What did Margaret Bayard Smith mean by this quote? "Ladies and Gentlemen, only had been expected at this Levee, not the people en masse. But it was the People's day, and the People's president, and the...
What did Margaret Bayard Smith mean by this quote?
"Ladies and Gentlemen, only had been expected at this Levee, not the people en masse. But it was the People's day, and the People's president, and the people would rule."
This quote is from an eyewitness account of the levee that took place at the White House after Andrew Jackson's inaugural. Essentially, Jackson had portrayed himself as a "common man," and an enormous throng of people gathered outside the Capitol to watch his inauguration. After the event, they followed him to the White House, where thousands of them crammed themselves into the building, helping themselves to punch and other refreshments, breaking items inside the house, and causing Jackson himself to leave secretly to avoid the crowd. Smith's account is generally unfavorable to the people. After the apparently ambivalent quote referenced in this question, she went on:
I fear, enlightened Freemen as they are, they will be found, as they have been found in all ages and countries where they get the Power in their hands, that of all tyrants, they are the most ferocious, cruel and despotic. The noisy and disorderly rabble in the President's House brought to mind descriptions I had read, of the mobs in the Tuileries and at Versailles...
Smith's account of the event is thus obviously biased, but others tend to support the view that far too many people showed up for the celebration and that disorder did ensue. Many people, especially Jackson's political opponents, viewed the incident as an illustration of the dangers of democracy.