Definitions

Jacksonian democracy

Jacksonian democracy

Jacksonian Democracy refers to the political philosophy of United States President Andrew Jackson and his supporters. Jackson's policies followed in the footsteps of Thomas Jefferson. Jackson's Democratic Party was resisted by the rival Whig Party. More broadly, the term refers to the period of the Second Party System (1824-1854) when Jacksonian philosophy was ascendant as well as the spirit of that era. It can be contrasted with the characteristics of Jeffersonian democracy, which dominated the previous political era. Jackson's equal political policy became known as Jacksonian Democracy, subsequent to ending what he termed a "monopoly" of government. The Jacksonian era saw a great increase of respect and power for the common man, as the electorate expanded to include all white male adult citizens, rather than only land owners in that group.

In contrast to the Jeffersonian era, Jacksonian democracy promoted the strength of the presidency and executive branch at the expense of Congress, while also seeking to broaden the public's participation in government. Jacksonians believed in enfranchising all white men, rather than just the propertied class, and supported the patronage system that enabled politicians to appoint their supporters into administrative offices, arguing it would reduce the power of elites and prevent aristocracies from emerging. They demanded elected (not appointed) judges and rewrote many state constitutions to reflect the new values. In national terms the Jacksonians favored geographical expansion, justifying it in terms of Manifest Destiny. There was usually a consensus among both Jacksonians and Whigs that battles over slavery should be avoided. The Jacksonian Era lasted roughly from Jackson's 1828 election until the slavery issue became dominant after 1850 and the American Civil War dramatically reshaped American politics as the Third Party System emerged.

The philosophy

Jacksonian democracy generally was built on several principles:

; Expanded Suffrage: The Jacksonians believed that voting rights should be more important. During the Jacksonian era, white male suffrage was dramatically expanded throughout the country.
; Manifest Destiny: This was the belief that Americans had a destiny to settle the American West and to expand control over all of North America from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. The Free Soil Jacksonians, notably Martin Van Buren, however, argued for limitations on expansion to avoid the expansion of slavery within the Union. The Whigs generally opposed Manifest Destiny and expansion, saying the nation should build up its cities.
; Patronage: Also known as the spoils system, patronage was the policy of placing political supporters into appointed offices. Many Jacksonians held the view that rotating political appointees in and out of office was not only the right but also the duty of winners in political contests. Patronage was theorized to be good because it would encourage political participation by the common man and because it would make a politician more accountable for poor government service by his appointees. Jacksonians also held that long tenure in the civil service was corrupting, so civil servants should be rotated out of office at regular intervals.; Strict constructionism: Like the Jeffersonians who strongly believed in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, Jacksonians initially favored a federal government of limited powers. Jackson said that he would guard against "all encroachments upon the legitimate sphere of State sovereignty". This is not to say that Jackson was a states' rights extremist; indeed, the Nullification Crisis would find Jackson fighting against what he perceived as state encroachments on the proper sphere of federal influence. This position was one basis for the Jacksonians' opposition to the Second National Bank. As the Jacksonians consolidated power, they more often advocated a more expansive construction of the Constitution and of Presidential power.; Laissez-faire economics: Complementing a strict construction of the Constitution, the Jacksonians generally favored a hands-off approach to the economy. The leader was William Leggett of the Locofocos in New York City. Jackson believed that when the government took a stronger role in the economy, it made it easier for favored groups to win special privileges, which was anathema to a nation run by, and for, the common man. In particular, the Jacksonians opposed banks, especially the national bank, known as the Second Bank of the United States.

The historical era

Election by the "common man"

Though elected by the United States House of Representatives, John Quincy Adams was the first president ever to be voted for by the common citizenry, as the 1824 United States Presidential election was the first in which all free white men without property could vote (with the exception of 6 states). Issues of social class have been much discussed by historians (Wilentz 1982). For more details, see Social Class in American History.

The Anti-Masonic Party, an opponent of Jackson, introduced the national nominating conventions to select a party's presidential and vice presidential candidates, allowing more voter input.

Factions 1824–32

The period 1824–32 was politically chaotic. The Federalist Party was dead, and with no effective opposition, the old Democratic-Republican Party withered away. Every state had numerous political factions, but they did not cross state lines. Political coalitions formed and dissolved, and politicians moved in and out of alliances.

Many former Democratic-Republicans supported Jackson; others, such as Henry Clay, opposed him. Most former Federalists, such as Daniel Webster, opposed Jackson, although some like James Buchanan supported him. In 1828, John Quincy Adams pulled together a network of factions called the National Republicans, but he was defeated by Jackson. By the 1830s, the Jacksonian Democrats and the Whigs politically battled it out nationally and in every state.

Reforms

Jackson fulfilled his promise of broadening the influence of the citizenry in government, although not without controversy over his methods.

Jacksonian policies included ending the bank of the United States, expanding westward, and removing American Indians from the Southeast. Jackson was denounced as a tyrant by opponents on both ends of the political spectrum such as Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun. Jacksonian democracy had a lasting impact on allowing for more political participation from the average citizen, though Jacksonian democracy itself largely died off with the election of Abraham Lincoln and the rise of the Republican party.

Jacksonian democracy was also known for the economic Panic of 1837 due perhaps to policy decisions made by Andrew Jackson himself. When Jefferson failed to renew the charter of the bank of the United States, he transferred that money into special state banks (also called pet banks). The value of paper money decreased and the common people went into a panic, because their common money did not hold the value that specie (gold and silver) did.

Jackson created a system to clear out elected officials in government of an opposing party and replace them with his supporters as a reward for their electioneering. With Congress controlled by his enemies, Jackson relied heavily on the power of the veto to block their moves.

Jacksonian Presidents

In addition to Jackson himself, his second vice president and one of the key organizational leaders of the Jacksonian Democratic Party, Martin Van Buren, served as president. Van Buren was ousted by William H. Harrison. Harrison died just 30 days into his term, and his vice president, John Tyler, quickly reached accommodation with the Jacksonians (and, indeed, was expelled by the Whig Party while he was still a sitting President). Tyler was succeeded by James Polk, a staunch Jacksonian, who was the last of the true Jacksonian presidents. During and just after Polk's term, both the Democratic Party and the Whig Party were split by the slavery issue, with the Whig Party dissolving and ultimately being replaced by the Republican Party.

References

Secondary sources

  • Altschuler, Glenn C.; Blumin, Stuart M. (1997). "Limits of Political Engagement in Antebellum America: A New Look at the Golden Age of Participatory Democracy". Journal of American History 84 (3): 855–885 [p. 878–879].
  • Baker, Jean (1983). Affairs of Party: The Political Culture of Northern Democrats in the Mid-Nineteenth Century. Bronx, NY: Fordham University Press.
  • Benson, Lee (1961). The Concept of Jacksonian Democracy: New York as a Test Case. New York: Atheneum.
  • Bugg, James L., Jr. (1952). Jacksonian Democracy: Myth or Reality?. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Short essays.
  • Cave, Alfred A. (1964). Jacksonian Democracy and the Historians. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press.
  • Cole, Donald B. (1984). Martin Van Buren And The American Political System. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Cole, Donald B. (1970). Jacksonian Democracy in New Hampshire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Uses quantitative electoral data.
  • Formisano, Ronald P. (1971). The Birth of Mass Political Parties: Michigan, 1827-1861. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Uses quantitative electoral data.
  • Formisano, Ronald P. (1983). The Transformation of Political Culture: Massachusetts Parties, 1790s-1840s. New York: Oxford University Press. Uses quantitative electoral data.
  • Formisano, Ronald P. (1999). "The ‘Party Period’ Revisited". Journal of American History 86 (1): 93–120.
  • Formisano, Ronald P. (1969). "Political Character, Antipartyism, and the Second Party System". American Quarterly 21 (4): 683–709.
  • Formisano, Ronald P. (1974). "Deferential-Participant Politics: The Early Republic's Political Culture, 1789-1840". American Political Science Review 68 (2): 473–487.
  • Hammond, Bray (1958). Andrew Jackson's Battle with the "Money Power". Chapter 8, an excerpt from his Pulitzer-prize-winning Banks and Politics in America: From the Revolution to the Civil War (1954).
  • Hofstadter, Richard (1948). The American Political Tradition. Chapter on AJ.
  • Hofstadter, Richard (1969). The Idea of a Party System: The Rise of Legitimate Opposition in the United States, 1780-1840.
  • Holt, Michael F. (1999). The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Holt, Michael F. (1992). Political Parties and American Political Development: From the Age of Jackson to the Age of Lincoln. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press.
  • Howe, Daniel Walker (1991). "The Evangelical Movement and Political Culture during the Second Party System". Journal of American History 77 (4): 1216–1239.
  • Kohl, Lawrence Frederick (1989). The Politics of Individualism: Parties and the American Character in the Jacksonian Era. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Kruman, Marc W. (1992). "The Second American Party System and the Transformation of Revolutionary Republicanism". Journal of the Early Republic 12 (4): 509–537.
  • McCormick, Richard L. (1986). The Party Period and Public Policy: American Politics from the Age of Jackson to the Progressive Era. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • McCormick, Richard P. (1966). The Second American Party System: Party Formation in the Jacksonian Era. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Influential state-by-state study.
  • Mayo, Edward L. (1979). "Republicanism, Antipartyism, and Jacksonian Party Politics: A View from the Nation's Capitol". American Quarterly 31 (1): 3–20.
  • Marshall, Lynn (1967). "The Strange Stillbirth of the Whig Party". American Historical Review 72 (2): 445–468.
  • Myers, Marvin (1957). The Jacksonian Persuasion: Politics and Belief. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  • Pessen, Edward (1978). Jacksonian America: Society, Personality, and Politics.
  • Pessen, Edward (1977). The Many-Faceted Jacksonian Era: New Interpretations. Important scholarly articles.
  • Remini, Robert V. (1998). The Life of Andrew Jackson. Abridgment of Remini's 3-volume biography.
  • Remini, Robert V. (1959). Martin Van Buren and the Making of the Democratic Party.
  • Sellers, Charles (1991). The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815-1846. Influential reinterpretation
  • Shade, William G. (1983). Evolution of American Electoral Systems. Uses quantitative electoral data.
  • Schlesinger, Arthur M., Jr (1945). The Age of Jackson. Boston: Little, Brown & Company. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History.
  • Schouler, James (1917). History of the United States of America: Under the Constitution: Vol. 4. 1831-1847. Democrats and Whigs. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company.
  • Sellers, Charles (1958). "Andrew Jackson Versus the Historians". Mississippi Valley Historical Review 44 (4): 615–634.
  • Sharp, James Roger (1970). The Jacksonians Versus the Banks: Politics in the States after the Panic of 1837. Uses quantitative electoral data.
  • Silbey, Joel H. (1991). The American Political Nation, 1838-1893.
  • Silbey, Joel H. (1973). Political Ideology and Voting Behavior in the Age of Jackson.
  • Syrett, Harold C. (1953). Andrew Jackson: His Contribution to the American Tradition.
  • Taylor, George Rogers (1949). Jackson Versus Biddle: The Struggle over the Second Bank of the United States. Excerpts from primary and secondary sources.
  • Van Deusen, Glyndon G. (1963). The Jacksonian Era: 1828-1848. Standard scholarly survey.
  • Wallace, Michael (1968). "Changing Concepts of Party in the United States: New York, 1815-1828". American Historical Review 74 (2): 453–491.
  • Ward, John William (1962). Andrew Jackson, Symbol for an Age.
  • Wilentz, Sean (1982). "On Class and Politics in Jacksonian America". Reviews in American History 10 (4): 45–63.
  • Wilentz, Sean (2005). The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln. Highly detailed scholarly synthesis.
  • Wilson, Major L. (1974). Space, Time, and Freedom: The Quest for Nationality and the Irrepressible Conflict, 1815-1861. Intellectual history of Whigs and Democrats.

Primary sources

  • Blau, Joseph L. Social Theories of Jacksonian Democracy: Representative Writings of the Period 1825-1850 (1954) online edition
  • Eaton, Clement ed. The Leaven of Democracy: The Growth of the Democratic Spirit in the Time of Jackson (1963) online edition

External links

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