Democracy in America in the Age of President Andrew Jackson

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The American Founding Fathers like Abraham Lincoln dreamt of America as a republic under which all citizens were to have common sovereignty.  The national ethos coined by Abraham Lincoln focused on democracy, opportunity to all, liberty and human rights.  In the 19th century, 1827-1877, the democracy in America had grown beyond the expectations of the founding fathers. The essay analyzes the democracy in the country in regards to the ideals an values proposed by President Andrew Jackson.

Democratic America in the age of President Andre Jackson

            President Andrew Jackson brought the “Jacksonian democracy” in America which espoused a more advanced democracy for all citizens in the 19th century. The era lasted for twenty-six years (from 1828 to 1854) courtesy of the modern Democratic Party formed by the President and his allies. President Jackson advocated for a form of democracy based on a political policy which was meant to eradicate elites' domination of the political sphere.  There are specific recommendations that President Jackson brought in the United States of America (Cullinane, 54). First, the president advocated for a stronger executive and presidency to ensure that public participation formed part of the key government deals like public borrowing and involvement in war.  Even though Jackson did not undermine the American Congress, he saw the need for a direct democracy where he overlooked representatives and worked directly with the people in critical moments.  Secondly, the president and his followers rewrote many constitutions at state levels to have elected judges (Pryor, 534). The president argued that direct appointment of judges was a catalyst for the elites and philanthropists’ infiltration into justice system because lobbying for appointments could be used to influence the judges when the courts were to give essential verdicts.  However, according to Cullinane (55), Jackson advocated for democracy in favor of white males but ignored the concerns of the African Americans who were still serving as slaves in the Southern States.  For example, the white males' right to vote came much earlier than the right of African-Americans to vote.  Even though it can be argued that the "Jacksonian era" brought an extended democracy in the United States, it is clear that the African –Americans were the least beneficiaries in the policies, recommendations, strategies and decisions that the government took to support democratic processes of voting and attainment of equal human rights.

American democracy in the civil war era

            The American civil war took place from 1861 to 1865 between the Northern and Southern States. Democracy was put to the test in the war which cost American over half a million lives.  Even though democracy means the freedom of choice in a political sense, the era brought about other interesting viewpoints of democracy. First, the Southern states felt left out in making key political decisions because they lacked proper representation in the political sphere. For example, the Southerners were the key exporters of Cotton at 70% while the receipts from these exports were taken to the Northern states where the oligarchs, philanthropists, and owners of factors of production lived (Pryor, 536).  The shrink in trust between the Northern and Southern States culminated into undesirable confidence by the Sothern states to confront their neighbors with the assumption that they were to receive support from Britain and France; their key consumers of the exported cotton.  Secondly, the democracy of choice in the labor force dwindled in the civil war era.  The southern states invested significantly on slavery while the Northern states were industrialized.

Consequently, the slaves were subjected to harsh and undemocratic conditions like restricted movement and low or no wages.  Slavery was the primary cause of the civil war.  Thirdly, the secession politics indicated the epitome of dwindled democracy during the civil war era.  The southern states’ intense feeling of political neglect saw them develop a secession policy that could have removed them as part of the Union.  The owners of cotton firms in the southern state of Carolina and Mississippi became worried after the election of President Abraham Lincoln whose campaign manifesto focused on the abolition of slavery (537).  The undemocratic southerners saw President Lincoln a threat to their economic power because, to them, human rights were second to the economic gains from their firms. However, the abolitionist movements had indicated that America was undemocratic if slavery was condoned in some part of the nation.  The civil war era threatened the achievement of values and ideals of America's Founding fathers.  

America’s democratic values and ideals 1828 and 1877

            America suffered significant letdowns in the democratic development process between 1828 to 1877 like the civil war. However, the nation succeeded in maintaining the values and ideals through the passage of key amendments to the constitution.  The Congress identified slavery as the major cause of the devastating and catastrophic civil war. Consequently, the lawmakers passed the 13th Amendment in 1865 to abolish the practice.  President Abraham Lincoln followed through his campaign promise that slavery was a moral evil and in the famous 1862 emancipation proclamation, the president declared free all slaves held by states which were rebellious to the United States of America. The measure was not only meant to free the slaves but also to win back the Confederate states to form a stable country which respected human rights and values (Cullinane, 51).  Secondly, Americans succeeded in passing the 14th Amendment in 1868 to grant citizenship to all people who were either born or naturalized in the United States.  The democratic right of citizenship was adequately addressed by the amendment because it gave room for the pursuit of other rights like the freedom to make political choices through voting. Even though the 14th

amendment was widely viewed legislation formed to address voting and citizenship rights, it was also meant to protect the basic values and ideals of America like honesty, love, and equality before the law. For example, the amendment prohibited Americans from denying anyone the right to liberty, property or life if the perpetrators did not follow the due process of the law (Cullinane, 56). The reconstruction period between 1865 to 1877 helped in the success of achieving the American dream, values and ideals which were threatened by the civil war era.  The democratic process shows that American society has successfully lived up to the ideals and values which the Founding fathers dreamt of. Today, America continues to be the greatest democratic nation in the world.


The American Dream has played a significant role in the democratic development process in America.  Even though the nation faced challenges in the 19th century like civil war, citizens endured the problems in the reconstruction era and managed to live up to the ideals and values which make America a great democratic nation.

Works Cited

Pryor, S. "The Human Tradition in Antebellum America. H-Net Reviews in the Humanities & Social   Sciences(2001): N-PAG.

Cullinane, Michael. Liberty and American Anti-Imperialism: 1898-1909. Springer, 2012.

November 13, 2023


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