The presidential election of 1828 between senator Andrew Jackson and former President John Quincy Adams, not only broke old traditions, but also set a new precedent for true democracy in the United States. This election was foreshadowed by the great controversy in Adams first victory over Jackson. A shady deal between the House speaker, Henry Clay, and John Quincy Adams, put Adams in the White House, and promoted Clay to the position of secretary of state. At the time, the speaker of the House and his contemporaries had the power to make the final decision on a close presidential election. Clay, with the power in the house influenced the other members to vote for Adams, and in return he would be given the position of Secretary of State. At this time, each secretary of state from the beginning of the new government had been voted into presidency so many thought Adams gave the next presidency to Clay.
Quincy Adams hoped to make much advancement to society, but all of the Jackson followers in government hindered Adams’ decisions. Clouded by his deal with Clay, Adams decided not to use the spoil system and fire the Jacksonian Democrats from office. He figured he would deal with any of the consequences that were to come. This decision would prove to be horrible. A second tradition that would end is the aristocracy of the Presidents. Each of the first 6 presidents had been born into a very privileged family, full of wealth and education. These men had been sent to the highly respected academies and universities, and were built for a position in politics, particularly to be the President. Jackson on the other hand was born into a poor, uneducated farm on the eastern parts of Tennessee. His parents and siblings passed away when he was at a young age, and Jackson is considered to be “self-built”.
He lived alone, taught himself how to farm, read and write, and eventually he was educated and wealthy. He is most known not for his background and early life, but for his experience as an American Revolution messenger, the War of 1812 hero, and the exile of the Seminoles in Florida. He was the exact opposite of the sheltered aristocrat, and his story of maturation allows him to relate to the common man. The presidential election of 1828 would prove to be the dirtiest campaign in United States history. This election, unlike any of its previous focused on negative campaigning, and the smearing of the other candidate’s name, rather then on the issues at hand. Wild stories about their past, wicked acquisitions of murder, adultery, and procuring of women clouded both Jackson and Quincy Adams’ names. Jackson, who suffered from a short-temper, had been a very violent man.
He had been involved in many duels and had killed many men, both in duels or when he ordered an execution on a militia when they deserted the army. Aside from the past, attacks against Jackson’s wife were set to hinder his name. His wife Rachael, whom had been previously married, is accused of adultery as she began living with Jackson before the divorce was finalized. Adams, who came from a more sheltered background was also subject to this negative campaigning. It was indeed this elitist ways that was used against him. Many accused Quincy Adams of taking advantage of others less intelligent than he. Other attacks against Adams, was an accusation of procuring and American girl for the sexual needs of the Russian Czar. While serving as a diplomat, Quincy Adams was sent to Russia, and many say he had “pimped” for the high foreign officials.
As the attacks were hitting the front pages of the newspapers, Adams said he was offended by what was happening and he wanted no part in the negative campaign. On the other hand, Jackson believed Adams started this dirty campaign and would continue to search for “dirt” on Adam’s life and history. As this was the second election where popular vote of the people was counted, the outcome of the 1828 election would set the standards for future democracy and voting. Jackson’s appeal to the common person and his ability to relate with the people was what propelled him to win the election and become the 7th president of the United States. This election broke all tradition as who would and could become President. A poor “self-made” man from Tennessee who was truly a man of courage and bravery, clearly shown in his wartime heroics, way was fighting against the aristocratic way.
For the first time, the election would be decided truly by the people, rather then by the Electoral College and the House of Representatives. The people realized the many similarities between themselves and Jackson. Both the common man and Jackson came from a small farm or poor family. Jackson was a drinker, tobacco chewer, and a gambler. These features allowed him to relate to the general public, and the voting man greatly. This idea that the people vote, was the first idea of a true democracy. The privileges would be given to any citizen rather then the high officials. Jackson’s presidency, would determine if true democracy was a good idea or not. If it turned out to be beneficial, democracy would be viewed as a good thing because the people’s vote influenced Jackson’s presidency. On the other hand, if Jackson were a bad President, democracy would be viewed poorly because it was the people’s stupidity that made the bad decisions of the Presidency.
The outcome of the 1828 election, and Jackson’s presidency decided the fate of true democracy in United States government. Immediately after being appointed to president, Jackson fired all cabinet members that had opposite republican views, and hired only those who shared his democratic ways. This was viewed as a bad decision because the democrats would have their way in government. Any decision that Jackson wanted would be okayed and his mark on the presidency would be determined by similar thinking men. The Jackson spoil system was good in the eyes of the democrats and poor in the eyes of everyone else. In addition to only hiring democrats who have the same views, Jackson hired and fired cabinet members regularly. His short–temper and war ideals are the basis behind these decisions.
When people are not working up to their fullest potential and ability, Jackson believed they should not get another chance, fired them and hoped another hard working and diligent man would replace the other. Unfortunately, the system did not flow as easily as he had hoped, and the constant change disabled him from gaining a true flow in politics. His ways were the basis to all decisions he made as President. His initiative toward change was helpful to the United States, but the way he approached these changes was unorthodox. Jackson truly led by his wartime tactics, banish those who are unhelpful to the cause, and hire anyone who is going to take the next step forward. A large problem Jackson was faced with was the Petticoat war. Peggy Eaton, wife of the secretary of war, John Eaton had begun dating John before she had divorced her previous husband. The two faced the same speculations of Jackson and his wife.
The problem erupted when wives of Jackson’s cabinet members refused to invite Peggy to any dinners of other White House events. The cabinet was being divided and many wanted Jackson to fire Eaton so the problem would be resolved. Unfortunately, as this was the same problem Jackson faced, he refused to fire Eaton, as he was very empathetic and compassionate towards the couple. After a year of the Petticoat war, Jackson demanded the entire cabinet resign, and he would choose to start over. Jackson decides to do this out of the bottom of his heart, as he knows what the Eaton’s are going through.
This was a good decision because it did not force Jackson to choose sides, and separate his cabinet. He had the ability to start over and fix the problems in the White House. Another decision he was forced to make was that of the Indian Removal Act. Here, Jackson went against the Supreme Court ruling that would allow the Cherokee Indians to remain east of the Mississippi, and fought for what he truly believed in, a land for the Americans. Jackson forced every Indian that lived east of the Mississippi River out on the trail of tears towards the West. This was a controversial decision because about 1/3 of the Cherokee people had died during the relocation to Oklahoma.
Jackson defied the basic rights and duties under the constitution, but he did something that most Americans wanted, a land free of the Native tribes. Jackson’s decisions were all shaded by his threats towards his enemies or anyone who disagreed with him and his followers. He wanted to express his dominance as the supreme ruler of the United States. His threatening gave him a name for himself. His style of ruling was different from anyone else of his predecessors, and his decisions impacted his Presidency. For the most part, Jackson’s presidency can be viewed very good, and starts the new precedent for American democracy.
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