Andrew Jackson's Presidency

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How did the American political system become more democratic during the presidency of Andrew Jackson?

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Between 1812 and 1840, many states lifted the property requirements for voters—this meant that any white male over the age of 21 was now eligible to vote. The working-class and poor citizens of the United States wanted a candidate who was "down-to-earth" and had a background similar to themselves. Andrew...

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Between 1812 and 1840, many states lifted the property requirements for voters—this meant that any white male over the age of 21 was now eligible to vote. The working-class and poor citizens of the United States wanted a candidate who was "down-to-earth" and had a background similar to themselves. Andrew Jackson grew up poor on the North-Carolina–South-Carolina border. He was popular as both an Indian fighter and a military general against the British at the Battle of New Orleans. He had a memorable nickname, Old Hickory, which lent itself to campaign memorabilia: hickory sticks. During his presidency, Jackson was seemingly for "the common man," especially if that common man lived in either the South or the West. He signed an order forcibly removing the Cherokee, Muscogee-Creek, Choctaw, Seminole, and Chickasaw peoples from the Southeast, an act which freed up thousands of acres for white cotton growers. He also did not renew the Bank of the United States, an act which "the common man" cheered at the time because it took financial power away from the North. (This act would later, in the Panic of 1837, prove to be disastrous.) Jackson also rewarded his most loyal followers with political jobs in what would become known as the "spoils system." After Jackson's presidency, many sought to provide "common man" appeal to their campaigns. William Henry Harrison was presented as a cider-drinking farmer who was born in a cabin, and Abraham Lincoln was presented as someone who split rails. While both of these were technically true, they did not represent the truth that these candidates actually had more money and more education than the people who would vote for them.

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The election to the presidency of Andrew Jackson in 1828 established an enduring legacy of populist democratic politics in the United States that has seen its revitalization during the most recent presidential campaign. What became known as "Jacksonian Democracy" was characterized by more liberal attitudes with regard to women's suffrage, support for farmers and what we today call "blue collar workers," and a deeply-held antipathy towards the nation's economic elite. Jackson notably referred to himself as a champion of the common man, which carried weight among much of the populace given his origins on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum--a marked departure from his predecessors in office. Jackson's political agenda led directly to the formal establishment of the Democratic Party.

While Jackson's presidency was marked by its populist orientation, including his staunch opposition to the concept of a central bank, it was also marked by its support for the policy of Manifest Destiny and the forced migration of the Native American population that entailed. Jackson's policies were strongly aligned with the politics of the country's white population and were anything but friendly with regard to the plight of slaves. Consequently, historians view his presidency with a mixture of plaudits and criticisms. Jackson's presidency was considered more democratic because of his populist policy preferences and his own humble beginnings, and, notably, his aforementioned support for the suffrage movement, but his contributions to the democratic system are a little suspect. He was a fervent believer in majority rule but displayed little affection for those not a part of the majority, thereby rendering his legacy a little wanting. A true democracy not only ensures majority rule but protects the rights of the minority as well. In this regard, Jacksonian Democracy was seriously flawed.

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The American system became more democratic during Andrew Jackson’s presidency. Prior to this time, most people in government were from the upper class and were wealthy. This changed when Andrew Jackson became President.

During his presidency, several changes were made to get more people involved in our political system. In some places, the requirement of owning property in order to vote was dropped. This allowed many more white males to vote. Nominating conventions were used to choose a party’s candidates for office. No longer would the party leaders decide this by themselves. Party members would be involved in this process. The people also began to choose the electors who would serve in the Electoral College. Previously, this was done by the state legislature. Andrew Jackson began the spoils system. This was a system where the winning candidate gave government jobs to his supporters. Andrew Jackson gave many government jobs to common people. Common people were a big part of Jackson’s base of support. Using the spoils system, helped to reduce the hold on these jobs that the upper class had for many years. More people became more involved in the American political system while Jackson was President.

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