The Jacksonian Era

The Jacksonian Era

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The Jacksonian Era


Also known as the Second Party System, the Jacksonian era is the period of president Jackson’s presidency that started when he was elected in 1828 to when slavery became an issue of concern following the passing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. Andrew Jackson’s presidency was highly controversial and was characterized by the rise of the common person and Jacksonian democracy. Andrew Jackson was a hero in the New Orleans Battle of 1815 and a westerner. Jackson vied for presidency in 1824, but he lost to his opponent John Quincy Adam. He went for the top seat again in 1828 and won by a landslide. As a political movement, the Jacksonian democracy builds upon the greater democracy of the ordinary man. Jackson’s policies build upon the Jeffersonian democracy that had been used in the previous era. Jefferson’s Democratic Republic Party had been factionalized in the 1820s, and the supporters of Jackson had started forming a modern Democratic Party that fought against anti-Jackson factions and rival Adams. This text discusses the principles upon which the Jacksonian democracy was built.

Expanded Suffrage

One of the main principles that Jacksonian democracy was built on was expanded suffrage. The Jacksonians were of the idea that voting rights needed to be extended to white men. Universal white-male suffrage had become the norm by 1820 and by 1850, almost all requirements put in place for paying taxes and owning property had been dropped (Blair, (2019). Although it was now legal for majority of the men to vote, it did not necessarily mean that they voted. Local parties had systematically sought potential voters and pulled them to the polls to vote. It was not until during the Second Party System that voter turnout soared. By 1840, adult voter turnout for white men reached 80%.


Patronage is another principle that dominated the Jacksonian era. Also referred to as the spoils system, patronage was a policy that involved strategically placing political supporters in appointed offices. Majority of the Jacksonians were of the opinion that it was only right to rotate political appointees in and out of their appointed officers. They believed that winners of political contests had the duty to rotate across officers. The theory was that patronage would encourage the common plan into political participation. This would make politicians accountable to their appointees for pitiable government services. Jacksonians also maintained that having political appointees serve long tenure in public service was corrupting, hence civil servants needed to be rotated regularly and at intervals (Pavarini, 2018). On the downside, patronage would often lead to the appointment of sometimes corrupt and incompetent officials as the emphasis was more on party loyalty than any other qualifications.

The Manifest Destiny Belief

The “Manifest Destiny” belief is another principle that dominated the Jacksonian era. The notion of “Manifest Destiny” was the belief that eventually, white Americans would settle down in West America and would eventually have control of the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean. It also had to do with the belief that yeoman farmers would settle in the West. On the contrary, Free Soil Jacksonians particularly Martin Van Buren pushed for slavery limitations in the new sections that would enable poor white men to be successful. The Free Soil Jacksonians briefly split the main party in 1848. The Whigs were generally opposed to the idea of expansion of Manifest Destiny, citing the country would build up its own cities.

Strict Constructionism

Another principle that characterized the Jacksonian era was strict structuralism. Just like the Jeffersonians that strongly believed in the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, so did the Jacksonians initially favor the idea of a federal government with limited powers. Estes (2020) notes that Andrew Jackson said he would protect against “all encroachments upon the legitimate sphere of State Sovereignty.” This does not mean that Jackson would be a states rights extremist. The nullification crisis would have found Jackson fighting against the things he perceived to be state encroachments of federal influence. As Jacksonians consolidated power, they pushed for the expansion of presidential and federal power in particular.

Laissez-Faire Economics

Laissez-Faire Economics was another principle that characterized the Jacksonian era. To complement a strict construction of the U.S. constitution, the Jacksonians tended to favor a more hands-off approach towards the economy, compared to the Whig program of sponsoring banking, modernization, railroads, and economic growth. Gailmard & Jenkins (2018) write that “laissez-faire is a policy that insists on minimum interference of the government in the economic affairs of its people and society .”In 1832, President Andrew Jackson ordered the withdrawal of government funds from the Bank of the United States, a move that ultimately caused the Panic of 1837. The Panic of 1937 can be described as a financial crisis that left damaging effects on Ohio as well as national economies. During the two terms of Anderson Jackson’s presidency, the party’s outlook was laissez-faire.


In closing, the Jacksonian era is best described as a movement whose main focus was greater rights of the ordinary man rather than aristocracy signs. It started after the election of President Anderson till when slavery became an issue of concern. The Jacksonian era was characterized by the principles of expanded suffrage, manifest destiny, patronage, strict constructionism, and laissez-faire economics.


Blair, W. A. (2019). Vagabond Voters and Racial Suffrage in Jacksonian-Era Pennsylvania. Journal of the civil war era, 9(4), 569-587.

Estes, T. (2020). Beyond Whigs and Democrats: historians, historiography, and the paths toward a new synthesis for the Jacksonian era. American Nineteenth Century History, 21(3), 255-281.

Gailmard, S., & Jenkins, J. A. (2018). Distributive politics and congressional voting: Public lands reform in the Jacksonian era. Public Choice, 175(3), 259-275.

Pavarini, M. (2018). The Jacksonian era: economic development, marginality and social control policy. In The Prison and the Factory (40th Anniversary Edition) (pp. 147-202). Palgrave Macmillan, London.