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Andrew Jackson and the Democratic Party, 1825 to 1828
by William P. Meyers

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Andrew Jackson would grow up to be a President of the United States of America and the founder of the Democratic Party. Along the way he would murder many of his fellow men and live a life of depravity unmatched, so far as we know, by any other American President.

Continued from The Corrupt Bargain

In 1825 many people still wanted Jackson to be President. They also wanted to punish congressmen who had voted against him, particularly those they thought sold their votes to President John Quincy Adams in the "corrupt bargain." Looking to the congressional elections of 1826 and the Presidential election of 1828, a new national political organization was about to emerge. The Democratic Party was being born.

In April, 1825. "Jackson approached the Hermitage not as a permanent refuge from the cares of the world, but as winter quarters, wherein to rest, recruit and then sally forth to smash Henry Clay" [James, p. 448]. The Marquis de Lafayette visited. His son-in-law noted "the sad spectacle of slavery."

The campaign was off to a quick start, even in Clay's home state of Kentucky, where a giant barbecue was held to honor four congressmen who had voted for Jackson. The Tennessee Legislature immediately nominated their General for President, and citing a conflict of interest Jackson resigned his Senate seat. Jackson and his followers situated themselves as the leaders of a cause, popular sovereignty. The President, they insisted, should be elected by popular vote, not by bargaining in the nation's capital. President Adams found his projects opposed by Jackson men. A number of newspapers transformed themselves into organs of the new party.

Most astute politicians could feel which way the wind was blowing. Van Buren added his New York machine to the Jackson fold. Most Crawford men switched to Jackson. The new party was largely managed from Washington, D.C. by John Henry Eaton, Calhoun, Van Buren, Houston, and others, who formed a central committee for correspondence. Eaton provided money to establish the United States Telegraph as a national organ with Duff Green as editor. Local papers modeled themselves on the Telegraph. Jackson himself kept up a voluminous correspondence, but avoided public appearances. In the elections of 1826 many Adams and Clay men lost their seats in Congress, and many local politicians hitched themselves to the Jackson bandwagon.

The opposing Adams-Clay faction, soon to evolve into the National Republican party (later to become the Whig Party), slung as much dirt as they could at Jackson. They reminded the nation of his questionable marriage to Rachel [See Andrew Jackson: Stealing Rachel]. They named the seven militia members Jackson had executed (John Wood, Jacob Webb, David Morrow, John Harris, Henry Lewis, David Hunt, Richard Lindacy) in a handbill. They advertised his murders by dueling. Supporters of Jackson rewrote history, elevated Jackson's behavior to sainthood, and made claims that he had never gambled nor played cards. Preparing to have the cares of the nation thrust upon him, Jackson sold his Alabama slave plantation. He threatened several times to kill some of his detractors, but his entourage calmed him down.

The only real issue before the nation was tariffs (taxes on imports), which in turn could pay for internal improvements like roads and canals. Jackson had voted for Clay's tariff plus improvements system, but his advisers were selective in advertising his views. In New England he was proclaimed pro-tariff, in the South anti-tariff, and in the West pro-federally financed improvements. The nation had entered a stretch of economic prosperity, but Adams was unable to get credit for it.

The election of 1828 was a landslide victory for Andrew Jackson and his supporters, to be known as the Democratic Party. The two-way race results were not muddied the way 1824 had been. Jackson won 647,286 popular votes and 178 votes in the Electoral College. John Quincy Adams won 508,064 popular votes, but only 83 in the Electoral College. What would seem strange today is that Adam's Vice-President, John C. Calhoun, also became Jackson's Vice-President.

It should be noted that rich, mostly slave-owning men had become the leaders of the allegedly popular, anti-establishment Party. This pattern would play repeatedly in U.S. history, becoming more refined over time.

Sadly, Rachel Jackson died of an illness on December 22, 1828, before her husband could take office.

Next: President Jackson Divides the Spoils

Main source: The Life of Andrew Jackson by Marquis James, Bobbs-Merrill company, 1938.

Learn more: President Andrew Jackson main page

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