Jacksonian Era


Figure 1.-- .

The period following the War of 1812 has commonly, but rather inaccurately been called the the "Era of Good Feelings". It is true that the Federalists disappeared and only Jeffersons Democratic Republicans goverened. There were, however, deep rifts within the Party which President Monroe attempted to resolve through an appeal to patriotism and national symbols. The slavery issue began to grow as a devisive issue and was defused for a generation with the Missoiri Compromise, but not resolved. There were other major concerns. Important figures like Henry Clay conceptualized the American System advocating a strong Federal government establishing high tariffs to protect fledgling industries and able to finance internal improvements to develop the West. Other men like Jackson were more concerned with state rights seeing a strong Federal government as a source of coruption threatening the liberty of the common man. Jackson wanted to expand the francise and limit Federal power, especially the Bank of the United States. Jackson hated all banks and a good many at the time were corupt, but he especialy hated the Bank of the United States. Republican in Congress attempted to nominate one of their own through the caucus system in 1824, but the effort failed ending the caucus system of selecting presidential candidates. State legislatures entered the nominating system. Tennesse in particular proposed General Andrew Jackson--now a senator. Jackson received more electoral and popular votes than the other major candidates (Adams, Clay, and Crawford), but not a majority. This through the election into the House of Representatives. Clay as Speaker had enormous influence. Clay who especially disliked Jackson (despite being fellow Westerners), through his support behind Secretary of State John Quincey Adams who supported the American System. Jackson's supporters were outraged, alling it "The Corupt Deal". Adams appointed Clay Sectretary of State. Martin Van Buren builds the modern Democratic Party which elects Jackson (1828). Jackson was elected by the "common man", western farmers and eastern workers and Jackson viewed himself as their spokesmen. . Property qualifications were still prevalent at the time. These were eliminated in most states during the Jacksonian era. There was a marked change in the nature of political campaigns. Jackson made his reputation fighting both the British an Native Americans. One of the major disputes with Native Americans during this period came in Georgia with the Cherokees which unlike other Native Americans were attempting to adopt European ways. While Jackson was a strong believer in states rights, he also believed in a strong military and denied the right of a state to seceed fom the Union. The issue came to a head when South Carolina attempted to nullify the Tariff of Abominations (1828). The Nulification Crisis threatened a rupture of the Union, but Jackson acted resolutely, securing the Force Act from Congress. South Carlolina backed down and Congress lowered the tarriff. Jackson is best known for his war against the Bank of the United States. He rempved Federal funds from the Bank and opposed it recharting. There were many reasons for Jackson's opposition. Many were associated with banks in general. There was at the time considerable corruption associated with banls. Many saw them as tools of Northeastern moneyed inteests. They foreclosed farm mortgages. The Bank of the United States in partucular threatened state banks and the issuance of paper money which favored farmers and wstern interests. Bank president Nicholas Biddle used bank funds to assist anti-Jackson politicians. It was a devisive struggle, but Jackson suceeded in destroying the Bank. Jackson's fiscal policies, however, led to the Panic of 1837, one of the worst depressions in American history. This occurred after Jackson's anoited successor, Martin Van Buren, has suceeded him. It ruined the Van Buren presidency, but left Jackson who was largely responsible for it relatively untarished in the public mind.

Era of Good Feelings

The period following the War of 1812 has commonly, but rather inaccurately been called the the "Era of Good Feelings". It is true that the Federalists disappeared and only Jeffersons Democratic Republicans goverened. There were, however, deep rifts within the Party which President Monroe attempted to resolve through an appeal to patriotism and national symbols.

Missouri Compromise

The slavery issue began to grow as a devisive issue and was defused for a generation with the Missoiri Compromise, but not resolved. American history after the ratification of the Constitution was a series of compromises meant to difuse the issue of slavery. The centerpiece of this effort was the Missouri Compromise (1820). Northern states had abolished slavery or were in the process of doing so. Many had thought that slavery would gradually disappear of its own accord. This had happened in the north, but the development of the cotton gin had given a new live to slavery in the South. Northerners began to see that the admission of more slave states would simply worsen the problem. The first in a series of sectional crisis occurred when Missouri applied for admission to the Union as a slave state. Many northern Congressmen opposed the admission of another slave state. from the North did not want another slave state. When Maine asked to be admitted to the Union as a free state. Southern Congressman demanded the admission of Missouri in exchange for their support for admitting Maine. The result was the Missouri Compromise. This allowed Missouri to come into the Union as a slave state and Maine would be a free state. Congress also agreed to draw a line in the remaining territory acquired in the Louisana Purchse. That line was the southern border of Missouri. This line would be the border between free and slaves states. Any new state entering the Union that was south of the line could be a slave state. Any state north of the line would have to enter the Union as a free state. A look of the map of the Louisana Purchase shows that free states would be the real bulk of the Western territories at the time. Henry Clay's role in arranging the Mussoiri Compromise earned him the title, the Great Compromiser.

The American System

There were other major concerns. Important figures like Henry Clay conceptualized the American System advocating a strong Federal government establishing high tariffs to protect fledgling industries and able to finance internal improvements to develop the West.

Jacksonian Program

Other men like Jackson were more concerned with state rights seeing a strong Federal government as a source of coruption threatening the liberty of the common man. Jackson wanted to expand the francise and limit Federal power, especially the Bank of the United States. Jackson hated all banks and a good many at the time were corupt, but he especialy hated the Bank of the United States.

Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson was the 7th Presisdent of the United States and the first real populist and frontier President. He was the first presiden to come to the presidency through his military exploits since Washington. He had emense popular support. He actively courted the public and threw public parties. Anyone could come to Andrew Jackson's public parties at the White House, and just about everyone did! At his last one, a wheel of cheese weighing 1,400 lbs. was eaten in two hours. The White House smelled of cheese for weeks. More nearly than any of his predecessors, Andrew Jackson was elected by popular vote; as President he sought to portray himself as the direct representative of the common man. Some of his policies did further the intrests of the "common" man, but others supported the interests of the Southern slave-holding planter class. Jackson's victory over the Bank was a victory for democracy in America. The popular will emerged victorious over vested economic interests. It was not good for the American economy.

Election of 1824

Republican in Congress attempted to nominate one of their own through the caucus system in 1824, but the effort failed ending the caucus system of selecting presidential candidates. State legislatures entered the nominating system. Tennesse in particular proposed General Andrew Jackson--now a senator. Jackson received more electoral and popular votes than the other major candidates (Adams, Clay, and Crawford), but not a majority. This through the election into the House of Representatives. Clay as Speaker had enormous influence. Clay who especially disliked Jackson (despite being fellow Westerners), through his support behind Secretary of State John Quincey Adams who supported the American System. Jackson's supporters were outraged, alling it "The Corupt Deal". Adams appointed Clay Sectretary of State.

Election of 1828

Martin Van Buren built the modern Democratic Party whoch elects Jackson (1828). Jackson was elected by the "common man", western farmers and eastern workers and Jackson viewed himself as their spokesmen. . Property qualifications were still prevalent at the time. These were eliminated in most states during the Jacksonian era. There was a marked change in the nature of political campaigns.

Indian Removal

Jackson made his reputation fighting both the British an Native Americans. One of the major disputes with Native Americans during this period came in Georgia with the Cherokees which unlike other Native Americans were attempting to adopt European ways. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Worcester v. Georgia (1832) ruled that Native Americans because of treaty arrangements with the Fedral Government were not subject to the laws of a state. Jackson refused to enforce ruling. Instead Federat Troops forced the Cherokees and other Indian tribes in the Southeast U.S. to march 1,200 miles to Oklahoma territory, an event which has come to be called the Trail of Tears.

Nulification (1832)

Jackson was a strong believer in states rights. The issue became more than academic when Congress passed a tariff (1828). The Tariff of Abomimnations was disadvantageous to the southern states. Southern Congressmen includung Vice Presidebnt Calhoon hoped that Jackson would suport them on states rights issues. As a dinner they gave a serious of tosts lauding state's rights. When it was Jackson;s turn, his toast was an unambigous, "Our Federal Union, it must be preserved." South Carolina voted to nulified the tariff. The disagreement became a heated sectiinal matter. It almost led to civil war. Jackson for once was diplomatic, he issued a Presidential proclamation, called upon the people of South Carolina in moderate terms, but leaving no doubt that he woukd not accept nulification, insisting that "The Union is perpetual." Along with states rights, Jackson believed in a strong military and denied the right of a state to seceed fom the Union. The action by the South Carolina legislature was premised on the principle of Nulification enunciated by Senator John C. Calhoun. He insisted that a state had the right to nullify Federal law within its jurisdiction. This essentially meant that the United States could not operate as a contry. The Nulification Crisis threatened a rupture of the Union, but Jackson acted resolutely. President Jackson rejected the principle of Nulification. Jackson's handling of the crisis has been described as his "finest hour". [Howe] He secured the Force Act from Congress and Jackson's reputation was surely a factor in South Carlolina backing down. At the same time, Jcksom moved to convince Congress to lower the tarriff. Clay, a Jackson foe, also rose to the occassion. He won approval for a compromise bill which lowered the tariff.

The Bank of the United States

Jackson is best known for his war against the Bank of the United States. He rempved Federal funds from the Bank and opposed it recharting. There were many reasons for Jackson's opposition. Many were associated with banks in general. There was at the time considerable corruption associated with banls. Many saw them as tools of Northeastern moneyed inteests. They foreclosed farm mortgages. The Bank of the United States in partucular threatened state banks and the issuance of paper money which favored farmers and wstern interests. Bank president Nicholas Biddle used bank funds to assist anti-Jackson politicians. It was a devisive struggle, but Jackson suceeded in destroying the Bank.

Fiscal Policies

The United States in the early 19th century had no real fiscal program or national currency. The Bank of the United States was in fact a minimalist approach to the fiscal problem. Jackson and the Democrats distrusted paper money. There was not enough silver and gold, however, to meet the fiscal demands of the country. Quite a number of wildcat banks were created in wake of Bank of the United States' failure. They issued paoer money with limited bullion (species) to back it. The paper money in circulation increased something like 300 percent and much of it was wirthless. These banks made large numbers of unsecured loans. One estimate suggests loans incrased 400 percent, many to land speculators. Inflation began to increase. With the large amount of paper money put into cuirculation, speculators bought Western land in great quantity. Ales increased from 4 million acres in 1832 to 20 million acres in 1836. States also began borrowing money to finance needed internal improvements. Instead of using the now defunct Bank of the United States, Jackson banked the Federal urplus in state banks which further stimulated loans and spending. With inflation spiraling out of control, Jackson issued the specie circular. This required gold and silver for land purchases.

Panic of 1837

Jackson's fiscal policies, however, led to the Panic of 1837, one of the worst depressions in American history. English bankers called in loans to states and private investors. American banks did not have the gold and silver needed to pay off their debts. Banks began to fail. Individual lost their savings and were unable to meet payments. The Panic occurred after Jackson's anoited successor, Martin Van Buren, has suceeded him. It ruined the Van Buren presidency, but left Jackson who was largely responsible for it relatively untarished in the public mind.

The Whigs

One outcome to the opposition to Ptrsident Jackson was the creation of the Whig Party. The Whigs are the political ancestors of the modern Republican Party, although the ideological line has in manys ways reversed. The Party was directed by men like Henry Clay, Daniel Websrer, and John C. Calhoun. They promoted a platform of nation building and internal improvements at a time when America was just beginning to overconme distance and settle an emense frontier. Abolitionists received a more favoravle treatment in the Whig Party. Its adherents included both Westerners hungary for development and the new urban populaion. Th Whigs never, however, managed to develop a meaningful following in the South. They managed to control the Congress at times, but only gained the presidency by running military heros of limited connection with the Party and both died early in office. The Party like the Democratic Party emerged during the Jacksonian Era. The image of the Party was perhaps tained from the beginning because of the emense popularity of President Jackson. A young Abraham Lincoln grew up in the Whig Party and led the formation of the Republican Party. The Whigs were not the dominant party in the first half of the 19th century. The issues the fought for, however, were the issues of America's future. The Party finally was destroyed over the issue od slavery, giving birth to Republican Party and Civil War.

Sources

Howe, Daniel Walker. What God Hath Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 (Oxford University Press, 2007), 904p. Howe has written an insightful study of early 19th century America. He is not a great admirer of President, Jackson but believes that his hamdling as this very serious threat to the young Republic was masterful.






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Created: 9:33 PM 10/2/2007
Last updated: 10:53 AM 6/15/2010