Jacksonian Democracy Essay
The Jacksonian democrats saw themselves as the guardians of the United States Constitution, political democracy, individual liberty, and equality of economic opportunity. However, were they really all they claimed to be? They did attempt to increase the power of lower classes while decreasing the influence of the rich and powerful. Economically, they benefited from governing during a time of huge advances in transportation, which boosted commerce and helped the common man. The Jacksonian democrats portrayed themselves as saviors of the common people, but this is a controversial subject. They were unusually wealthy, supported equality between white men only, enacted devastating economic policies, and disregarded the capability of the federal government. The Jacksonians saw themselves as guardians but as for the people, only a select few may have seen that.
During the Jacksonian reign, numerous advancements sped up the growth of the United States. A market revolution occurred as cash-crop agriculture and capitalist manufacturing replaced artisan economy. Despite the prosperity, a split was emerging between the industrializing, urban north, agrarian, rural South, and the expanding West. The Jacksonians passed the Tariff of 1828, which opened opportunity for western agriculture and New England manufacturing, but was damaging to the South. Andrew Jackson believed that the US bank placed too much control into the hands of a wealthy few (Document B). Therefore, Jackson vetoed the bank’s re-charter in 1832. In attempt to benefit the lower, working classes, he placed the federal money in “pet” state banks. This attempt weakened the national currency. Like most Jacksonian economic policies, it failed. Jacksonians tried to assist only the whites through economic policies but failed in that also.
Foreign visitors viewed that in America, every man is free and independent (Document D), but there was great division in American attitude. Disturbances and riots broke out across the country by minorities (Document E), because they were not included in the equality efforts of the Jacksonians, which were focused on white males. Jackson’s hypocrisy and brutality in his Indian removal practices showed the non-universal principles held by the democrats. The unconstitutional, uneven power in the three branches of government was revealed when Jackson violated chief justice Marshall’s decision on the Cherokee when he forced them out. Resulting in the “Trail of Tears”(Document G) Fearful of angering Southern voters, Jacksonians veered away from extending equality policies to slaves. Women as well received little betterment during the Jacksonian era. Although viewed as defenders of all common men, Jacksonian democrats shunned minorities and only assisted white men.
Andrew Jackson was the first president to fully use the powers of the executive branch and establish it as an equal if not superior branch. Henry Clay viewed Jackson as dictatorial and unconstitutional and tried to make others see that, but Jacksonian propaganda continued to portray Jackson as a common man. Jacksonian democrats did not keep the three branches of government separate and equal, like it says in the constitution. Jacksonians were strict constitutionalists, vetoing things that did not benefit the whole country and eliminating the bank. However, they also participated in the burning nationalism existing at the time. Jacksonians believed in a firm union. In the compromise Tariff of 1832, they reduced the previous tariffs, but also included a Force Bill, which authorized the President to use arms to collect dues in South Carolina, which goes against the Jacksonian belief in states’ rights and their disbelief in a strong military.
Jacksonian democrats were above all outstanding propagandists. They were able to portray themselves as defenders of the common man, while they usually tended to be anything but common. They were wealthy and often thought that ‘common man’ officials were inefficient and corrupt. They also tried to further reform movements but ended up hurting the economic opportunity. Although often supporters of states’ rights and individuality, they also were strong nationalists. Jacksonians strived to preserve the unifying principles that the Constitution contained, but acted in opposition of it when they asserted the overwhelming power of the executive branch. Jacksonian democracy did allow more people to vote than ever before and made government more directly responsible to the people. Finally, they established a strong executive, directly responsible to the people, and increased faith in government. Overall, Jacksonians honestly attempted to help common Americans.