The figure of Andrew Jackson in the history of the USA is closely connected with the notion of ‘Jacksonian democracy’ which is based on the principles of the equality in policy.
Nevertheless, today historians argue the most controversial aspects of Jackson’s political activity with paying much attention to the inequality of his actions’ effects for different classes of the American society of the 1830-1840s. To understand the nature of the debates, it is necessary to analyze the most significant political controversies of the period which help to reveal the key divisions among the Americans regarding the development of the nation.
The period of ‘Jacksonian democracy’ is characterized by the formation of the new Democratic Party and by the development of the opposition to it in the form of the Whigs.
There are two contrary visions of the peculiarities of the period which, one the one hand, depend on the opinion that Jackson was inclined to abuse the Executive power and, on the other hand, on the image of Jackson as the protector of the public’s rights, freedoms, and interests against the monopoly of the powerful aristocracy (Ogg, 90-91). Thus, Jackson accentuated the limitation of the federal governmental rights and the opposition to corrupting alliances between the government and business (Meacham).
That is why the central conflicts in the political life of the USA in the 1830s were the problem of protective tariffs and the issue of the National Bank of the United States. The growing dissatisfaction with the protectionist’s system and with the ‘tariffs of abominations’ resulted in the open confrontation of South Carolina to the federal government. Thus, South Carolina passed the nullification ordinance in 1832 (Meacham).
This political conflict between the North and the South in America was a serious challenge for the President. However, Jackson showed his firmness and inflexibility while solving the crisis and accentuated the unconstitutional character of the state’s actions because there was a real threat to the state’s integrity (Ogg).
The most acute, but also successful was Jackson’s struggle on the issue of the extension of the National Bank’s activities. The idea of the extension was developed by the opposite Whigs. Nevertheless, concentrating on the dissatisfaction and disappointment of the ordinary investors, farmers, and workers, Jackson transferred the governmental deposits to the local banks, and in 1836 the Second Bank of the United States was closed.
However, the negative effect was that the states’ banks became actively involved in the speculative activities without the control from the centre. The situation in the country became particularly tensed when the economic crisis began in the United States in 1837 (Meacham).
The next controversial aspect of Jackson’s political activity was connected with the issue of the expansion of the state’s territories to the Western coasts and the governmental policy in relation to the Indians. Moreover, this problem was closely associated with the question of slavery and its possible limitations at these new territories. These questions were considered as contrary to the traditional principles of the democracy that is why the Whigs opposed Jackson’s manifests and the idea of such expansion (Satz, 78-79).
There is no single opinion on the question of successes and failures of ‘Jacksonian democracy’. It is possible to state that many of Andrew Jackson’s decisions did not depend on the traditional democratic principles and involved controversial social and political issues as the problem of the Indians. Nevertheless, those Jackson’s actions opposed by the Whigs were actively supported by the public and influenced the further development of the nation.
Meacham, Jon. American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. USA: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2003. Print.
Ogg, Frederic A. The Reign of Andrew Jackson. USA: Qontro Classic Books, 2010. Print.
Satz, Ronald N. American Indian Policy in the Jacksonian Era. USA: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002. Print.