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Jacksonian DBQ

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Joined: Sep 2006
Jacksonian DBQ


During his presidency, Andrew Jackson is given credit for trying to represent the common man and expanding democracy throughout the federal government. However, Jackson’s “common man” was actually a lower middle class white man from the southern parts of the United States. Jackson had a well known distrust and dislike for the elite class that had typically held positions in office up until his presidency, which is made apparent with his disbandment of the Bank of the United States. Jackson was pro-slavery and well known for embracing the infamous Trail of Tears, a death march leading 100,000 Native Americans west of the Mississippi River so America could expand. Due to his prejudices, and his representation of the “common man” that did not make up the majority of the country, Andrew Jackson was not the real acceptor and expander of democracy that he is given credit for.
Andrew Jackson’s definition of the “common man” was limited and did not encompass various groups such as Indians, slaves, and women. The map on Indian Removal from 1820-1840 (Document F) illustrates the numerous Indian tribes that were forced to move from their native land under the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Although the Supreme Court Case Worcester v. Georgia set a precedent for Indian rights, Jackson ruthlessly disapproved, as he made clear by his statement, “John Marshall made his decision now let him enforce it.” Jackson vehemently supported an increase in freedom for his idea of the common man, but continuously oppressed the Indians under legislative acts. This also holds true toward his views on slavery, seeing as how Andrew Jackson was a slave-owner himself. He owned a large plantation called The Hermitage and expressed no concerns about the lack of slave rights. Furthermore, Jackson was apathetic toward the views of women and his administration displayed no ardent attempts for equality between men and women, which were consistent with the views of the rest of the nation at this time.
During Jackson’s term as President, the state government of Georgia supported Jackson’s efforts to remove Indians from their lands. This allowed Georgia to gain more territory to sell for a profit. In the Supreme Court Case of Cherokee Nation versus Georgia, Supreme Court Justice John Marshal argues, “their relation to the United States resembles that of a ward to a guardian…(they were a) domestic dependent nation.” Therefore Georgia and Jackson believed that the Indians were not capable to become civilized on their own. Jackson used an undemocratic method of force to remove Indians that caused the unfortunate event of the Trail of Tears. By forcibly removing the Sauk, Fox, Chikasaw, Chocotaw, Creek, Cherokee, and Seminole tribes from their lands to the newly created Indian Territories, Jackson Increased the power of the federal government over Indian affairs.
The “Tariff of Abominations” and its opposition by the “Nullies” in South Carolina showed that the government ignored the will of the people with its rapidly expanding power at the expense of democracy. In 1828, Congress passed the “Tariff of Abominations,” which established taxes on any imported goods to protect the manufacturing interests of the northeast, but at the same time invited other nations to establish similar tariffs that would hurt American exports. The “Tariff of Abominations” was detrimental to the Southern economy, which relied on exporting raw goods to Europe . In 1832, Congress passed a new Tariff, which reduced the detrimental impacts of the “Tariff of Abominations,” but was still met with opposition from the South. The South Carolinians had a special convention in Columbia to nullify the tariff and did so. Jackson responded by threatening use of the military against the South Carolinians. He also threatened to have the leaders of the nullification movement hanged. Jackson’s response is an example of the federal government using its power to completely ignore the opinions of a state by force. Jackson’s actions were detrimental to popular democracy.
Jackson’s decision to take federal funds out of the Bank of the United States and veto a charter request was another example of how he was only looking out for the interests of the white frontiersmen. In his veto message to the Senate, (doc B) Jackson describes how he feels the bank is unconstitutional in the power it holds over the nation’s economy. He is using round-about logic to focus on things that will turn people against the institution which is earning the wealthy so much revenue. In “the downfall of the Mother Bank” (doc G) the common view of Jackson is depicted. He is seen as selfish and well-off as the country is crumbling when they are dealing with the severe economic depression. Jackson wanted to use the destruction of the bank to undermine the power of the wealthy, rather than to benefit the entire country. Jackson’s actions reveal his limited interests in democracy for the nation.
Andrew Jackson abused his executive powers while he was in office. In the instances of the Indian Removal Act, the closing of the Bank of the United States, and the suppression of the “Nullies”, he overextended the powers that the Constitution granted to the Executive Branch, ultimately not proving a significant change in democracy. Because his version of the common man was limited to “white males”, he did not fully embrace a state of democracy. Rather than democratically placing emphasis on all people, he focused primarily on the frontier white man, excluding the upper class, slaves, and women.

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