How did Andrew Jackson advance or set back the development of American democracy?

Expert Answers
brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with some of the previous post, but let me take a slightly different view so you have some arguments for both sides.  Jackson takes quite a hit historically for his role in the Trail of Tears and the genocide of the Seminole in Florida, and rightfully so.  Not to mention the fact that the "Five Civilized Tribes" forcibly marched to Oklahoma were legally US citizens, and had the Supreme Court on their side.  So in these ways, he certainly set back democracy.

He also vetoed the Second Bank of the US which, seeing as how our banking system was much smaller in those days, would have concentrated wealth into very few hands.  It's hard to maintain a democracy when the gulf between rich and poor is too large.  He sought to prevent that.  He also believed that government should make it easier for the common man to get land, and forge his own way, an egalitarian democratic ideal.  Jackson was also the first commoner - not born to privileged landowning stock - to become President.  The idea that any man could work his way up from the bottom also represents the American Dream.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If we are looking at the involvement of more people in the democratic process, then I think one would have to say that Jackson did advance democracy.  Jackson was able to pull in more voters, specifically moderate incomed to poor white males found more of a voice in the political process under Jackson.  This was a voting block that was silent, if note entirely absent, in the previous electoral cycles.  The enfranchisement of the white male in American politics was completed under Jacksonian Democracy.  Yet, the previous post is absolutely right in that if we are examining democracy as a concept, Jackson's treatment of Native Americans set it back for some time.  When a sitting president can "remove" a section of the population with little political or social resistance, there is an anti- democratic expression present.  The counter to this would be that the Native Americans did not vote, and Jackson ended up increasing the number of voters.  Yet, I think that one has to balance the voting aspect of democracy with its theoretical execution in the tenure of Andrew Jackson.

martinjmurphy eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Just to add some specifics to Andrew Jackson’s Indian policy.  It should be noted that the Cherokee Indians in Georgia were peaceful and had become farmers, adopting the lifestyle of most white Americans.  In response to the Indian Removal Act, the Cherokee did what they should have done—gone to court to stop it.  They did this and the Supreme Court in the case of Worcester v. Georgia sided with the Cherokee and said that they could remain in Georgia.  Upon hearing of this decision, Andrew Jackson supposedly replied, “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!"  In other words, he chose to ignore this Supreme Court decision.  When the President of the United States ignores a Supreme Court decision, I think that it can only be seen as a step back from democracy.

kapokkid eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Given that all figures that had as much power as Andrew Jackson are multi-faceted, I am sure there can be both sides made of this argument.

But I am going to advance the idea that he set democracy back rather severely with his treatment of Native Americans.  If you look at the systematic practices he endorsed to move them out of their homes and onto reservations without any sort of real negotiation or even concern for their welfare, I would argue that he was furthering the cause of totalitarianism and dictatorship and destroying the basis of democracy.

He may have invited a lot of folks to the White House to celebrate his election, but that didn't make him more of a person who was concerned with government for the people, by the people, and of the people, etc.