President 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.
After completing this lesson, students will be able to:
By 1828, the United States had changed greatly, though it was still a young country. Instead of 13 states, there were 24, and enough territory to make quite a few more. According to the U.S. Census, the population had more than tripled, increasing from 3,893,874 in 1790 to 12,785,928 in 1830. Shifts in population had changed the regional balance.
Since 1816, the tariff—a tax on imported goods—had been the primary source of funding for the federal government. Its supporters regarded the tariff as a way to support American manufacturing and agriculture by making American goods more competitive at home. The southern states objected to the tariff because it made manufactured goods more expensive. The South, largely agricultural and heavily dependent on crops like cotton, lacked the manufacturing base of the North or Great Britain. Through sales of agricultural goods, southerners purchased manufactured goods produced by their trading partners.
In this lesson, students will look at some of the demographic changes and regional differences that influenced the election of 1828.
Share some background information on the demographic changes in the early 19th century, such as this excerpt from the article The Second American Party System on The Tax History Museum, a link from the EDSITEment resource History Matters:
… the South was swimming against the demographic tide, on its way to becoming a regional minority in Congress. In the decade from 1810 to 1820, the South's rate of growth peaked at 28%, as compared with 38% for the rest of the nation. The states below the Mason-Dixon line and the Ohio River comprised 47% of the population in 1810, but only 45% just ten years later. Congressional reapportionment based on the Census of 1820 redounded to the advantage of the West and Middle Atlantic regions, where support for a protective tariff grew enthusiastically. Similarly, 8 of the 12 Senate seats added since 1816 tended to represent pro-tariff states.
[In 1824,] Congressional reapportionment reflecting population increases in the Ohio Valley and the North enabled the protective tariff to pass over southern opposition.
The tariff was an important issue, but there were others. Share with students The Presidency of John Quincy Adams on Digital History, available via a link from the EDSITEment-reviewed website History Matters. Read from the third paragraph, which begins with, "As the only president to lose both the popular vote and the electoral vote," to the next to last paragraph, which ends with, "Some South Carolinians called for revolutionary defiance of the national government." In a whole-class setting, individually, or in small groups, have students fill in the chart "Issues in the Election of 1828" on page 5 of the PDF.
In a whole-class setting, compare the Territorial Expansion Map for 1790 with the Territorial Expansion Map for 1830, both available on the EDSITEment resource American Studies at the University of Virginia.
Did changes in voter participation and expansion of the electoral votes change voting patterns? Martin Van Buren, the architect of the Jacksonian-Democratic Party and Jackson's election campaign, said, "Political combinations between the inhabitants of the different states are unavoidable and the most natural and beneficial to the country is that between the planters of the South and the plain Republicans of the North."
Van Buren felt an alliance of southern planters and "plain Republicans of the North" represented a resurrection of the old Jeffersonian Democratic-Republican party against the policies and "corruptions" of the National Republicans like John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay. The alliance would favor a less intrusive federal government and a strong executive to ensure less intrusiveness. This "political combination" was also an economic one. Capitalism in the North had grown rapidly after ships built there carried rum to Africa and then slaves back to the Western Hemisphere. The profit bought rum and molasses bound for ports in the North, such as Boston. Even after slave trading ended in 1808, the slave-owning cotton growers of the South and the mills and brokers of the North were mutually dependent.
Students should be able to respond effectively to the following questions:
Ask each student to write a statement explaining the popularity of Andrew Jackson, citing evidence from the 1828 election results.
2 class periods