How Democratic Was Jacksonian Democracy

How Democratic Was Jacksonian Democracy

How Democratic was Jacksonian Democracy?

“The 1830’s saw the triumph in American Politics of that democracy which has remained pre-eminently the distinguishing feature of our society.[1]” This triumph has since been labelled as Jacksonian Democracy. Whether or not this represented a triumph of democracy is debatable. Indeed, with the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to render Jacksonian Democracy as corrupt, narrow and unfair when compared to modern day democracies. Branded by early biographer James Parton, as a “democratic autocrat,”[2] it can be assumed that there is definite conflict in terms of whether or not Jackson’s America represented a truly democratic system of Government. However, in a political era dominated by statesmen and men of prestige, such as early 19th Century America, Jacksonian Democracy must be viewed in a different light. It can indeed be argued that Andrew Jackson’s philosophy represented a radical and refreshing view upon politics, so much so that his victory in 1929 has been viewed as “a triumph of Democracy.[3]” In order to assess the extent to which Jacksonian Democracy conformed to the title “democratic” it is essential to compare the fundamental elements of Jacksonian Democracy against the key principles of democracy.

Andrew Jackson; a national figure following his defeat of the British at New Orleans, was to re-shape political participation across the nation. His Democratic Party marched triumphantly forward under the banner of limited government, states’ rights and laissez-faire economics.[4] Jackson proclaimed he was in favour of the “real-people” campaigning against the aristocracy. Having swept into power under a wave of democratic hysteria, which saw some 56% of the popular vote combined with 68% of the electoral vote, Jackson set about establishing his democratic government.

“The emergence of Jacksonian Democracy has been hailed as a triumph of mass participation.[5]” Political participation has long been an...

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