When the Federalists had dominated, democracy was not respected, but by the 1820s, it was widely appealing.
Politicians now had to bend to appease and appeal to the masses, and the popular ones were the ones who claimed to be born in log cabins and had humble backgrounds.
Those who were aristocratic (too clean, too well dressed, too grammatical, to highly intellectual) were scorned.
Western Indian fighters and/or militia commanders, like Andrew Jackson, Davy Crocket, and William Henry Harrison, were quite popular.
Jacksonian Democracy said that whatever governing that was to be done should be done directly to the people.
Called the New Democracy, it was based on universal manhood suffrage.
In 1791, Vermont became the first state admitted to the union to allow all white males to vote in the elections.
While the old bigwigs who used to have power sneered at the “coonskin congressmen” and the “bipeds of the forest,” the new democrats argued that if they messed up, they messed up together and were not victims of aristocratic domination.
Nourishing the New Democracy
The flowering the political democracy was in part caused the logical outgrowth of the egalitarian ideas that had taken root in colonial times.
The steady growth of the market economy also nourished it.
More and more people understood how banks, tariffs, and internal improvements affected the quality of their lives.
The panic of 1819 and the Missouri Compromise of 1820 also helped it grow.
In the panic of 1819, overextended banks had called back their debts, and often, farmers unable to pay up lost their farms while the bankers didn’t have to lose their property because they simply suspended their own payments, and the apparent favoritism caused outcry.
The problem with Missouri had aroused Southern awareness to how the North could try to crush their slavery once and for all.
During the Jacksonian era, voter turnout rose dramatically, as clear political parties developed and new styles of politicking emerged.
In 1824, only ¼ of all eligible voters voted, but that numbered doubled 4 years later.
Candidates increasingly used banners, badges, parades, barbecues, free drinks, and baby kissing in order to “get the vote.”
Now, more members of the Electoral College were being chosen directly by the people rather than be state legislatures.
Since secret meetings now became unpopular, presidential nominations by congressional caucus emerged predominantly.
Briefly, nominations were made by some of the state legislatures, but by 1831, the first of the circuslike national nominating conventions were held.
The Adams-Clay “Corrupt” Bargaining.
In the election of 1824, there were four towering candidates: Andrew Jackson of Tennessee, Henry Clay of Kentucky, William H. Crawford of Georgia, and John Q. Adams of Mass.
All four called themselves Republicans.
In the results, Jackson got the most popular votes and the most electoral votes, but he failed to get the majority in the Electoral College. Adams came in second in both, while Crawford was fourth in the popular vote but third in the electoral votes. Clay was 4th in the electoral vote.
By the 12th Amendment, the top three Electoral vote getters would be voted upon in the House of Reps. and the majority (over 50%) would be elected president.
Clay was eliminated, but he was the Speaker of the House, and since Crawford has recently suffered a paralytic stroke and Clay hated Jackson, he threw his support behind John Q. Adams, helping him become president.
When Clay was appointed Secretary of the State, traditional stepping-stone to the presidency, Jacksonians cried foul play.
John Randolph publicly assailed the alliance between Adams and Clay.
Evidence against any possible deal has never been found, but both men flawed their reputations.
A Yankee Misfit in the White House
John Quincy Adams was a man of puritanical honor, and he had achieved high office by commanding respect rather than by boasting great popularity.
During his administration, he only removed 12 public servants from the federal payroll, thus refusing to kick out efficient officeholders in favor of his own, possibly less efficient, supporters.
In his first annual message, Adams urged Congress on the construction of roads and canals, proposed for a national university, and advocated support for an astronomical observatory.
Public reaction was mixed: roads were good, but observatories weren’t important, and Southerners knew that if the government did anything, it would have to continue collecting tariffs.
With land, Adams tried to curb overspeculation on land, much to Westerners’ anger, even though he was doing it for their own good, and with the Cherokee Indians, he tried to deal fairly with them and the state of Georgia successfully resisted federal attempts to help the Cherokees.
The Tricky “Tariff of Abominations”
In 1824, Congress had increased the general tariff from 23% to 37%, but wool manufactures still wanted higher tariffs.
In the Tariff of 1828, the Jacksonians schemed to drive up duties to as high as 45% while imposing heavy tariffs on raw materials like wool, so that even New England, where it was needed, would vote the bill down and give Adams another political black eye.
However, the New Englanders spoiled the plan and passed the law (amended).
Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun reversed their positions from 1816, with Webster supporting the tariff and Calhoun being against it.
The Southerners immediately branded it as the “Tariff of Abominations.”
In 1822, Denmark Vesey, a free Black, had led an ominous slave rebellion in Charleston.
The South mostly complained because it was now the least expanding of the sections.
Cotton prices were falling and land was growing scarce.
The Tariff Yoke in the South
Southerners sold their cotton and other products without tariffs, while the products that they bought were heavily tariffed.
Tariffs led the U.S. to buy less British products and vice versa, but it did help the Northeast prosper so that it could be more of the South’s products.
John C. Calhoun secretly wrote “The South Carolina Exposition” in 1828, boldly denouncing the recent tariff and calling for nullification of the tariff by all states.
However, South Carolina was alone in this nullification threat, since Andrew Jackson had been elected two weeks earlier, and was expected to sympathize with the South.
Going “Whole Hog” for Jackson in 1828”
Jacksonians argued, “Should the people rule?” and said that the Adams-Clay bargaining four years before had cheated the people out of the rightful victor.
They successfully turned public opinion against an honest and honorable prez.
However, Adams’ supporters also hit below the belt, even though Adams himself wouldn’t stoop to that level.
The called his mom a prostitute, called him an adulterer (he had married his wife thinking that her divorce had been granted, only to discover two years later that it hadn’t been), and after he got elected, his wife died, and Jackson blamed Adams’ men who had slandered Andrew Jackson on Rachel Jackson’s death; he never forgave them.
John Q. Adams had purchased, with his own money and for his own use, a billiard table and a set of chessmen, but the Jacksonians had seized, criticizing Adams’ incessant spending.
The Jacksonian “Revolution of 1828”
Jackson got 647,286 popular votes to Adams’ 508,064 and he also beat John in the Electoral College, 178 to 83.
Jackson had support from the West and South, while New England liked Adams.
The political center of gravity was shifting west, as Jackson had won because of his support by the West (well, they played a large part in it anyway).
Jackson sped up the process of transferring national power from the countinghouse to the farmhouse, and became the “People’s President,” not the aristocrat.
Adams still had a distinguished political career after presidency, getting elected to the House of Reps. of Massachusetts, and when he died in 1848, his funeral was the greatest pageant Washington D.C. had ever seen, and his popularity was greater near then end of his political career than during its zenith.
The Advent of “Old Hickory” Jackson
When he became president, Andrew Jackson had already battled dysentery, malaria, tuberculosis, and lead poisoning from two bullets lodged somewhere in his body.
He personified the new West: rough, jack-of-all-trades, a genuine folk hero.
Jackson had been early orphaned, was interested in cockfighting as a kid, and wasn’t really good with reading and writing, sometimes misspelling the same word twice in one letter.
He went to Tennessee, where he became a judge and a Congressman, and his passions were so profound that he could choke up on the floor.
A man with a violent temper, he got into many duels, fights, stabbings, etc…
He was a Western aristocrat, having owned many slaves, and lived in a fine mansion, the Hermitage, and he shared many of the prejudices of the masses.
He was called “Old Hickory” by his troops because of his toughness.
He was anti-federalist, believing that it was for the privileged only, but maintained the sacredness of the Union and the federal power over the states, but he welcomed the western democracy.
Jackson commanded fear and respect from his subordinates, and ignored the Supreme Court on several occasions; he also used the veto 12 times (compared to a combined 10 times by his predecessors) and on his inauguration, he let commoners come into the White House.
They wrecked the china and caused chaos until they heard that there was spiked punch on the White House front lawn; thus was the “inaugural bowl.”
Conservatives condemned Jackson as “King Mob” and berated him greatly.
Jackson Nationalizes the Spoils System
The spoils system: rewarding supporters with good positions in office.
Jackson believed that experience counted, but that young blood and sharp eyes counted more, and thus, he went to work on overhauling positions and erasing the old.
Not since the election of 1800 had a new party been voted into the presidency, and even then, many positions had stayed and not changed.
More Victors than Spoils
Though he wanted to “wipe the slate clean,” only 1/5 of the men were sent home, and clean sweeps would come later, but there was always people hounding Jackson for positions, and those who were discharged often went mad, killed themselves, or had a tough time with it.
The spoils system denied many able people a chance to contribute.
Samuel Swartwout was awarded the lucrative post of collector of the customs of the port of New York, and nearly nine years later, he fled for England, leaving his accounts more than a million dollars short, becoming the first person to steal a million dollars from the government.
The spoils system was built up by gifts from expectant party members, and the system secured such a tenacious hold that it took more than 50 years before its grip was even loosened.
Cabinet Crises and Nationalistic Setbacks
Jackson had a mediocre cabinet, except for secretary of state Martin Van Buren, who was called “Matty” by Jackson and the “Little Magician” by his enemies.
He often consulted with newspaper editors who kept him up to date with his critics and the public opinion, though enemies criticized this perfectly okay thing.
In 1831, the “Eaton Malaria” struck as a scandal: Secretary of War John H. Eaton had married Peggy O’Neale, a woman with whom scandal was linked, who was then scorned upon by the ladies of Jackson’s official family.
Jackson tried to intervene on Peggy’s behalf, but had to accept defeat.
Van Buren then began to pay special attention to pretty Peggy O’Neale, and in the subsequent scandal, Jackson turned increasingly against Calhoun, breaking with him completely eventually when Calhoun resigned as VP in 1832, one year after his followers were purged from the cabinet.
Calhoun turned increasingly sectionalist.
Jackson was hostile to roads and canals; he let interstate roads be constructed, but roads inside states only were vetoed.
In 1830, when he vetoed a bill for improving the Maysville Road, it was a signal victory for eastern and southern states’ rightism in its struggle with Jackson’s own west.
The Webster-Hayne Forensic Duel
Concerned at the power and population draining out of it and into the West, in 1829, New England proposed a resolution designed to curb the sale of public lands.
The South, siding with the West against rival Northeast, had Robert Y. Hayne, a South Carolinian, who noted New England’s disloyalty in the War of 1812, the “Tariff of Abominations,” and New England’s inconsistent tariffs, and also called for nullification.
Daniel Webster, for New England, insisted that the people and not the states had framed the Constitution, and decried nullification; he awesomely pleaded for the Union, ending with “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable.”
Both men were great for their sections, and both were correct on things as they were at the time, though not necessarily on how they were in the past.
Webster’s speech was reprinted and its ideas seared into countless northerners like 21 year-old Abraham Lincoln, and helped win the Civil War years before it occurred by implanting the idea for the Union to fight for: preservation of it.
Jackson, who had been silent for a while, was to be coaxed through some toasts in his honor so that he’d speak up for the states’ rights.
Forewarned, he declared “Our Union: It must be preserved!” and dealt a huge blow to the scheme of the states’ rights advocates.
Jacksonian Era 2
~ 1830 – 1840 ~
“Nullies” in South Carolina
South Carolinians, still scornful toward the Tariff of 1828, attempted to garner the necessary two-thirds majority to nullify it in the S.C. legislature, but determined Unionists blocked them.
In response to the anger at the “Tariff of Abominations,” Congress passed the Tariff of 1832, which did away with the worst parts of the Tariff of 1828, such as lowering the tariff down to 35%, a reduction of 10%, but many southerners still hated it.
In the elections of 1832, the Nullies came out with a two-thirds majority over the Unionists, met in the state legislature, and declared the Tariff of 1832 to be void within S.C. boundaries.
They also threatened with secession against the Union, causing a huge problem.
President Jackson issued a ringing proclamation against S.C., to which governor Hayne issued a counter-proclamation, and civil war loomed dangerously.
To compromise and prevent Jackson from crushing S.C. and becoming more popular, the president’s rival, Henry Clay, proposed a compromise bill that would gradually reduce the Tariff of 1832 by about 10% over a period of eight years, so that by 1842 the rates would be down to 20% to 25%.
The Tariff of 1833 narrowly squeezed through Congress.
However, to save face, Congress also passed the Force Bill (aka the “Bloody Bill”) that authorized the president to use the army and navy, if necessary, to collect tariffs.
No other states had supported South Carolina’s stance of possible secession, though Georgia and Virginia toyed with the idea.
Finally, S.C. repealed the nullification ordinance.
A Victory for Both Union and Nullification
The Unionists felt that they had won, since Jackson had appeased the South Carolinians and avoided civil war and an armed clash.
The Nullists felt that they had won too, since they had succeeded in lowering the tariff without losing principle; the people of Charleston, the “Cradle of Secession,” threw a gala for its volunteer troops, though they now ominously considered secession more than nullification.
Generations later, many people felt that if S.C. had been crushed, there would have been no Civil War, since it would not have been so brazen and arrogant and haughty.
The Bank as a Political Football
Jackson and his followers distrusted monopolistic banking and oversized businesses.
He was especially wary of the Bank of the United States (BUS).
In 1832, Henry Clay, in a strategy to bring Jackson’s popularity down so that he could defeat him for presidency, rammed a bill for the re-chartering of the BUS—four years early.
He felt that if Jackson signed it, he’d alienate his followers, and if he vetoed it, he’d lose the supports of the “best people” of the East.
He failed to realize that the West held more power now, not the East.
The re-charter bill passed through Congress easily, but Jackson demolished in a scorching veto that condemned the BUS as unconstitutional (despite political foe John Marshall’s ruling that it was okay), and anti-American.
The veto amplified the power of the president by ignoring the Supreme Court and aligned the West against the East.
Brickbats and Bouquets for the Bank
The BUS, led by Nicholas Biddle, was harsh on the volatile western “wildcat” banks that churned out unstable money, and seemed pretty autocratic and out of touch with America during its New Democracy era, and it was corrupt.
Nicholas Biddle cleverly lent U.S. funds to friends, and often used the money of the BUS to bribe people, like the press.
However, the bank was financially sound, reduced bank failures, issued sound notes, promoted economic expansion by making abundant credit, and was a safe depository for the funds of the Washington government.
It was highly important and useful, though sometimes not necessarily pure and wholesome.
“Old Hickory” Wallops Clay in 1832
Jackson’s supporters again raised the hickory pole while Clay’s men detracted Jackson’s dueling, gambling, cockfighting, and fast living.
However, a new third party, the Anti-Masonic Party, made its entrance for the first time.
Opposed to the fearsome secrecy of the Masonic order, it was energized by the mysterious murder of someone who threatened to expose the Freemason’s secrets.
While sharing Jacksonian ideals, they were against Jackson, a Mason.
Also, they were supported by churches hoping to pass religious reform.
Also for the first time, national conventions were held to nominate candidates.
Clay had the money and the “support” of the press, but the poor people voted too, and Jackson won handily, handing Clay his third loss in three tries.
Badgering Biddle’s Bank
Hoping to kill the BUS, Jackson now began to withdraw federal funds from the bank, so as to drain it of its wealth; in reaction, Biddle began to call for unnecessary loans, personally causing a mini panic.
Jackson won, and in 1836, the Bus breathed its last breaths, but because it had been the only source of sure credit in the United States, hard times fell upon the West once the BUS died, since the wildcat banks were very unreliable.
Transplanting the Tribes
By 1830, the U.S. population stood at 13 million, and as states emerged, the Indians were stranded.
Federal policy officially was to acquire land from the Indians through formal treaties, but too many times, they were tricked.
Many people respected the Indians, though, and tried to Christianize them.
i.e. the Society for Propagating the Gospel Among Indians (est. 1787).
Some Indians violently resisted, but the Cherokees were among the few that tried to adopt the Americans ways, adopting a system of settled agriculture, devising an alphabet, legislating legal code in 1808, and adopting a written constitution in 1827.
The Cherokees, the Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and the Seminoles were known as the “Five Civilized Tribes.”
However, in 1828, Congress declared the Cherokee tribal council illegal, and asserted its own jurisdiction over Indian lands and affairs, and even though the Cherokees appealed to and won in the Supreme Court, Jackson refused to recognize the decision.
Jackson, though, still harbored some sentiment of Indians, and proposed that they be bodily transferred west of the Mississippi, where they could preserve the culture, and in 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, in which Indians were moved to Oklahoma.
Thousands of Indians died on the “Trail of Tears” after being uprooted from their sacred lands that had been theirs for centuries.
Also, the Bureau of Indian Affairs was established in 1836 deal with Indians.
In 1832, in Illinois and Wisconsin, the Sauk and Fox tribes revolted but were crushed.
From 1835 to 1842, the Seminoles waged guerrilla warfare against the U.S., but were broken after their leader, Osceola, was seized; some fled deeper in Florida; others moved to Okla.
The Lone Star of Texas Flickers
Americans continued to covet Texas, and in 1823, after Mexico had gained independence from Spain, Stephen Austin had made an understanding agreement with the Mexican government to bring about 300 families into a huge tract of granted land to settle and eventually become Mexicanized; these stipulations were largely ignored.
The Texans (among them Davy Crockett and James Bowie) resented the “foreign” government, but they were led by Sam Houston, a man whose wife had left him.
In 1830, Mexico freed its slaves and prohibited them in Texas, much to the anger of citizens.
In 1833, Stephen Austin went to Mexico City to clear up differences and was jailed for 8 mo.
In 1835, dictator Santa Anna started to raise an army to suppress the Texans; the next year, they declared their independence.
After armed conflict and slaughters at the Alamo and at Goliad, Texan war cries rallied citizens, volunteers, and soldiers, and the turning point came after Sam Houston led his army for 37 days eastward, then turned on the Mexicans, taking advantage of their siesta hour, wiping them out, and capturing Santa Anna.
The treaty he was forced to sign was later negated by him on grounds that the treaty was extorted under duress.
Texas: An International Conflict.
Texas was supported in their war by the United States, but Jackson was hesitant to formally recognize Texas as an independent nation until he had secured Martin Van Buren as his successor, but after he succeeded, Jackson did indeed recognize Texas on his last day before he left office, in 1837.
Many Texans wanted to become part of the Union, but the slavery issue blocked this.
The end was an unsettled predicament in which Texans feared the return of Santa Anna.
The Birth of the Whigs and the Election of 1836
The Jacksonians were beginning to drop the “Republican” out of their party name and were now going by the name of Democrats.
Their opposition coalesced into the Whigs, a group united only by their opposition to Jackson and, at first, led by Clay and John C. Calhoun.
As the election of 1836 neared, the Whigs planned to put so many candidates (favorite sons) that no one would get a full majority; the leading “favorite son” was William H. Harrison.
Jackson rigged the election, and his favorite, Martin Van Buren, was elected president despite promising to follow in Jackson’s footsteps.
The Jacksonians supported him half-heartedly.
Jackson’s legacy: he bolstered the power of the presidency and the executive branch; united the Democratic party; proved that the people could be trusted with the vote; and showed the courage that won votes, but he also inflicted massive damage on the nation’s financial system by killing the BUS.
Big Woes for the “Little Magician”
Van Buren was the first president to have been born in America, but he lacked the support of many Democrats and Jackson’s popularity.
A rebellion in Canada in 1837 threatened to plunge America into war, and Van Buren also inherited the depression caused by Jackson’s BUS killing.
The panic of 1837 was caused by the “wildcat banks” loans, the overspeculation, the “Bank War,” and the Specie Circular.
Failures of wheat crops caused by the Hessian fly also worsened the situation, and the failure of two large British Banks in 1836 had already started the panic going.
Hundreds of banks fell, including some of Jackson’s “pet banks,” banks that had received the money that Jackson had withdrawn from the BUS to kill it.
The Whigs proposed expansion of bank credit, higher tariffs, and subsidies for internal improvements, but Van Buren spurned such ideas.
Instead, he proposed the “Divorce Bill” (separating the bank from the government and storing money in some of the vaults of the larger American cities, thus keeping the money safe but also unavailable) that advocated the independent treasury, and in 1840, it was passed.
The next year, the victorious Whigs repealed it, but in 1846, it was brought back; it finally merged with the Federal Reserve System in the next century.
“Tippecanoe” Versus “Little Van”
In 1840, William Harrison was nominated due to his being issueless and enemyless, with John Tyler as his running mate.
A stupid Democratic editor also helped Harrison’s cause when he called the candidate a poor old farmer with hard cider and inadvertently made him look like many poor Westerners.
The Log Cabins and Hard Cider of 1840
With slogans of “Tippecanoe and Tyler too,” the Whigs advocated this “poor man’s president” idea and replied, to such questions of the bank, internal improvements, and the tariff, with answers of “log cabin,” “hard cider,” and “Harrison is a poor man.”
The popular election was close, but Harrison blew Van Buren away in the Electoral College.
Basically, the election was a protest against the hard times of the era.
The Two-Party System Emerges
The Democrats had so successfully absorbed the Federalist ideas before that a true two party system had never emerged—until now.
Glorified the liberty of the individual.
Clung to states’ rights and federal restraint in social and economic affairs.
Mostly more humble, poorer folk.
Trumpeted the natural harmony of society and the value of community.
Berated leaders whose appeals and self-interest fostered conflict among individuals.
Favored a renewed national bank, protective tariffs, internal improvements, public schools, and moral reforms.