Guiding Questions: Jacksonian America pg 249-256

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Guiding Questions: Jacksonian America pg 249-256

  1. Create a CHART that lists the major components of Whig and Democratic political philosophies. Add to it a list of chief constituents of each party and identify the parts of the country from which they came.




  • Opposition of Jackson’s use of power

  • Denounced him as “King Jackson I”

  • Named after Whig party in England, which had traditionally worked to limit the power of the king

  • Favored expanding power to the federal gov’t

  • Encouraged industrial and commercial development, and kitting the country together in a consolidated economic system

  • Embraced material progress but were cautious about westward expansion, fearful that rapid territorial growth would produce instability

  • Vision of America was a nation embracing the industrial future and rising to world greatness as a commercial and manufacturing power

  • Inclined to support legislation establishing banks, corporations, and other modernizing institutions

  • Democrats envisioned a future of steadily expanding economic and political opportunities for white males

  • They thought the role of government should be limited, but should include efforts to remove obstacles to opportunity and to avoid creating new ones

  • That meant defending the Union, which Jacksonian believed was essential to the dynamic economic growth they favored

  • Also meant attacking centers of corrupt privilege

  • Some radicals wanted a vigorous, perhaps even violent assault on monopoly and privilege far in advance of anything Jackson himself had ever considered

Chief constituents

  • Substantial merchants and manufacturers of the Northeast

  • Wealthier planters of the South (who favored commercial development and the strengthening of ties with the North)

  • And the ambitious farmers and rising commercial class of the West – usually migrants from the North

  • The Democrats drew more support from smaller merchants and the workingmen of the Northeast

  • From southern planters suspicious of industrial growth

  • From westerners with southern roots who favored a predominantly agrarian economy and opposed the development of powerful economic institutions in their region

Part of the country

  • Came from all over (as seen above) – however, most of the ideals of the party came from Northern ideals, and the power of industry

  • Again, spread out through the nation, but drew power from the south in small farmers

  1. Why did the Whigs attach themselves to the Anti-Masons?

The Whigs attached themselves to the Anti-Mason in order to use the new movement for political gain. Both Whigs and Democrats were more interested in winning elections than in maintaining philosophical purity, so the Whigs recognized the Anti-Masonry movement in order to launch harsh attacks on both Jackson and Van Buren, who were both Freemasons. In doing so, the Whigs implied that the Democrats were part of the antidemocratic conspiracy (that the Anti-Masons considered the Freemasons). In the process, the Whigs presented themselves as opponents of aristocracy and exclusivity; attacking the Democrats with the Democrats’ own viewpoint.

  1. Which cultural and religious groups were attracted to the Democratic Party and why? to the Whig Party and why?

Irish and German Catholics, whom were among the largest of the recent immigrant groups, mostly supported the Democrats, who shared their won vague aversion to commercial development and entrepreneurial progress, and who seemed to respect their family and community centered values and habits. On the contrary, Evangelical Protestants gravitated towards the Whigs because they associated the party with constant development and improvement, goals their own faith embraced.

  1. What were the major components of Clay's "American System?"

The major component of Clay’s American System was to create a program for internal improvement s and economic development. Clay’s program concentrated on making America a strong, united economy, with strong federal rule. Its goal was to facilitate the spread of industrialism and meld it with agriculture to create a powerful, Central American economy. However, Clay’s image as a devious operator and his identification with the West proved serious liabilities. He ran for president three times but never won. Daniel Webster, the greatest orator of the era, won broad support with his passionate speeches in defense of the Constitution and the Union, but his close connection with the Bank of the United States and the protective tariff, in addition to his reliance on rich men for financial aid and his excessive and often embarrassing fondness for brandy prevented him from developing enough a national credit to win him the office he desired. John C. Calhoun, the third member of what became known as the Great Triumvirate, never considered himself a true Whig, and his identification with the nullification controversy in effect disqualified him form national leadership in any case.

  1. What was the Whig strategy in the election of 1836? Who was their candidate? Why was he selected?

The Whig strategy in the election of 1836 was to draw enough votes away from Martin Van Buren to prevent him form getting a majority, and to throw the election to the House of Representatives, where the Whigs might be able to elect one of their own leaders. Since the Whigs couldn’t even decide on a single candidate, they ran three, hoping to profit form the regional strength of each. Webster represented the party in New England, Hugh Lawson White of Tennessee ran in the South, and the former Indian fighter and war hero of the War of 1812 form Ohio, William Henry Harrison, was the candidate in the middle states and the West.

  1. What were the results of the 1836 presidential election?

Martin Van Buren decidedly won the election, with 170 electoral votes to 124 of all his opponents combined. Van Buren decisively won, replacing Andrew Jackson, who retired form public life in 1827 as the most beloved political figure of his age. However, Van Buren was very different, and far less fortunate than his predecessor; he was never able to match Jackson’s personal popularity, and his administration encountered economic difficulties that devastated the Democrats and helped the Whigs.

  1. What was the general condition of the American economy in 1836? What factors contributed to that condition?

The general condition of the American economy in 1836 was that it was on a nationwide economic boom, reaching its height in that year. Canal and railroad builders were at a peak of activity, prices were rising, money was plentiful, and credit was easy as banks increased their loans and notes with little regard to their reserves of cash. The land business, in particular, was improving; between 1835 and 1837, the government sold nearly 40 million acres of public land, nearly three-fourths to speculators, who purchased large land tracts in hopes of reselling them at a profit. These land sales, in addition to revenues the government received form the tariff of 1833, created a series of substantial federal budget surpluses and made a steady reduction of the national debt possible; form 1835 to 1837, the government for the first and only time in its history was out of debt, with a substantial surplus in the treasury.

  1. What caused the Panic of 1837? What effect did it have on the nation? on the Democratic Party?

The Distribution Act caused the Panic of 1837. I 1836, Congress passed a “distribution” act requiring the federal government to pay its surplus funds to the states each year in four quarterly installments as interest-free, unsecured loans; no one expected the “loans” to be repaid. The states spent the money quickly, mainly to encourage construction of highways, railroads, and canals. The distribution of the surplus had so far given further stimulus to the economic boom. At the same time, the withdrawal of federal funds strained the state banks in which they had been deposited by the government, and these banks had to call in their own loans to make the transfer of funds to the state governments. Congress did nothing to check the speculative fever, and in 1836, not long before leaving office, Jackson issued a presidential order, the “specie circular”, which provided that in payment for public lands the government would only accept gold or silver coins or currency securely backed by gold or silver. Jackson was right to fear the speculative fever, but was very wrong in believing the specie circular act would cure it; the order actually produced a financial panic that began in the first months of Van Buren’s presidency. Hundreds of banks and businesses failed, unemployment grew, bread riots broke out in larger cities, prices (especially of land) fell, and many railroad and canal projects failed. Several of the debt-burdened sate governments ceased to pay interest on their bonds, and a few repudiated their debts. It was the worst depression in US history to that point, lasting for five years. It resulted in a political catastrophe for Van Buren and the Democrats.

  1. What programs did Martin Van Buren propose? How did these proposals reflect the balance of power in the Democratic Party?

Van Buren proposed a program called the “independent treasury” or the “Subtreasruy”. This was his creation of a new financial system to replace eth Bank of the United States. Under Ban Buren’s plan, the government would place its funds in an independent treasury at Washington and in sub treasuries in other cities. No private banks would have the government’s money or name to use as a basis for speculation; the government and the banks could be separated. Van Buren called a special session of Congress in 1837 to consider the proposal, which failed in the House. In 1840, the last year of Van Buren’s presidency, the administration finally succeeded in driving the measure through both houses of Congress.

  1. How did the "penny press" capture the spirit of the "Age of Jackson?"

The “penny press” captured the spirit of the “Age of Jackson” by illustrating how fully the concept of party competition had arisen in America. The penny press campaign showed that America politics had reached the point where immediate political needs were more important than the ideology of the party. The penny press was a news campaign, which carried news of the candidates to a larger audience of workers and trades people, not just the richer people who could afford newspapers. This campaign reflected the political ideal of America: that parties only cared about winning elections and survival of the party, not the validity of party ideology. Both parties presented themselves as the party of the common people, and both used the same techniques of mass voter appeal; the same evocation of simple, rustic values. Philosophical purity no longer mattered, but now the ability to win votes was most important. This reflected the Jackson age by showing the development of political parties, and the constant battle for votes during the age.

  1. Why did the Whigs select William Henry Harrison as their presidential candidate in 1840? How did his campaign set a new pattern for presidential contests?

The Whigs selected William Henry Harrison as their presidential candidate in 1840 because he was the strongest candidate in the previous election, and was a renowned soldier, a famous Indian fighter, and a popular national figure. The Whigs passed over Henry Clay because of his controversial topics, and instead chose Harrison and John Tyler of Virginia for vice president. Harrison was a descendant of the Virginia aristocracy but had spent his adult life in the Northwest. The Whigs disguised Harrison as a man of the people - a man born in a log cabin who enjoyed drinking hard cider from a jug. This disguise allowed Harrison to win the election, 234 electoral votes to Van Buren’s 60, although Harrison barely captured the popular vote with 53%.

  1. What was the legislative program that Clay and the leading Whigs hoped to institute under Tyler? On what parts did Tyler agree? disagree?

The legislative program that Clay and the leading Whigs hoped to institute under Tyler was the attempt to recharter of the BUS. Tyler agreed to bills abolishing Van Buren’s independent treasury system, and also agreed to raise tariff rates, but he did not agree with the rechartering of the second BUS, and also vetoed several internal improvement bills that Clay and other congressional Whigs sponsored.

  1. What was the origin of the split between Tyler and Clay? What effect did it have on the administration? on the Whig Party?

The origin of the split between Tyler and Clay was the disagreements over the different Bills and the rechartering of the BUS. This all originated because Tyler was originally a Democrat who left the party in reaction to Jackson’s excessively egalitarian program and imperious methods, however, these Democratic tendencies again poked through in his presidential issues, and as a result, the Whigs responded by reading Tyler out of the party. Every cabinet member except for Webster resigned. When Webster finally left, Tyler appointed Calhoun, who had rejoined the Democratic Party. As a result, the Whig party was out of the Presidency, and a new political alignment was emerging. Tyler and a small band of conservative southern Whigs were preparing to rejoin the Democrats by joining the “common man’s party” of Jackson and Van Buren was a faction that had aristocratic political ideas, who thought that the government had an obligation to protect, and even expand, the institution of slavery, and who believed in states’ rights with fanatical devotion.

  1. What were the accomplishments of Whig diplomacy?

The accomplishments of Whig diplomacy were that they managed to keep relative peace and avoid war with Great Britain throughout many different potential lethal affairs. The Whig party, especially Webster, helped to negotiate a treaty in order to end the “Aroostook War”, which prevented a bigger war between the two nations. This was called the “Webster-Ashburton Treaty”, which also solved the problem of the Creole incident. The new government that had come to power in Great Britain wanted to reduce the tensions with the US, and in 1842, sent Lord Ashburton, an admirer of America, to negotiate an agreement on the Maine boundary and other matters. The result of his negotiations with Secretary of State Webster and representatives form Maine and Massachusetts was the Webster-Ashburton Treaty, which established a firm northern boundary between the US and Canada along the Maine-New Brunswick border that continued to this day. This new border gave the US more than half of the previously disputed territory, and other provisions placated Maine and Massachusetts and protected critical trade routes in both the northern US and southern Canada. The Webster-Ashburton treaty was generally popular in America, and as a result of the treaty, Anglo-American relations improved greatly.

  1. How did the advent of the "penny press" reflect the social, technological, and cultural changes taking place in America during the 1820s and 1830s?

The advent of the “penny press” began a new history of journalism an age in which cheap newspapers, describing news of cities or towns, would spread throughout the US. Previously, most newspapers were made for and paid for by the upper class. The penny press reflected the new technologic change in the US, by showing the power of the steam-powered cylinder printing press, new machines for making paper, railroads, and canals, allowed distribution to a larger market, and allowed printing products to go much faster. The printing press also showed the social aspect of a rising literacy rate as a result in part of the spread of public education, creating a bigger reading public. The spread of the urban, market economy contributed to the growth of the penny press by drawing large populations of workers, artisans, and clerks into large cites, which became an important part of the newspaper market. The spirit of democracy helped create an appetite for journalism that spoke to the common person instead of to the upper class. Through the advent of the printing press, it is easy to see the social, technological, and cultural changes that were taking place in America during the 1820s and 1830s.

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