Upon entering office in 1829, Andrew Jackson sought to transform the very nature of American democracy and government. As David Emory Shi informs us in volume 1 of America: A Narrative History, Jackson believed that “the ruling political and economic elite must be removed.” This was part of a populist plan for office that the new president and his supporters hoped would give government back to the people.
A key element in what became known as Jacksonian democracy was the so-called “spoils system.” This involved dividing up jobs in the federal government among the president's supporters. As Emory Shi tells us,
Democracy, [Jackson] believed, was best served when the winning party’s “newly elected officials” appointed new government officials.
What was supposed to be an anti-corruption measure, a way of removing a self-serving elite, actually had the opposite effect. Under the spoils system, the federal government became stuffed with officials whose sole qualification for office was that they were supporters of President Jackson.
Jackson believed that the legislature and the judiciary were jam-packed with his political enemies and were therefore part of the problem rather than constituting a solution to the ills of the governmental system. That is why
Andrew Jackson sought to increase the powers of the presidency at the expense of the legislative and judicial branches. One of his opponents noted that previous presidents had assumed that Congress was the primary branch of government. Jackson, however, believed that the presidency was “superior.”
As Jackson didn’t believe he could trust either the judicial or the legislative branches of government, he sought to enhance the power of the presidential office, giving himself the lead role in crafting a legislative agenda.
Jackson's approach to the economy was generally hands-off. To that end, he believed that the federal government should cut spending in order to reduce the national debt, which Jackson described as a “national curse.”
In relation to the Maysville Road project, Jackson used his presidential powers to veto a bill of Congress that authorized the spending of federal money to build a sixty-mile-long road across the state of Kentucky. In vetoing the bill, Jackson argued that such improvements were entirely a matter for states. Here, we can see that Jackson’s economic policy was heavily influenced by his basic philosophy of government, which was built upon a firm belief in states’ rights.