During the first years of the United States of America, there were numerous people that helped shape the government and politics as we know them today. Although most of the development of the American Government was slow and conservative, there were certain people who brought big changes, which turned out to be the most important in their overall outcome. Among those, we can find the election of Andrew Jackson as the 7th president of the United States, which represented a turning point in the history of the Union.
Jackson was a founder of the Democratic Party, currently the oldest active party in the United States and the world. He was a supporter of the enfranchisement of the ordinary men. He opposed the concentration of political power on a small elite of people; this sentiment could be related to his humble origins. Jackson thought supreme court justices should be elected, he mentioned the need for limits on presidential terms and was not a supporter of the electoral college. Strict constructionism was for him the best way to ensure democratic political power (Remini 342). His presidency can be characterized as the transition of political power from a small selected group of high-class people to the ordinary citizen. Today, his idea of democracy, due to its attachment to slavery, white supremacy, and the Indian removal, is criticized and consider self-contradictory; but it was indeed an “authentic democratic movement” and brought much more political power to the common people; it just was mainly for white male citizens (“Jacksonian Democracy” 1).
Jackson is still one of the most authoritarian presidents in the history of the nation. “Even Washington himself or Jefferson or Lincoln did not exercise such a commanding authority during their terms of office”, he never doubted on using the power vested in him by the constitution or expressing his opposition on any matter (Long 85). Jackson used his right to veto legislation more than any other president at that time, “[i]n eight years, Congress passed only one major law . . . at his behest” (Feller 2). He also changed his cabinet members many times. “Jackson made it clear that he was the absolute ruler of his administration’s policy” (“Andrew Jackson” 8).
One of the most important contests in Jackson’s presidency was the ‘Bank War’. Since the beginning, he made clear his opposition to the Second National Bank of the United States. He thought the National Bank had been given liberties that were unhealthy for the common welfare and was involved in affairs that did not benefit the people; “[h]e also objected to a lack of congressional oversight over its dealings” (Glass 2). “He believed it concentrated too much economic power in the hands of a small monied elite beyond the public’s control” (“Bank War” 2). During his first term, he attempted to shut down the bank, but even though Congress did agree such bank was unconstitutional, the controversy continued for three years. “In 1832 . . . the obstinate president vetoed an attempt by Congress to draw up a new charter for the bank” (“Shut down” 4). While that was happening, Jackson was running for his reelection and the ‘Bank War’ would be a decisive matter on his campaign. After being reelected, he considered his win as an authorization to shut down the Second National Bank, and on 1833, by withdrawing the funds from the bank, “Jackson effectively sealed the bank’s death warrant” (Glass 5). On 1836, the bank’s charter officially expired, and it was not renewed.
Another important chapter in the Jackson presidency was the ‘Nullification Crisis’. After passing a bill that set tariffs on historically high rates, discontent in the south broke and specifically South Carolina declared the bill void under its state rights and threaten with secession. After a revision that lowered the tariffs from the original bill, extremists were still not happy and subsequently, South Carolina’s legislation declared null both bills. In response, “Jackson sent U.S. Navy warships to Charleston harbor and threatened to hang any man who worked to support nullification or secession” (Howe 405). Andrew Jackson denied the right to secession and said on the Nullification Declaration that:
The Constitution … forms a government not a league … To say that any State may at pleasure secede from the Union is to say that the United States are not a nation (Jackson 27).
On this crisis, Jackson showed he would do everything in his power to ensure the preservation of the union and restated his indisputable federalist character.
Andrew Jackson made a great contribution to the bases of American Democracy and Federalism. His position on the ‘Nullification Crisis’ served as an example of how far presidents could go on behalf of a unified America. Jackson sought to end the dominion of the elite on political power and move toward a more democratic system. Even though he was not really a deep thinker, his political philosophy was transcendental and led to the suffrage of most white men and the reorganization of several federal institutions. Andrew Jackson’s presidency marked a critical moment in the history of the United States of America.
- Remini, Robert V. (1984). Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Democracy, 1833– 1845. New York, NY: Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. ISBN 978-0-8018-5913-7.
- Long, R. Seymour. “Andrew Jackson and the National Bank.” The English Historical Review, vol. 12, no. 45, 1897, pp. 85–99. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/547320.
- “Andrew Jackson.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 29 Oct. 2009, www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/andrew-jackson.
- “Jacksonian Democracy.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 4 Apr. 2012, www.history.com/topics/19th-century/jacksonian-democracy.
- “Andrew Jackson Shuts down Second Bank of the U.S.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 16 Nov. 2009, www.history.com/this-day-in-history/andrew-jackson-shuts-down-second-bank-of-the-u-s.
- Feller, Daniel. “Andrew Jackson: Impact and Legacy.” Miller Center, 20 June 2017, millercenter.org/president/jackson/impact-and-legacy.
- Glass, Andrew, et al. “President Jackson Shuts down Second U.S. Bank Sept. 10, 1833.” POLITICO, POLITICO, 10 Sept. 2007, www.politico.com/story/2007/09/president-jackson-shuts-down-second-us-bank-sept-10-1833-005702.
- “Bank War.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia. Britannica, Inc., 15 Sept. 2017, www.britannica.com/event/Bank-War.
- Howe, Daniel Walker (2007). What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199-74379-7.
- Jackson, Andrew. “President Jackson’s Proclamation Regarding Nullification, December 10, 1832.” Razor Tie Artery Foundation Announce New Joint Venture Recordings web.archive.org/web/20060824095525/http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/presiden/proclamations/jack01.htm.