Democracy In The 19th Century

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Democracy in the United States became prominent in the early to mid 19th century. Andrew Jackson, the 7th president of the United States, was inaugurated in 1829 and was best known as the person who mainstreamed democracy in America. Because he came from a humble background, he was the “genuine common man.” (Foner, pg. 303) He claimed he recognized the needs of the people and spoke on behalf of the majority [farmers, laborers]. However, critics of Jackson and democracy called him “King Andrew I” because of his apparent abuse of presidential power [vetoing]. These critics believed he favored the majority so much that it violated the U.S. constitution, and they stated he was straying too far away from the plan originally set for the United States. Because of the extreme shift of power to the majority, the limiting of rights of the few [merchants, industrialists] and the abuse of power under Jackson’s democracy, the foundational documents set in the constitution was violated, and the work of the preceding presidents were all but lost. During the construction of the new Constitution, many of the most prominent and experienced political members of America’s society provided a framework on the future of the new country; they had in mind, because of the failures of the Articles of Confederation, a new kind of government where the national or Federal government would be the sovereign power, not the states. Because of the increased power of the national government over the individual states, many Americans feared it would hinder their ability to exercise their individual freedoms. Assuring the people, both Alexander Hamilton and James Madison insisted the new government under the constitution was “an expression of freedom, not its enemy,” declaring “the Constitution made political tyranny almost impossible.” (Foner, pg. 227) The checks and balances introduced under the new and more powerful national government would not allow the tyranny caused by a king under the Parliament system in Britain. They insisted that in order achieve a greater amount of freedom, a national government was needed to avoid the civil unrest during the system under the Articles of Confederation. Claiming that the new national government would be a “perfect balance between liberty and power,” it would avoid the disruption that liberty [civil unrest] and power [king’s abuse of power in England] caused. The “lackluster leadership” of the critics of the new constitution claimed that a large land area such as America could not work for such a diverse nation.
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