Missouri Compromise Discussion

1) Compare the changing views of democracy at the beginning of your text chapter with the stories of Van Buren and the tactics of Jackson’s election.  What had changed in attitudes about elected leaders, and who changed them? (about 2 detailed paragraphs – give examples!)

2) From your reading and lecture/stories, how did Jackson’s personality and life experiences influence the kind of president he was – and the changes he was determined to make?  Give examples .  (About one paragraph)

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3) What was the Missouri Compromise and why was it important?  (1 paragraph)

4) What was the “nullification crisis” and why was it important for Jackson to stand his ground?  (1 paragraph)

5) What was the unintended result of the “Bank War” in the “Panic of 1837?”

What was the unintended result of the “Bank War” in the “Panic of 1837?”
INTRODUCTION – Lecture Begins Here
In 1831 the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville–a politician and statesman, came to the United States to
learn about prison reform and about the role of the citizen in this new experiment of American
democracy. “The people reign over the American political world as God rules over the universe,” he
wrote. After more than nine months on tour in the States, he returned to France and wrote a book that is
our greatest gift of a snapshot of the U.S. in the early 1830s: Democracy in America. It is filled with
details of his observations, and the book made him a renown political scientist.
He wrote about what the presidential election season was like (and we can relate to this):
Long before the appointed day arrives, the election becomes the greatest, and one might say the
only, affair occupying men’s minds…. The President, for his part, is absorbed in the task of
defending himself before the majority…. As the election draws near, intrigues grow more active and
agitation is more lively and widespread. The citizens divide up into several camps…. The whole
nation gets into a feverish state. . ..
Tocqueville was there when Andrew Jackson was running for re-election. First elected in 1828 in a swirl
of controversy, this second election was equally contentious. Political parties had recently undergone a
shift – the old ones died out and the Democratic Party, under Jackson’s leadership, won the presidency in
Was there really a “Jacksonian Revolution” when he was elected president?
Was America more democratic in 1840 than it had been in 1820?
…..and why do we care, anyway?
These are the focus questions for this segment. When the founders were brainstorming about a new
nation in the 1770s and 1780s, they talked about the examples from ancient Greece and Rome. If the
country had become a true democracy, all men would have had a vote in all decisions. To the
well-to-do men who led the revolution and created the Constitution (that we still call the supreme
law of the land)–that was a ridiculous thought. They believed that power rested with the “better
sorts” who were elected by property owners to represent their interests.
Democracy meant little more than chaos or anarchy to them. As your text chapter states, Alexander
Hamilton “warned of the ‘vices of democracy’ and said he considered the British government—with its
powerful king and parliament—“the best in the world.” John Adams feared too much democracy: “I do
not say that democracy has been more pernicious on the whole, and in the long run, than monarchy or
aristocracy. Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but
while it lasts, it is more bloody than either.”
If you follow politics today, or follow President Trump’s style of leading his cabinet – versus having a
cabinet of experts to guide him – then you will see someone familiar in President Andrew Jackson.
Trump sees the president as a powerful executive. So did Jackson. Historians for decades have labeled
his election as a revolution in leadership style and philosophy. He was the first president elected as a
“Democrat.” The Democrats followed Thomas Jefferson’s “Democratic-Republican” beliefs in the rights
of the small, yeoman farmer. Since most of the country was rural, it made sense that Democrats had
wide appeal, especially in the South and West – the most rural areas. (Don’t confuse the democrats in
Jackson’s time with democrats today – it is a very different party after several changes in the 20th
Jackson himself came from the Carolinas, but he made his political career in Tennessee, which was
largely rural and still considered part of “The West” in the early 1800s. He had studied law and was a
prosecutor. He became a war hero in the war of 1812 in the “Battle of New Orleans.” He was nicknamed
“Old Hickory” for his stubborn steadfastness in battle (because hickory is a very hard wood). He also
developed a reputation as an Indian fighter – fighting the Creeks that led to the surrender of lands that
are now in Alabama and Georgia. Then he fought the Seminoles, gaining present-day Florida land.
Later as president, he was instrumental in forcing the Cherokee off their land in the Southeast, where
they had to march overland to an area west of the Mississippi River in what we now know as “The Trail of
Tears,” because of the deaths of so many Cherokee.
Jackson became known as “a man of the people,” but he doesn’t look like that in his early life. He was a
wealthy slaveholder, former land speculator; he opposed debtor relief for average men. But he changed
his mind about speculation and paper money and became suspicious of credit and banks after he nearly
“lost his shirt” (all his money) on his own speculative adventures.
Jackson was the first guy elected president who was not an elite man from one of the Eastern seaboard
states. Once in office, he wanted to rid government of class biases and get rid of a few wealthy, nonelected private bankers from pulling the strings of the nation’s economy.
Jackson helps us to understand the changing role of government in the U.S. – something you should care
about, because we are in the middle of a lot of arguments about that right now. Who has the right to
command police to help Federal Immigration–the cities, states, or President Trump? Who has the right
to legalize the sale of marijuana–the states or the Federal government? As of August, the State of
California has sued the Trump Administration 50 times.
Jackson and his opponents argued over what a president should or should not do. JACKSON WOULD
Beginning with the American Revolution, and continuing to this day, Americans have been re-negotiating
the meanings of “freedom” and “democracy.” Jackson’s presidency breathed new life into more
democratic politics–more men than in any other society in the world could vote and participate in the
nation’s decisions. Jackson benefited from that. After the War of 1812, there were many war veterans
who did not have the right to vote because they did not own property. States passed laws saying that
any man who served in the army or the local militia or helped with local road and infrastructure could
vote. So by the 1820s, the U.S. had universal white male suffrage (the right to vote).
By 1828 when Jackson ran for president, presidential elections were the greatest manly past-time in the
U.S. There was so much hype, so much drinking, arguing, celebrating, that it was like baseball’s World
Series, basketball’s Final Four, the Stanley Cup and the Super Bowl all rolled into one. There were
parades, songs, slogans, picnics, brawls. Parades for Jackson were filled with live Hickory trees.
At the same time, democracy for these white men came at the expense of American Indians, slaves, and
women, who continued to work for freedom and more democracy and a voice in the new nation.
Welcome to the wild and wacky – but very serious and important – world of Jacksonian Democracy.
Story #2: The Jackson Election and the
“Reign of KING MOB”
When Jackson was elected in 1828 and set out for his inauguration in Washington, DC, huge
crowds turned out to see “the man of the people.” His political enemies, the old-guard
Federalists, said “The reign of KING MOB seemed triumphant.”
Jackson’s career and personality was perfect for the new Democratic leaders around the country to
tout him as the self-made “man of the people.” His supporters said that “The Constitution and liberty of
the country were in imminent peril, and he has preserved them both!” True to the times, party leaders
used the hickory leaf as their symbol of support for him. Hickory brooms, hickory canes, hickory
sticks shot up everywhere during the campaigning – the were on church steeples, street poles. As
steamboats and stage coaches set off on a journey, they knowingly or unknowingly sported a hickory
branch on the back as the left town – and thus advertising a vote for Jackson. “Many of these poles were
standing as late as 1845,” recorded one contemporary, “rotten mementos of the delirium of 1828.”
The Democrats opponents were outraged by the crude lowering of the political process. “Planting
Hickory trees!” sputtered the Washington National Journal in May, 1828. “Odds nuts and drumsticks!
What have hickory trees to do with republicanism and the great contest!”
Getting the attention of THE PEOPLE: The Democrats had other gimmicksto draw attention to their
ticket: “Jackson meetings” were held in every county where a Democratic organization existed. These
were not a new idea. But the attendees were new. “If we go into one of these meetings,” reported one
newspaper, “of whom do we find them composed? Do we see there the solid, substantial, moral and
reflecting yeomanry of the country? No. . . . They comprise a large portion of the dissolute, the noisy,
the discontented, and designing of society.” The Democratic press responded with the claim that these
so-called dissolute were actually the “bone and muscle of American society. They are the People. The
real People who understand that Gen. Jackson is one of them and will defend their interests and rights.”
The Jacksonians were fond of parades and barbecues. Once, in Baltimore, a large barbecue was
planned to commemorate the War of 1812. The Democrats took it over and converted it to a Jackson
rally. One parade started with dozens of Democrats marching to the beat of a fife and drum corps and
wearing no insignia except “a twig of the sacred [hickory] tree in their hats.” Trailing these faithful came
“gigantic hickory poles,” still live and full of green foliage, carted in “on eight wheels for the purpose of
being planted by the democracy on the eve of the election.” The tree-poles were drawn by eight horses
all decorated with “ribbons and mottos.” Perched in the branches of each tree were a dozen Democrats,
waving flags and shouting “Hurrah for Jackson!”
Van Buren was the architect of these “Hurrah Boys” all over the country. The Hurrah Boys got out
the votes in 1828, but at a great cost. The election set a low mark in vulgarity and gimmickry. Jackson’s
mother was accused of being a prostitute brought to America to service the British soldiers, and his wife
was demounced as an “adulteress” and bigamist. “Ought a convicted adulteress and her paramour
husband be placed in the highest offices of this free and Christian land?” asked one paper. But the
Democrats were no better, accusing John Quincy Adams of pimping for the czar of Russia.
The tone of this election frightened many, and Jackson’s victory gave them nightmares of worse
things to come. (Are you resonating with this? Do people in our own time bemoan the tone of the 2016
election and the tone of the political discourse in this country since then?)
“Democracy.” But Jackson was truly committed to democracy – and by that he meant majoritarian rule.
“The people are the government,” he wrote, “administering it by their agents; they are the Government,
the sovereign power.” He introduced a system of rotation, where men in appointed office positions
should rotate out for someone new every four years. He felt it was necessary to avoid abuse. Anyone in
office “a few years, believes he has a life estate in it, a vested right, & if it has been held 20 years or
upwards, not only a vested right, but that it ought to descend to his children, & if no children than the next
of kin….”
Here was the problem with that – it meant that he could keep appointing his friends and supporters to
positions as old ones rotated out – and so could other government officials. His political enemies called it
“the spoils system.” And how much of a democracy was there when African Americans, American
Indians and women were being either abused, murdered, or discredited as infantile and insignificant?
Jackson commenced many important changes in how the government operated. He vetoed
congressional legislation more times than all his predecessors combined, and for reasons other than a
perceived unconstitutionality. His creative use of veto power successfully claimed for the president the
right to participate in the legislative process itself – something the founders had tried to separate. He
assumed the right to initiate legislation and this altered the relationship between Congress and the
president. Instead of a separate, but equal branch of government, Jackson, as the head of state, saw
himself as “first among equals.”*
*The above was borrowed heavily from historian Robert V. Remini about the Jacksonian Revolution, and is reprinted widely in
a variety of chapters/publications.
Jackson’s war over the bank is complicated, but this video helps explain the politics
behind it:
Story 1: Politics before Jackson: Martin Van
Martin Van Buren | 60-Second Presidents | PBS
This is the link for the video

Jackson’s first election, 1828
Presidential election drama today
Martin Van Buren
a deer bucktail
A NEW PARTY: In 1821 when Martin Van Buren left New York for Washington as a junior senator, he
left as a leader of a brand new modern Democratic political party. For the last 10 years he and his allies,
nicknamed “The Bucktails,” signified new party politics. The Bucktails were an Indian-inspired sign of the
faction – literally a deer bucktail worn on their hats. A room full of bucktail hats was a show of power in
THE SELF-MADE MAN – THE NEW POLITICIANS: Van Buren was truly a self-made common-man
politician: he was the son of a tavern keeper – not born into money as so many politicians had been. He
resented aristocratic landowning families. He had been loyal to the Democratic-Republican party of
Jefferson, but the popular, well-to-do New York Governor DeWitt Clinton in that party had dispensed
officers (patronage) to his friends in the higher circles.
By 1821, Van Buren and other unhappy “Bucktails” won some points for their faction as the New York
State Constitutional convention. They wanted more participation in state politics and decisions. They
voted to reorganize the state government and put limits on the partonage powers of the governor. They
changed the voting requirements. It had been that only white men who were property owners and
taxpayers could vote. Now, all adult male citizens who paid state or local taxes, served in the militia or
worked on the state roads – more than 4/5 of men – were eligible to vote directly for state legislators,
governor, and members of congress.
The Western states had first extended the right to vote; by the early 1820s most of the older states
followed. Some states liberalized voting to dissuade nonvoters from moving west; some, because it
seemed unfair to deprive the veterans of the War of 1812 of voting rights. However – extending the right
to vote was FIRST AND FOREMOST, POLITICAL. There was a competition for votes between the
parties – or factions within the parties, like the Bucktails versus the Clintonians in New York.
Van Buren beat out Clinton as senator because Clinton, like many other politicians, did not recognize the
new social and commercial attitudes of newcomers coming into New York state. New York was the
nation’s largest business opportunity. Van Buren and the Bucktails tapped into the state’s diverse and
growing population and created a new style of politics. They accused elite politicians of creating bonds
only through family ties and political favors. They felt that a political party should be more democratic,
and that party loyalty, not personal relations or friendship should be the primary bond. Party decisions
were now reached by discussion in legislative caucus and were discussed in party newspapers like the
Albany Argus.
Van Buren was the major architect of the 2nd American Party System – the Whigs and Democrats.
(The first had been the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans) MEANWHILE, in Washington DC, a
system of NATIONAL communities of political comrades or partisans were coming together from all over
the country after the recent election. These democratic-minded individuals had nicknames from their
states, but they had in common their ability to reach out to public opinion–to connect with the new
masses of men who could now vote. By early 1824, when Jackson ran for president for the first time
(and lost) there was a new coalition of men in Washington, each of whom had been leaders in their
states. And Van Buren brought all the like-mended men together to support Jackson in 1828.
Story #2 video
Jackson’s war over the bank is complicated, but this video helps explain the
politics behind it:

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