The jackson game

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A simulation game on the period from 1829 to 1840


The Jackson Game is a simulation based on the period between 1829 and 1840. Commonly known as the Jacksonian Era, the time period is one of the most fascinating, confusing, and exciting time periods in American history. Your task, should you choose to accept it and you must accept it, is to help clear up some of that confusion while maintaining the fascination and excitement. Each of you will plan an important role in this game. Some will be political leaders—playing the parts of John Quincy Adams, John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, and Daniel Webster. Others will play members of the political blocs of the period—Northern industrialists, South Carolina slaveholders, fire-eaters, debtor farmers, laborers, Virginia slaveholders, Unionists and free black abolitionists. There is no “right way” for the game to end. That is the fun of it. As it happened, many of the early struggles were won by the Jackson forces but eventually, the Whigs captured the Presidency in 1840. Anything can happen here, and anyone can win the game.



John Quincy Adams Andrew Jackson John C. Calhoun

Henry Clay Martin Van Buren Daniel Webster


Northern Industrialist and Small Debtor Farmer Eastern Urban

Stockholder in 2BUS from Illinois Laborer
South Carolina slave-holder Virginia slave holder and small cotton farmer

and Fire-eater Unionist from Tennessee

Free black abolitionist from

Massachusetts and writer for

The Liberator


Over a three day period next week, the class will address four of the most important crises facing the Jackson administration, and it will address these crises from a number of perspectives. You will need to research each crisis and understand your character’s position on the issue. Then, as we begin to play the game, it will be the task of the “leaders” to state their positions, and it will be the task of the “voting blocs” to ask questions of the leaders and determine which leader best represents each bloc’s interest. At the end of the debate on the fourth crisis, the leader who enjoys the most support from the different voting blocs will be named the winner.


Over three days next week, you will tackle four important issues. To prepare, you will need to find out what your character’s position is on the following:
CRISIS #1: Who should be able to vote and who should hold public office? This includes the democratization of the vote (should there be restrictions on voting?), rotation in office (the spoils system—should there be restrictions on who should hold office?), the elections of 1824 and 1828 (who should be elected president?).
CRISIS #2: The Native American Problem Primarily, has the treatment of the Cherokee Nation (including Supreme Court decisions and acts of Congress) been fair? This may also include other conflicts and treaties with the Native Americans.
CRISIS #3: Can the Union be held together? The immediate issue is: what should be done about the Tariffs of 1828 and 1832 and the Nullification Crisis (and the Force Bill). Which is supreme, the national government or the state governments? What are the constitutional rights of the states? What part of government can declare laws unconstitutional? The underlying issue here is slavery and whether the national government can regulate it or prevent its expansion (topics/events can include: Nat Turner’s Revolt, the Gag Rule, the question of annexing Texas in 1836, Jackson and Southern post offices, and maybe even Peggy Eaton).
CRISIS #4: The Struggle for power between the President and Congress (primarily Jackson and his war on the Bank of the United States. The discussion of this crisis should also include the events that followed the “death” of the Bank, such as the distribution of the surplus, the Specie Circular, the Panic of 1837, the Sub-Treasury System and the Election of 1840.)


This activity has many moving parts, so the sooner you get yourself organized, the better off you will be. First, familiarize yourself with the web page for this activity. You’ll find it on Mr. Laskowski’s site, at Then, plan your time wisely. Use the following guide to help you out:
TUESDAY: Movie Day

Today we watch a delightful and unintentionally hilarious video about Andrew Jackson. Take notes on it, especially on the four crises.

WEDNESDAY: Overview of the Age of Jackson

Today we will discuss the four major themes of the Age of Jackson, framing our discussions during the Game next week. Come to tutorials today for the extended dance mix version of the overview. We will also assign roles today and discuss the game.

THURSDAY: Individual Research, Location TBD

Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the relevant material in Chapter 9 and on the website. Regardless of your role, the more you do today, the less you’ll have to do over the weekend and each day during the Game, so start doing the work for Monday’s assignment now!

FRIDAY: Independent Research Day 2, Location TBD

If you are a leader, go to the library, and use the Internet to learn all you can about the positions that your character held on the issues we will be discussing. Then, once you have learned your character’s position (and his justification for that position), prepare a typed position statement on CRISIS #1 and CRISIS #2 (about 150-200 words each). You will read (or present) these position states in two-minute long speeches on Tuesday). The more polished you are, the more convincing you will be. Also, learn what you can about your character’s personality. Does he have a strange accent? Interesting clothes? Bizarre personal habits? If you are a voting bloc, you too will want to go to the library, and use the Internet to learn all you can about the position that your character would take on each of the issues. What issues are important to you? Which politician(s) represent your issues and why? What do you want government to do about each issue? Once you have considered all of these issues, prepare a typed position statement on CRISIS #1 and CRISIS #2 (150 words each) and a list of tough questions you would like to ask the leaders during debate on Tuesday. Also, give yourself a character name!


WEEKEND: Independent Research

Regardless of your role, you will need to be ready for Crisis #1 and Crisis #2 on Tuesday (and be prepared to turn material in at that time). When you see how long it takes to do a good job (and by that, I mean “get an A”), you’ll want to get started on Crises #3 and #4 this weekend, too!


Each crisis will be presented and then dealt with as follows:

  1. After the first crisis is presented, the six leaders will have two minutes each to state their position and defend it. As they speak, voters should listen carefully to hear whether or not the leaders’ policies make sense, and whether they help or hurt the members of their bloc.

  2. After the speeches, the floor will be open to questions from voters to the leaders. The tougher the questions, the better. After the questions, there may be an informal caucus period in which leaders can explain their positions more extensively. At all times, the leaders and voting blocs must remain in character, holding to their political positions.

  3. The voters will then cast four votes, one for the leader whose presentation was most satisfactory (+2 for his score), one for the generally satisfactory presentation (+1 for his score), one for the generally unsatisfactory presentation, (-1 for his score) and one for the most unsatisfactory presentation (-2 for his score).

We will complete our discussion of CRISIS #1 today and at least begin CRISIS #2. Homework for tonight will be for the leaders to prepare a position statement on CRISIS #3 and for the voting blocs to prepare a position statement and a series of questions on CRISIS #3.

We will complete Crisis #2 today and then do all of Crisis #3. Homework for tonight will be for leaders to prepare a position statement on CRISIS #4 and for the voting blocs to prepare a position statement and a series of questions on CRISIS #4.


We will complete Crisis #4 today and then find out who has won the Jackson Game! For homework tonight, leaders should write a short statement (150 words) in which they discuss why they believe they finished where they finished in the game. Voting blocs should write a short statement (150 words) in which they discuss why they threw their support behind the candidate they did.


Every vote counts. As soon as a political leader reaches –3 on the voting record for a particular voting bloc, that voting bloc “deserts” or drops the political leader. (Note: if a political leader has received two “least satisfactory” votes and one “most satisfactory” vote, he is not dropped because is overall total is –2.)
If a political leader is reduced to only one voting bloc, he must do one of the following:

  1. Drop out of politics. (In effect at this point, he or she leaves the game OR joins the one voting bloc that continued to support him or her.)

  2. Throw his support to any other leader remaining in the game. If he does so, his plus totals are added to the plus totals of the leader whom he supports. (In effect, at this point, he or she leaves the game, although he/she may continue to serve as an advisor to the leader.)

Whoever has retained the most voting blocks by the end of the fourth crisis wins. If two or more political leaders have the same number of voting blocs, then the political leader with the most total points wins.

Your grade will NOT be dependent on whether you win or lose the game. Conceivably, you could win the game but not be carefully prepared, thus doing historical damage to the person whose role you are playing. In that case, you would not get a good grade. Conversely, if you are playing a controversial and prickly character and you play your part well during the game, you might not win the game but you could receive a very good grade.

If you are a leader, you will be evaluated on your:

  • speeches or presentations to the voting blocs

  • preparation and response to questions

  • ability to remain in character

If you are a member of the voting bloc, you will be evaluated on your:

  • questions for the leaders

  • use of time in deciding your vote

  • written justifications for your vote

NOTE: Across the week, there might be a day on which you have an early dismissal for sports or some other worthy activity. This is okay, but make sure you have left your materials with Mr. Laskowski before you go. Then, take your chances as we play the game without you!


All of you are skilled historians and talented students, but not everyone can be a leader this time. In the next simulation game, those who are playing voting blocs will be given roles which require more responsibility.


Visit Do it. Of course, think of these sites as just the beginning of your research. Happy hunting!

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