Essay on Jackson's Legacy

Submitted By monty667
Words: 1280
Pages: 6

Gabe Montague
October 28, 2012
D Block
Jackson: Dismantler of Democracy Upon the election of 1828, radical change was sweeping through the still fledgling American republic. The Jeffersonian republicanism of the previous era had run its course, and with the conclusion of issues abroad, an insatiable demand for political and economic reform at home had taken root. An influx of immigration in the early century had left its mark the country, and the lure of the “American dream” beckoned to all, causing an unprecedented number to turn their gazes westward, whether across the Pacific or the Appalachians, and dream of economic opportunity. It was this dream over all else that lent itself to the predominating feelings of the time around the 1828 election. Laissez-faire capitalism was of paramount importance to the masses, and it was therefore of paramount importance to the potential candidates, at least superficially. As a result, Andrew Jackson, the candidate who most popularly and indiscriminately endorsed these ideals, emerged the victor. Jackson was a man of a few adamant convictions that were often based solely upon prejudice or the advice of his political allies. Yet democracy and opportunity inarguably flourished under his eight year presidency, a contradiction that remains disputed among historians. However, despite the novelty of Jacksonian era advancements in economic and social freedom, Jackson himself cannot be credited with creating the change. As demonstrated by his support of a new aristocracy, his tyrannical defiance of democratic branches, and by his concentration of wealth in the hands of the upper class, Jackson can be seen as an oblivious, destructive force to the causes that he represented. Jackson contributed little to instating political freedom for the common man, his efforts merely creating a new aristocracy in the place of the old. Although Jackson may have granted or pushed for petty allowances in the suffrage of new states, for example in Florida (Doc. C), the effects proved inconsequential in that the majority of the people living in the more settled states were already enjoying the benefits of greater political democracy long before Jackson’s election. In 1828, the year of Jackson’s election, all but two states had already undergone the democratic transition from choosing Presidential Electors by the legislature to choosing by the popular vote (Doc. A). Here, a more gradual trend towards political freedom can be observed, a trend that had already proceeded before the election, with seemingly no effect from Jackson’s presidency. In terms of his supposed democratic policies towards his cabinet and appointed officials, Jackson proved yet again to shirk his public promises. The president’s selected officers were chosen indiscriminately of qualification of class, under Jackson’s assumption that the “duties of all public officers are … so plain and simple that men of intelligence may readily qualify themselves for their performance.” (Doc. H) Such a policy would appear democratic in its openness to extreme power for the commoner. Yet the system was anything but democratic. The foremost problem with Jackson’s “rotation” system was that it often led to blunders. For example, when Jackson appointed one of his firm yet discreditable followers to the collector position for the New York port, the man almost instantly fled with over a million dollars (Doc. I). Secondly, the system gave little power to the official cabinet members, while Jackson’s primary influence cam from his “kitchen cabinet,” a group of wealthy aristocrats from New York. From observing the political trends that where already in motion, and the unimportance of Jackson’s supposedly democratic spoils system, it can be seen that Jackson did little to aid the political democracy that was growing around him. Jackson’s role in the destruction of democracy is also evident in his tyrannical abuse of executive power through forceful and often