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HIST211: Introduction to United States History - Colonial Period to Reconstruction

Unit 4: Democracy in America   In the 1820s and 1830s, all signs seemed to point toward the rise of a mature democratic nation: the period saw record-high voter turnouts at elections, a number of new reform agendas, and unprecedented economic growth, which fostered optimism about the future of the new nation. Still, the emergence of Jacksonian Democracy did not obscure growing rifts in the American people, as Northerners and Southerners perceived equality differently, and slavery and federal Indian removal policies threatened to undermine what appeared to be a more democratic America.

In this unit, you will begin with an examination of the impact that Andrew Jackson had on American politics and interrogate the term Jacksonian Democracy by asking what democracy truly meant in America in the 1830s. Next, you will consider the problems facing the nation during Jackson’s presidency, including the Nullification Crisis and the Bank War.

Unit 4 Time Advisory
Completing this unit should take approximately 7.5 hours.

☐    Subunit 4.1: 2.25 hours

☐    Subunit 4.2: 5.25 hours

Unit4 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to: - define Jacksonian Democracy and assess its impact on American politics and society; - explain the emergence of a federal policy toward Native Americans and the impact it had on Native peoples; - explain the development of the nation’s economic system and the controversy over the Second Bank of the United States; and - analyze and interpret primary source documents from the era, using historical research methods.

4.1 Andrew Jackson and Populist Politics   - Reading: Henry J. Sage’s Sage American History: “The Age of Jackson” Link: Henry J. Sage’s Sage American History: “The Age of Jackson” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read this article about the presidency of Andrew
Jackson. President Jackson’s tenure in office helped usher in a
newly democratic age marked by increased voter turnout. Jackson, for
better or worse, turned the presidency into a vastly more powerful
office than previous administrations. However, these years would
also be marked by significant sectional differences and an
increasingly hostile debate over federal versus state power. This
reading also examines the presidency of Martin Van Buren (1837–1841)
and the Panic of 1837. Please note that this material also covers
the topics outlined in subunits 4.1.1 through 4.2.3.  

 Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 30
minutes.  

 Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a [Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
License](http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/deed.en_US).

4.1.1 The Election of 1828   Note: This subunit is also covered by the material beneath subunit 4.1.

  • Reading: University of Groningen: George M. Welling’s American History, from Revolution to Reconstruction: Hal Morris’ “Andrew Jackson, 1767–1845, A Brief Biography: The 1828 Election” Link: University of Groningen: George M. Welling’s American History, from Revolution to Reconstruction: Hal Morris’ “Andrew Jackson, 1767–1845, A Brief Biography: The 1828 Election” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this article for a biography of Andrew Jackson. This article emphasizes how Jackson’s victory in the election signified the expansion of democratic ideals as he was able to mobilize broad popular support through a well-organized political campaign.

    Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.1.2 Jacksonian Democracy   Note: This subunit is also covered by the material beneath subunit 4.1.

  • Web Media: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 26: Democracy and the Common Man” Link: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 26: Democracy and the Common Man” (Flash)

    Instructions: Click on the link above, click the “Start Lesson” button, and watch the presentations for all three topics: “Election of 1824,” ”Election of 1828,” and “New Political Parties.” Click on the “Text” tabs for each topic and read each page. Then click on the links under “Explore” and read the accompanying text.

    This resource covers the presidency of Andrew Jackson (1829–1837) as well as his unsuccessful bid for the White House in 1824. Take some time to examine the charts and maps, which illustrate the growth of universal male suffrage and the political positions of the Democratic and Whig Parties that emerged in this period.

    Watching these presentations and reading the accompanying text should take approximately 45 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: University of Virginia: Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America: “Why Democratic Nations Show a More Ardent and Enduring Love of Equality than of Liberty” Link: University of Virginia: Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America: “Why Democratic Nations Show a More Ardent and Enduring Love of Equality than of Liberty” (HTML)

    Also available in:
    eText format for Google Books

    Instructions: Read this excerpt in which Alexis de Tocqueville, an emissary of the French government, examines why democracies – particularly the United States – are more supportive of equality than liberty. This denotes a shift from the Revolutionary era emphasis on liberty to the antebellum era emphasis on equality.

    Reading this excerpt and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: This resource is available for non-commercial use from the University of Virgina.

4.1.3 The Whig Party   Note: This subunit is also covered by the material beneath subunit 4.1.

  • Reading: University of Groningen: George M. Welling’s American History, from Revolution to Reconstruction: Hal Morris’ “The American Whig Party (1834–1856)” Link: University of Groningen: George M. Welling’s American History, from Revolution to Reconstruction: Hal Morris’ “The American Whig Party (1834–1856)” (HTML)

    Instructions: Click on the link above, click the links for “Historical Background” and “The End of the Party,” and read these webpages to gain an overview of the origins and the history of the Whig Party, which originally emerged as an alternative to Andrew Jackson’s Democratic Party.

    Reading these webpages should take approximately 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.2 Challenges in the Age of Jackson   4.2.1 Indian Removal   Note: This subunit is also covered by the material beneath subunit 4.1.

  • Web Media: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 29: Indian Removal” Link: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 29: Indian Removal” (Flash)

    Instructions: Click on the link above, click the “Start Lesson” button, and watch the presentations for all three topics: “Native Americans and the New Republic,” ”The Indian Removal Act,” and ”Jackson and Van Buren.” Click on the “Text” tabs for each topic and read all of the pages.  Then, click on the links under “Explore” and read the accompanying text.

    These presentations will provide an overview of the aggressive policies of settlers and the American government toward Native American tribes in the early 19th century.

    Watching these presentations and reading the accompanying text should take approximately 45 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: United States Library of Congress: Statutes at Large, 21st Congress, 1st Session: “Indian Removal Act” Link: United States Library of Congress: Statutes at Large, 21st Congress, 1st Session: “Indian Removal Act” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read pages 411–412 to understand what the Indian Removal Act of 1830 stipulated. This document, signed into law by President Andrew Jackson in 1830, outlines the beginning of the forced migration of tens of thousands of Native American Indians to the West. Although Indian removal was supposed to be voluntary in theory, in practice great pressure was placed on Native American leaders to sign removal treaties.

    Reading this document and taking notesshould take approximately 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

4.2.2 Nullification Crisis   Note: This subunit is also covered by the material beneath subunit 4.1.

  • Reading: United States Library of Congress: Andrew Jackson’s “Letter to Martin Van Buren discussing the Nullification Crisis, 13 January 1833” Link: United States Library of Congress: Andrew Jackson’s “Letter to Martin Van Buren discussing the Nullification Crisis, 13 January 1833” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read the summary by John J. McDonough at the top of the page then view the images of the four-page letter from Andrew Jackson to his new vice president, Martin Van Buren, to get a sense of how he perceived the nullification crisis. A transcript of Jackson's letter is provided below the images for easier reading. 

    Reading this letter and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain. 

  • Reading: Tufts Univesity: J. William Jones’ Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 14: Judge Wm. Archer Cocke’s “Letters and Times of the Tylers” Link: Tufts Univesity: J. William Jones’ Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 14: Judge Wm. Archer Cocke’s “Letters and Times of the Tylers” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this 1886 review of a book by Lyon G. Tyler, son of President John Tyler (1841–1845), which discusses the Nullification Crisis and the Bank War as well as the annexation of Texas from the perspective of a writer with sympathy for states’ rights advocates. This reading also covers topics outlinedin subunits 4.2.3 and 7.3.1.

    Reading this review and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

4.2.3 Bank War   Note: This subunit is also covered by the material beneath subunits 4.1 and 4.2.2.

  • Reading: Jeffrey Sklansky’s Common-Place: “A Bank on Parnassus: Nicholas Biddle and the Beauty of Banking” Link: Jeffrey Sklansky’s Common-Place: “A Bank on Parnassus: Nicholas Biddle and the Beauty of Banking” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this article. In the context of the Bank War, Professor Jeffrey Sklansky of Oregon State University asks what banks and paper money represented in the American republic.

    Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.2.4 The American System   - Reading: United States Library of Congress: Henry Clay’s “In Defense of the American System” Link: United States Library of Congress: Henry Clay’s “In Defense of the American System” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read this speech, pages 257–295, delivered by Henry
Clay in February of 1832, to understand how Clay presented his
arguments for protective tariffs, a national bank, and
federally-subsidized “internal improvements.”  

 Reading this speech and taking notes should take approximately 2
hours.  

 Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.