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To What Extent Was Jacksonian Democracy Democratic?

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To What Extent Was Jacksonian Democracy Democratic?

During the administration of Andrew Jackson, the United States was a nation of change both politically and socially. American society was a society of opportunity. Americans felt that, given a chance, they could make a better life for themselves. This was the era of the common people, the era of democracy. Andrew Jackson appealed to the American people because he stood for values many regarded with favor. However democratic Jackson may seem, he was more tyrant-like than any of his predecessors. His major offerings to the nation included majority rule and a popular presidency, however offered no benefits to women, African Americans, nor Native Americans. Jacksonian Democracy was in no way democratic.

Before Jackson's time, voters expected public officials to use their own best judgment in electing. Under Jacksonian Democracy, the people came to believe that officials should act according to the demands of the people. To make government respond more directly to the popular will, state and local governments began to fill some positions such as judges, constables, and public surveyors by election rather than appointment. The terms of office were also shortened so that popular opinion had a more direct effect on the actions of elected officials. Thus, the government under Jackson became the people's government, although he retained a tight grasp, using his veto often.

As new voters made demands on government, they learned the power of political organization. National issues became as much topics of conversation as local issues had always been. As national parties built stronger state and local ties, they began to rely upon a growing number of "professional politicians." These changes helped to initiate the spoils system. This practice of appointing people to government positions based on party loyalty and party service was not an entirely new development, but Jackson was the first to oust large numbers of government employees in order to appoint his followers to office. He argued that there should be a rotation in office. Some believed that the spoils system set a poor precedent. Jackson amplified presidential power by using the veto more than all previous presidents.

On the "Women's Rights" issue, Jacksonian Democracy did nothing to further the female cause. Only in sparse states were women allowed to control property, and nowhere were they allowed to vote. There were few schools for women and they were assumed subordinate to men.

Whereas some women in some states made some strides under Jackson's rule, Native Americans and African Americans did not. Jacksonian Democracy had nothing to offer these two minorities.

Most Americans believed that the area between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains, "The Great American Desert," would provide a permanent Native American reservation. Jackson often spoke about protecting the Native Americans from fraud and of how humane the government's removal policy was, but the policy as carried out was cruel.

In Georgia, the Cherokee Indians had developed a lifestyle that included schools, mills, and turnpikes. In the 1820's, under pressure from the state to give up their lands, they wrote a constitution, hired lawyers, and sued in the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Marshall upheld the rights of the Cherokee against Georgia. However, Jackson refused to carry out the decision that ordered Georgia to return Cherokee lands. He is quoted as to have said, "Marshall has made his opinion, now let him enforce it."

When the Cherokee resisted the governments "generous" offer of lands farther west, Jackson sent in the army. Forced from their homes to what is now Arkansas and Oklahoma, 4,000 Native Americans died of starvation, disease, or exposure on the march that the Cherokee called the "Trail of Tears." This is in no way democratic, but it seems very much like despotism. By 1840, the government had moved the entire Indian population still living east of the Mississippi to reservations.

Although most citizens supported Jackson's Native American removals, a few leaders, like Henry Clay, said that Jackson's attitude stained the nation's honor. Religious denominations, especially Methodists and Quakers, also denounced the harsh treatment of Native Americans. The inhumane and despicable treatment of the Native Americans who turned to the government for help were only further spurned by that same government.

There are many documents supporting the belief

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