The Age of Jackson

24a. The Rise of the Common Man

President Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson considered himself a spokesperson for the common man.

Growth, expansion and social change rapidly followed the end of the War of 1812. Many an enterprising American pushed westward. In the new western states, there was a greater level of equality among the masses than in the former English colonies. Land was readily available. Frontier life required hard work. There was little tolerance for aristocrats afraid to get their hands dirty.

The west led the path by having no property requirements for voting, which the eastern states soon adopted, as well.

The Common Man always held a special place in America, but with Jackson, he rose to the top of the American political power system.

In the campaign of 1828, Jackson, known as "Old Hickory," triumphed over the aristocratic, reclusive and unpopular incumbent President John Quincy Adams.

The First Six Presidents

George Washington
John Adams
Thomas Jefferson
James Madison
James Monroe
John Quincy Adams

The first six Presidents were from the same mold: wealthy, educated, and from the east. Jackson was a self-made man who declared education an unnecessary requirement for political leadership. Indeed, Jackson launched the era when politicians would desperately try to show how poor they had been.

Jackson Inauguration
A mob of well-wishers showed up at the White House for Jackson's 1828 inauguration.

The election of 1828 was a rematch of the election of 1824 between John Quincy Adams and Jackson. In the earlier election, Jackson received more votes, but with no candidate having a majority, the House of Representatives chose Adams. Four years later the voices of the people were finally heard.

Jackson's inauguration in 1828 seemed to many the embodiment of "mob rule" by uneducated ruffians. Jackson rode to the White House followed by a swarm of well-wishers who were invited in. Muddy hob-nailed boots trod over new carpets, glassware and crockery were smashed, and chaos generally reigned. After a time, Jackson ordered the punch bowls moved outside to the White House lawn, and the crowd followed. Naturally, Jackson's critics were quick to point to the party as the beginning of the "reign of King Mob."

No one who was at Washington at the time of General Jackson's inauguration is likely to forget that period to the day of his death. To us, who had witnessed the quiet and orderly period of the Adams administration, it seemed as if half the nation had rushed at once into the capital. It was like the inundation of the northern barbarians into Rome, save that the tumultuous tide came in from a different point of the compass. The West and the South seemed to have precipitated themselves upon the North and overwhelmed it. On that memorable occasion you might tell a 'Jackson man' almost as far as you could see him. Their every motion seemed to cry out 'Victory!'

– Arthur J. Stansbury, Jacksonian contemporary

As a military hero, a frontiersman, and a populist, Jackson enchanted the common people and alarmed the political, social and economic elite. A Man of the People would now govern the nation — America did not disintegrate into anarchy.

On the Web
Andrew Jackson — Carolina Native
North Carolina is so proud of their native son, Andrew Jackson, that they wrote an online biography of him. From his birth in the Waxhaws area near the border between North and South Carolina to his retirement from the presidency, this website provides a brief, but detailed review of Jackson's life.
The Hermitage
This inspiring website from the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson's plantation, provides a favorable account of Andrew Jackson's life and character. Pages deal with topics like "Jackson's Hermitage," "Andrew Jackson," and "Archaeology." The site has a ton of graphics and interesting facts about the former President.
First Inaugural Address
The tale of the wild party that was Jackson's inauguration introduces this speech, Jackson's first inaugural address. Take a look at the address to see what kind of things Jackson and his constituents were most concerned about, including public spending, the military, and government reform. (Sound familiar?)
Second Inaugural Address
The party was smaller at the second inaugural, but the speech was just as important.
Jackson's First Inauguration
I have been called by voluntary suffrages of my country, I avail myself of this occasion to express the deep and heartfelt gratitude with which a testimonial of such distinguished favor has been received. -Andrew Jackson, first Inaugural address.

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