SECTION 4 THE INAUGURATION OF ANDREW JACKSON On March 4, 1829, more than 10,000 people, who came from every state, crowded into Washington, D.C., to witness Andrew Jackson’s inauguration. The visitors overwhelmed local hotels, sleeping five to a bed. “I never saw such a crowd here before,” observed Senator Daniel Webster. “Persons have come five hundred miles to see General Jackson, and they really seem to think that the country is rescued from some dreadful disaster!”
Many of the people flocking into the capital were first-time voters. Until the 1820s, the right to vote had been limited to the rich and upper class. Until then, only white men with property were thought to have the education and experience to vote wisely.
The new states forming west of the Appalachians challenged this argument. Along the frontier, all men—rich or poor, educated or not—shared the same opportunities and dangers. They believed they should also share the same rights, including the right to vote.
With the western states leading the way, voting laws were changed to give the “common man” the right to vote. This expansion of democracy did not yet include African Americans, American Indians, or women. Still, over one million Americans voted in 1828, more than three times the number who voted in 1824.
Many of these new voters did believe they had rescued the country from disaster. In their view, the national government had been taken over by corrupt “monied interests”—that is, the rich. Jackson had promised to throw the rich out and return the government to “the people.” His election reflected a shift in power to the West and to the farmers, shopkeepers, and small-business owners who supported him.
After Jackson was sworn in as president, a huge crowd followed him to the White House. As the crowd surged in, the celebration turned into a near riot. “Ladies fainted, men were seen with bloody noses, and such a scene of confusion took place as is impossible to describe,” wrote an eyewitness, Margaret Bayard Smith. Jackson was nearly “pressed to death” before escaping out a back door. “But it was the People’s day, and the People’s President,” Smith concluded. “And the people would rule.”