Few time periods were as critical to the course of American history as the Jacksonian Era. In the 1820’s Jacksonian Democrats rose to power by promising to protect states’ rights and ensure economic equality for all. In order to abide by what he had promised the people, Jackson made the following changes in hope that he would be able to live up to what he had preached. Jackson created the “spoil system,” altered the relationship with Native American tribes and dismantled the National Bank.
Though the Jacksonian Democrats believed they were the guardians of the United States Constitution, political democracy, individual liberty, and economic opportunity, their actions disproved their beliefs. They violated the Constitution by removing Native Americans from their land, were not responsible for increases in voting rights, stripped many of their rights and made unwise economic decisions. Only to a certain extent were the Jacksonian Democrats truly guardians of the United States Constitution.
In 1830, Jackson persuaded Congress to agree upon the Indian Removal Act. In order to regain their land, Native Americans challenged Jackson in two cases known as Worcester v. Georgia and Cherokee Nation v. Georgia. The Supreme Court sided with the Native Americans concluding that Jackson would return the Natives’ land. However Jacksons refused to return the land and stated that, “Justice Marshall has made his ruling now let him enforce it” (Document G). Because of his defiance against the Supreme Court, Jackson got the title “King Andrew. Clearly, Jackson overstepped his power because of his defiance against the Supreme Court, he was demonstrating power of both judicial and executive branch of government, which violates checks and balances. This not only violates checks and balances but it also threatens the Native Americans inequality as well. However that wasn’t the only time Jackson abused his power, during his presidency, Jackson vetoed 12 bills whereas all the previous presidency before him combined, vetoed 10 bills.
Ultimately this shows that Jacksonian Democrats were not the guardians of the United States Constitution because they misused their power by violating the laws of the Constitution. Not only were they not guardian of the Constitution, but they also weren’t the guardians of political democracy. In order to improve the American System a few changes were made. But Jackson wasn’t the one who was responsible for these positive reforms, the states were. Many states had strict voting requirements at this time such that only rich, white, male, Christians who owned land could vote.
These requirements were very confined and restricted, therefore many weren’t pleased with these requirements. In the 1820’s these requirements all changes. Voters would no longer be required to own property. In addition, private ballots were created whereas before there were public ballots. Even though Jackson was the advocated for the common man, he was not responsible for the major changes that helped the average American gain representation (Document A). Not only did Jackson’s action contradict his belief but he also violates the Constitution by over using his veto power.
This contradicts the promise to in protect American republican form of governments, which emphasized states’ rights. Despite their claim, Jacksonian Democrats to a certain extent didn’t abide by providing individual liberty for all. In 1830 the Indian Removal Act called for the removal of resisting Southern Native American tribes from their home land, this lead to the Trail of Tears. The Native Americans endured poor, unfamiliar terrain in the west. This sad journey made by the Native American towards Oklahoma was a ghastly situation (Document G).
Many faced dieses, harsh winter and famine, approximately one quarter was killed along the way. Clearly Jacksonians didn’t display individual liberty because they killed many Native Americans and compelled them to capitulate their land to them. In doing this he favored white settlers which clearly did not protect individual liberty for all Americans. In addition, not only did Jacksonians violate the liberty of Native Americans but also of others as well. It would be both irrational and naive to assume that the ideals of Jacksonian Democrats were without a flaw. This holds true for the period of 1820 to the 1830 as well.
A number of middle class citizens misinterpreted democratic reforms as an opportunity to disregard the law (Document E). Middle class citizens who took advantage of individual rights caused chaos and destruction. It must be expected that some people are unable to handle privileges of individualism. This is the same principle that holds true for the Acts and Resolution of South Carolina in 1835 (Document F). While Jacksonian Democrats believed that the only way to reform society was through constitutional means, South Carolina did not abide by the same convictions.
Instead, they use individual liberty to over-rule the government. The South Carolina legislature decided to nullify the Post office department, which violates the first amendment of the constitution, and outlawed abolition movements thereby denying freedom of speech. So it is safe to say that only to a certain extent did Jacksonian Democrats provide individual liberty for all. In addition, certainly many common working people were satisfied with Jackson’s attempt to protect their equality of economic opportunity from the rich, during the age of the market revolution.
They believed that Jackson was the epitome of the common man as is evident in “The Working Men’s Declaration of Independence” of 1829 (Document A). Many lauded Jackson, they viewed him as true to his ideals, and to some extent he must have been so. In 1837, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, a democrat hand-picked by Jackson, once again demonstrated that the Jacksonians did stay true to his ideals. In the land mark case of Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge of 1837 (Document H), equality opportunity was adamantly defended.
The case involving a supposed monopoly on Charles River was resolved by a ruling that new enterprises could not be restrained by implied privileges under old characters. Thus, the committee was put above the individual corporations and equality of opportunity prevailed. Clearly Jacksonian Democrats did provide equality of economic opportunity for all. However, Jackson claimed that he would help farmers who were hurt by wealthy merchants but his response to the Nullification Crisis and the Bank War did not support the farmers.
Jackson forced tariffs on famers in South Carolina to accept higher prices that came with the tax on foreign sellers. Furthermore, Jackson’s vetoing of a bill to re-new the National Bank ended up harming the economy and the many Americans, both rich and poor. Jackson believed in that vetoing the bank would stabilize and equalize the wealth and power in society (Document B). Jackson’s dismantling of the National Bank didn’t have an immediate effect but it resulted in the Panic on 1837. As a result while Jackson promised to restore the wealth back to America, he ended up hurting the economy.
Thus, we can conclude that Jacksonians were not fully defender of economic opportunity. Jacksonian claimed that they were guardians of the United States Constitution, political democracy, individual liberty and economic opportunity and in many ways they were. But in other ways, which should not be ignored, Jacksonian Democrats flagrantly defied their views of themselves. In contrary Jackson’s ’failure to live up to his democratic and libertarian ideals over the issue of slavery kept the nation on a rout to war from which it would soon be unable to turn back.
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