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Andrew Jackson

President Andrew Jackson

The nation was forty years old when Andrew Jackson was elected president in 1828.  The decades became an incubator for startling changes in the lives of its citizens.  The federal government had ruled with a very light hand, with the affairs of Europe usurping much of the efforts of the Chief Executive.  The Louisiana Purchase, the War of 1812, and the growth of nationalism within the western hemisphere dominated the first forty years of the nation.  Amid these national and international undertakings, the people of the nation were experiencing momentous personal and social changes.  The very fabric of their lives was being rent by swiftly moving economic and social upheaval.  For many the secure, predictable agricultural life which most Americans enjoyed through the first decades of the 19th century was being replaced.  Young people left home to find new means of self-support.  They moved to the cities to become workers in factories or to become mechanics or craftsmen.  They risked their lives and that of their wives and children to settle in farm land in Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Ohio and Indiana.  The underpinning of their moral values, of their comfort, and of their self identity based on family, community, and religion, was being shaken.

 

These new generations experienced loneliness, fear, upheaval, a need for effective independence and a need to earn money to "go ahead" as a measure of who they were, as a source of security lost when they left "home."   These people no longer felt needed or wanted.  They looked to themselves for their sustenance.  As a result, it was a materialistic, individualistic, independent, and self-reliant breed that made up the mass of Americans by the mid-1820s when Andrew Jackson strode upon the political scene.

Jackson had most of the same experiences as did this new majority.  He trusted his own strengths, but distrusted government, expanding industry, monopolies of any kind, centralization of banking, and paper money.  The worker, Western farmer, Eastern craftsmen, and mechanic all had similar feelings about government, large institutions, and money.  They had no ability to create wealth other than by the sweat of their brow or their own hard work and application of skill.  They observed the wealthy elitist classes and demanded equality.  They saw the "idle rich"  benefitting from a government bank; they saw their hard earned tax payments helping the privileged class, and they were moved to respond.  They believed wealth should be for all; they detested special privilege and political privilege.  They opposed monopolies and institutions they believed engendered  inequality.

 

 

 

This image of Andrew Jackson was acquired from the U.S. Senate and is public domain