Hey there, my fellow history enthusiasts! Today, I want to take you on a journey to the exciting era of democratization in the United States. Forget about the other Jacksons; we’re talking about the iconic Andrew Jackson. So buckle up and let’s dive into the Age of Jackson!
A Not-So-Democratic Beginning
When the United States was still in its early stages, democracy wasn’t exactly a shining beacon. Only white male landowners could vote, leaving many people excluded from the political process. But fear not, change was on the horizon!
The Winds of Change
Between 1820 and 1850, state legislatures started to loosen their grip on voting qualifications. Property requirements were lowered, or even eliminated, opening the doors to more people. Of course, being both white and male was still a must, but progress was progress.
Owning Land – The Jeffersonian Ideal
The idea of landownership as a prerequisite for voting came from Thomas Jefferson’s vision. According to his philosophy, an independent individual who worked their own land wouldn’t need to rely on markets or wages. They could produce everything they needed on their own. However, this excluded slaves and women from the equation.
With the rise of the Market Revolution, the exclusion of wage workers seemed out of touch. However, women and non-white people were still left out of the democratic equation. It’s important to remember that Jackson himself didn’t play a significant role in eliminating property requirements, as most states had already done so before his presidency.
The Era of Good Feelings and the American System
During the “Era of Good Feelings,” the United States experienced a sense of unity and agreement on domestic policies. The American System, a program of economic nationalism, aimed to strengthen the country’s infrastructure, protect new industries with tariffs, and establish a national bank. Supporters like John C. Calhoun and Henry Clay saw the potential in this system, even though it deviated from Jefferson’s Agrarian Republic ideals.
Monroe Doctrine: Keeping Europe at Bay
President Monroe made a bold statement with the Monroe Doctrine, declaring that Europe should not attempt to reclaim any colonies in the Western Hemisphere. The U.S. pledged to stay out of European wars but had a good laugh when it came to defending the Falkland Islands. Nonetheless, the doctrine showed the nation’s commitment to its own interests.
The Not-So-Good Feelings and Three Main Issues
As the Era of Good Feelings drew to a close, three significant issues caused tension. First, disagreeing with federal investment in infrastructure, James Madison vetoed a bill that aimed to finance roads and canals. Despite this setback, roads and canals were still built, but most funding came from the states. Second, the Second Bank of the United States faced numerous controversies and opposition. Lastly, the perennial issue of slavery reared its ugly head during the Missouri Crisis.
Missouri Crisis: A Compromise with Consequences
In 1819, Missouri wanted to become a state despite already having more than 10,000 slaves. A motion to prohibit further slave introduction sparked a storm led by John C. Calhoun. Ultimately, the Missouri Compromise allowed Missouri to enter as a slave state, while Maine was also admitted to maintain a balance. However, it drew a line at 36°30′ latitude, restricting slavery in future states. This solution seemed reasonable, but it would later contribute to the eruption of the Civil War.
The Rise of Political Parties
With the nation becoming more democratic, the existence of only one political party seemed counterintuitive. Enter Martin Van Buren, the “Little Magician” who saw the potential of national political parties. He realized that having a nickname, like “Old Hickory” for Andrew Jackson, could help candidates appeal to the everyday voter. And thus, the Democratic Party was born.
The Whigs Rise in Opposition
Not everyone was pleased with Jackson’s rise to power. The Whigs emerged as a response to what they saw as Jackson’s excessive grab for executive power, dubbing him “King Andrew.” The Whigs supported the American System and believed in the government’s role in promoting morality and stability. The clash between the Democrats and Whigs set the stage for modern American politics.
Jackson’s Controversial Presidency
Andrew Jackson’s presidency had its fair share of controversy, from nullification to his stance on Native Americans and his impact on the banking system.
Jackson’s support for tariffs in 1828, despite Southern opposition, led to the Nullification Crisis. South Carolina threatened to nullify the Tariff of Abominations, creating tension between state and federal power. Though the crisis was resolved temporarily, Jackson’s use of force to collect taxes didn’t sit well with the Whigs and added to his reputation as a tyrant.
Indian Removal Act and Trail of Tears
Jackson’s stance on Native Americans was equally divisive. He supported the southern states’ efforts to take Indian lands, leading to the Indian Removal Act of 1830. This act forced tribes to relocate from their ancestral homes. The Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creek, and Seminole tribes fought back through lawsuits but ultimately faced the tragic Trail of Tears during Van Buren’s presidency.
The Battle Against the Second Bank
One of Jackson’s defining moments was his battle against the Second Bank of the United States. He vetoed the bill to extend the bank’s charter out of fear that it would oppose his reelection. He saw the bank as a symbol of concentrated power and a threat to democracy. Instead, he created a system where federal funds were dispersed to local banks, called “pet banks.” However, this policy led to inflation, economic collapse, and the Panic of 1837.
The Legacy of the Age of Jackson
Andrew Jackson’s presidency was a mixed bag. He expanded democracy while also concentrating power in the executive branch. His fiscal policies had disastrous consequences, leading to economic collapse and political realignments. Nevertheless, the Age of Jackson marked a turning point in American politics, paving the way for the rise of democracy and shaping the nation’s future.
That’s it for today, folks! Remember, history is full of fascinating twists and turns. Join me next time as we continue to unravel the mysteries of the past. Until then, stay awesome!
Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan Muller. The script supervisor is Meredith Danko. Our associate producer is Danica Johnson. The show is written by our talented history teacher, Raoul Meyer, and yours truly. And our graphics team is Thought Cafe.
If you have any questions or want to share your own insights, leave a comment below. And don’t forget to visit our Banking Blog for more captivating articles. Stay curious, my friends!