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Andrew Jackson Essay, Research Paper

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 Men?s Declaration of

Independence? (Doc. A). Within the declaration, Evans stresses the importance of

establishing democracy. He uses words and phrases from Jefferson?s ?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

citizen?s 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 1820?s and 1830?s.

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.

Taney?s 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 bank?s 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 Democrat?s

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.


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