Jeffersonian and Jacksonian Democracies Term Paper

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Jeffersonian & Jacksonian Democracies

Jeffersonian and Jacksonian Democracies


Before discussing how and why the change came to American government and politics - from the Jeffersonian era to the Andrew Jackson era - it is worthy to set the stage for the Jacksonian period by reviewing the era of Thomas Jefferson, known politically as the "First Party System." Jefferson's influence lasted from roughly the late 1790s to 1824. This period involved the formation of the Federalist and Jeffersonian Republican parties. What divided these two parties philosophically, according to the book Political Behavior of the American Electorate (Flanigan & Zingale), was "...their attitude toward the power of the central government" (Flanigan 58).

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The Federalists were interested in "...increasing the authority of the central government," Flanigan writes, hence the Federalists received the firm backing of commercial and financial sectors of the American society at that time. But the Jeffersonian Republicans "...distrusted the centralizing and, in their view, aristocratic tenancies of their rivals," Flanigan continues. The two parties actually were launched as factions in the U.S. Congress, but as time passed the two parties' influence spread to the state and local level, and down to the voting public. These two parties helped develop form and fine-tune their opinions about issues that were important to the country. Flanigan writes that after 1815 there was a great reduction in the clout of the Federalists (due in no small part to the popularity of Jefferson), and competition "...all but ceased" as the Jeffersonian Republicans "gained supremacy" and eased the country into the so-called "Era of Good Feelings."


Term Paper on Jeffersonian & Jacksonian Democracies Jeffersonian and Jacksonian Assignment

Meanwhile, the first presidential election that had widespread popular participation by the voters was the presidential election of 1828. It also marked the "resurgence of party competition for the presidency" (Flanigan 58). The election featured the emergence of the Democrats and Whigs as powerful political parties - along with the launching of Andrew Jackson's era of influence - and Flanigan explains that the Democrats (conservatives at that time) and Whigs competed "fairly evenly" for national power right up to before the Civil War.

JEFFERSONIAN ERA: Conditions that Jefferson, Madison, Monroe served under David Brown writes in the journal Historian (Brown 1999) that while George Washington (the first president) was a war hero and John Adams (the second chief executive) was also a "national icon," those two left little behind in terms of political legacy. And after Adams suffered "the ignominy of electoral defeat by Jefferson in 1800," the Federalists "rarely competed effectively for national office afterwards," Brown explains. But Thomas Jefferson, contrary to Adams' political ineffectiveness, "bequeathed to partisan heirs James Madison and James Monroe the blueprint for a republican political economy of westward expansion" which was promoted by the "activist agrarian state." Indeed, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe won six straight presidential elections during the period 1800 to 1824; and moreover, they enjoyed the benefits that go along with having Congress dominated with Democratic-Republicans during that 24-year-period.

The Jefferson legacy, Brown continues, served "both the proponents of radical egalitarianism and the champions of "Southern slavery." Jefferson was "many things to many people," Brown explains. He was the "apostle of liberty," the author of the Declaration of Independence, and a man whose vision was focused on "westward expansion" of the young nation through farmers tilling the land "beyond the reach of intruding institutional restraints." Jefferson backed up his desire to see the nation expand westward by promoting federally financed improvements " education and transportation" in the period right after the war of 1812. Meanwhile, Brown goes on, the Jeffersonian coalition had evolved from "a decentralized agrarian opposition to Federalism in the 1790s" into a "ruling party of vigorous nationalists in 1816." Jefferson was known for his desire to have federal funds support education, the arts, roads, rivers and manufactures, and part of these programs was due, Brown explains, to Jefferson's strategy for shoring up the homeland. He was not successful in getting Britain and France to respect American neutrality on the high seas, and so he helped to enact the Embargo Act of 1807, an attempt to halt all American exports of goods into the areas of conflict in Europe.

American manufacturers received a push from Jeffersonian politics when, after the war of 1812, Jefferson's predecessor Madison - who feared the U.S. becoming too dependent on European markets - urged Congress to help promote "improvement friendly to agriculture, to manufacturers, and to external as well as internal congress," Brown continues. This type of nationalism went over well with Democratic-Republicans; most of them realized that the nation needed a "diversified economy, dependable home market, and military security." Brown quotes Jefferson as saying (in 1816): "He...who is now against domestic manufacture, must be fore reducing us either to dependence on [a] foreign nation, or to be clothed in skins, and to live like wild beasts in dens and caverns..."

But the Jeffersonian push for a strong economy - through federal subsidies of manufacturing and commercial development - gave way, Brown asserts, to "apprehension that federal promotion of the emerging commercial economy would lead to inequality within American Society," and that elite, wealthy people would benefit.

THE JACKSONIAN ERA: how the party structure changed

To begin with, Jefferson and Monroe opposed Andrew Jackson's bid for the presidency in 1824, believing that the general was " of the most unfit men I know of for such a place...he is a dangerous man"; Monroe's Postmaster John McLean said this to Monroe about Jackson: He is "deficient in requirement and capacity for the station that he fills...his firmness is not that which arises from a mature investigation and enlightened conclusion, but of impulse." Basically the Jeffersonian party bloc saw Jackson as a "despot"; indeed Jackson was know as a ruthless general who executed mutinous U.S. soldiers in the Creek War, and who was involved in duels (with pistols) more than once. Meanwhile, a change in the party structure was in the wind during this period before Jackson was elected. To wit, the "old Democratic-Republicans" (those who were the original supporters of the Jeffersonian movement in the 1790s) were growing weary with the "second generation of Democrats" in power, and older Jeffersonians believe the new Democratic party was "too egalitarian" to their tastes, Brown writes.

In the book the Politics of Long Division: The Birth of the Second party System in Ohio (author, Donald J. Ratcliffe), reviewed by Lawrence Frederick Kohl of the University of Alabama, the reviewer, paraphrasing and reviewing the book, explains that the politics of the 1820s "was the most cataclysmic, most complete partisan realignment in American history" (Kohl 109). How did that realignment get launched? Kohl explains that the "economic collapse of 1819 combined with the sectional concerns of the Missouri Crisis" helped to wipe out was remained of the First Party System. "New surges of voter turnout" were realized in 1824 and 1828, which "laid the foundation for the party loyalties of the Second Party System," Kohl continued.

That "surge" of new voters brought an "overwhelming shift of support" to Andrew Jackson. While Jackson was not viewed nationally by the voters as a champion of the policies that had made him famous, but rather, they saw Jackson as a "friend to the American System in 1824" and the votes were not necessarily from people who changes their minds, but rather from that "influx of new voters." There was social "discontent" and "cultural tension" in the country at the time, and that added to Jackson's appeal as a new leader who could understand the need to move away from past policies. But voters were drawn to Jackson - and away from Jeffersonian policies - out of what author Ratcliffe referred to as a "complex mixture of socioeconomic and ethnocultural a historical context also influenced by inherited political patterns" (Ratcliffe 233).

In the book, Why Parties, author John H. Aldrich writes that Jackson was elected in 1824 "from a variety of sources, some positively supporting him, others turning to him primarily out of opposition to the incumbent, Adams. Again, it is apparent that the new voters and those weary of Jeffersonian policies, were turning to Jackson, who was becoming "a new force in national politics," Aldrich writes (97). The "birth of party politics" began, Aldrich insists, in 1828, the year Jackson was elected - and the form that party politics took is "recognizable even today," Aldrich asserts. Earlier parties had been "primarily parties-in-government, formulated over differences between their leaders in the new national government." But the electoral organization that took place in the Jeffersonian democracy "simply paled in comparison with the electoral organization of the Jacksonian democracy," Aldrich continues. The new party, the Democratic party, "penetrated deeply into states, localities, and in many ways," Aldrich continues on page 97, "into the very fabric of the ordinary life of voters."

The new parties that helped launch Jackson into the presidency and into political history were "rooted in the masses, seeking to win their support, mobilize it on… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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