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
- 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.