Thursday, June 1, 2006

Gratuitous Andrew Jackson post

I have to do one of those every now and then.

Jules Witcover in his book Party of the People: A History of the Democrats (2005) summarizes the heritage of Jacksonian democracy at the time the Presidency passed from Old Hickory himself to his preferred successor, Martin Van Buren:

Jackson had also taken advantage of the expanded electorate that resulted from immigration, a widening of voter eligibility in many states and the growth of the Union to twenty-four states by 1824. Just as Jefferson in his day had labored, amid a much more restrictive electorate, to rally farmers against the Federalist aristocracy, Jackson had enlisted the discontented against the comfortably entrenched. He had successfully pitted the poor against the rich, the immigrants and other workers against the entrepreneurs, the debtors against the speculators and bankers, the farmers of the South and the frontiersmen of the West against the established power-wielders of the East.

In waging and winning the Bank War [against the concentrated power and corruption of the Bank of the United States], Jackson also left Van Buren a federal government that, while continuing to espouse the Jeffersonian ideal of states' rights, emphatically declared its responsibility to intervene in behalf of the common good when the forces of privilege overreached acceptable bounds. "It is the duty of every government," Jackson wrote in his Farewell Address, "so to regulate its currency so as to protect this numerous [working] class as far as practicable from the impositions of avarice and fraud," and to bar "the paper money system" from functioning as "an engine to undermine your free institutions."

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