Andrew Jackson Guardians of Freedom? The first and truest ideals of democracy were embodied in the political ideas of Andrew Jackson and the Jacksonian democrats. Calling themselves the guardians of the United States Constitution, the Jacksonian politicians engendered wide spread liberty under a government which represented all men, rather than only the upper class. While some policies under the democrats had evident flaws, they were, for the most part, eager social reformers who strived to put the power of government into the hands of the common citizens. The convictions and ideals of the Jacksonian Democrats can be best illustrated through a passage written by George Henry Evans. Evans was an editor with strong democratic principles who created The Working Mens Declaration of Independence (Doc. A).
Within the declaration, Evans stresses the importance of establishing democracy. He uses words and phrases from Jeffersons Declaration of Independence to clarify his points and stress his convictions. Stating the absolute necessity of the organization of the party, Evans explains that it will be possible to prevent the upper class from subverting the indefeasible and fundamental privilege of liberty. And finally, Evans states that it is the common citizens right to use every constitutional means necessary to reform the abuses and provide new guards for future security. In doing so, he documented the characteristic attitude of the majority of the country in the 1820s and 1830s. Evans was only one of the many Jacksonian democrats to contribute to the success of the party and to the reforms that they made. Chief Justice Roger B.
Taneys opinion in the Supreme Court Case of Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge was a capitalist decision which was a typical response for a Jacksonian democrat (Doc. H). This decision stated that while the Charter of 1785 allowed the Charles River Bridge to be constructed, it did not prohibit any other bridges from being constructed. Therefore, Taney decided that the capitalistic competition would be healthy for the economy of the regions along the Charles River. In doing this, Taney was eliminating the monopolies of the elite and creating equal economic opportunities for all citizens.
As a result, Taney contributed to one of the major achievements of the Jacksonian Democrats – to create economic equality. The President of the United States of America and leader of the Democratic party, Andrew Jackson, was perhaps the most outspoken democrat of the time. He used his position as leader of the country to give more power to the common man. Even before his election as president, he succeeded in having the property qualification eliminated, therefore, increasing the voting population tremendously. Jackson became the first president truly elected by the common man, rather than only high society.
For the first time in the history of the nation, the middle class received the opportunity to participate in the government that ruled them. Jackson did not stop with the reformation of the election process. Instead, he attacked the Bank of the United States and vetoed the re-charter for the institution. President Jackson explained that the banks stock was held by only foreigners and a few hundred rich American citizens. As a result, the bank maintained an exclusive privilege of banking.. – a monopoly (Doc. B).
The Democrats believed the bank to be a tool of rich oppression and a dangerous institution because the men in power were of the highest class and utterly irresponsible to the people. So, President Jackson vetoed the re-charter and it was closed. The money was dispersed into several state banks and the monopoly was disintegrated. Indeed, the Democrats succeeded in creating a new government for the rule of a society of middle class citizens. And, the middle class began to prosper under the struggle for economic equality.
Visiting the United States in 1834, Harriet Martineau reported the prosperity of the country (Doc. D). She discovered the absence of poverty, gross ignorance, and insolence of manner as well as towns with newspapers and libraries. She also reported on political debated with common citizens as judges. It is quite clear that the expansion of suffrage, support for individual rights, and advances of democratic society were responsible for the prosperity of the time.
However, it would be both irrational and naive to assume that the ideals of Jacksonian democrats were without flaw. And it would be preposterous to conceive a period in American history without its low points. This holds true for the period of 1820 – 1830 as well. A number of middle class citizens misinterpreted democratic reforms as an opportunity to disregard decorum and law. Philip Hone, a Whig politician, wrote descriptions of riots which erupted in Philadelphia and large Eastern cities (Doc. E). Middle class citizens who took advantage of individual rights caused chaos and destruction. Yet, an understanding of human nature is necessary to continue. It must be expected that some people are unable to handle the privileges of individualism, and a crowded city is the most likely place for a riot to break out.
Such is the situation even presently. Especially in large cities, violence and rioting is not uncommon. A political party aimed at better the nation can not be justly held responsible for the terrible behavior of a few. The same principle holds true for the Acts and Resolutions of South Carolina in 1835 (Doc. F).
While the Jacksonian Democrats believed that the only way to reform society was through constitutional means, South Carolina did not abide by the same convictions. Instead, they used individual liberty to over-rule the government. The South Carolina legislature decided to nullify the Post Office Department (which violated the first amendment to the Constitution) and outlaw abolition movements (thereby denying freedom of speech). Finally, the soon-to-secceed South Carolina decided not to collect taxes on imports and President Jackson decided they had gone too far. He threatened them with war in order to restore rational behavior.
Although is possible to show all the positive and constructive reforms initiated by the Jacksonian Democrats, it is impossible to ignore the tragic oppression of the Native Americans by President Jackson. On the Trail of Tears, thousands of lives were senselessly ended en route from Georgia to the western reservations. There can be no justification for the terrible mistreatment the Indians had to endure. However, it is necessary to look at the situation for that time period. While all white man were now considered equal and the middle class was elevated, the Blacks and Native Americans were not included.
Even Thomas Jefferson did not intend to include either race when drafting the Declaration of Independence. So, while it can not be excused, it becomes possible to comprehend how such a travesty might occur. Despite several inevitable flaws in the time period, the Democrats proclamation as guardians of the United States Constitution, political democracy, individual liberty, and economic equality is quite valid. Indeed, the Jacksonian Democrats succeed in the ambitions, and their avid social reforms helped make the United States a more liberated and democratic nation.