Democracy and the Second Party System

Andrew Jackson at the 1815 Battle of New Orleans. His military reputation was just one factor in his popularity.

Andrew Jackson at the 1815 Battle of New Orleans. His military reputation was just one factor in his popularity.

The Rise of Democracy
From the late 1820s to the 1840s, changes to voting regulations throughout the United States increased the number of men able to vote. Almost exclusively, the right to vote was restricted to white males with a relatively small number African-American males being able to vote in states of the northeastern US). Property requirements, however, had largely gone by the wayside during this time and by 1840, more than 90% of white men were eligible to vote.

Along with the right to vote, voter participation was high during these years as well. After 1824, voter turnout increased dramatically, as shown on the graph below:

While this is attributable largely to the larger number of voters available, American politics also changed to appeal to the wider socio-economic range of voters. Politicians such as Andrew Jackson were able to appeal to voting men from a variety of regions and a variety of economic backgrounds. Democracy, rather than the republicanism of the founders’ generation, was the dominant political feeling.

During this time, a number of political and economic developments struck the United States. The Nullification Crisis, which pitted South Carolina against the Federal government, the controversial and violent removal of Native American tribes, including the Cherokee, from their tribal lands to a newly created “Indian Territory,” and the destruction of the Second Bank of the United States all highlighted the political and sectional division within the United States.

A further development in American politics during this time was the emergence of the second party system developed during this time, pitting the Democrats (initially supporters of Andrew Jackson) against the Whig party (initially a diverse array of Jackson’s political enemies).

“Nullification” and the Primacy of the Federal Government
Expansion and “Indian Removal”