As a mathematician and physicist with a craving for predictability, I’ve always been drawn to the history of the United States, thinking that by understanding our past, I may learn more about our future. And one topic that has always been of great interest to me is President Andrew Jackson’s policies, specifically those related to the Jacksonian democracy, which he championed in the late 19th century.
Jacksonian democracy was essentially Andrew Jackson’s interpretation of a government in which all citizens, regardless of their station in life, had an equal say in the decisions that affected them. This was a dramatic shift from the Federalism of the early 19th century, which was characterized by its bias towards the wealthier class. President Jackson believed that citizens should have the right to make their own decisions, and he thus sought to reform the government so that everyone had a voice, regardless of what their status was.
One of the most notable policies of the Jacksonian era was the Indian Removal Act of 1830. This Act allowed the United States Government to forcibly remove Native American tribes from their land in the southeastern United States and resettle them in new territories under U.S. control. This policy sought to make room in the southeastern states for increased settlement, and the displacement of Native American tribes had disastrous consequences. Many tribes were forcibly relocated to unfamiliar lands with limited resources, and the decimation of their population through disease and starvation certainly speaks to the cruelty of Jackson’s policies.
In addition to the Indian Removal Act, the Jacksonian era also ushered in the Second Bank of the United States. President Jackson opposed the Bank and eventually succeeded in getting it outlawed, which is why the Second Bank of the United States only existed for a brief period of time. The Second Bank of the United States was a financial institution that sought to create a uniform and stable monetary system throughout the United States. Although the Bank’s demise is recognized as a mistake due to the lack of a unified monetary system in the United States, President Jackson believed that the Bank had too much power and should be dissolved.
Finally, the Jacksonian era introduced several reforms to the U.S. government. This included the introduction of the Spoils System, which changed the way that government offices were filled. Under this policy, government offices were allocated on the basis of loyalty to political parties, essentially assuring that those in power could remain in power. This brought about a system in which parties were able to reward those who supported them, and was in sharp contrast to the merit-based system that had been in effect prior to Jackson’s reforms.
The Jacksonian democracy was a dramatic shift from the Federalism of the early 19th century, and it had a profound effect on U.S. politics and society. Although some of Jackson’s policies had unintended consequences, such as the devastating displacement of Native American tribes, his policies helped shape the government we know today and his beliefs laid the foundation for a strong democracy in the United States. Through his policies, President Jackson sought to assure that all citizens had an equal voice in the decisions that affected them, and his legacy lives on to this day.