Andrew Jackson and the Era of the Common Man

Updated on June 8, 2016
Kendall H. profile image

Kendall has always been an avid reader and writer, gaining knowledge from life and traveling the world with a book in hand and a cup of tea

Portrait

Era of the Common Man

Andrew Jackson's term as president (1829-1837) began a new era in American politics. For the first time in the United States history a man born in humble circumstances was now President. Politicians in the previous generations gained precedence due to their family background, wealth, prestige, and education. Families such the Adams, and the Jeffersons constituted the guidelines for political appointees. Andrew Jackson’s election showed that a mans’ lineage did not ensure a place in office. Rather it was the candidate’s ability to appeal to the voter. It was Jackson’s election that started the supposed 'age of the common man'. Jackson became the defining figure of his age due to his ability to overcome early life struggles, his military record, and his successes as an adult. Despite all his accomplishments, Jackson downplayed his past successes to suit the public's belief that Jackson was one of them. In reality Jackson was anything but common.

The period from Jackson’s inauguration as president up to the Civil War is known as the Jacksonian Era or the Era of the Rise of the Common Man. This period constituted great change and issues warranting debate, such as slavery, Indians, westward mobility, and balance of power between the executive and the legislative branches of government. The United States had no strict class system. Most Americans identified themselves into the middle class. The common man now had the right to vote, without the distinction of owning land, nominating candidates to office, and rewarding the politicians that represented the common man’s interests. The 1820s, a time of transition and transformation called for a man who could guide the people through the changeful age. The election of 1828 signaled a unique change; never before had a man who made his name and fortune outside the thirteen colonies been elected to the office of president.


Political Cartoon

Jackson's Rise to Power

Born in South Carolina to impoverished parents on March 15, 1767, Jackson began life quite differently compared to the previous six presidents. At 13, Jackson joined the Continental Army as a courier during the Revolutionary War. (Jackson was also the last president to have served during the Revolutionary War). Losing his father before his birth, the war then obliterated Jackson's family. Losing his two brothers and mother during the war fostered an intense hatred for the British that Jackson maintained his whole life.

Jackson initially had a sporadic education. After the war, Jackson taught himself to read and read law books so that he could find work as a lawyer in Tennessee in 1787. The wild frontier life suited Jackson and succeeded based upon his own hard work and merit. He became one of the first congressmen representing Tennessee, later a Tennessee senator in 1797, and appointed to the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1798. These accomplishes set Jackson apart from most men, yet they would pail in comparison to Jackson’s military career in the War of 1812.

During the War of 1812 Jackson, garnered his nickname “Old Hickory,” due to his strict command of his troops and abilities shown on the battlefield. The Battle of New Orleans on January 5, 1815 concluded with a major victory for Jackson. This victory forever made Jackson a national hero and gave him a place in the hearts of all American citizens. Jackson’s national identity and immense popularity enabled him to run for president in the 1828 election.

The Rise of the Common Man coincided with Jackson's election because Jackson served as the ideal common man. Common origins no longer detracted from a candidate. Nor did a candidate have to attend Harvard or William and Mary. Jackson became the living embodiment of the changes and improvements going on throughout the United States. As well as the symbol of aspirations and expectations that Americans had of themselves. Jackson’s life was overshadowed with obstacles: orphaned at 14, bankruptcy, many brushes with death in his military career, and a marriage tainted with gossip of bigamy, but despite his lowly beginnings Jackson prospered in the western state of Tennessee and became the most powerful man in the country.

PBS video on Jackson changing the office of President

Perhaps not-so-common...

The Jacksonian Era influenced the notion of the equality of opportunities for all white men. Voters believed that, “the people” had finally assumed control of their government in Jackson’s administration. Thousands of people came to Washington D.C. for Jackson’s inauguration. A crowd this size was an unprecedented event. Jackson as the leader of the Democratic- Republican Party represented the people and the epitome as a common man. In theory the age of the common man sounds ideal but the Jacksonian Era actually changed the goal of the founding fathers to put more power into the presidency rather than in congress.

As “the spokesman” of the common man, Jackson showed concern for issues such as farming and mechanic advancement, anti- banking, and egalitarian principles. It was these issues that aided Jackson in remaining popular with the common man ideals. Most farmers had no use for credit and the coins or paper was ultimately favorable. Jackson also set out on a crusade against the Bank of the United States. He believed that the bank only profited the wealthy men. Therefore a bank is of no use for a democracy; if the common man cannot benefit from it. Jackson thus vetoed the re-charter of the second bank. Jackson’s early life reflected that of a common man, but every action in his adult life was the action of an uncommon man who did not understand the actual rules of economics. Perhaps then doesn't that make Jackson a common man?

It is important to reflect upon that Jackson's actions forever changed the presidency. He marketed himself as a 'common man' and also made the office of president the most powerful office in the three branches of government. Whatever the reader chooses to believe about Jackson being a common or not-so-common man, there is an acknowledged truth that Jackson's election signaled a change in America. A man outside the confines of the upper echelons of society became president, however he did earn the position based on merit. This is a lesson that I wished more voters reflected upon.

Sources

Latner, Richard B. The Presidency of Andrew Jackson: White House Politics, 1829-

1837. Athens: The University of Georgia, 1979.

Pessen, Edward. Jacksonian America: Society, Personality, and Politics. Illinois, The

Dorsey Press, 1969.

Pessen, Edward Ed. The Many- Faceted Jacksonian Era: New Interpretations. London:

Greenwood Press, 1977.

Remini, Robert V. The Revolutionary Age of Andrew Jackson. London: Harper and

Row Publishers, 1976.

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    • profile image

      alexia zic 

      5 months ago

      This is very helpful thanks!!!!!

    • profile image

      jay 

      6 months ago

      I am doing a project for my history and this is one of the most useful resource that I have found. Thank you for the great, clear, and organized thoughts on both views of Jackson.

    • profile image

      abby 

      19 months ago

      nicely worded

    • profile image

      K . Hatch 

      20 months ago

      I tot it was great !

      - K

    • profile image

      Rakesh Rockzz 

      2 years ago

      This is the true fact because. Any body feel that nd write down

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      3 years ago from San Diego California

      I suppose that Jackson supported the common man...unless that common man happened to be of the Creek or Cherokee tribe. What he did to the peaceful members of those nations in flaunting a Supreme Court ruling and dispossessing these Native Americans of their lands is a definite black stain upon his record. All the same, it would be nice to see a true man of the people rise up again. Great hub!

    • lone77star profile image

      Rod Martin Jr 

      4 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Andrew Jackson wanted to get rid of the second Central Bank for good reason. Many of the owners were foreign nationals and a Central Bank wields a great deal of power over a nation. The British Rothschilds threatened America with war if they didn't renew the First Central Bank in 1811. When the bank charter expired, Great Britain indeed went to war with America, burning the capitol and making Andrew Jackson a hero at New Orleans.

      When the Second Central Bank charter expired, Jackson was blamed for fiscal unrest and an assassination attempt was made on his life. Though the assassin was clearly disturbed, mentally, one has to wonder who may have whispered in his ear to fan the flames of his discontent. Bankers?

      Now, we have a Third Central Bank, owned by rich bankers and wielding greater power over America without oversight. Congressman Ron Paul tried to get answers while he was still in office, but ran into an impenetrable barrier of silence and double-talk.

      During Jackson's term, the U.S. found itself debt-free for the only time in its history. After the Central Bank, known also as the Federal Reserve, America can never be debt free, because every dollar is created with attached debt that can never be paid off, because new dollars used to pay it off also come with debt attached. So, the debt skyrockets -- now at well over $17 Trillion.

      What a den of vipers, indeed!

    • profile image

      1653good article 

      6 years ago

      This is wonderful information about him it has helped me with my report on Andrew Jackson.

    • Kendall H. profile imageAUTHOR

      Kendall H. 

      7 years ago from Northern CA

      I agree bfloyd79! Old Hickory certainly gave us a lot to study and research. Agree with his policies or not he certainly made history. Thanks for your comments!

    • Brendon Floyd profile image

      Brendon Floyd 

      8 years ago from Oklahoma City, OK

      The debate was wonderful and it really glued the class together, we were all laughs. Looks like Old Hickory still has his stuff! I do love Jackson, for all his positives and negatives. What a dynamic person he was, and he truly does embody the American spirit, for better or worse.

    • Kendall H. profile imageAUTHOR

      Kendall H. 

      8 years ago from Northern CA

      Thanks bfloyd79! That's sounds like a great debate, I'm eager to hear how it goes!

    • Brendon Floyd profile image

      Brendon Floyd 

      8 years ago from Oklahoma City, OK

      Great Hub! I really enjoyed it, i am going to make my students debate Jackson, one side pro and one side con. It should be a lot of fun

    • Kendall H. profile imageAUTHOR

      Kendall H. 

      8 years ago from Northern CA

      Thanks habee!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Great hub about Old Hickory - I learned a lot!

    • Kendall H. profile imageAUTHOR

      Kendall H. 

      8 years ago from Northern CA

      Thanks! History can teach us so much. So much of what affects us today is due to the past. Especially to not make the same mistake twice! Thanks for stopping by!

    • Kaie Arwen profile image

      Kaie Arwen 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for this............ well written and completely informative! I love history and I love pulling a part how it still affects us even today.

      Great job!

    • Kendall H. profile imageAUTHOR

      Kendall H. 

      8 years ago from Northern CA

      Hi Jane! Thanks for reading! I agree with you that most politicians play the "I'm just a simple man, like you' game. But I really don't think that the politicians have any idea what it means to be a 'common' citizen. As for studying American history, the critics of so called 'dead-white guy' history forget that a lot of things happened because of the dead white guys. From learning their history you build onto it later with more selective history classes. Glad you enjoyed it!

    • Jane Grey profile image

      Ann Leavitt 

      8 years ago from Oregon

      You've given me a lot to ponder, and I appreciated the clear, concise way you presented this! Seems that many presidents and politicians play on the "common man" string when they try to get elected now, regardless if they are really listening to the interests of the common man or not. I also appreciated your last comment-- those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it! Thanks for a great article.

    • Kendall H. profile imageAUTHOR

      Kendall H. 

      8 years ago from Northern CA

      Hi Rose West! My sentiments exactly! I would prefer to see politicians that have experience in running businesses etc. A promise can only go so far especially when you're promising many things to different groups. I believe that Americans should know American history that way they can understand how government actually works and what is in the best interest of the country. Thanks for reading and hope you have a great Christmas!!

    • Rose West profile image

      Rose West 

      8 years ago from Michigan

      This is a fascinating article! Lots of information I didn't know. If only Americans today chose Presidents for what they've done instead of what they promise to do.

    • Kendall H. profile imageAUTHOR

      Kendall H. 

      8 years ago from Northern CA

      Thank you for reading E. Nicolson! Hope you're enjoying the holidays!

    • E. Nicolson profile image

      E. Nicolson 

      8 years ago

      A well written and interesting account. Thank you.

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