16. The Age of Jackson
• Purpose: to gain an understanding of US politics from the 1820s to 1840.
• The transformation of US politics towards a more democratic system and style
• The watershed election of 1824
• The presidency of Andrew Jackson
• The emergence of the second party system of Democrats against Whigs
• Timeframe: 1824-1840
16. The Age of Jackson 1
1.1 Equality and Inequality
• The antebellum era saw the growing development
of economic inequality in the United States.
• The market economy accelerated the
concentration of wealth in the hands of an
economic elite, and also brought about the
beginnings of a working class and urban poverty.
• It also strengthened the socially, culturally, and
politically most influential “middling classes”.
• Alexis de Tocqueville commented critically about
the egalitarian character of US society.
• Moses Yale Beach, the New York Sun publisher
saw an aristocracy of wealth at work.
Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)
Toured the US 1831-82, published
“Democracy in America” 1835 and 1840
16. The Age of Jackson 2
1.2 Challenges to Authority and Democracy
• American society displayed egalitarian tendencies in style and conduct.
• Americans embraced individualism as a positive quality signifying self-reliance and
the conviction that each person was the best judge of his or her true interests.
Individualism and equality became the ideals of antebellum America.
• In the first half of the 19th century, the US political system became more
democratic. The Shift from property requirement for voting to a poll tax system
greatly widened the electorate.
• Secret written ballots replaced the custom of voting aloud.
• Caucus system of congressmen nominating presidential candidates gradually
replaced by convention system.
• Campaign styles became increasingly active and populist.
16. The Age of Jackson 3
2.1 The Dem.-Rep. Party and the Elections of 1824
• During the second term of James Monroe, the
fight for succession displayed rifts in the Dem.-
• Entering the presidential race were John
Quincy Adams, William Crawford, and John C.
Calhoun, Henry Clay and Andrew Jackson.
• The Dem.-Rep. Congressional caucus
selected William Crawford, but the other
candidates ignored the decision and secured
nomination by various state legislatures.
• Adams, Crawford, Clay, and Jackson ran.
• Jackson received most votes, but no absolute
majority. In the congressional vote, Clay sided
with Adams, who became president. Clay
became secretary of state.
• Jackson felt cheated and became opposition
5 contenders of 1824: Adams, Crawford, Calhoun,
Clay, and Jackson
16. The Age of Jackson 4
2.2 The John Quincy Adams Presidency
• The Election of 1824 split the Dem.-Rep.
party into factions, the “National
Republicans” under Adams and Clay, and
the “Democrats” under Jackson.
• Adams and Clay tried to implement the
“American System” of a high protective
tariff to foster manufacture and finance
• Adams could not gain enough support for
his program. He did not accept the
growing partisan divisions in Congress,
and his popularity waned quickly.
16. The Age of Jackson 5
2.3 The Democrats and the Election of 1828
• Andrew Jackson used the years of
Adams’ presidency to organize his
supporters into a coherent, well-organized
party: the Democrats.
• The Democrats adopted a moderate
states’ rights position, supported the
Jeffersonian ideal of individualist
agrarianism and distrusted concentrations
of power and wealth.
• The Democrats developed a strong
following in the south and west, as well as
among urban immigrants, esp. in NY.
• In the election of 1828 Andrew Jackson
won in a landslide.
16. The Age of Jackson 6
3.1 The Andrew Jackson Presidency
• Andrew Jackson became one of the
strongest presidential leaders in US
• Adopting a common-people style Jackson
portrayed himself as a democratic George
Washington and the standard-bearer of
Jefferson‘s agrarian ideal.
• He purged federal officials and replaced
Jackson’s inauguration in 1829.
them with his supporters. This “rotation in
office” principle was called the “spoils
system” by his critics.
• Jackson was aided by Martin van Buren,
the leader of the Democratic faction in
16. The Age of Jackson 7
3.2 The Nullification Crisis
• In late 1828, northern and western Democrats had helped to pass a high protective tariff
that was good for northern industry and western commercial agriculture but bad for the
cotton growing South.
• Vice-president John C. Calhoun, from SC, criticized this “Tariff of Abominations”. He
claimed the right of Nullification for the states – declaring a law unconstitutional. South
Carolina nullified the tariff in 1832, and talked of secession.
• President Andrew Jackson, despite some sympathies for states rights, threatened to
dispatch federal troops to South Carolina. Congress supported this option through the
• Conflict was averted through a Compromise Tariff engineered by Henry Clay in 1833
which gradually lowered the tariff. South Carolina repealed its nullification law.
16. The Age of Jackson 8
3.3 Growing Criticism of Jackson
• In 1832, president Andrew Jackson vetoed a
renewal of the Second Bank’s charter,
denouncing it as a monopoly. He deposited
federal funds in state banks, effectively
reducing the Second Bank to a private bank.
• When the Bank’s charter expired in 1836,
credits were shortened. A series of bank
failures, the Panic of 1837, was the result.
• Because of Jackson’s strong leadership,
opposition began to grow during his first term.
• Vice president Calhoun broke with him over
the tariff. National Republicans abhorred his
resistance to the American System.
• He was accused of autocratic tendencies,
arrogance, and use of the veto power.
• Nevertheless, in 1832 the opposition was still
16. The Age of Jackson 9
3.4 The Second Party System
After the election of 1832 and Jackson’s Both parties of the Second Party System
victory, the opposition coalesced into a were nationally organized, doctrinally weak
nation-wide, grassroots political party: The and consisted of diverse constituencies.
Whigs: •Leaders: Andrew Jackson, Martin v. Buren
•Leaders: Henry Clay, Daniel Webster •Regional Strength: South and West
•Regional Strength: North, Northwest •Voters: small Southern and Western
•Voters: elite, native-born middle-class farmers, immigrants, those fearing
nativists and reformers, merchants, concentrated banks and commercial power.
manufacturers, highly commercial farmers. Traditional protestants and Catholics.
Evangelical protestants, former Federalists. •Policies: laissez-faire economics, anti-
•Policies: American System (tariff and bank, anti-paper money, Indian removal,
internal improvements), central banking, states‘ rights, agrarian expansion.
16. The Age of Jackson 10
4.1 The Martin van Buren Presidency
• In the elections of 1836 Martin van Buren ran
as the Democratic candidate.The Whigs ran
three regional candidates.
• Nevertheless, van Buren won a handy victory
in the electoral college, but only a bare
majority of the popular vote.
• William Henry Harrison emerged as the most
successful of the Whig challengers.
• Van Buren’s term coincided with the great
depression started by the Panic of 1837, that
was largely caused by Jackson’s politics.
• Nevertheless, “Little Magician” van Buren
stuck to the anti-bank, hard-money policies of
his predecessor. His Independent Treasury
Act removed federal money from state
banks, further constricting credit.
• Depression continued, earning the president
another nickname, “Martin van Ruin.”
Martin van Buren, 1782-1862
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4.2 The Log Cabin Campaign - the Elections of 1840
• The opposition, the Whigs, established
themselves on the state level supporting
liberal “free banking” laws. As their
presidential candidate for the election of
1840, ran William Henry Harrison, the “hero”
of the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811.
• William H. Harrison won in a landslide, but
he died in 1841, after only one month in
• The election of 1840 saw the development
of new campaigning techniques. The Whigs
adopted the log cabin as symbol of their
common-man approach. Harrison himself
toured the country, often in railroads, giving
• In contrast, Martin van Buren’s campaign
was much more conventional.
• Voter participation soared to 80 percent.
16. The Age of Jackson 12
In late 1828, northern and western Democrats had helped to pass a high
protective tariff that was good for northern industry and western commercial
agriculture but bad for the cotton growing South.
Vice-president John C. Calhoun, from South Carolina claimed the right of
Nullification for the states – declaring a law unconstitutional. South Carolina
nullified the tariff in 1832, and talked of secession.President Andrew Jackson
threatened to dispatch federal troops to South Carolina. Conflict was averted
through a Compromise Tariff engineered by Henry Clay in 1833 which lowered
the tariff. South Carolina repealed its nullification law.
16. The Age of Jackson 13