Would you have voted for Andrew Jackson in the 1828 election?

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First, we should acknowledge that none except white men (and in a very few exceptions, free black men, though most states were denying them the vote at that point) would have been able to vote in the election of 1828. So the answer for a majority of Americans would have...

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First, we should acknowledge that none except white men (and in a very few exceptions, free black men, though most states were denying them the vote at that point) would have been able to vote in the election of 1828. So the answer for a majority of Americans would have to be "no."

In terms of the issues of the election, it is helpful to see what Jackson and his opponent John Quincy Adams represented. Jackson appealed to the interests of ordinary white men, both in terms of his style and rhetoric and his actual policies. Jackson argued for restraint on what he characterized as a corrupt federal government, a reduction of tariffs, and other reforms that appealed to ordinary people, both farmers and working-class people whose lives were changing rapidly amid the Market Revolution. He appealed to Southerners who feared that Adams was a threat to slavery. His views on the removal of the Indian peoples from the South were also well-known, and were viewed very favorably by Southern whites, both ordinary men and large slaveowners who coveted lands in Mississippi and Alabama. Above all, he forged a coalition with working class Northerners, including immigrants, largely through the skilled political maneuvering of Martin Van Buren. So if you had belonged to any of these groups, you likely would have voted for Andrew Jackson.

Adams, on the other hand, was generally associated with manufacturing leaders, small farmers in New England, and the comfortable middle classes, men (and women, though they couldn't vote) who advocated reforms, increasingly decried the national influence of the slaveholding South, and viewed Jackson and his followers with horror. Importantly, they supported what had for years been known as the "American System," a program of legislation intended to use government power, including tariffs, to promote manufacturing and economic nationalism. Some, but not all, of Jackson's supporters opposed these measures. It should also be remembered that the election of 1828 was a very personal and dirty campaign, with mudslinging and terrible allegations made by proxies of both candidates. Mathematically speaking, though, unless you felt strongly in favor of a robust federal government, you would have voted for Andrew Jackson in 1828. As the popular vote (a new concept in the late 1820s) shows, most people who could vote cast their ballot for the supposed champion of the "common man," because most Americans fit that description.

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The problem with answering this sort of question is that people are shaped by their historical circumstances. In other words, the sort of political attitudes and opinions we now have are formed by twenty-first century culture. Had we been born in the eighteenth or nineteenth century, we would have thought very differently.

On a practical level, as a woman, I would not have even been able to vote for or against Jackson in 1824 or 1828. The Nineteenth Amendment, giving women the right to vote, was not passed until 1920. Most African-Americans and Native Americans would also not have been able to vote.

From a contemporary perspective, I would say that Jackson, despite his populism, was a wealthy slave owner, and he badly mistreated Native Americans. Although Jackson was a flamboyant character and known for his military exploits, Adams strikes me as far superior in terms of policy. Adams put a strong emphasis on education, was adamantly opposed to slavery, and was generally opposed to aggressive expansionism and militarism. He was far more knowledgeable than Jackson about economics and, despite the accusations over the 1824 election, somewhat less egregiously prone to cronyism and corruption.

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Hindsight is of course 20-20, and if one knew then what is now known of Jackson's policy toward the Indians, he would not have received my vote. However, if I were a U.S. citizen of voting age in 1828 with no knowledge of Jackson than was then available, I not only would have voted for him, I would have enthusiastically supported his election.

First of all Jackson was a war hero. He defeated the British at the Battle of New Orleans which gained enormous prestige for himself and the nation. Americans tend to favor war heroes as presidents, and Jackson certainly would have been no exception. Secondly, he was a self made man who had pulled himself up by his own efforts. He readily identified with and was seen as a hero of the common man. This too would have made him attractive to me. Third, the "corrupt bargain" between John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay, whether there was in fact a bargain or not, would have caused me grave concern. As did many Americans, I would probably feel that Jackson had been cheated out of the Presidency in 1824, and would do all I could to ensure his election the next time around.

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