Jacksonian America p. 229-252

Andrew Jackson

Chapter 9 Study Guide

At first glance, Andrew Jackson seems a study in contradictions: an advocate of states' rights who forced South Carolina to back down in the nullification controversy; a champion of the West who vetoed legislation that would have opened easy access to part of the area and who issued the specie circular, which brought the region's "flush times" to a disastrous halt; a nationalist who allowed Georgia to ignore the Supreme Court; and a defender of majority rule who vetoed the Bank after the majority's representatives, the Congress, had passed it. Perhaps he was, as his enemies argued, simply out for himself. But in the end, few would argue that Andrew Jackson was not a popular president, if not so much for what he did as for what he was. Jackson symbolized what Americans perceived (or wished) themselves to be defiant, bold, and independent. He was someone with whom they could identify. The image may have been a bit contrived, but it was still a meaningful image. Thus, Jackson was reelected by an overwhelming majority and was able to transfer that loyalty to his successor, a man who hardly lived up to the image. But all this left a curious question unanswered. Was this new democracy voting for leaders whose programs they favored or, rather, for images that could be altered and manipulated almost at will. The answer was essential for the future of American politics, and the election of 1840 gave the nation a clue.

The Antimason movement, the end of the caucus system, the trend toward choosing presidential electors by popular vote, and the election of Andrew Jackson as president all signaled the beginnings of a more open political system in which party organization and party politics were the most important ingredients in the acquisition of political power. Jackson's acquisition of power brought with it an attempt to solve the nation's problems through restoration of traditional republican values and through return to Jeffersonian concepts of limited government. It is within this context that the nullification crisis and the controversy over the rechartering of the Second Bank of the United States took place. In the former, President Jackson and Congress reaffirmed the supremacy of the federal government over what Jackson perceived to be special state privilege. In the latter, the concept of limited government was reaffirmed over what the Jacksonians perceived to be special economic privilege. However, Jackson's antibank and hard-money policies led to economic hard times, with which his successor, Martin Van Buren, was unable to deal.

Jackson's policies, his transformation of the executive branch into a more powerful arm of government, and the inching of reformists and evangelicals into politics led to the emergence of a loyal opposition in the form of the Whig party and to the emergence of the second party system. As the democratization of American society caused an expansion of the electorate, the two parties took shape and began to compete in local, state, and federal elections. In the process, disagreements between Democrats and Whigs on the fundamental issues of the age energized the political process and caused more people to become politically active. Nevertheless, the main determinants of party membership were religion and ethnicity. In the 1840 election, the Whigs capitalized on the economic hardships of the Van Buren years to capture the presidency. However, President William Henry Harrison died within a month of having taken office and was replaced by John Tyler, who was more a Democrat than a Whig. Tyler's achievements were confined to the area of foreign policy.

1810 Fletcher v. Peck supports obligation of contracts.

1816 American Colonization Society founded.

1819 Dartmouth College v. Woodward defends corporate charters.

1822 Denmark Vesey's planned slave rebellion in Charleston, South Carolina, is exposed.

1824 Gibbons v. Ogden establishes federal jurisdiction over interstate commerce.

1828 Congress enacts the "Tariff of Abominations." Andrew Jackson defeats John Quincy Adams in presidential election.

1831 Cherokee Nation v. Georgia supports claims of Cherokee tribe.

1832 Jackson vetoes the recharter of the Bank of the United States. Jackson reelected president against Henry Clay. South Carolina nullifies the Tariff of 1832. Worcester v. Georgia supports claims of Cherokee tribe. Sauk and Fox Indians are forced out of Illinois during the Black Hawk War.

1832-33 During the Bank War, Jackson shifts federal deposits to "pet banks."

1833 Force Bill authorizes Jackson to use troops to enforce tariff.
Henry Clay's Compromise of 1833 solves sectional dispute over tariff and nullification.

1835 The Treaty of New Echota initiates Cherokee removal to Indian Territory.
Jackson nominates Roger B. Taney as chief justice of the Supreme Court.

1836 The Specie Circular requires payment for public lands in gold or silver.
The Distribution Act returns the federal surplus to the states.
Martin Van Buren defeats three Whig candidates in the presidential election.

1837 Charles River Bridge Company v. Warren Bridge Company challenges state-granted monopolies. Panic of 1837.

1840 Independent Treasury Act shifts federal funds from private banks to public depositories.

American Diversity: Jackson reflected the nation's attitude toward Native Americans as uncivilized and unable to be civilized. The use of paternalism to justify the seizure of Indian lands persisted for the next century, and Jackson both clarified and articulated this policy in his message supporting the Indian Removal Act in 1830.

American Identity: A strong states' rights movement arose during this period, with slavery in the background and the tariff in the foreground. South Carolina, supported by other southern slave states, emerged as the champion of the nullification theory. Political ideology began to identify with region during the crisis during 1832 and 1833, and set the foundation for the divisive decade of the 1850s.

Politics and Citizenship: Modern politics were born in this era. The franchise was extended to all white males, divorcing property from citizenship rights. In addition, Jackson was the first president to use the power of the office to lead the country. His use of the veto, patronage and party, and his vision of the executive as the embodiment of the popular will set him on the course of the modern presidency.

Digital History

Jacksonian Democracy and Westward Expansion 1828-1860

Throughout the Western world, the end of the Napoleonic Wars brought an end to a period of global war and revolution and the start of a new era of rapid economic growth. For Americans, the end of the War of 1812 unleashed the rapid growth of cities and industry and a torrent of expansion westward. The years following the war also marked a notable advance of democracy in American politics. Property qualifications for voting and office holding were abolished; voters began to directly elect presidential electors, state judges, and governors; and voting participation skyrocketed. In addition, the antebellum era saw a great surge in collective efforts to improve society through reform. Unprecedented campaigns sought to outlaw alcohol, guarantee women's rights, and abolish slavery.

Rapid territorial expansion marked the antebellum period. Between 1845 and 1853, the nation expanded its boundaries to include Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. The United States annexed Texas in 1845; partitioned the Oregon country in 1846 following negotiations with Britain; wrested California and the great Southwest from Mexico in 1848 after the Mexican War; and acquired the Gadsden Purchase in southern Arizona from Mexico in 1853.

The period's most fateful development was a deepening sectional conflict that brought the country to the brink of civil war. The addition of new land from Mexico raised the question that would dominate American politics during the 1850s: whether slavery would be permitted in the western territories. The Compromise of 1850 attempted to settle this issue by admitting California as a free state but allowing slavery in the rest of the Mexican cession. But enactment of the Fugitive Slave Law as part of the compromise exacerbated sectional tensions. The question of slavery in the territories was revived by the 1854 decision to open Kansas and Nebraska territories to white settlement and decide the status of slavery according to the principle of popular sovereignty. Sectional conflict was intensified by the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision, which declared that Congress could not exclude slavery from the western territories; by John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry; and by Abraham Lincoln's election as president in 1860.

Lecture Outlines

Jacksonian Era 1828-1844


Andrew Jackson's Shifting Legacy