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> Chapter 13 > Prepare for Class
Prepare For Class

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Chapter Summary


Beginning in the 1820s, a powerful movement celebrating the common person and promoting the New Democracy transformed the earlier elitist character of American politics. The controversial election of the Yankee sophisticate John Quincy Adams in 1824 angered the followers of Andrew Jackson.

Jacksons sweeping presidential victory in 1828 represented the political triumph of the New Democracy, including the spoils-rich political machines that thrived in the new environment. Jacksons simple, popular ideas and rough-hewn style reinforced the growing belief that any ordinary person could hold public office. The Tariff of Abominations and the nullification crisis with South Carolina revealed a growing sectionalism and anxiety about slavery that ran up against Jacksons fierce nationalism.

Jackson exercised the powers of the presidency against his opponents, particularly Calhoun and Clay. He made the Bank of the United States a symbol of evil financial power and killed it after a bitter political fight. Destroying the bank reinforced Jacksonians hostility to concentrated and elite-dominated financial power, but also left the United States without any effective financial system.

Jacksons presidency also focused on issues of westward expansion. Pursuing paths of civilization, Native Americans of the Southeast engaged in extensive agricultural and educational development. But pressure from white settlers and from the state governments proved overwhelming, and Jackson finally supported the forced removal of all southeastern Indians to Oklahoma along the Trail of Tears.

In Texas, American settlers successfully rebelled against Mexico and declared their independence. Jackson recognized the Texas Republic but, because of the slavery controversy, he refused its application for annexation to the United States.

Jacksons political foes soon formed themselves into the Whig party, but in 1836 they lost to his handpicked successor, Van Buren. Jacksons ill-considered economic policies came home to roost under the unlucky Van Buren, as the country plunged into a serious depression following the panic of 1837.

The Whigs used these economic troubles and the political hoopla of the new mass democratic process to elect their own hero in 1840, following the path of making a western aristocrat into a democratic symbol. The Whig victory signaled the emergence of a new two-party system, in which the two parties genuine philosophical differences and somewhat different constituencies proved less important than their widespread popularity and shared roots in the new American democratic spirit.



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