Was the era of Andrew Jackson truly an era of democracy?

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The age of Andrew Jackson really was not an age of democracy in spite of claims that it was. While universal white male suffrage was becoming more widespread, women, Native Americans, and African Americans had no vote and no way to make their voices heard in the political process.

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The “Age of Jacksonian Democracy” is generally said to encompass the years between 1824 and 1840 in which Andrew Jackson was a driving force in American politics. The period is also labeled “The Era of the Common Man.” Indeed, more and more people were getting the chance to vote as property and tax restrictions lessened and as more states allowed for universal white male suffrage. The approximate number of popular votes cast for president in 1824 was 355,000, but that number soared to over 1.1 million in 1828. The common man was indeed finding his political voice.

But we must recall that even though more people were voting, these people were white men only. Women could not vote and would not be able to vote for nearly another century. Native Americans could not vote, and during this period, many of them were forced out of their homes and into the West along the infamous Trail of Tears. Most African Americans could not vote either. Some free Black people claimed the franchise, but they lost it quickly. Slaves, of course, had no voice in politics or anything else.

Democracy generally refers to rule by the people. However, in the age of Andrew Jackson, very few of the “the people” of the United States actually had any way to participate in the political process through voting to elect their representatives. As president, Jackson may have represented the “common” man, but the common woman and men and women of African or Native American descent had no way to make their voices heard or to claim rights that they were denied.

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