America: Past and Present

Chapter 10






Democracy in Theory and Practice

  • Fear that democracy would lead to anarchy wanes in the 1820s and 1830s
  • Equality of opportunity stressed
  • America becomes society of winners and losers


Democracy and Society

  • Egalitarian expectations despite growing economic inequality
  • No distinctive domestic servant class
  • No class distinctions in dress
  • White male equality before the law radical by European standards
  • Egalitarian attack on licensed professions
  • Popular press the source of information and opinion


Democratic Culture

  • Artists work for mass, democratic audience rather than for an aristocratic elite
  • Popular genres include Gothic horror, romantic fiction, melodramas, genre paintings
  • Serious artists seek to inspire with neoclassical sculpture, landscapes of untamed nature
  • Only a few truly avant-garde, romantic artists


Democratic Political Institutions: Politics of Universal Manhood Suffrage

  • Nearly all adult white males gain right to vote without property qualification
  • Appointive offices made elective
  • Professional politicians emerged
  • Public benefits of two-party system extolled
  • Political machines develop at state level


Democratic Political Institutions :
National Parties

  • Changes in presidential elections spur party growth
  • Parties often serve special economic interests
  • Parties share republican ideology, commitment to equality of opportunity
  • Parties differ on how to achieve common aims
  • Neither party seeks to extend rights beyond adult white male constituency
  • Radical third parties argue the cause of African Americans, women, working people


Economic Issues

  • Interest in government economic policy intensified after 1819
  • Some wanted to do away with banks, paper money, and easy credit
  • Others wanted more government aid
  • Political parties took stands on the role of the federal government in economic growth

Labor Radicalism and Equal Rights

  • Working men’s parties and trade unions emerged in the 1820s and 1830s
  • They advocated public education reform, a ten-hour workday, an end to debtors prison, and hard currency
  • They made some gains but they proved to be only temporary
  • The women’s rights movement and abolitionists made little progress

Jackson and the Politics of Democracy

  • Jackson becomes a symbol of democracy’s triumph
  • Actions of Jackson and his party refashion national politics in a democratic mold

The Election of 1824 and J. Q. Adams’ Administration

  • The election of 1824 a five-way race
  • Jackson wins popular vote
  • Adams wins in House of Representatives with Henry Clay’s support
  • Clay’s appointment as Secretary of State leads to charges Adams “bought” the presidency
  • Mid-term election of 1826 gives Jackson forces control of Congress



Jackson Comes to Power

  • Jacksonians organized for election of 1828

appeal to sectional self-interest

make politics exciting to the average man

  • Jackson wins election as a man of the people
  • Jackson democratizes presidency

fires at will officeholders he does not like

defends by asserting the right of all men to a government post



Indian Removal

  • Indian removal policy inherited from prior administrations
  • Jackson agrees that the federal government had not pushed Indians hard enough
  • Responds to Cherokee resistance by asking Congress for Indian Removal act of 1830
  • 1838–U.S. Army forces Cherokees west along the Trail of Tears


Indian Removal

The Nullification Crisis

  • John C. Calhoun leads development of intellectual defense of state sovereignty
  • 1828–tariff passed, South Carolina objects but takes no action
  • 1832–tariff passed, South Carolina nullifies
  • Jackson threatens to send army
  • Both sides retreat

South Carolina gets lower tariff

Jackson demonstrates federal will


The Bank War and the Second Party System

  • “The Bank War” a symbolic defense of democratic value
  • Leads to two important results

economic disruption

a two-party system


Mr. Biddle’s Bank

  • Bank of the United States unpopular
  • Open to charges of special privileges
  • Manager Nicholas Biddle looks and behaves like an aristocrat
  • Bank possesses great power and privilege with no accountability to the public


The Bank Veto and the Election of 1832

  • Jackson vaguely threatens Bank in first term
  • Biddle seeks new charter four years early
  • Congress passes, but Jackson vetoes

claims the Bank is unconstitutional

defends veto as a blow for equality

  • Jacksonian victory in 1832 spells Bank’s doom



Killing the Bank

  • Jackson destroys Bank by federal deposits
  • Funds transferred to some state (“pet”) banks
  • Biddle uses his powers to cause recession, attempts to blame Jackson
  • Destruction of Bank provokes fears of dictatorship, costs Jackson support in Congress


The Emergence of the Whigs

  • Whig party a coalition of two forces

opponents of Jackson

Anti-Masonic party

  • Whigs defend activist government in economics, enforcement of “decency”
  • Democrats weakened by

defection of working-class spokesmen

depression produced by Jackson’s fiscal policies


The Rise and Fall of Van Buren

  • Martin Van Buren succeeds Jackson in 1836
  • Term begins with Panic of 1837
  • Laissez-faire philosophy prevents Van Buren from aiding economic distress
  • Van Buren attempts to save government funds with independent subtreasuries
  • Whigs block subtreasuries until 1840
  • Panic of 1837 blamed on Van Buren



The Rise and Fall of
Van Buren (2)

  • Whigs fully organized by 1840
  • Whig candidate William Henry Harrison

image built as 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



Heyday of the Second Party System

  • Election of 1840 marks rise of permanent two-party system in the U.S.
  • Whigs and Democrats evenly divide the electorate for next two decades
  • Parties offer voters a clear choice

Whigs support a “positive liberal state,” community

Democrats support “negative liberal state,” individual

  • Parties share a broad democratic ideology


Tocqueville’s Wisdom

  • Alexis de Tocqueville praises most aspects of American democracy
  • Warns of future disaster if white males refuse to extend liberty to women, African Americans and Indians.