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The Age of Jackson, written by Arthur M. Schlesinger, focuses on the long lasting effects of Andrew Jackson on democracy and American politics. The novel starts off with Jackson?s life story, a lowerclass boy from the west, raised by a single mother. After finding financial success on his own, he became well known for his military exploits, being a crucial factor in the Battle of New Orleans, and the acquisition of Florida from the Spanish. After the brief account of Jackson?s life, the author moves on to his administration, and stays with that topic for most of the book.

By the time Jackson came to power, the nation had been drastically changed by the Industrial Revolution. The simple, pastoral, agricultural lifestyle was being replaced by the manufacturing world, of cities and factories. Politically, the nation was in great turmoil. There was still an everlasting debate among men in power, over what should prevail, the rights of the states, or the rights of the Federal Government. If not for several personal reasons, Jackson would have been a staunch advocator of states rights. The right to vote was still a major issue, the middle class feeling robbed of power in governmental decisions, the upperclass feeling threatened by the growth of the middleclass. However, Jackson brought with him many new ideas and principles. Since he himself had very modest roots, he sympathized with the middle and lower classes. He had worked for everything he had of value in life, and he acknowledged the importance of being able to climb the social ladder based upon one?s own merit. Jackson felt that if a man was willing to work hard, he should be able to get what he wanted out of life.

Jackson, uneducated as he was, was a very shrewd man. Using the spoils system, he all but totally replaced the cabinet from the previous administration. By rewarding the men who had helped him reach his current state, he made it clear that the middleclass could improve their condition. The cabinet was no longer filled with wealthy men of status, but instead of more every day people.

Nicholas Biddle proved great opposition to President Jackson. He wanted to re-charter the National Bank; however, many people were against Biddle?s decision. This was particularly true of people in the west. They were still wary of a national bank, after the Panic of 1819, which involved mishaps in land speculation. Jackson shared the predominately western opinion that several small banks would be a better service to the nation than one, large bank would. A major problem with a national bank would lie in it?s willingness only to make loans to the wealthy. This would be of no use to the middleclass. Jackson would not allow Biddle to gain any more power than he already had.

Jackson did not have the characteristics of a great president. First of all, he was notorious for being to rash and impetuous. As a military leader, he often disobeyed direct orders (Florida campaign), and acted on instinct rather than reason. He also had many enemies among colleagues, including John Calhoun, John Quincy Adams, etc. All of these things were detrimental to being a good leader. However, it was his way with the common people that led him to greatness. He knew what the people wanted, and gave them just enough to appease them.

The novel offered a great deal of information regarding the Jackson administration, as well as the time that followed. Starting at the end of the Jefferson administration, Jackson?s influence is made very clear. His controversial opinions of equality of the lower class were seen as threats by the upperclass, but embraced by the middle and lower classes. Jackson was responsible for the granting of suffrage to non-land owners, and those same ideas echoed into the 20th century, when nearly everyone was granted the right to vote. Jackson is indirectly responsible for the success of the government we hail today as the finest in the world.

To conclude, this novel was very informative. It was very successful in detailing the transition from Jeffersonian to Jacksonian democracy, as well as outlining the significance of Jackson?s administration. Andrew Jackson was a pivotal figure in the foundation of our modern political system. His notions of equality, and empathy for the lower class, led to the power of political decision being granted to the masses, and the downfall of old, aristocratic ways that still plagued the government of the time. Jackson was different than any president that had preceded him. Even though Jefferson tried to steer away from any special recognition, and was really a very humble man, he was born into wealth. Jackson was the first United States president that was born into poverty. Son to a single mother, he made a name for himself without the aid of inherited wealth. He was the ideal which we hold so dear in American society today; he was a self made man, an inspiration to all of those not born into fortune. He embodied the American spirit, he so perfectly displayed the ability to climb from the very bottom to the very top. In America this was possible. There was no royalty, no such thing as ?better by birth.? Nothing could not be accomplished in this new nation, and no matter what your state was, there was always a chance to improve. Jackson personified hope in a nation where hope was desperately needed. The growing middleclass fought endlessly for their rights, which were continually denied by those in power. Jackson knew the plight of the poor, and during his administration, he made many efforts to return the country to the people. This novel very clearly illustrates Jackson?s significance in American society.

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