SS7 Chapter 12: The Jackson Era

Section 1: Jacksonian Democracy (p. 324-329)

New Parties Emerge

Early political groups later became political parties. The parties and their views changed over time. From 1816 to 1824, the Democratic-Republican party was the only major political party.

The four candidates for president in the election of 1824 were all members of the same party. Support for one of the candidates, John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts, came from merchants and business owners in the Northeast.  Another candidate, Andrew Jackson of Tennessee, was a war hero and was well-known and popular. He came from a poor family and wanted ordinary people to have a voice in politics.

The vote was split among the four candidates. Jackson won a plurality, or more votes than any of the other candidates. However, no candidate had a majority, or more than half, of the electoral votes. The Constitution stated that if a candidate does not win a majority of the electoral votes, the House of Representatives must decide the winner. The representatives picked John Quincy Adams.

Like many in the Northeast, Adams wanted a strong federal government. Others did not agree, especially those on the frontier. The Democratic-Republicans split into two parties before the election in 1828. The Republicans backed Adams and a strong central government. The Democrats supported Jackson and states’ rights.

Democrats National Republicans
Idea of Government favored states’ rights wanted strong federal government
National Bank opposed national bank supported national bank
Base of Support workers, farmers, immigrants wealthy voters, merchants
Candidate Andrew Jackson John Quincy Adams

In the election of 1828, Jackson faced Adams. The campaign grew ugly. Both parties used mudslinging, or insults meant to make candidates look bad. The candidates also came up with slogans, handed out printed flyers, and held rallies and barbecues to try to win voters’ support. Jackson’s popularity gave him an easy victory in the 1828 election.

Jackson as President

Jackson thought more people should be involved in government. By 1828, most people no longer had to own property to be able to vote. Many states had changed their constitutions so that voters selected the presidential electors in their states. Jackson also thought that the federal bureaucracy was not democratic. Many workers were not elected officials. He used the spoils system to fire many workers and replace them with people who had supported his election.

The caucus system was replaced by special state meetings called nominating conventions. At these meetings, elected representatives voted for party candidates.

The Tariff Debate

Americans were also split on their views about tariffs, or taxes, on goods from other countries. Business people in the Northeast wanted higher tariffs so that European goods would cost more than American goods. Southerners, however, liked buying cheaper goods from Europe.

Jackson’s vice president, John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, was a strong supporter of states’ rights. However, his views were different from those of Jackson. When Congress raised tariffs, Calhoun did not think it was good for his state. He felt that a state could and should nullify, or cancel, federal laws that were not good for that state.

When Congress again raised tariffs, South Carolina passed a law saying that the state would not pay them. It also threatened to secede from, or leave, the United States if the federal government tried to enforce the tariff law. Jackson did not agree with his vice president. He did not believe the states had the right to nullify federal laws or to secede from the Union.

Jackson did not think the federal government should support projects that helped only one state. He thought the federal government should support projects that helped the entire nation.

Jackson tried to calm angry Southerners by working to lower the tariffs. But to keep the union together and strong, he also supported the Force Act. This act would allow him to enforce federal laws by using the military if necessary. South Carolina was happy to have the tariffs lowered. Still, the state nullified the Force Act.


Section 2: Conflicts Over Land (p. 330-335)

Removing Native Americans

In the early 1800s, American settlers were moving both west and south. The country had to decide what to do about Native Americans who lived on this land. The Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw peoples lived in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida. These Native American groups were farmers. Their communities were much like many other American communities. As a result, other Americans called these groups the “Five Civilized Tribes.”

As settlers moved farther south and west, many people wanted the federal government to force the Five Civilized Tribes to relocate. Settlers needed more land and wanted to take it from Native Americans. President Jackson had once fought the Creek and Seminole people in Georgia and Florida and agreed that Native Americans should not be allowed to stand in the way of this expansion.

As president, Jackson pushed a bill through Congress that would help the settlers. The Indian Removal Act allowed the federal government to pay eastern Native Americans to give up their land and move west. Most Native American groups signed treaties and agreed to do so. However, the Cherokee already had a treaty with the federal government. That treaty said that Cherokee land was not part of the United States. Much of this Cherokee land was inside the state of Georgia but Georgia still wanted it. The state of Georgia ignored the Cherokee treaty and asked the federal government to use the new law to take the Cherokee’s land.

The Cherokee took the matter to court. The case, called Worcester v. Georgia, went to the U.S. Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that the Cherokee owned the land. He said that the state of Georgia could not take control of it. President Jackson disagreed with the Court’s ruling. He refused to prevent Georgia from making the Cherokee move.

In 1835 the federal government signed a new treaty with a small group of Cherokee. In the Treaty of New Echota, this small group promised that all the Cherokee would move by 1838. However, Cherokee Chief John Ross and most of the Cherokee leaders had not signed this treaty. For this reason, Ross did not think the treaty could be enforced. Some members of Congress agreed. But most agreed with President Jackson and the treaty became law.

Most Cherokee did not want to relocate. President Van Buren sent the army to enforce the treaty. The army forced the Cherokee off their land and into a new territory west of the Mississippi River. It was called the Indian Territory because Congress had created it to be the new home of many eastern Native Americans. The other Five Civilized Tribes and other Native Americans were also forced to move to the Indian Territory.

The Cherokee had to travel from their homes in Georgia to the Indian Territory. Losing their homes and taking this long and difficult journey greatly saddened the Native Americans. Many died waiting for the journey to begin. Many more died along the way. Their journey was later called the Trail of Tears.

Resistance and Removal

Most of the Five Civilized Tribes did not want to sell their lands. Osceola, a leader of the Seminoles in Florida, refused to move. Instead, he and his followers decided to stay and fight. This began a long and bloody fight called the Seminole Wars. The Seminoles were skilled at fighting in Florida’s swamps and marshlands. Small groups surprised and attacked army troops and then ran away into the swamps. This method of fighting is called guerilla tactics. It was successful, at least for a while. The Seminoles were greatly outnumbered, but they kept the army from a quick victory.

In their fight, Seminoles were joined by Black Seminoles. Black Seminoles were escaped slaves who ran away to Florida. Because Florida was not a state yet, they thought they would be safe there. Some of the runaway slaves built their own homes. Others lived with the Seminole people. When war broke out, Black Seminoles fought alongside the Native Americans. They were afraid that the army might return them to slavery.

The fighting continued, on and off, for more than 20 years, from 1832 to 1858. Neither side was able to defeat the other. Eventually, most of the Seminoles either died or moved to the Indian Territory. Some, however, stayed in Florida, where their descendants still live today.


Section 3: Jackson and the Bank (p. 336-341)

Jackson’s War Against the Bank

Congress created the Second Bank of the United States to hold the federal government’s money. Its job was to control the nation’s money supply. However, the Bank was not run by government officials. Instead it was run by Eastern bankers. Most of these bankers had wealth and a good education.

President Andrew Jackson had neither of these. He was a pioneer from the West. He had worked hard and became president. He did not like the wealthy bankers who ran the Bank.

Jackson was against the Bank for another reason, too. The bank often did not give out loans to small farmers. Jackson thought that the nation’s many small state banks could manage the money supply. Without the Bank watching over them, they would also be more likely to lend money to farmers.

Senators Henry Clay and Daniel Webster supported the Bank. They wanted to make sure that Jackson did not put it out of business. They also wanted to keep Jackson from being elected again. They thought that most Americans liked the Bank, and if Jackson tried to close it, he would lose votes in the next election.

Years earlier, Congress had given the Bank a charter for 20 years. A charter is a legal document that gives an organization permission to do its work. Clay and Webster helped the Bank get a new charter from Congress before the old charter ran out. They thought Jackson would not dare to veto the new charter, or prevent it from becoming a law. They thought he would not veto it because it was an election year and he might lose votes but they were wrong and Jackson vetoed it anyway. This meant that the Bank would be forced to go out of business in a few years. Surprisingly, most people supported Jackson’s veto and it actually helped him get reelected.

After the election, Jackson took the federal government’s money out of the Bank and put it into smaller state banks. When the Bank’s charter ended, the Second Bank of the United States closed.

Martin Van Buren, Jackson’s vice president, ran for president in 1836. Jackson was still very popular and Jackson’s support helped Van Buren win. Soon after the election, though, the country was in trouble. Jackson’s actions toward the Bank had led to an economic panic.

When the Bank’s charter expired and it closed, there was no national bank to control the state banks. They began printing more banknotes. Federal officials became concerned that these notes had little value. As a result, the federal government decided to require gold and silver as payment for public land. It would not accept the banknotes.

People who had banknotes feared their notes might become worthless. This fear set off an economic panic, called the Panic of 1837. Many people lost their jobs and their land. Thousands of businesses had to close.

President Van Buren believed that the government should not do anything to help the nation during the depression. He did, however, work with Congress to create a federal treasury where the federal government would keep its money. The government, not private bankers, would own and run the treasury. Leaders hoped that this new treasury would prevent future panics.

The Whigs in Power

Van Buren ran for reelection in 1840. With the country still in the depths of a depression, the Whigs thought they had a chance to win the presidency. The Whigs ran William Henry Harrison against Van Buren.

Like Andrew Jackson, Harrison became a hero during the War of 1812. He fought at the Battle of Tippecanoe. His running mate was John Tyler, a planter from Virginia. Their campaign slogan was “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.” A record number of voters elected Harrison by a wide margin.

Harrison gave his long inaugural speech in the bitter cold without a hat or coat. He died of pneumonia 32 days later. He served the shortest term of any president. John Tyler became the first vice president to become president because the elected president died in office.

Tyler had been elected as a Whig. He had once been a Democrat and did not support many Whig policies. Whig Party leaders thought he would attract voters in the South. Webster and Clay believed that they would be able to get Harrison to agree to their plans for the country. Harrison’s death spoiled their plan.

Tyler vetoed several Whig bills. His lack of party loyalty angered many Whigs. Finally, they threw him out of the party. He became a president without a party.

Unfortunately, the Whigs could not agree on goals for their party. They did agree on their dislike for President Tyler, however. The Whigs continued to vote more and more according to sectional ties – North, South, and West – and not party ties. It is likely that Whig presidential candidate Henry Clay lost the election of 1844 because of this division. James Polk, a Democrat, became the new president.