President Andrew Jackson and the Age of the Common Man

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  1. 0:05 Lead Up to the Election of 1828
  2. 0:29 Evolution of the 2-Party System
  3. 1:49 Jackson Wins it All Thanks to…
  4. 4:40 The Age of the Common Man
  5. 6:07 Lesson Summary
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Taught by

Steven Shirley

In this lesson, we will explore the dirty politics of the 1828 election and the Age of the Common Man in American politics. Discover how this election changed American politics forever.

Lead-Up to the Election of 1828

The Election of 1824 left a bitter taste in the mouths of Andrew Jackson and his supporters. The 'corrupt bargain' that led to John Quincy Adams becoming president also led to four years of loyal but vocal opposition to Adams and rendered his presidency all but impotent. By the Election of 1828, Andrew Jackson was ready to try again.

Evolution of the 2-Party System

Several key events had changed the political landscape over the past four years. For example, prior to 1828, there were more than two political parties vying for influence, and Congressional caucuses chose candidates for presidents. While that did not always translate into large numbers of politically viable candidates, as was the case in 1824, it certainly created numerous distractions for any campaign.

But this time, the number of parties had been whittled down and consolidated to two: the Democrats, led by Andrew Jackson, and the National Republican Party, home to John Quincy Adams and essentially everyone else who was anti-Jackson. It was the evolution of the two-party system that we have today.

But this wasn't the only change. After securing his nomination, Adams had to choose a new running mate. But wait - what happened to Vice President John C. Calhoun? He had switched sides and become Jackson's running mate! Can you imagine today the Vice President abandoning his party's nominee to join the other side? It would be scandalous, and yet, in 1828, this was American presidential politics at its best.

Jackson Wins It All Thanks to the Common Man

Jackson's first victory may have been winning Calhoun away from Adams, but there were smaller, more important victories taking place in states across the country.

Changes in state constitutions also led to more people being allowed to vote. For example, you no longer had to be a wealthy landowner. You still had to be a white male, however, so no women or non-whites were allowed, but it was progress. This change in voter qualifications would lead to record-breaking voter participation in the election. Up to 80% of qualified voters voted.

If 1824 was a watershed moment in American politics, the campaign of 1828 set the standard for mudslinging among the candidates. And this was no ordinary mudslinging: Adams was accused of misusing public funds, gambling in the White House, and splurging with tax money for his extravagant lifestyle. The attacks on Andrew Jackson were no less vicious. He was accused of being uneducated, reckless, and, well, a murderer! True, he had engaged in a duel years before in 1806 to protect the honor of his wife, but in those days, duels were not so unusual.

The candidates couldn't have been more different. Adams stayed off the campaign trail, preferring instead to remain in the White House and govern. Jackson was quite the opposite. A war hero, vaunted 'Indian fighter,' and a 'man of the people,' Jackson enjoyed the campaign trail and sought the support of the common folk, campaigning hard in the South, Mid-Atlantic, and Western states.

The hard work paid off. Andrew Jackson routed John Quincy Adams in the popular vote and the Electoral College, coasting to victory with 178 electoral votes to 83 and winning the popular vote by over 140,000.

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