Flaws of Jacksonian Democracy

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After the Battle of New Orleans, Andrew Jackson (“Old Hickory”) first became publicly recognized as a war hero and an Indian fighter. Very few people, if any, probably predicted he would one day become the president of the United States; but he did! In the election of 1828, Jackson campaigned as an authentic man of the people and was elected president by a landslide. During the campaign, Jacksonians created a new political party—the Democrats, the first modern one created, that supported Jackson and his run for office. Upon Jackson entering office, America saw the birth of a new era of mass democracy. Jacksonian Democrats viewed themselves as the guardians of the United States Constitution, political democracy, individual liberty, and equality of economic opportunity. This was true to an extent, but Jackson and his followers did have some flaws.

When it comes to the Unites States Constitution, Jackson attempted to act as a guardian; but he only protected its content when it benefited his popularity or ran parallel with his stances on governmental issues. Jackson was most definitely disappointed with his vice president, John Calhoun, when he emerged as the leader of the states’ rights uprising in South Carolina. As outlined in document F, they were ready and willing to deny enforcement of any federal law or the upholding of any constitutional right that negatively affected their state. Most Jacksonians denounced South Carolina’s demand for the right to nullify federal laws as treasonous. When South Carolina mentioned nullification of the “tariff of abominations,” Jackson tried to appease the Southerners, by loosening the tariff so as to make it more favorable for the South, in order to avoid their future use of nullification. This illustrated his attempt to uphold the federal powers outlined in the constitution and prevent individual states from claiming rights not granted to them. In addition, Jackson followed strict construction of the constitution when he vetoed a major internal improvements bill in 1830, denying federal funds for the building of Maysville Road in Kentucky. But when it came to Indian removal and the “killing” of the Bank of the United States, Jackson and his followers disregarded the constitution. Jacksonians were strongly in favor of the speedy removal of all Indians to reservations west of the Mississippi. The constitution states that dealing with Indian relations is a responsibility of the federal government; however, when Southern states began removing the Indians with their own “state sponsored” programs, Jackson failed to halt these actions or punish the state administrations for their actions. He even overlooked Georgia’s defiance of the Supreme Court decision in Worcester vs. Georgia that denied state jurisdiction over tribal land. The states not only went against the Constitution, they also violated some specific treaties. The Bank of the United States was a chartered monopoly, and was therefore protected by the constitution because it upheld the validity of a contract/charter. As shown in document B, Jackson’s veto (of the Bank of the United State’s recharter request) message, Jackson claimed that the Bank charter, which was previously designated constitutional by Congress, was not compatible with the U.S. constitution. For this reason, along with a petty personal feud with Bank president Biddle, Jackson “killed” the Bank by having his new secretary of treasury Roger B. Taney remove federal funds and place them in state “pet banks,” leading to the deterioration and demise of the Bank. As Daniel Webster states in Document C, Jackson went way beyond the executive branch’s constitutionally granted powers.

Jacksonians also had some achievements and some failures in their attempt to stabilize political democracy in the United States. Jacksonians greatly encouraged total white male suffrage; and Jackson was a strong advocate for removing land ownership...
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