The People’s Choice Jackson entered politics in Tennessee, serving in both the House and Senate. But he did not become widely known until the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. His defense of the city made “Old Hickory” a national hero.
In 1824, Jackson ran for president against three other candidates: Henry Clay, William Crawford, and John Quincy Adams. Jackson won the most popular votes as well as the most electoral votes. But he did not have enough electoral votes for a majority. When no candidate has an electoral majority, the House of Representatives chooses a president from among the three leading candidates.
Clay, who had come in fourth, urged his supporters in the House to vote for Adams. That support gave Adams enough votes to become president. Adams then chose Clay to be his secretary of state.
It made sense for Adams to bring Clay into his cabinet, because the two men shared many of the same goals. Jackson’s supporters, however, accused Adams and Clay of making a “corrupt bargain” to rob their hero of his rightful election. They promised revenge in 1828.
Jackson’s supporters used the time between elections to build a new political organization that came to be called the Democratic Party, the name it still uses today. This new party, they promised, would represent ordinary farmers, workers, and the poor, not the rich and upper class who controlled the Republican Party.
In the election of 1828, Jackson’s supporters worked hard to reach the nation’s voters. Besides hurling insults at Adams, they organized parades, picnics, and rallies. At these events, supporters sang “The Hunters of Kentucky”—the nation’s first campaign song—and cheered for Old Hickory. They wore Jackson badges, carried hickory sticks, and chanted catchy campaign slogans like “Adams can write, but Jackson can fight.”
The result was a great victory for Jackson. But it was also a victory for the idea that the common people should control their government. This idea eventually became known as Jacksonian Democracy [Jacksonian Democracy: the idea that the common people should control the government].