Jacksonian Legacies
Jacksonian Legacies
Andrew Jackson forever changed the face of American government by promoting a more egalitarian political climate. To extend politics to the so-called “common man,” he fought for a system in which all groups had a voice in government (excluding slaves, women, and Native Americans). He questioned the ascendancy of the business community and championed the rights of small farmers, empowering them to meet economic elites on an even playing field. Known as “the age of the common man,” the Jacksonian Age thus witnessed a rise in popular politics and in overall political involvement.
In summary, legacies of Jackson’s years in office include:
  • A return to the two-party system, which remains with us today. This system aroused public political participation to a point never before seen in American history, in part because the public had a clear-cut choice between two distinct political agendas. Party competition forced both parties to clearly define their positions on major issues and to remain responsive to the popular will.
  • Heightened voter turnout. The number of American voters jumped from 1.5 million in 1836 to 2.4 million in 1840—the greatest proportional jump between elections in American history. (Even in losing the election of 1840, Van Buren received 400,000 more popular votes than any presidential candidate before him.) The jump in voting resulted from the rise in the number of eligible voters and the number of voters who chose to vote. Eighty percent of eligible white males voted in 1840, as opposed to less than 60 percent in the three previous elections.
  • The development of a strong executive. Jackson was the first president to use the veto power extensively to express his political will, and he controlled his cabinet closely to ensure that the executive department was united in pursuing its goals. Jackson revolutionized the presidency by setting an example of strength that nearly every president has followed.
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