Andrew Jackson once said, the goal is to strive for a poor government, but a rich people. Born into poverty and orphaned at the young age of 14, Andrew Jackson was not born into the category of rich people he claimed to idealize in his presidency. Spoken of as the common man, Jackson was said to exemplify the characteristics that the general populist would desire.
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Jackson was, in a sense, a man of the people. However, there were those who stood in opposition to Jackson and his presidency. Those who did not support Jackson claimed that he was acting primarily on self-motives and did not provide for the common man. On the contrary, they claimed Jackson was a voice for the aristocrats and the power hungry rich of the Jacksonian Period of 1826-1843. While Andrew Jackson strongly advocated for power of the people and the common man through the creation of a democratic party, his presidency exemplified the qualities he so greatly disliked through the election of Martin Van Buren and The Specie Circular.
Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the United States and served from 1829 until 1837 when he was to ill and fragile to continue. When he stepped down as president, the exchange of power was not hostile. Instead, Martin Van Buren was elected in 1837 and followed almost perfectly in his predecessors’ footsteps. With a new President who so closely followed the ideals of the old president, speculation as to why he followed a path so similar to Jackson probably began. Andrew Jackson accomplished many things while in his presidency, some positive and some negative. In order to accomplish these actions, he had to have a vice president who also shared similar beliefs. It is difficult as president to accomplish great tasks as congress is often slow; but with Van Buren at his side, Jackson could accomplish his goals at a faster pace. Van Buren served as the vice president to Jackson and the two shared similar views. Jackson would do anything to get Van Buren into office. Andrew Jackson even going as far as to make the public feel as if Van Buren was being rammed down the throats of the delegates. This occurred because Andrew Jackson was not ready resign from his presidency, but his frail and aging body prevented him from serving another term. Due to this, Jackson wanted a man in office who would do exactly as he wanted, who better for the job than his previous vice president? Since Jackson knew he could contribute to Van Buren’s views, he knew that he could help shape policy in his favor. While the public generally tended to like Jackson, their views towards Van Buren were not as kind . The public thought of him as a man of meritocracy and his years in office were filled with troubles such as political aggravation and Canadian Rebellions . When looking the Jackson and the common man, with the promotion of Van Buren as a President, he was not looking out for the common man. Jackson was only concerned with furthering his own political agenda. Van Buren’s policies that Jackson helped shape were only beneficial for those who already had money. When examining the effect on a general population, it is important to look to the philosophy of utilitarianism which is the doctrine which holds in order to achieve morality, the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people must be achieved. With regards to the election of Van Buren, the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people was not achieved. The common man was never helped when Jackson’s was president, the only people who were helped were the rich and well off.
There were many economic policies that Jackson purposed, some of which ultimately harmed the general populist. The Specie Circular did not benefit the common man and instead only helped the rich. The Specie circular declared that all public land hand to be purchased with metallic money, not bank notes. This did not help the common man as it made lands only available to the rich, completely ignoring the poor. The Specie Circular was issued by an executive order and created adverse effects for the poor. Their banknotes were no longer good and in order to buy lands, had to buy metals from the bank with their paper money at a premium . This was not good for the common man; their money was being exploited causing an increase in money for the federal government. Revoking the publics access to buy land is not creating the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people. The Specie circular caused a loss in money for the state government and a decrease of cotton prices which ultimately led to the Panic of 1837 . Andrew Jackson claimed to be a man for the people, but instead he only looked out for himself. Never did Jackson analyze his effects on society through a utilitarian standpoint. The revoking of public land access to the common man did not create good for the common man, but ultimately created harm to the people.
While Jackson was in office, his policies harmed the common people, but years after his presidency, benefits for the common man surfaced. The creation of the Jacksonian Democracy created a party which stood on the ideals that America was founded on, and created a party that was beneficial to many. The new party, which was created while Jackson was in office, had three elements, appeal to the common man, opposed special privileges, and agreed with westward expansion. This party evolved, and these principles can be seen reflected in current politics of today, appeal to the common person and opposition to big corporations and special. The Jacksonian Democracy, during Jacksons life, only helped the white man by enforcing prejudices, sexism, and racism. However, as the form of democracy evolved, it became the party for the common man . Only after his presidency was Jackson able to create a rich people but a poor government. The broadening of horizons allowed for all to be included in Jackson’s democracy. With the broadening of a party came the access to the true common man. In the 21st century there are ideals of the Jacksonian party reflected in many of the beliefs some Americans hold today. Ideals of Jackson’s democracy can be seen today through both the Democrat and Republican parties The ideas and stances on issues such as economics and government powers can be seen reflected into the political climate today. During Andrew Jackson’s presidency, utilitarianism was never upheld and that morality was never achieved. However, after Jackson’s presidency following through to the 21st century, the creation of a Jacksonian Democracy is creating the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people. Although Jackson did not help the common man in his day, through the evolution of the people and societal norms, Jackson’s ideals help the common man of today.
Andrew Jackson was controversial as a president, from the Indian Removal Act to the Force Bill, there were many actions that Jackson performed that were looked down upon. When examining the election of Martin Van Buren, the intention of Andrew Jackson was not for the good of the people. Instead, it can be seen that Jackson was all but forcing Van Buren into the presidential office so he did not have to fully retire. This action was for the good of himself and not for the good of the common man. The Specie Circular did not provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people. It instead prevented the common people from buying land, benefiting only the rich and the federal government. Ultimately, the creation of the Jacksonian Democracy was Jackson’s biggest accomplishment. Although the full consequences of the new system was not apparent at the time, the effect on the common man of the new democracy was actually very positive. When Jackson was president, his ideas such as the election of Martin Van Buren and the Specie Circular did not appeal to the common man nor did they uphold utilitarianism; but after his presidency, and through the 21st century his creation of the Jacksonian Democracy benefited many.
Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. Martin Van Burn. Encyclopedia Britannica, October 12, 2018. Accessed November 12, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Martin-Van-Buren.
Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, Specie Circular. Encyclopedia Britannica, July 4, 2018. Accessed November 13, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/event/Specie-Circular.
Jacksonian Democracy and Modern America. U.S. History. 2016. Accessed November 13, 2018. https://www.ushistory.org/us/23f.asp.
Kennedy, David M. The American Pageant: A History of the American People. Boston, Massachusetts: Cenagae Learning, 2016.
Nowlan, Robert. The American Presidents from Polk to Hayes. Denver, Colorado: Outskirts Press, January 31, 2016.
“”Specie Circular.”” Dictionary of American History. Encyclopedia.com, 2003. Accessed November 12, 2018. https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/specie-circular.
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