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DBQ: Jacksonian Democracy Essay

In the 1820’s and 1830’s, the Jacksonian Democrats believed they were protecting many aspects of freedom for the American people and I agree with their beliefs to a limited extent. The Jacksonian Democrats were successful in maintaining the political democracy during this time. However, they were completely defeated in their attempt at establishing and preserving individual liberty. While, they were successful in some aspects of guarding the equality of economic opportunity.

I agree with the Jacksonian Democrats on the topic of Political Democracy. As Andrew Jackson points out in Document B, “It is easy to conceive that great evils to our country and its institutions might flow from such a concentration of power in the hands of a few men irresponsible to the people” and further more, “It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes.”. He was criticized for his own actions by Daniel Webster in Document C, where he called him hypocritical and irresponsible. Webster claimed that Jackson was bad for the country and was not satisfying the needs of the majority.

However, this is less fact, as it is pure criticism by Webster, one of Jackson’s biggest critics. In spite of these claims of power abuse, Jackson used a system of rotation of office to keep the members of equal power. Regardless of Jackson’s efforts to give power to the people, “the grand question of the time was ‘whether the people should be encouraged to govern themselves, or whether the wise should save them from themselves.’” As stated in Document D. Political Democracy was a priority for Andrew Jackson and he successfully established a government to protect it.

Jacksonian Democrats did not protect individual liberty. Though Jackson was a strong supporter and activist in the fight for individual states’ rights, this did not carry over to individual liberty for all people. Document F contains two acts resolved in South Carolina. The third of the Acts and Resolutions was an attempt to regulate the media and one’s right of free speech, attempting to “make it highly penal to print, publish, and distribute newspapers, pamphlets, tracts and pictorial representations calculated and having and obvious tendency to excite the slaves of the southern states to insurrection and revolt” as stated in Document F. Also in the document, they try to prevent mail distribution as a result of the transmission of incendiary tracts. While in Document E, a riot in Philadelphia causes “hostility to the blacks and an indiscriminate persecution …”. Chief Justice Roger B Taney points out, “While the rights of private property are sacredly guarded, we must not forget, that the community also have rights, and that the happiness and well-being of every citizen depends on their faithful preservation”. Though this is true, the fact that individual liberty has not been protected remains.

The Jacksonian Democrats partially fulfilled their role as “guardian” in relation to protecting the equality of economic opportunity. As in the case in Document H of Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge (1837), the government enforced the set rules and was in no way lenient or giving, as they should be. In this case, Chief Justice Taney ruled that “there is no exclusive privilege given to them over the waters of the Charles River…”. This ruling exhibits the effort the government put forth towards maintaining equality of economic opportunity. While in Document B, Jackson states, “The present Bank of the United States … enjoys an exclusive privilege of banking, … almost a monopoly of the foreign and domestic exchange.”, and this is obviously a failed element of maintaining this equality, and a very important one at that. Though Jacksonian Democrats were not in favor of the Bank of the U.S. as a whole, they were still not able to control it as a necessary.

In the 1820’s and 1830’s, the Jacksonian Democrats believed they were protecting many aspects of freedom for the American people and I agree with their beliefs to a limited extent. Some of which, I completely agree with and others that I could not see in my wildest dreams. They did not protect individual liberty at all but claimed they were the official “guardians” of it. As for the equality of economic opportunity, they were able to achieve this in some arenas. The individual cases were decided in favor of this attempt but the national issues weren’t won. The Jacksonian Democrats were able to play the role of “guardian” and protect many of the rights they believed they did, but I don’t think they came near covering all of them.

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