Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
By the 1824 election, all but six of the twenty-four states that made up America held popular elections for all elections including that of president. It narrowed down to only South Carolina by 1832. The power was no longer in the hands of the elite few. It was showing up in the hands of the average white man. This meant that the feelings of those average white men would be heard loud and clear though the elections. The Panic of 1819 did not help the average man’s view of the government and how it was run.
The change of politics could be heard loud and clear in 1824 as support for Andrew Jackson stretched far and wide across the nation. His support was the reason Calhoun’s Republication nomination never went through. The politicians that thought they had the political world in their pockets were taken off guard as they realized they had created a “menacing genie” through Jackson. He had more appeal to the masses than they had thought. He was something to contend with as the first “presidential candidate of nongentry origins.” He was a man for the common man.
The average voting man saw something in Jackson they had not seen in other candidates. Voters could see a little of themselves in the candidate who was “shaped by experience and temperament to appeal to the country’s beleaguered common folk.” He was a man that was respected and seen as a national hero. Jackson’s resume was outstanding as he was recommended two times by President Madison for a regular army commission. He had experience in leading and was recognized by those in all levels of society and the political world. He was a man who had stood out “as no other man could for the American’s faith in his country against the world.” America was looking to Jackson to bring about huge changes in the government.
The common person saw the government as it was as taking advantage of the masses. The government was seen as “exploiting democratic sentiment for entrepreneurial purposes.” This view was only made worse when the more public friendly Jackson lost and Adams won among whispers of scandal. Jackson accused Adams and his supporters of stealing the election through “conspiracy and illegitimacy.” With the popularity Jackson had, it was easy for the accusations to take root and spread. It did not help that Adams’ presidency fell short of what he had promised or even expected to accomplish. The vast improvements Adams promised were seen as chaotic endeavors. The improvement system was suspiciously setup with links between “tariff revenues and internal improvement expenditures” that supported each other in a picture that appeared to be a system of government plunder. Every action by the Adams’ administration appeared suspicious and corrupt. The dissatisfaction the masses were feeling before the election of 1824 seemed justified as the Adams administration began to fall short of what the public wanted.
Most of Adams’ recommendations were dismissed and ignored. Adams saw a glorious future for America, but the suspicious ascension to the presidency had him largely ignored. He was openly made fun of and his “flights of rhetoric evoked only ridicule.” The Adams’ presidency was not helping the opponents of Jackson. Public opinion was leaning more and more toward the man that was a part of them.
The American System became the issue that divided the political stage into two camps: Adams and Jackson. The South pulled behind Jackson who they could relate to as he was a slave owner. He was one of theirs, unlike Adams and the other Northerners who could not understand them. Politics was taking a more personal turn that Jackson’s opposition was not prepared for. The masses were more directly involved.
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Brown, William Garrott. Andrew Jackson. Kindle Edition. 2011.
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Parsons, Lynn H. Birth of Modern Politics: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and the Election of 1828. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Sellers, Charles. The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815-1846. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.