuses.

-By the 1830’s THE COMMON MAN had come into possession of the vote, however the nomination was not in his power.
 The common man was WHITE, not black or red skinned.

-the policies adopted by competing factions and parties in the states owed little to ordinary voters.
 -reward the party faithful and keep them in power, this was how this was designed,
 -State parties extolled the common people in grand terms but focused on legislation that awarded bank charters or monopoly rights to construct transportation projects to favored insiders

Common people?

Andrew Jackson
 -to his followers he was the embodiment of popular democracy.
 -self-made man of will and courage, he personified for many citizens the vast power of nature and Providence and the majesty of the people.

 -his weaknesses, nearly uncontrollable temper, was his political strengths.
 -stood for the poor against the rich, plain people against the interests.

Who was Jackson?
 -a wealthy man of conservative social beliefs.
 -rarely spoke of labor in his correspondence
 -A lawyer and main of affairs in Tennessee before rising to the presidency---aligned with the influential and with the creditor.
 -His reputation was a creation by the astute men who promoted the belief that his party was the peoples party and that the policies of his administration were in the popular interest.
  -when wealthy critics would attack it would only strengthen the belief that the Jacksonian movement was radical as well as democratic.

The Jacksonian Democratic Party was a loose coalition of diverse men and interests united primarily by a practical vision.
1. Old Hickory, Jackson’s nickname, was a magnificent candidate
-he appeared to have no known political principles of any sort.
-no distinct parties on a national level- all portrayed themselves as “Republicans”-followers of Jefferson.
Jackson, Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, JQ Adams and William Crawford.
 National Republicans were the followers of Adams and
Whigs, who emerged in 1834, the party dedicated to the defeat of Jackson.
2. His election to presidency would benefit those who helped to bring it about.
When Jackson was inaugurated on March 4, 1829, it was the first time in more than a quarter of a century that the advent of a new president reflected the repudiation of his predecessor.

Hundreds who had worked for the election of Jackson hoped this would mean
that incumbent officeholders would be replaced by friends of the
new president, and within a few weeks the process of removing opponents of Jackson to make way for supporters had begun.

Jackson was not in good health when beginning presidency
 People started looking at replacement in case of an emergency.

One obvious candidate was Vice Pres. John C. Calhoun from Jackson's native state of South Carolina.

Another was Martin Van Buren, Jackson's first secretary of state.

The harmony of the new administration was marred from the outset
by the rivalry between Calhoun and Van Buren. When Jackson
learned, in 1830, that during the Cabinet debates in 1818 Calhoun
had urged that he be censured for his invasion of Florida, he
concluded that he could no longer trust Calhoun. From that time,
Van Buren was generally recognized as the probable successor of
Jackson as president.

The Major Parties

The parties of the era were created to attain victory for men rather than measures.

Once in power, their leaders sought to persuade the electorate of the primacy of principles.

The former Federalists at first flocked to the new parties in largely equal numbers and the men on opposite sides of issues like internal improvements or the national bank could unite behind Jackson. After passing time, parties did identify more with opposing and distinctive political parties.

1840’s, Whig and Democratic congressmen voted as rival blocs.

Whigs supported
 -a weak executive
 -a new Bank of the United States
 -a high tariff
 -distribution of land revenues to the states
 -relief legislation to mitigate the effects of the depression
 -federal reapportionment of House seats.

Democrats supported
 -independent treasury
 -aggressive foreign policy

These important issues divided the electorate just  as they divided the major parties in Congress.

Jacksonians were more ready than their opponents to take punitive measures against
 -banish and use forceful measures against southern Indian tribes, brushing aside treaties protecting Indian rights.

But the Democrats and Whigs were not divided ideologically, in these matters with the Whigs representing the interests of the propertyless.

Party lines earlier had been more easily broken as during the Crisis that erupted over South Carolina’s bitter objections to the high tariff  of 1828.

The feud between Jackson and Calhoun assumed crucial
importance in 1830 when Calhoun openly espoused the cause of South Carolina in its opposition to a high protective tariff.

Feeling in South Carolina was so intense that there were covert threats that the state would attempt to prevent collection of the tariff within its borders.

The issue of the tariff drifted unresolved, however, until 1832, when congressional leaders sought a compromise in the form of a moderate reduction of the tariff.

South Carolina was not satisfied and in reply adopted a resolution declaring the tariffs of 1828 and 1832 null and void and prohibiting the enforcement of
either within its boundaries after Feb. 1, 1833.

Jackson accepted the challenge, denounced the theory of nullification, and asked Congress for authority to send troops into South Carolina to enforce
the law. The President believed the tariff to be too high, however,
and urged Congress to reduce the rates it had enacted a few months

Jackson’s firm opposition to Calhoun’s policy over nullification (the right of a state to nullify a federal law, in this case the tariff) had much support within and outside the Democratic party.

Clay, the great compromisor, a compromise tariff, pulled Clay not against Jackson but demonstated his ability to conciliate.

On March 1, 1833, Congress sent to the President two companion bills.
1. One reduced tariff duties on many items.

2. The other, commonly called the Force Bill, empowered the president to use the armed forces to enforce federal laws.

South Carolina repealed its nullification ordinance, but at the same time it declared the Force Act null and void.

Whatever the motives, Jackson had preserved the integrity of the
Union against the most serious threat it had yet faced.

In contrast, he was remarkably complacent when Georgia defied the federal
government. In 1829 Georgia extended its jurisdiction to about 9,000,000 acres of land that lay within its boundaries but was still occupied by Indians.

The Indians' title to the land had been guaranteed by a treaty with the United States. The Indians appealed to the federal courts. In two separate cases, the Supreme Court ruled against Georgia, but Georgia ignored those decisions
and continued to enforce its jurisdiction within the territory claimed
by the Indians.

In contrast to his strong reaction against South Carolina's defiance of federal authority, Jackson made no effort to restrain Georgia, and those close to him felt certain that he sympathized with the position taken by that state.

Jackson re-elected in 1832.
 Jacksonians depicted their war on the second Bank of the United States as a struggle against an alleged aristocratic monster that oppressed the West
   -debtor farmers and poor people in general.

His re-election was once interpreted as a sign of popular agreement with the Democratic interpretation of the Bank War
 Recent evidence discloses that Jackson’s margin was hardly unprecedented and that Democratic success may have been due to other considerations.

The second bank was evidently well thought of by many Westerners, many farmers and even by Democratic politicians who admitted to opposing it primarily to incur the wrath of Andrew Jackson.

Why did Jackson detest the Bank?

 -opposed to Nicolas Biddle, its president
Anti-capitalist ideology would not explain a Jacksonian policy that replaced a quasi-national bank as repository of government funds with dozens of state and private banks equally controlled by capitalists and even more dedicated to profit making.

The saving virtue of these pet banks appeared to be the Democratic political affiliations of their directors