John C. Calhoun, noted Southern Statesman and Vice-President under Andrew Jackson.
Credit: Courtesy of American Memory at the Library of Congress.
Changes in voting qualifications and participation, the election of Andrew Jackson, and the formation of the Democratic Party—due largely to the organizational skills of Martin Van Buren—all contributed to making the election of 1828 and Jackson's presidency a watershed in the evolution of the American political system. The campaign of 1828 was a crucial event in a period that saw the development of a two-party system akin to our modern system, presidential electioneering bearing a closer resemblance to modern political campaigning, and the strengthening of the power of the executive branch.
In this lesson, students analyze changes in voter participation and regional power, and review archival campaign documents reflecting the dawn of politics as we know it during the critical years from 1824 to 1832.
In Lesson One, students saw examples of changes in state constitutions that tended to give more white males the right to vote. But did the increased right to vote translate into an increase in the percentage and totals of white males who actually voted? Share with the class the chart Voter Participation in Presidential Elections by State: 1824-1836 on the website of the White House Historical Association, a link from the EDSITEment resource Explore DC. Clarify with students how to read the chart. Distribute the handout "Analyzing Changes in Voter Participation, Part 1" on page 3 of the PDF (see Preparing to Teach This Curriculum Unit for download instructions). Working individually or in small groups, students should answer the questions. Reconvene the class and discuss students' analyses.
Now students will look for connections between the candidacy of Andrew Jackson and trends in voter participation to answer the questions on "Analyzing Changes in Voter Participation, Part 2" on page 4 of the PDF (see Preparing to Teach This Curriculum Unit for download instructions). Working individually or in small groups, students should make comparisons between the voter totals from 1824 to 1836, in terms of the results of the popular vote for Andrew Jackson and others. Information can be gleaned from the chart Voter Participation in Presidential Elections by State: 1824-1836 on the website of the White House Historical Association, a link from the EDSITEment resource Explore DC, and the following charts from Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections, also a link from Explore DC:
Before embarking on their analysis, some classes would benefit from reading the following relatively brief yet comprehensive essays, which provide background on the election of 1824 and the election of 1828 and its aftermath. All essays are available on Digital History, a project of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, a link from the EDSITEment-reviewed website History Matters.
(NOTE: Table A2 in the appendix to Alexander Keyssar's book The Right to Vote (Basic Books, 2000) was an invaluable source of information for state voting requirements cited in this lesson.)
In a whole-class setting, discuss the following:
Here is a sample of the kinds of conclusions students might reach:
In general, voting participation tended to be much higher in states that voted solidly for Andrew Jackson than those states that went solidly for John Quincy Adams. In Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, which Adams won handily, voting participation was less than 30 percent, with only a small increase in participation over 1824. In more closely contested states won by Adams, such as New Jersey and Maryland, voting participation was high and had greatly increased over 1824. In general, states with very large percentage increases in voting participation tended to be closely contested or to vote solidly for Jackson. In the election of 1832, with Jackson's re-election virtually assured, voting participation tended to drop. In 1836, voting participation tended to increase again. The data indicate that Jackson's popularity was an important factor in the increase in voter participation and that first-time voters—represented by the percentage increase in voter participation—tended to vote for Jackson. There is also an indication that the increase in voter participation due to the expansion of the base and, at least in part, to Jackson's popularity, led to an extended period of higher voter participation after Jackson's presidency ended.
1 class periods