Democracy in the 19th Century Assignment

Democracy in the 19th Century Assignment Words: 1372

Democracy in the United States became prominent in the early to mid 19th century. Andrew Jackson, the 7th president of the United States, was inaugurated in 1829 and was best known as the person who mainstreamed democracy in America. Because he came from a humble background, he was the “genuine common man. ” (Foner, pg. 303) He claimed he recognized the needs of the people and spoke on behalf of the majority [farmers, laborers]. However, critics of Jackson and democracy called him “King Andrew I” because of his apparent abuse of presidential power [vetoing].

These critics believed he favored the majority so much that it violated the U. S. constitution, and they stated he was straying too far away from the plan originally set for the United States. Because of the extreme shift of power to the majority, the limiting of rights of the few [merchants, industrialists] and the abuse of power under Jackson’s democracy, the foundational documents set in the constitution was violated, and the work of the preceding presidents were all but lost.

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During the construction of the new Constitution, many of the most prominent and experienced political members of America’s society provided a framework on the future of the new country; they had in mind, because of the failures of the Articles of Confederation, a new kind of government where the national or Federal government would be the sovereign power, not the states. Because of the increased power of the national government over the individual states, many Americans feared it would hinder their ability to exercise their individual freedoms.

Assuring the people, both Alexander Hamilton and James Madison insisted the new government under the constitution was “an expression of freedom, not its enemy,” declaring “the Constitution made political tyranny almost impossible. ” (Foner, pg. 227) The checks and balances introduced under the new and more powerful national government would not allow the tyranny caused by a king under the Parliament system in Britain. They insisted that in order achieve a greater amount of freedom, a national government was needed to avoid the civil unrest during the system under the Articles of Confederation.

Claiming that the new national government would be a “perfect balance between liberty and power,” it would avoid the disruption that liberty [civil unrest] and power [king’s abuse of power in England] caused. The “lackluster leadership” of the critics of the new constitution claimed that a large land area such as America could not work for such a diverse nation. One claim they offered was one in which the government would favor the higher classes [merchants, etc] instead of the majority of the people [farmers].

However, to be set apart from a colony under tyrannical rule to a whole new nation in America with the fruits of liberty, a government must be needed regardless to uphold the individual rights that were achieved after the American Revolution. The new system would, and did under ratification, set forth a bright future for the newly created United States of America. George Washington, the first president under the newly created United States, promoted the general welfare of the people to create a society based on individual freedom.

Being a nationalist, he was in pursuit of individual freedoms more so than the critics of the new government gave credit for. He candidly made visits to each of the states under the government. This simple act “maintained political harmony. ” (Foner, pg. 242) The leading of troops to stop the Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania promoted the individual freedoms for all. Stopping the protest made it possible for the large number of individuals uninvolved in the acts of rebellion to attain the individual freedoms they were granted.

Superficially, it may have been deemed an act of censorship to the Constitution’s critics; however, the tax on whiskey initially implemented helped create a better America by reducing the national debt to concentrate money into the securing of the nation’s individual liberties. A new, national militia helped secure the individual’s liberty, preventing other countries from controlling the United States, especially under the proclaimed tyrannical rule of Britain. The so-called censorship of the Whiskey Rebellion helped other individuals claim their liberty after the civil unrest caused by the uprising.

In a different path than Washington, Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, promoted the general welfare of the people and helped them and future generation prosper. “As a man faithful to a more democratic self-government,” he provided a nation a chance to prosper with the help of the new, more powerful government. (Foner, pg. 248) His purchase of the Louisiana Territory provided the people a place to live, greatly increasing the land area of the United States. With a national government, he was able to achieve this purchase with less bickering than if the individual states were sovereign.

If this purchase were under the Articles of Confederation and democracy, the dividing of the new land would cause unrest in many of the states on ownership. As in the Ohio Territory immediately following the American Revolution, disagreements sprung up on the claim of ownership. To avoid this problematic situation, it was relatively easier due to a national government that, under the Constitution, helped each of the states maintain their personal liberties but promoting the country simultaneously.

Before Andrew Jackson’s reversed the progress made by previous presidents, John Quincy Adams was the president of the United States with a plan to further “promote the general welfare” of the people, as Washington did. As Foner described, Adams had “a clear vision of national greatness” that was backed by one of the “most distinguished pre-presidential careers of any American president. ” (Foner, pg. 318) He was a strong proponent of the national good; he believed the path of national greatness was that of a strong national government, which, in turn, would strengthen the national self-interest.

He also stated that “liberty is power,” calling for legislation to promote industry and commerce. (Foner, pg. 319) Clearly, this position in which the well educated and experienced president of John Adams stood against the self-proclaimed common man, or, in other words, Andrew Jackson. Andrew Jackson strove to stand against the previous president’s progress, as well as the Constitution itself. As a symbol of the common man, he took the ideas of individual liberty all too literally. Foner stated that Jackson “opposed federal efforts to shape the economy or interfere in individuals’ private lives. ” (Foner, pg. 21) The situation involving the Whiskey Rebellion, if under Jackson’s efforts, could have grown exceedingly, so much so that individual’s rights of liberty and peace might have been greatly disrupted. As the Constitution states, “…secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,” was subsequently ignored in Jackson’s beliefs. (Foner, pg. A-39) To secure the blessings of the people, civil unrest must be stopped to ensure future generations [posterity]. However, Jackson was inaugurated, and his presidency deviated from the original documents set by preceding presidents and the Constitution.

Being a Democrat, Jackson followed his follower’s fears in which they tended to, “…be alarmed by the widening gap between social classes. ” (Foner, pg. 322) The gap was between the few [merchants, bankers, speculators] and the many [farmers, laborers]. However, in a country where everyone could be free, the pursuit to their own freedom was in their choice to be part of the few or the many. Jackson believed he was part of the many, even though he was now wealthy. As for the few, he and his administration believed the few must not be helped out.

However, to denounce this class is a violation in the Constitution. The persecution of a certain class such as the bankers or merchants violated their own liberty to live and prosper in the country. In his fear of the widening of social classes, he was in a sense, in fear of the Constitution and government itself. The government and the Constitution promoted peoples’ freedoms to choose the way one lives. If Jackson were to dictate the way the few live, it would go almost verbatim against the Constitution. Works Cited Give Me Liberty! : An American History, Vol. 1by Eric Foner

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