How Democratic Was Andrew Jackson? Essay
Democracy is defined as rule by the people, either directly or through elected representatives. Politically, being a democracy basically means the people have a say in government. A democratic person would typically believe in voting rights for all adults, the right to run for political office, freedom of speech, majority rule, and many other things. Andrew Jackson seemed to be the main political leader with this type of government. Some say that he was the founder of the Democratic Party, but he was not democratic in all circumstances. The policies that he put on the Native Americans did not show democracy at all. While some of his decisions, like giving everyone a chance in the government and closing the national bank, were fairly democratic. I believe Jackson was both democratic and undemocratic.
He did have democratic ideas, but his ideas didn’t actually always benefit all of the people. For example, “Andrew Jackson’s Bank Veto Message to Congress,” he explains that the bank is “almost a monopoly of the foreign and domestic exchange” (Document 4). I believe he had a point in when he talked about how much power the few rich men had. He said that they often bend the laws of government for their own self purposes using money. In the quote above it also seems like he is just trying to keep the money and power in America, but by shutting the whole system down he is taking down the rich and raising up the poor (Document 5). Yes it was democratic that he tried to balance out the power between the rich and the poor, but by doing so he took down the rich. This was undemocratic considering that it did not benefit all the people.
Another reason to consider Andrew Jackson as democratic was the presidential elections between 1816 and 1836 (Document 1). In the 1816 election all 8 states had the state legislature choose the president. In the next election 9 states had the state legislature choose and 3 states had the people choose. The amount of states that let people choose the president was still fairly low until 1824. On this election 6 states chose by the state legislature and 6 chose by the people. This also happened to be the year that Jackson campaigned by telling the People he would listen and do their will. Andrew Jackson, nicknamed “Old Hickory,” believed that all of the government must follow the wishes of the people after he lost to John Quincy Adams even though Jackson did have the most popular votes. Another significant increase in the method of electing presidents came in 1828, the year Old Hickory became president. Only 2 states had chosen their president by the state legislature, while the remaining 8 states gave the choice to the people. Andrew Jackson definitely seemed democratic according to Document 1.
Even in Document 2 it states that people came from five hundred miles away just to see the “people’s leader.” As previously stated above, not all of his ideas were the best. Andrew Jackson’s Spoils System was a prime example. The Spoils System was the use of public offices as rewards for political party work. In Document 6 we learn that Jackson thought that “The duties of all public officers are…so plain and simple that men of intelligence may readily qualify.” Jackson made it so that the average man could qualify and that everyone had an equal chance, but this came with a big cost. According to Document 7, The Life of Andrew Jackson, Jackson had appointed Samuel Swartwout to the collector of the Port of New York, and when Van Buren found this out he almost collapsed. Van Buren alerted the President that Swartwout was a criminal, but Andrew Jackson refused to listen. He let him keep the position since he had been an early supporter. Jackson was mortified when he found out that Swartwout had stolen $1,222,705.09 and fled to Europe. It was democratic to give everyone a chance, but everything should be to certain degree.
It was definitely undemocratic after losing a million dollars though. A true democratic leader believes in equality for all people, and Andrew Jackson did this….kind of. Andrew Jackson gave everyone an equal opportunity except Native Americans and slaves because he did not count them as citizens. At first in Document 8 Jackson seems to understand that the Native Americans are losing their land, but as it goes on he presents the idea of setting apart a section for them. This doesn’t seem too bad until you read what the Native Americans said in Document 9. They clearly say “We wish to remain on the land of our fathers.” Andrew Jackson thought he was being helpful and equal to them, but they didn’t want to move. Jackson, very undemocratically, then passed a law saying the Native Americans can be moved by force, and forced away they were.
The Indian removal is shown in Document 10. I believe Old Hickory was both democratic in some areas and undemocratic in other areas. Other than Document 1, all other documents prove to show that his actions had good intentions, but sometimes bad results. “King Andrew the First” was not as undemocratic as some made him seem. He was also not as democratic as the people believed. Jackson may have been the most popular President of the United States because people thought he could do no wrong. Overall Andrew Jackson was in some way democratic. Maybe not as democratic as he seemed, but he was democratic.
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