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Jacksonian Democracy

Jacksonian Democracy is the subject matter of chapter nine and how his becoming president solidified the triumph of democracy. Jackson’s appeal was based on his sense of befriending the weak and underprivileged or his fondness of the underdog. He had a keen sense of interest in the welfare of the common man and was instrumental in creating the rotation system in government offices to stop corruption and incompetents from gaining power.

He was a president for all the people and this was evident when he promised to destroy the second Bank of the United States, a concept of making large amounts of bank notes available to borrowers to earn interest. The freely passing notes and to the people this was a monopoly. Opposition at first to this bank was unorganized until Andrew Jackson stepped in and the bank was quickly destroyed. Jackson was a firm believer and active in protecting state rights against the federal government. Jackson also took the side of the states rights in a controversy that happened in Georgia with the Cherokee Indians.

He held the belief that the Indians were savages and need to be governed. With this belief came the Cherokee Trail of Tears. This was the forced migration of Indians to allow white settlement. Over 4000 individuals died during this forced migration that was harsh and brutal. The development of the Whigs were slow because basically of the fact that there were too many chiefs and not enough Indians, as the saying goes. Next in line for leadership was Martin Van Buren, who followed in Jackson’s footsteps and political beliefs. His main goal was in finding a substitute for the state banks as a place to keep federal funds.

This was instrumental in passing the Independent Treasury Act. Problems arose in the banking system and weren’t resolved until the Civil War Banking Legislation. The Making of Middle Class America is discussed in chapter ten and has America looked upon as the future of the globe. Two foreign visitors Tocqueville and Beaumont wanted to study the United States because of their beliefs that democracy would rise over aristocracy that was prevalent in Europe and become a global trait. He described Americans as a restless people and one reason was because of the growing population of this country.

In 1820 despite the growth of cities, three out of every four Americans were still engaged in agriculture. The social framework of Americans began to change with the factory system and the growth of cities that undermined the importance of home and family to be seen as a unit of economic production. With this movement came the blossoming of women and their rights and how the family was being viewed. The second Great awakening grew out of this new movement. A new social awakening was truly happening. The Age of Reform helped the communitarians in social justices that needed to be created and reformed.

These individuals took it upon themselves to care for the physically and mentally disabled and for the rehabilitation of criminals. The most important aspect of this reform was the creation of special institutions for dealing with social problems. During this period most of these problems were dealt on a family basis but with this reform new institutions were created to house them and to give freedom to those who once cared to go to work. The most important movement of this era was the Abolitionist Crusade which fought to abolish slavery and deemed it as inhumane and morally wrong.

Women’s rights were equated with this movement and women’s rights became known to the world. The democratic culture discussed in chapter eleven where there was a separation of state and church and the rights of individuals to seek out the rights of happiness. American literature was growing in its own right. Books written on American life were basically romanticized and were somewhat distorted. Writings by Emerson and Thoreau were the themes of the times and gave way to objections of the American societies restrictions that were growing on individuals.

The romantic illusions of Poe, Hawthorne, Melville and Whitman changed how the world viewed Americans before the Civil War. Catherine Beecher was instrumental in promoting the ideal of intellect and moral elevation. This probably led to the craving for native art and the senseless theft of Indian relics and as the population grew and were more centralized the acknowledgement of the need for education and culture were the main focus. Industrialization was the steam for this need for culture and was able to satisfy this need. Colleges were sprouting up that aided in the scientific growth of America.

Expansion and slavery were topics in chapter twelve as well as Tyler’s presidency that was plagued by political unrest. In 1783 the intent of the peace treaty during that year was to give the United States all land in the area drained by rivers flowing into the Atlantic rather than into the St. Lawrence, but there were problems. A settlement gave a small part of the territory to build military road connecting Halifax and Quebec. This concession gave America more territory along the Canadian and American boarders giving peace to that region. The Manifest Destiny leads to the creation of one mighty nation and a land of opportunity.

Where democracy was shining brightly and the westward migration was the American way. Polk becoming president successfully persuading Congress to lower the tariff of 1842 and to restore the independent treasury and was instrumental in acquiring Texas. This acquisition brought on the Mexican War that was won rather quickly. It was soon overshadowed by the inquiry of slavery in relation to the gold rush leading to the Compromise of 1850.


Garraty, J. A. & Carnes, M. C. (2000). The American Nation: A History of the United States. New York: Longman

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