The founders of the United States envisioned the new country as a republic, not a democracy. While today, we often use the words interchangeably, a republic is a government without a monarchy or aristocracy in control. It is rule by the will of the people, a bottoms-up form of government,...
The founders of the United States envisioned the new country as a republic, not a democracy. While today, we often use the words interchangeably, a republic is a government without a monarchy or aristocracy in control. It is rule by the will of the people, a bottoms-up form of government, but not entirely so.
The founders wanted to protect the country from mob rule, which is how they tended to view democracy, so in the early years of the United States, property qualifications restricted the vote: only white men (usually—in a few cases, in free states, Black male property owners could vote) who owned a certain amount of property had a voice in governance. Those who ran as candidates for office before the 1820s were often chosen by a caucus rather than an out-and-out democratic primary system.
In the 1820s, that changed as more and more people clamored for the right to vote. People increasingly questioned whether property owners had a greater moral right to influence government than the average person. At this point, the United States became more democratic. By the mid-1820s, all but three of the original states, North Carolina, Virginia, and Rhode Island, had eliminated the property requirement: any white male could vote.
This universal white male franchise extended to new states in the union, except for Ohio, Louisiana, and Mississippi. In 1824, the popular vote became important, and candidates for office had to appeal to it if they wanted to gain office. In the 1824 presidential election, Jackson won the popular vote but not a majority, so the election was thrown into the House of Representatives, where John Quincy Adams used his—to Jackson, elitist—clout to be named president.
In 1828, however, the popular vote swept Andrew Jackson to defeat "old guard" president John Quincy Adams. As Yawp puts it,
Jackson's broad appeal as a military hero won him the presidency. He was "Old Hickory," the "Hero of New Orleans," a leader of plain frontier folk. His wartime accomplishments appealed to many voters' pride. Over the next eight years, he would claim to represent the interests of ordinary white Americans, especially from the South and West, against the country's wealthy and powerful elite.
His party was called the Democratic Party, attesting to growing appeal of democratic over republican forms of government.