Democracy in Theory
and Practice
Democracy became preferred description of American politics in 1820s and 1830s
In democracy, the people were sovereign and could do no wrong
Traditional ideas of deference declined further
Equality of opportunity all important; the resulting inequalities of reward not really considered
America became society of winners and losers
Democracy and Society
Egalitarian expectations despite growing economic inequality
No distinctive domestic servant class
No class distinctions in dress
Economic gap widened between propertied and labor classes; this was overlooked because legal equality of all white men still radical by European standards
Egalitarian attack on licensed professions like medicine
Popular press was the source of information and opinion
Democratic Culture
Artists’ audience was broad citizenry of democracy, not refined elite
Romanticism in America appealed to feelings and intuitions of ordinary Americans
Popular literature sensationalized
–Genres included Gothic horror and romantic fiction
–Much popular literature written by and for women
–Melodrama dominated popular theater
Democratic Culture
By 1830s, subject of paintings switched from great events and people to scenes from everyday life
Architectural style reflected the tenets of ancient Greek democracy
Purpose of art in democratic society was to encourage virtue and proper sentiment
–Landscape painters believed representations of untamed nature would elevate popular taste and convey moral truth
Only a few truly avant-garde, romantic artists, like Edgar Allan Poe
Democratic Political Institutions: Politics of Universal
Male Suffrage
Most states adopted universal white male suffrage by the 1820s
Many appointed offices made elective
Professional politicians and stable, statewide party organizations emerged
Politicians like Martin Van Buren promoted benefits of two-party system
–Concept of loyal opposition accepted
Democracy spread to presidency
–Most presidential electors chosen by popular vote rather state legislature by 1828
–Participation rates rose from 27% in early 1820s to high of 78% in 1840
Economic Issues
Interest in government economic policy intensified after 1819
Political activity and debate around economic issues foreshadowed rise of parties based around economic programs
Republican ideology from Revolution made people suspicious of groups they did not identify with or benefit from
–Jacksonians fear of “the money power”
Debate over role of federal government in the economy
Labor Radicalism and
Equal Rights
Working men’s parties and trade unions emerged in the 1820s and 1830s to protect equal rights that appeared to be eroding because of low wages
They advocated public education reform, a ten-hour workday, an end to debtors’ prisons, and hard currency
They made some gains but were set back by the Depression of 1837
The women’s rights movement and abolitionists made little progress
Jackson and the Politics
of Democracy
Jackson became a symbol of democracy’s triumph
Actions of Jackson and his party
re-fashioned national politics in a democratic mold
Era known as Jacksonian Democracy
The Election of 1824 and
J. Q. Adams’s Administration
The election of 1824 a five-way race
Jackson appealed to slaveholders and rural people opposed to Clay’s economic nationalism
Jackson got plurality of popular and electoral vote, but not a majority
Adams won in House of Representatives with Henry Clay’s support
The Election of 1824 and
J. Q. Adams’s Administration
Clay’s appointment as Secretary of State led to charges of a “corrupt bargain” between Clay and Adams
Adams rejected anti-economic nationalism sentiment in his policies
Mid-term election of 1826 gave Jackson forces control of Congress
Tariff became key issue and logrolling produced “Tariff of Abominations” in 1828
The Election of 1824
Jackson Comes to Power
“Corrupt Bargain” set motivation for 1828 election
Influential state leaders supported Jackson
–Calhoun in South Carolina, Van Buren in New York
–Their efforts led to formation of Democratic party, first modern American party
New electioneering techniques of mass democracy born
–Parades, picnics, public rallies, etc.
Jackson Comes to Power
Campaign dominated by personal attacks and mudslinging
Jacksonians won by portraying Jackson as authentic man of the people
Jackson unclear about his stands on policy issues of the day other than Indian removal
Jackson’s democratic stamp on his administration
–Defended “spoils system” as democratic
–Replaced most of cabinet because of Peggy Eaton affair
Election of 1828
Indian Removal
Indian removal policy inherited from prior administrations
Jackson agreed with state complaints that federal government had not removed Indians quickly enough
Some southern states asserted authority over Indians in their borders
Jackson got federal government approval for state removal initiatives with Indian Removal Act of 1830
1838—U.S. Army forced Cherokee west along the Trail of Tears
Indian Removal
The Nullification Crisis
South opposed tariff because it increased prices for manufactured goods and endangered their access to foreign markets
In wake of 1828 Tariff, John C. Calhoun anonymously spelled out Doctrine of Nullification—right of an individual state to set aside state law
Personal relations between Jackson and Calhoun soured
1830—Jefferson Day Dinner
–Jackson “to the union—it must be preserved”
–Calhoun “to the union—next to our liberty, the most dear”
The Nullification Crisis
1832—tariff passed, South Carolina nullified
Jackson threatened to send army
–Force Bill authorized Jackson to use military to enforce federal law
–Clay’s Compromise Tariff of 1833 lowered rates
Nullification foreshadowed state sovereignty positions of the South in slavery debates
The Bank War and the Second Party System
n“The Bank War” a symbolic defense of Jacksonian concept of democracy
nLed to two important results
–Formation of opposition party to Jackson— the Whigs
–Economic disruption
Mr. Biddle’s Bank
Bank of the United States unpopular, blamed in South and West for 1819 Depression
1823 Biddle took over and restored confidence
Jeffersonians opposed bank on principle as unconstitutional and preserve of corrupt special privilege
Bank possessed great power and privilege with no public accountability
The Bank Veto and the Election of 1832
Jackson vaguely threatened bank in first term
On advice of Clay, Biddle sought new charter four years early in 1832
Congress passed, but Jackson vetoed
–Claimed the bank was unconstitutional
–Defended veto as a blow for equality
Jacksonian victory in 1832 spelled bank’s doom
The Election of 1832
Killing the Bank
Jackson destroyed bank by removing federal deposits
Funds transferred to state (“pet”) banks
Biddle used his powers to cause recession, attempted to blame Jackson
Clay got censure of Jackson through Senate for abusing his power (Jackson’s withdrawal of deposits from bank)
Destruction of bank provoked fears of dictatorship, cost Jackson support in Congress
The Emergence of the Whigs
Whig party a coalition of forces, first united in censure of Jackson
–Clay and National Republicans
–Webster and New England ex-Federalists
–States-rights southerners
–Anti-Masonic party
Whigs defended activist government in economics, enforcement of “decency”
Democrats opposed government regulation of morality
Democrats weakened by
–Defection of Loco-Focos faction upset over pet banks
–Specie Circular led to the Panic of 1837
The Rise and Fall of Van Buren
Martin Van Buren Jackson’s handpicked successor
Whig strategy in 1836 was to run four candidates and force election to House of Representatives; it failed
Term began with Panic of 1837
Panic caused more by complex changes in global economy than Jackson’s fiscal policy
The Rise and Fall of Van Buren
Laissez-faire philosophy prevented Van Buren from helping to solve the problems of economic distress
Van Buren attempted to save government funds with independent sub-treasuries
Whigs blocked sub-treasuries until 1840
The Election of 1836
The Rise and Fall of Van Buren
Whigs fully organized by 1840
Whig candidate William Henry Harrison
–Image built of a common man who had been born in a log cabin
–Running mate John Tyler chosen to attract votes from states-rights Democrats
Harrison and Tyler beat Van Buren because their revival of the American system seemed like a good response
Election of 1840
Heyday of the Second
Party System
Election of 1840 marked rise of permanent two-party system in the U.S.
Whigs and Democrats evenly divided the electorate for next two decades
Parties offered voters a clear choice
–Whigs supported a “positive liberal state”:  government should support and protect industries that help economic growth
–Democrats supported “negative liberal state”: government should not interfere in economy
Heyday of the Second
Party System
–Industrialists, merchants, successful farmers, more likely Protestant
–Small farmers, manufacturing, more likely Catholic
Tocqueville’s Wisdom
Alexis de Tocqueville praised most aspects of American democracy
Warned of future disaster if white males refused to extend liberty to women, African Americans, and Indians