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Jacksonian Dbq

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Category: History Other

Autor: reviewessays 25 February 2011

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Jacksonian Democrats viewed themselves as the guardians of the United States Constitution, political democracy, individual liberty, and equality of economic opportunity. However, the Jacksonian Democrats were in a catch 22. In order for them to protect the interests of the common man, they at times had to violate the very things for which they stood. By doing this, the Jacksonian Democrats stressed the importance of the power of the common man, at times by violating their own principles.

The Jacksonian Democrats were guardians of the Constitution. However, if they had to violate it for the good of the common man, they did so. An example of this is the nullification in South Carolina. In the "Acts and Resolutions of South Carolina" in Document F, it explains that South Carolina was angry that the national government wasn't doing anything to prevent the mailing of Abolitionist papers. By these papers coming in, the slaves might have sensed that they had a right to freedom and rebel. South Carolina threatened to resist the government's actions if they interfered with their interests. South Carolina also threatened to not collect particular tariffs that were unconstitutional. This was deemed in their "South Carolina Exposition and Protest". Jackson threatened to invade South Carolina if they refused to collect the tariffs. The Jacksonian Democrats said in justification of their actions that the Constitution called for a single nation, not a group of states, to be in power. Jacksonians violated part of the Constitution by threatening to wage war on its own state. However, they did this in order to protect another the Constitution, that a single nation should be in power, not a group of states. Another instance in which the Jacksonian Democrats violated the Constitution for the good of the common man was in the "Trail of Tears" in Document G. The Supreme Court stated that the Jacksonian Democrats' actions were unconstitutional because by issuing the "Indian Removal Act". By doing this, they were in violation of the treaty of New Echota. In the 1832 decision Worcester v. Georgia, Chief Justice Marshall ruled that the Cherokees had their own land and that they did not need to follow Georgia law in their own territory. However, because most people in America didn't like Indians, Jackson ignored the treaty for the good of the common man. The Jacksonians also violated the Constitution by destroying the national bank. They felt that the Panic of 1819 was the fault of the national bank and that because the national bank was a monopoly run by the rich, it would be for the good of the common man to destroy it. In "Daniel Webster's reply to Jackson's Veto Message" in Document C, Webster, a Whig, says that the Jacksonian Democrats were trying to inflame the poor against the rich. However, they merely inflamed the common man with the idea that they could oppose anyone who violated their rights, even if it was the powerful, wealthy people, the same people who ran the national bank. The Jacksonian Democrats violated the Constitution, but they did it for a valid cause: the good of the common man.

The Jacksonian Democrats were guardians of political democracy through their expansion of suffrage in America. Before the Jacksonian Democrats came to power, only white, land-owning men could vote. They changed the voting eligibility policies so that all white men could vote regardless of their land owing status, as long as they were of age to do so. By 1830, 80% of white men could vote. This forced the candidates appeal to the common man, rather than the wealthy, in order to get elected. While the Jacksonian Democrats were guardians of political democracy in some cases, they proved to be hypocritical as well. For example, although they expanded suffrage in America, the Jacksonian Democrats also participated in the spoils system. In this system, Andrew Jackson got rid of officials of an opposing party that the common mad had elected into government. He then replaced them with Jacksonian Democrats. While it looked good on face value that the Jacksonian Democrats were expanding suffrage in America, the only way that the citizens' elected officials stayed in their political offices was if they were in agreement with the Jacksonian Democrats. In this sense, the Jacksonian Democrats were not guardians of political democracy. In addition to the spoils system, the Jacksonian Democrats had another way in which they controlled Congress. Andrew Jackson gave patronage jobs to his supporters. This ensured that Jackson's vetoes would never be overturned in Congress. This took away power from the representatives that the people had elected. The people could vote in several Congressmen that didn't support Jackson, but they wouldn't have any say on what happened since Jackson gave patronage jobs to his supporters. This took away the voice of the common man, the main value that Jacksonian Democrats stood for. Jacksonian Democrats considered them guardians of political democracy. However, they contradicted their own principles.

The Jacksonian Democrats also viewed themselves as protectors of individual liberty. However, if it interfered with the agenda of the common man, peoples' individual liberty was disregarded. Again, the "Trail of Tears" and the "Indian Removal Act" are examples of times when Jacksonian Democrats were not protectors of individual liberty. Even though the courts ruled that the Indians had their own land and didn't need to follow the state laws in their territory, Jackson disregarded the Supreme Court ruling and forced them to move westward. This movement, known as the "Trail of Tears", had devastating and inhumane conditions for the Indians moving west. About 25% of the Indians traveling westward on foot died of exhaustion and not having the proper resources to sustain life throughout such a fatiguing expedition. This violated the Indians' individual liberty to their land, as well as violating the Constitution. Although the Jacksonian Democrats violated the Indians' individual liberty, they were also at times guardians of peoples' individual liberty. For example, Harriet Martineau, a British citizen, was amazed at what she saw when she came to America. According to "Society in America", Document D, Martineau raved about the absence of poverty in America and the independence of each and every citizen. She was also in awe of the fact that the people elected officials. The Jacksonian Democrats were also protectors of individual liberty in the Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge case in 1837. According to Chief Justice Roger B. Taney in Document H, there was a dispute over the property rights of the Charles Bridge and the Warren Bridge. The Charles Bridge was a monopoly of a corporation. The Warren Bridge on the other hand would help the entire community. The Supreme Court ruled in the favor of the Warren Bridge , stating that the common man's interests were more important than those of private, wealthy individuals' agendas. The Jacksonian Democrats were protectors of individual liberty when it was for the good of the common man as long as it didn't interfere with their own agenda.

The Jacksonian Democrats also considered themselves as guardians of equality of economic opportunity. They achieved this by re-chartering the Bank of the United States. According to "Andrew Jackson's Veto Message" in Document B, Jackson says that the current bank in the United States at the time had a monopoly of the foreign and domestic exchange. Over a fourth of the stock was held by foreigners and the rest was controlled by a few hundred wealthy American citizens. The richest classes controlled the majority of the bank. Jackson saw the bank as a tool of the Eastern Elite, and that a privileged few were profiting off of the peoples' money. Jackson vetoed the re-charter of bank and withdrew all federal funds from it. He put these funds in state pet banks. Although its repercussions caused the Depression of 1837, the Specie Circular Act was an attempt by the Jacksonian Democrats to provide equal economic opportunity to the common man. This act was passed in response to excessive speculation of land after the "Indian Removal Act". Jackson feared that the settlers were being forced to pay land prices that were greatly inflated with devalued paper money. Jackson thought that making the citizens pay with gold and silver would give them more knowledge on how much money they were spending on land. Jackson didn't want people to be getting ripped off by paying too much for land. Although the Specie Circular Act backfired on the Jacksonian Democrats, causing the Depression of 1837, their intentions in passing the act were good. Although a Jacksonian Democrat passed the Specie Circular Act that instigated the Depression of 1837, they also helped to solve the problem and give Americans more jobs. Martin Van Buren reduced the price of Western lands. He also established a ten-hour work day for federal laborers, which was important because if people were limited on the hours that they could work, it would leave more slots open for more and more people to become employed. This meant that more people could make money and support their families, thus giving the common man economic opportunities to succeed. Van Buren also established a sub-treasury system. Jacksonian Democrats were guardians of equality of economic opportunity so long as it coincided with their goals.

Jacksonian Democrats viewed themselves as the guardians of the United States Constitution, political democracy, individual liberty, and equality of economic opportunity. They supported the common man over the rich, but also supported their own self-interests over the common man when they needed to. The Jacksonian Democrats were protectors of the things that they saw themselves as guardians of, as long as it didn't interfere with their own agenda.