Jacksonian Democrats viewed themselves as the guardians of the United States Constitution politically, by removing restrictions in the government; economically, by the elimination of the National Bank; and liberally, by supposed “individual equality”. Andrew Jackson’s followers of the 1820’s and 1830 have proved overall to protect the economic opportunity and political democracy of the U.S. Constitution; however, it failed to defend all aspects of individual liberty.
Jacksonians shielded political democracy in the eyes of many. George Henry Evans, writer of “The Working Men’s Declaration of Independence”, stresses the importance of establishing a democracy. Evans states that it is the common citizen’s right to use every constitutional means necessary to “reform the abuses” and “provide new guards for future security” (Doc A). Moreover, a letter by a British author, Harriet Martineau, reports praise to the United States and its society for its “absence of poverty, of gross ignorance, of all servility…” (Doc D). Along with these two claims of democratic success, Jackson also used the spoils system which gave equal access to office and raised the participation of common men in the political process.
Similar to Jacksonians’ political achievements, economic opportunity also flourished. The Jacksonians vetoed the Second Bank of the United States because not only was it held by foreigners and a few rich American citizens, but it also expressed privileged banking, thereby becoming a tool of rich oppression (Document B). This was a huge decision by Jackson and proved to be one of the greatest choices he ever made for America. In addition to the bank, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney supported the construction of the Charles River Bridge, thus portraying the Jacksonians’ belief in eliminating the control of the elite and creating equal economic opportunities for all citizens (Doc H). This case also showed that economic competition was vital because of the market economy which Jackson allowed.
The negative way in which the Jacksonians did not demonstrate themselves as guardians of the U.S. constitution was by their blatant lack of individual liberty. In 1830, under Jackson as president, the Indian Removal Act was passed. The Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Seminoles and other tribes were forced to move west; this was known as the Trail of Tears. These Indians were forced to walk hundreds of miles to new land and faced terrible conditions along the way (Doc G). The protection of individual liberty was clearly not apparent in these situations with the Native Americans. Another example is found in Daniel Webster’s reply to Jackson’s veto message, he claims that it seeks to “inflame the poor against the rich” (Doc C). Many people believed the veto was unconstitutional and placed America’s freedom in danger. The last failure in liberal justice was displayed in the riots in eastern cities during the 1830’s. A business man writes in his journal of the horrific riots between the Irish, as well as people of darker skin, and Americans due to severe discrimination (Doc E). The Jacksonians clearly botched their claim to having guarded “all” people’s personal rights. Undoubtedly, ethnic prejudice in this time period is seen as an enormous disgrace to Jacksonian Democracy.
Jacksonian Democrats were indeed successful in protecting the values of the U.S. Constitution when it came to political democracy and economic enhancement. Nevertheless, they were sufficiently ineffective in terms of individual liberty. Therefore, Jacksonian Democrats cannot whole-heartedly be deemed the guardians of the United States Constitution.