Thomas Jefferson was consistently inconsistent by switching from a strict constructionist view to a broad interpretation on the constitution to support his political views. Similarly, Jacksonian democrats occasionally altered their belief of being guardians of the political democracy, individual liberty, economic opportunity, and the Constitution to suit their purposes.
President Andrew Jackson had several ways of ensuring political democracy thus he is regarded as a guardian of it. The spoils system is an example of Jackson stressing political democracy. According to Senator William Marcy the spoils system was acceptable since the benefits of winning should go to the winner. He supports this thought by saying, “To the victor belongs the spoils.” The spoils system allowed Jackson “Old Hickory” to rid his opponents of government jobs and award them to his supporters the “Hickoryites.” Another example of political democracy is rotation in office. Rotation in office is what Jackson utilized to incorporate the “common man” into a government role. Jackson believed that any man was capable of doing the job. “Every man is as good as his neighbor,” he declared, “perhaps equally better.” The inevitable dilemma that arises from Jackson’s notion on political democracy is that illiterates, incompetents and crooks obtained positions of public trust. The result of this was Samuel Swartwout, the collector of customs at the port of New York, stole a million dollars from the government.
Jackson, although he was a rich aristocrat at the time of his election, might have been influenced to raise the common man on a pedestal as a result of him having been born poor. One of his first acts as president was to invite the working class of America to his inaugural. The White house was only emptied upon a rumor that said spiked punch had been served on the lawns. As a result, the inaugural is often referred to as the “inaugural brawl” and Jackson being the leader of the common people was called, “King Mob.” This represented what Jackson emphasized and that was the importance of individual right. Jackson believed that it was unfair for power to be in the hands of an elite few.
Therefore, he advocated the rights of the common man through his land policy. His land policy would allow people to expand further into the west. The more obtainable land there was signified a higher electorate. Jackson’s belief of rotation in office allowed average men to try their hand at government. Rotation in office is something which had been previously limited to the aristocratic elite since they were the only ones viewed as capable of managing the job. His success in achieving basic individual rights is shown in Doc. D. when Harriet Marineau, a British visitor to the United States reported that she had seen every man as an independent citizen and controversies “of which the people were to be judges.”
However, the concept of individual liberty is not applied to minorities such as the blacks and Indians. This is seen in Document E. when Philip Hone, a New York City businessman describes riots in Eastern cities. “The spirit of riot and subordination to the laws…appears to have been produced by… hostility to the blacks and an indiscriminate persecution of all whose skins were darker than those of their enlightened fellow citizens.” Document G also demonstrates that individual liberty was only directed towards whites. If individual liberty had been meant for all the Indians would not have been removed from their homeland. Further proof of whites against minorities is represented in Document A when George Henry Evans explains that all men are created equal, and allowed the rights of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Obviously, the Indians, immigrants and blacks were not granted these rights to individual freedom.
Jackson was a guardian of the economy since he supported economic opportunities. To make sure that economic opportunities were achieved Jackson had to be anti big business. A big business tended to monopolize a certain part of the economy and not allow other businesses to expand and earn money. He wanted to ensure that the economy was not in the hands of a few rich men. In 1835 Jacksonian Roger Brooke Taney replaced Federalist John Marshall as Supreme Court judge. In 1837, a case known as Charles River Bridge versus Warren Bridge was about monopolies and charters. Two companies wanted to build bridges across the Charles River, but only one had a long standing charter. In the Marshall Court, the ruling would have been that the contract was stronger than the interests of anything else. But, under the Jacksonians, it was ruled that the interests of the people were more important then any charter.
Jackson viewed the bank as unconstitutional and undemocratic. In Document B Jackson describes the bank as incompatible with the Constitution he also says, “The present Bank of the United States… enjoys an exclusive privilege of banking…almost a monopoly of the foreign and domestic exchange.” Therefore, when Henry Clay proposes a bill to congress in 1832 that would recharter the bank four year before needed Jackson vetoes it. After this Jackson bleeds the bank dry by removing federal deposits and started placing surplus money in “pet banks” which were pro-Jackson banks. The nullification issue emerged due to the Tariff of Abominations which protected it us from European competition. It angered South Carolina since they had to buy expensive manufactured goods and had to sell crops on an unprotected market. As a result of the high tariff Britain does not purchase as many goods as it previously did.
The south also feared the tariff as a possible foothold for later federalist interference with slavery in the southern states this was brought on by a the South Carolina Cxposition written by John Calhoun which stated that the federal government has a compact with the states and that the state conventions had the power to declare laws unconstitutional and states should nullify the tariff. The tariff of 1832 was null and void they undertook the necessary military preparations and threatened to secede from the union if the United states government came to collect the customs and duties by force. Jackson was furious because he was against nullification therefore he quietly prepared an army and passed the force bill which authorized the president to use the army and navy to collect fed tariff duties. Henry Clay, although a supporter of the tariff influenced the compromise tariff of 1833 which said that the tariff would be reduced by 10% over a period of 8 years. By 1842 it would be back at 20-25%.Through Jackson’s aggressive reaction of South Carolina threatening to secede from the state we can see that Jackson believes in states rights. However, if he has to choose, the union comes before states rights.
Being a guardian of the constitution means protecting many things at one time since the constitution is basically a summary of the rights we possess. The rights that had to be protected were individual liberty, and economic opportunity among other things and the Jacksonians were not guardians of these rights. The time Jackson was president tends to be regarded as the “Age of the Common Man.” The reason as to why is that Jackson attempted to incorporate the “common man” into the current political& economic situation. The type of common man that was favored by Jackson was a poor westerner who desired land, freedom of choice, and a say in politics. He succeeds in incorporating the common man into politics through Rotation in office and involving them in government rallies. However, the problem with improving the common man was that anyone else who would fall out of this category: women, slaves, Native Americans, wealthy, Easterners, Northerners, were often denied their own rights which is a direct violation of the constitution. (Doc D).
The exempting of those who wouldn’t fit the category of the common man, helped stress universal manhood suffrage. Jackson’s personal view of the Bank of the United States was that it was unconstitutional. However, John Marshall had made it very clear in McCulloch vs. Maryland that the bank was constitutional. Jackson believed that preservation of the union preceded states rights. This was an unconstitutional view considering it was the states who had created the government. Therefore, if the government was stepping it’s rights the states could protest against the government’s actions. The first amendment is violated in Document F when the U.S. Post office suppresses abolitionist mail into the South. The reason why this was done to keep the multitude from finding out which would have motivated many to become anti-slavery.
The Jacksonians could be described as two-faced considering they were for the common man while being a part of the aristocratic elite. They attempted to promote economic opportunities by eliminating the Bank of the United States. The Panic of 1937 was a repercussion of removing the bank yet Jackson succeeded in his main effort. His main focus was retrieving power from Nicholas Biddle, the owner of the bank. The belief of Union preceding states was utilized to assert the power of the executive branch. Finally, Jacksonian democracy did allow more people to vote than ever before and made government more directly responsible to the people.