According to his enemies, Andrew Jackson behaved more like a dictator/king than a democratic president. Jackson and his followers became the basis of the Democratic-Republican party, later known as the Democratic party. He believed in the spoils system, supported the common man, and equality for all people regardless of their social class. Although he had such positive features, he had some negatives as well. Jackson removed Native Americans from their homeland by signing the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which created the “Trail of Tears,” vetoed the National Bank (B.
U.S), and was pro-slavery. Although a common man himself, Jackson became successful as president.
This was one of his biggest motives to support the common man, rather than the wealthy, whom he believed shouldn’t have all of the power. One of the reasons Jackson removed Native Americans was because he didn’t consider them as American citizens. How democratic was Andrew Jackson? Before we answer this, let’s find out what democracy truly means.
By definition, democracy is a form of government made up of the equality and voice of the people. To Jackson, democracy meant the all branches & agencies of government must listen to and follow the wishes of the people. So was Andrew Jackson democratic, undemocratic, or both? Perhaps he was democratic in some ways and undemocratic in others.
Andrew Jackson was a supporter in Indian removal. However, he also had a soft spot; he adopted a Creek Indian boy named Lyncoya. Jackson didn’t consider Indians as American people; this somewhat made it easier to remove Native Americans from their homeland. Not only this, but he made it voluntary to leave, but if they were within limits of the states, they must be subject to their laws. (Document 8). Jackson also removed Indians from the land of their fathers/people. He didn’t even consider that they might not be familiar with the outside land or may not speak the same language. (Document 9). Generally, Indians were removed from Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida, and were sent to the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). Andrew Jackson was undemocratic for taking Native Americans out of their life-long lands and home, to be sent to an unfamiliar territory. Adopting a Creek Indian boy who was the last of his family, and making him on of his (Jackson’s) family, doesn’t make Jackson democratic. It just shows that he has a heart. (Documents 10&11).
Jackson believed the National Bank was unconstitutional, even though it was what the people wanted. So does that make him undemocratic? In a picture of Andrew Jackson, there is an eagle on one side and throne on the other. This symbolizes democracy and dictatorship at the same time. Also, the picture shows Jackson stepping on laws/bills/institutions that he didn’t care about or approve of. (Document 3). If Jackson favored the south, it would make him sectionalist and undemocratic since it is owned mainly by the wealthy. People voted for the bill and bank recharter, so vetoing it would go against the people’s choice, thus overriding the will of the people.
Jackson disliked the Bank of US because he believed that the wealthy should have all of the power. (Document 4).Not only this, but the bank veto would cause disunity, and start a class war (upper v. lower). Also that Daniel Webster doesn’t want another financial panic like that of 1819, and that the bank veto goes against the voice of Congress, which is made up of the people. Andrew Jackson was undemocratic because he overrode the will of the people, became sectionalist by favoring the south, and possibly started a class war. He was democratic because he believed that the wealthy shouldn’t have all of the power, and that all people should be equal in power no matter what social class. (Document 5)
Jackson also believed in the common man, and that all men are equal in both power and class. This is one of his great features that bought him a lot of support. Before Jackson was elected, presidential electors were elected mainly by the legislature. After his election and re-election, electors were chosen significantly by the people. In the span of 20 years, 42 states elected by the people, and 27 states elected by the legislature. (Document 1). The election of Jackson was considered a “revolution,” because of its peaceful transfer of power. This revolution was different from any other, because it was achieved by ballots rather than bullets. Jacksonians cried, “Shall the people rule?” and the answer was, “The people shall rule!” Andrew Jackson was so notable that people have come 500 miles to see him and think that the country is rescued from some dreadful danger.
It is said Jackson’s victory accelerated the transfer of national power from the country-house to the farmhouse, from the East to the West, and from the snobs to the mobs. If Jackson was a hero of the gentleman farmer, he was surely a hero of the dirt farmer. Jackson was democratic because he granted all men equal rights, and believed that the common man is just as good as the wealthy. This is how he got all his support, most of which came from the common man. We must also consider that he was a common man who became successful as president. He disagreed with the wealthy, who tried to empower the common man/farmers, and was a large supporter of wester farmers, low tariffs, and pet banks, rather than a national bank. (Document 2).
Jackson also encouraged the spoils system, which gave jobs in public office to the supporters of the successful political party. Was this democratic of him? As stated in Jackson’s letter to Congress, the duties of public office are so simple that any intelligent man may easily qualify, and that office jobs are created solely for the benefit of the people. Jackson will also provide a law that limits appointments to four years. Not only this, but Jackson believed that no man has any more right to government jobs than another, which justifies that all men are created equal. (Document 6).
Document 7 explains how Secretary of State Martin Van Buren warned Jackson about the appointment of the collector of the Port of New York, which Jackson intended to appoint Samuel Swartwout to take that position. Van Buren alerted Jackson the Swartwout had “criminal tendencies,” but Jackson refused to listen. When Swartwout was appointed to office on April 25, 1829, he quickly fled with $1,222,705.09, which was a monumental theft. Andrew Jackson was democratic because he felt that all intelligent men should have the right and equality to have an office job, since office jobs are created to benefit the people. He believed that all men are created equal, which is what democracy is all about. Jackson was undemocratic because by supporting the spoils system, he appointed a corrupt man (Swartwout), who stole over a million dollars and fled.
In essence, “How democratic was Andrew Jackson?” To be honest, Jackson was quite a democratic president. He believed in the common man, that power should be equal between all men, and even adopted a Creek Indian boy, whom he accepted as one of the family and cared for dearly. Not only this, but he also treated the common man the same as the wealthy and that they should have equal privileges and opportunities. However, Jackson was also undemocratic in some ways.
He removed Native Americans from their life-long homes, the lands of their fathers/ancestors, overrode the will of the people by vetoing the National Bank thus favoring the south. Even after being warned by Van Buren, Jackson still appointed corrupt Samuel Swartwout to office, which resulted in a monumental theft of over a million dollars. Does this make him a bad president? Absolutely not! He’s only human, and everyone makes mistakes. After all these corrupt decisions, President Andrew Jackson is still one of the most honorable presidents in the history of the United States. That is why I believe Andrew Jackson was democratic yet undemocratic.