Daguerrotype of Andrew Jackson late in life.
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.
After completing this lesson, students will be able to:
1. Share with students background information on the campaigns of 1828 from the class textbook or other sources, such as these EDSITEment resources:
Review and list the important issues of the campaigns.
2. The following optional activity uses brief passages from historian Frederick Jackson Turner as a way of entering into a discussion of Jackson's image and popularity. Communicating the heroic, common-man image of Andrew Jackson was central to the campaign of 1828. On one hand, that image was created—at least in part—by the candidate's astute handlers. But why did that image resonate so strongly with the American people at that particular time? Since Frederick Jackson Turner published his text The Frontier in American History in 1893, historians have wondered about the effect of the frontier on American politics and the American psyche, and the effect of the frontier persona on the election of 1828. Though historians coming after Turner have made "significant correctives of this thesis, it has had an exceptional impact upon the study of the roles of environment and geographical sections in U.S. history" (Morris and Morris, Encyclopedia of American History, New York: Harper Collins, 1996, 863).
What factors made Andrew Jackson widely popular? Was he the very model of a new American identity that was emerging, or did he inspire it?
If desired, review biographical information about Jackson from the class text or a source such as Andrew Jackson: Biography on the EDSITEment-reviewed website The American President. Then, if desired, read the brief excerpts about Jackson in the handout "From The Frontier in American History by Frederick Jackson Turner" on page 6 of the PDF (see Preparation Instructions for download instructions).
Turner calls Jackson "the very personification" of "frontier democracy."
3. While Jackson and Adams did not make campaign appearances, Jackson did have professional handlers from a variety of states who mapped out strategy, organized campaign rallies, and produced campaign materials.
Discuss the various kinds of political advertisements we see today, such as:
The purpose of discussing contemporary campaigns is to make the 1828 campaign more understandable and to provide a vocabulary students can use in their analysis. As you lead the discussion, avoid discussion of specific issues in current campaigns.
Distribute the "Chart for Analyzing 1828 Campaign Materials" on page 7 of the PDF (see Preparation Instructions for download instructions) and/or the Written Document Analysis Worksheet on the EDSITEment resource Digital Classroom to guide the following discussion. Model the process of document analysis for the class by working together on the document Jackson triumphant in the great city of Philadelphia on the EDSITEment-reviewed website American Memory. Help students understand how negative accusations can reflect the issues or image that Jackson was attempting to communicate (for example, an accusation of profiting from land deals would contradict the image of Jackson as a common man). Look for examples of issues reflecting regional differences, such as the tariff. Use specific information from the document to support the conclusion that it fits one or more of the categories on the chart.
Students will now work in small groups to analyze campaign materials and locate statements that reflect the issues and tone of the 1828 campaigns. Each group should receive at least one piece of pro- and one piece of anti-Jackson material from the 13 documents listed below. Each link from American Memory leads to a digitized image as well as access to bibliographic information, larger images, and a full-text transcription. Many of the documents listed are image files. Documents with more text are followed by asterisks. The political cartoons, which are considered campaign materials for the purpose of this exercise, are from American Political Prints 1766-1876 on the EDSITEment-reviewed website Harp Week. Each of the prints is accompanied by an explanation. If desired, have student groups complete an initial analysis of their document(s) using one of the Document Analysis Worksheets, including the Written Document Analysis Worksheet and the Cartoon Analysis Worksheet, on the EDSITEment resource Digital Classroom.
It has been said that presidential campaigning in 1828 was almost completely based on image-making.
Students should be able to respond effectively to the following questions:
In a whole-class setting, small groups, or individually, have students analyze an archival document such as To the freemen of Maryland. Read, pause, and reflect. facts! Stubborn facts! ... [Signed] Anthony Wayne. [blank]  Full Text Version on the EDSITEment-reviewed website American Memory. How does it reflect the issues and images of the 1828 presidential campaign?
EDSITEment offers the following complementary lessons on the campaign of 1840 that you may want to use with your class: The Campaign of 1840: "William Henry Harrison and Tyler, Too".
2 class periods