Andrew Jackson: The Rise of the Jacksonian Era

“To understand him and his time helps us to understand America’s perennially competing impulses. Jackson’s life and work—and the nation he protected and preserved—were shaped by the stubble between grace and rage, generosity and violence, justice and cruelty.”
— Jon Meacham, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House

Jackson saw the results of the 1828 election as a striking of a deal between a founding fathers son (John Quincy Adams) and the swing of support from a Speaker of the House (Henry Clay) to secure the White House. Regardless of what it was Jackson was able to secure the White house in the next election.

When Jackson took the White House the country had changed dramatically by the 1830's

  • The railroads had more than 3,200 miles of track

  • Cotton/textile production had tripled from 1820-1840

  • Iron wage workers had grown 5 times

  • Immigration rose from 27,000 in 1828 to 80,000 in 1837

  • 1833 Oberlin College in Ohio opened being the first American college to be open to blacks, whites, men and women.

(Meacham, 46)

By the time Jackson arrived in the white house the days of the Federalists against the Democrat-Republicans was long gone. As the countries first political party the Federalists had followed the philosophy of Alexander Hamilton favoring a strong central government with a strong president. They would be opposed by the Democrat-Republicans who had been the followers of Thomas Jefferson favoring strong states rights and a federal government dominated by Congress.

This is a simplified version of the intricate issues between the two of the first political parties, but it is important to note that just because Thomas Jefferson had an entire Jeffersonian ideology of government named after them does not mean that he would live by it ideal for ideal when practicing it in real life. Yes, Jefferson was for state rights over a strong central government, but he had no problem excising his powers as president to purchase the Louisiana Purchase. No where in the Constitution did it give him permission to do so, he just did it and it remained a constitutional act by precedence. Both of his Jeffersonian proteges, James Madison and James Monroe, found it impossible to stick to the pure ideology of small government during their times in office. 

Andrew Jackson would take after Jefferson in this manner, and would stretch the power of the office of the president even further.

"He saw that liberty required security, that freedom required order, that the well-being of the parts of the Union required that the whole remain intact. If he felt a temporary resort to autocracy was necessary to preserve democracy, Jackson would not hesitate. He would do what had to be done In this he set an example on which other presidents would draw in times of national struggle." More specifically Abraham Lincoln.

"Before Jackson, power tended toward the elites, whether political or financial. After Jackson, power was more diffuse, and government, far better and for worse, was more attuned to the popular will. He may not have consciously set out to leave such a legacy, but he made the case for democratic innovation and popular engagement in politics at a time when many in Washington would have preferred that the people play the role they were assigned at Philadelphia in the summer of 1787: as voters who cast their ballots and then allowed intermediary institutions--from the state legislatures that elected U.S. Senators to the Electoral College, which chose presidents--to make the real decisions. Jackson wanted to give the people a more dramatic part to play, and he rewrote the script of public life to give them one." 

And so gave way to the Age of Jackson.

(Meacham, 46, xx, & xxi)

Meacham, Jon. American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. New York: Random House, 2008.