In the election of 1824, Andrew Jackson had won the popular vote against John Quincy Adams but did not win the presidency as there was no clear majority in the Electoral College vote which allowed the House of Representatives to choose the next President. When Jackson did not win, his loyal followers called fraud, as they believed that President Adams had negotiated with the then Speaker of the House Henry Clay, in an effort to ensure that Adams would get the presidency in exchange for Clay getting the office of Secretary of State, and this was labeled the corrupt bargain. This, however, made Jackson emerge as a prominent figure in American politics and marked the start of the Jacksonian Period.
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Although during the Jacksonian period there was a continuation of increase in executive power, which wasn’t very democratic, the policies and actions made by Jackson both during and after his presidency fostered change that created increase in democratic ideals. There was a significant increment in the representation in politics for the white man, as well as the creation of political parties in response several Jacksonian policies. Despite the fact that these changes were not all desired effects that Jackson wanted to have in democracy, they still show how much democratic values increased in the years of 1824 to 1848.
As stated previously, during the period 1824-1848 there was a continuation of the increase in executive power in comparison to the earlier years of the United States. This can be seen when President Jackson vetoed the bill passed Daniel Webster and Henry Clay that would recharter the Bank of the United States. In his veto address, Jackson explains that he considered the bank unconstitutional, completely disregarding the decision of the Supreme Court in McCulloch v. Maryland which had already declared the bank constitutional. With this veto, President Jackson established an undemocratic precedent that would effectively allow the President to disregard a decision made by the Supreme Court, therefore increasing executive power. In addition to this, Jackson also introduced the Force Bill as a response to the compromise Tariff of 1833 that seeked to solve the Nullification Crisis of 1832. Through the Force Bill, Jackson established that the President could use the armed forces in effort to collect taxes. Obviously this was a clear violation of the democratic ideals that had been practiced in America until this time period as the usage of the army was mostly reserved for War with foreign powers and not inside the nation. However, this increase of executive power had been a trend with previous presidents, as observed with Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase even though the power of such purchase was not vested upon him in the constitution, which shows this continuity that mostly did not follow the movement of the expansion in democratic values during the Jacksonian Era. Yet, Jackson justified this increase of usage of executive power as he believed that he was the President chosen by the masses.
The emergence of Jackson into the presidency in 1828 signified the rise of the masses as the majority voters in America, a change that had not been previously observed with other Presidents that were mostly chosen by land-owning white men. However, Westward expansion during the Jacksonian Period of 1824-1848 provided a change, as more white males could acquire cheap land more easily and therefore could have more political representation. The Indian Removal Act allowed for more settlers to continue in westward expansion and white settlers could get property. During the Jacksonian period, more states allowed for white males to vote without property, but the further aquiarance of land for Westward expansion allowed the representation of most white men and therefore there was an increase in democracy as the President was now chosen by a more evident majority. In both of the Presidential elections of 1824 and 1828, Jackson was mostly associated with the ideas of the common man as he was a President that appealed to the newly represented masses. This idea of the importance of someone who could relate to the masses continued through the Jacksonian Era, as observed with the election in 1840 between Martin Van Buren, a Democrat who was the President at that time, and William Henry Harrison, a military officer who most notably fought in the Battle of Tippecanoe. In this election, William Henry Harrison played with his appeal to the common man as he was targeted by a Democratic editor who said that most likely drank hard cider and lived in a log cabin. This humble approach to Harrison won him the election as it associated him more with the masses, who had now become a majority when they were given more representation. Through the change that was made with Jacksonian policies and actions around this time period, there was a significant increase in the democratic value of representation.
Political parties before the Jacksonian period were not as defined as they emerged to be after during and after Jackson’s presidency. For instance, with the war of 1812, came the dissolvement of the Federalist party and there was only one party without any opposition, the Democratic Republicans, in what was denominated as the Era of Good Feeling. This was changed with the Jacksonian era, as there was the rise of differing political parties; the Democrats, which mostly aligned with President Jackson, and the other parties that were created as a response to Jackson’s actions and policies. The Democrats rallied around Jackson and insisted in the importance of the individual, states rights, and wished to end the aristocracy present in the government. The Jacksonian Democrats became a dominant party in this time period and tried to chater to the masses as much as possible by aligning to the lower classes. One of the parties that was the most prominent opposition to Jackson was the Whig party, which was leaded by senators Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. This political party was born out of the belief that Jackson exceeded the boundaries of executive power when he vetoed the Bank Bill. Although both of these parties had been previously associated with the Democratic Republicans, the actions and policies that Jackson conducted lead to the creation of two very distinct parties that prevailed through the Jacksonian period. In Jacksonian Period there was a clear emergence of new parties which in turn increased democratic ideals as the only way that the Constitutions ideas of Checks and Balances could be properly put in place would be through the constant opposition to the party in power. This rise in the number of political parties was a clear change from earlier years, as now different parties had more concrete beliefs.
By way of various policies and actions made by President Jackson during and after his presidency, there was a change in the increase in democratic ideals that could be most clearly represented with the rise of the representation of white men in politics, and the creation of several political parties that emerged because of Jackson. However, it is important to note that one thing during this period that did not reflect the strengthening of democratic ideals was the continuation of the movement shown by previous presidents in the way of the increase in executive power, that was also shown around this time period. It is important to analyze the Jacksonian Period because many of the actions that were committed in this time set a precedent for other time periods. Also many of the sectional conflicts that happened, such as the Nullification Crisis of 1832, had a damming effect of the country in later years.
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