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The Age of Jackson and the “Jacksonian Democracy” that it brought with it were markedly different from anything the nation had yet experienced. Unlike the early republic, which had been dominated by wealthy politicians, the Age of Jackson was a new age of the common man, a period of American cultural history that shunned wealth and aristocracy in favor of humble origins, log cabins, and frontier ruggedness.
During this period, more and more American men were granted the right to vote, as property ownership and literacy restrictions for voting were abolished in more and more places. As universal manhood suffrage became the norm, the lower and middle classes gained an outlet to express their political opinions.
Prior to his political career, Jackson had spent much of his life in the military, clearing the West of Native Americans. During the War of 1812, he had routed the Creek Nation (allied with Britain), and had spent subsequent years pursuing the Seminoles in Florida. As president, he continued to push native peoples off their lands to make room for white American farmers. In 1830, Jackson and congressional Democrats passed the Indian Removal Act to remove, by force, all Indians east of the Mississippi to “permanent” reservations in present-day Oklahoma and Nebraska.
The Indian Removal Act reversed many earlier policies that recognized Native American lands as foreign soil. Some tribes, such as the Cherokees, had expended great effort in attempt to integrate themselves with the new American society. They had created a tribal government based on separation of powers and checks and balances and had embraced agriculture and the market economy. In the 1831 case Cherokee Nation v. State of Georgia, the Supreme Court had ruled that the Cherokee had legal rights to their lands. Nonetheless, Jackson pursued his removal agenda mercilessly. Many of the relocated tribes were lumped together on one huge reservation, which made it difficult for them to preserve culture and tribal identity over the years.
Throughout the 1830s, the U.S. Army supervised the relocation of more than 100,000 members of the Chickasaw, Creek, Choctaw, Cherokee, Seminole, Sauk, and Fox tribes. Most of these Native Americans had to travel the roughly 1,000 miles on foot, sometimes in chains. Tens of thousands died on the journey, which was labeled the Trail of Tears.
Some tribes, however, resisted resettlement. Consequently, U.S. Army troops crushed the Sauks and Foxes in the Black Hawk War of 1832 and the Seminoles in the Second Seminole War of 1835–1842.
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