“Democracy in America” by Alexis de Tocqueville is one of the most influential books ever written about America. While historians have viewed “Democracy” as a rich source about the age of Andrew Jackson, Tocqueville was more of a political thinker than a historian. His "new political science" offers insights into the problematic issues faced by democratic society.
This curriculum unit of three lessons covers the critical problems for United States foreign policy posed by the outbreak of the wars of the French Revolution. Was the U.S. alliance with France still in effect? Did America’s young economy require the maintenance of close ties with Britain? Ultimately, President Washington decided on a position of neutrality. This official position would last until the outbreak of war in 1812. Neutrality proved to be difficult to maintain, however, particularly in light of the fact that both Britain and France consistently interfered with American affairs.
According to the essay James Madison, 'Creating the Balance' on the EDSITEment resource The American President, "Madison's presidency was dominated by a crisis with Great Britain, which for years had been grossly violating American shipping rights." This crisis over U.S. shipping rights actually began while George Washington was president and grew during Thomas Jefferson's term in office (1800-1808), when Madison served as Secretary of State. Between 1805-07, a large number of American ships were seized and impressments of American sailors into service on British ships increased, leading Congress to pass an extreme measure, the Embargo Act of 1807. The act restricted trade with foreign nations. A state of war that began in 1803 and would continue until after Napoleon's abdication in 1814 resulted in a loss of commerce that devastated the American economy while doing little to change the policies of France and Britain.
Fear of factionalism and political parties was deeply rooted in Anglo-American political culture before the American Revolution. Leaders such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson hoped their new government, founded on the Constitution, would be motivated instead by a common intent, a unity. But political parties did form in the United States, with their beginnings in Washington's cabinet.
Even in its first 30 years of existence, the U.S. Constitution had to prove its durability and flexibility in a variety of disputes. More often than not, James Madison, the "Father of the Constitution," took part in the discussion.
The presidential election of 1824 represents a watershed in American politics. The collapse of the Federalist Party and the illness of the "official candidate" of the Democratic-Republicans led to a slate of candidates who were all Democratic-Republicans. This led to the end of the Congressional Caucus system for nominating candidates, and eventually, the development of a new two-party system in the United States. In this unit, students will read an account of the election from the Journal of the House of Representatives, analyze archival campaign materials, and use an interactive online activity to develop a better understanding of the election of 1824 and its significance.