AP US - Pd 5
8 November 2010
At first glance, Andrew Jackson seems a study in contradictions: an advocate of states' rights
who forced South Carolina to back down in the nullification controversy; a champion of the
West who vetoed legislation that would have opened easy access to part of the area and who
issued the specie circular, which brought the region's "flush times" to a disastrous halt; a
nationalist who allowed Georgia to ignore the Supreme Court; and a defender of majority rule
who vetoed the Bank after the majority's representatives, the Congress, had passed it. Perhaps
he was, as his enemies argued, simply out for himself. But in the end, few would argue that
Andrew Jackson was not a popular president, if not so much for what he did as for what he was.
Jackson symbolized what Americans perceived (or wished) themselves to be
independent. He was someone with whom they could identify. The image may have been a bit
contrived, but it was still a meaningful image. Thus, Jackson was reelected by an overwhelming
majority and was able to transfer that loyalty to his successor, a man who hardly lived up to the
image. But all this left a curious question unanswered. Was this new democracy voting for
leaders whose programs they favored or, rather, for images that could be altered and
manipulated almost at will? The answer was essential for the future of American politics, and
the election of 1840 gave the nation a clue.
Points for Discussion:
Describe Jackson's views on the powers and limitations of government. Offer specific
examples of the ways Jackson translated his views into action.
Andrew Jackson thought of himself as the "president of the people." Was he? What can you
find in the career of Jackson that supports his assertion, and what can you find to deny it?
Discuss the careers of John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, and Daniel Webster (the Great
Triumvirate), and explain why each failed to reach the presidency.
What caused the split between Calhoun and Jackson? The Eaton affair is generally seen as a
symptom, not a cause, which would indicate that the real division between the two men was
much deeper. Assess the causes of the split, and speculate on its significance for the South
and for the Democrats.
How did William Henry Harrison win in 1840? What were the issues that worked against
him, and how did his party exploit them? Furthermore, how was this candidate presented to
the people? What image were his managers trying to create and what does this image tell you
about the American electorate?
How & why did this campaign set a new pattern for