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Jacksonian Democrats

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Autor:   •  February 25, 2011  •  Essay  •  1,684 Words (7 Pages)  •  996 Views

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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


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