Andrew Jackson's Presidency

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What was Jacksonian Democracy? How did it differ from Jeffersonian Democracy?

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As the name implies, Jacksonian Democracy refers to government policies during the period of Andrew Jackson's presidency (1829-1837). Jacksonian Democracy, however, is much more than that. In some sense, it directly mirrors the idea of democracy espoused by the Founding Fathers. Originally, the Founders defined democracy as “direct rule by the people.” In the Jacksonian period, this idea was taken even further. Those who supported the idea saw the people as sovereign, a sovereignty unmitigated by a "natural aristocracy." Conservatives tended to show distrust of the people (the wisdom of the common folk). The greatest difference between the Jacksonian period and that of the Founding Fathers is that the people (read white males) no longer had restrictions on suffrage. They had much greater say in the course of government. Under Jeffersonian Democracy, only certain parts of the population could exercise their right to vote. Those who did not own land could not vote. The land requirement was lowered under Jeffersonian Democracy, but it was still greatly restrictive.

In economic matters, the equality promised by Jacksonian Democracy did not guarantee that everyone would prosper equally. It did not promise equality of reward; it promised equality of opportunity. In Jeffersonian Democracy, the equality of opportunity was not even a guarantee. For this reason, the natural aristocracy would always remain a part of American society under Jeffersonian Democracy.

Andrew Jackson was the first president to acknowledge the importance of campaigning - appealing directly to the people. Jackson clearly understood the power of public opinion. Jefferson, though he supported smaller business and cared for the economic interests of the people, did not show the same confidence in the views of the people.

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