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An Indian fighter and triumphant general of the war of 1812, Andrew Jackson was the people man. He was their hero. The first president to have risen from common roots, he was celebrated and lionized. His name was put on to the suffrage of white males and the expansion of democracy that occurred during his time. Jackson himself may not be responsible for everything that is considered to be part of Jacksonian democracy, but the era did have a lasting impact on the United States economically, politically, and socially. In general, the whole era was detrimental, but some suffered less than others, and benefited more than others.
Jacksonian democracy glorified the equality of all adult white males, or the common man. Schleissenger calls it, A second American phase of that enduring struggle between business community and the rest of the society. It did not like other men who had advantages such as the rich and the elite. Jacksonians democracy was a revival of Jeffersonianism with modifications from new influences. The agricultural aspect was moderated to because of heavy industrialization but the economic aspect regarding the laboring classes, human rights and control of industrialism was expanded.
Many of the democratic reforms started before Jackson became president. Pessen reminds us that, Well before Jackson s election most states had lifted most restrictions on the suffrage of white male citizens or taxpayers, (155). He goes on to state that, Jackson was the beneficiary rather than he initiator of these reforms, (155). The Panic of 1819 and other events made people more interested in their government and had started exercising their power to vote. However, the application of these democratic reforms benefited some and harmed others.
The common man was supposed to benefit from Jacksonian democracy. These included the farmer, the settlers, those who did not have much going for them and the only way was up. They got voting rights because many states had abolished property requirements. The common people were mostly settlers of the west and southwest. The land was cheap and many banks would loan them money.
Internal improvements funded by surplus from revenue helped the common man. Highways built with the money improved transportation to the west. Even though common men could not afford amenities, they did not need to worry because the government provided for them. It is not the rich that benefit from government sponsored improvements, but the poor people.
Debtors benefited too. Many of the common men had borrowed money to buy land. Because of speculation many banks loaned money without proper collateral. The end of the Second Bank of the United States had triggered inflation and so there was much paper money in circulation worth much less than before. Those in debt then owed less.
Pet banks benefited from the government funds that Jackson deposited. With it they could loan it out to private property buyers. They also came into existence because without federal regulation of banks, banks popped up everywhere with simply a state charter.
Democrats benefited the most. Jackson believed that it didn t take any special skills or knowledge to hold a government position. He rejected the elitist view that only the proven “best” men should be chosen to manage public affairs. A New York Senator said, to the victors belong the spoils and so the spoils system began. Jackson put in 2000 of his supporters into government positions and many of his friends were given jobs in handling the Indians in Florida.
Jacksonian democracy did not include anyone that was not white and they were the losers. Indians suffered great atrocities such as the 1838 Trail of Tears and slaves were also excluded from the democratic ideals that Jacksonian democrats supported.
The greatest loser in all this was the Indians. Neither democrat nor Whig would support them; both wanted land-their land. Although the Cherokee Indians had been able to get Chief Justice Marshall to recognize their sovereignty as their own nation within Georgia, they could not withstand Jackson s force. He first advises the Indians to emigrate beyond the Mississippi or submit to the laws of those States [in which they reside]. In 1832 Marshall declares in Worcester v. Georgia, that Georgia has no authority over the Cherokee nation. Jackson told whites to move into Indian land then told the Indians that the government could not tell the whites to move so the Indians had to. General Scott tells the Cherokees the president of the Unites States has sent me with a powerful army, to cause you, in obedience to the treaty of 1834, to join that part of your people who are already established n prosperity on the other side of the Mississippi
Creditors lost because they were paid back with inflated cash. Also when Jackson withdrew the money from their banks they had to call in private loans which caused a panic and many banks shut down.
Jackson s Specie Circular hindered the people from buying land and was a detriment to the growth of land settlement in the west. The 1836 Specie Circular declared by Jackson required that federal lands be bought with gold or silver only. Many of the settlers moving west did not have the gold or silver and because the government no longer accepted bank notes was unable to buy land. The Specie Circular in 1836 broke the speculation boom in Western lands, cast suspicion on many of the bank notes in circulation, and added to causes of the depression of 1837
Jacksonian democracy did extend suffrage to include more white males, providing equal opportunity in regards to votes, but it did not give him any real influence or power. Pessen states that the system for nominating candidates changed during the era but thought the change was a significant one, it did not give power over nominations to Tom, Dick and Harry, (159). It actually the power to the shrewd, ambitious, wealthy, and the able politicians who knew how to flatter them, (347). In the sense that the common man did not really get any real influence in government , there was no real winner in the Jacksonian democracy.
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