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Andrew Jackson Essay Questions

A man of war and the West, Andrew Jackson (not to be confused with Andrew Johnson – Jackson was never threatened with impeachment) and the period he’s known for, the Jacksonian Era, is bound to show up on the APUSH exam.

Known for championing the common people (when they were white men), hating banks, supporting state’s rights while contradictorily expanding presidential power, and gaining so many enemies the backlash against him had enough force to create the modern two-party system, he’s not just one of the most important 19th century figures, he’s also one of the most complicated. So, what do you need to know for the exam, exactly?

What did he do before he became President?

Andrew Jackson was a war hero

Even before he ran for president, he had accomplished some pretty impressive feats. Although he was an orphan at 14, he worked his way up to become a Supreme Court judge in Tennessee and fought in the war of 1812 as a major general. He also invaded Spanish Florida after putting down a rebellion in the First Seminole War, which means you can thank Jackson for the acquisition of the Sunshine State.

An easy way to remember Jackson’s back-country roots, toughness and rough personality is to keep the nickname his troops gave him in mind, Old Hickory.

Jackson gave birth to the two-party system in the New (Jacksonian) Democracy

For better or worse, Andrew Jackson changed the face of American politics. Before he became president in 1824, there had only been one political party, but by the time he’d left office, his opponents had united their hate to form the Whig party. A year later Jackson and his followers officially created the Democratic Party in 1834, giving rise to the two party system. Who knew hate could be strong enough to forge the basis of a system that would last to the present day?

Jackson garnered such a dislike for a lot of reasons, which you’ll be able to glimpse in the following points. If you’re asked on the APUSH exam how the two party system came about, make sure you know the following facts as well to back up your argument.

Jackson’s election was a reflection of shifting social and political power

Winning the presidency was more than a personal victory. It also demonstrated a transition in political power. Domination of politics by wealthy aristocrats was giving way to a more liberal democracy where common people (as long as they weren’t women, Native Americans or black) had a bigger say in politics. By 1828, most states had eliminated property requirements to vote. This meant more people could vote than ever before, and they voted for Jackson. He won a sweeping victory in the elections of 1828 and again in 1832. Supporters hailed his presidency as one for the ‘common man,’ although his opponents would dub it ‘mob rule.’

While Jackson may have represented a broader social base, keep in mind that it didn’t include quite a lot of people. A 2001 question from the APUSH exam asked to what extent the Jacksonian Era really represented the common man. Knowing who was included and excluded (women, Native Americans or black) will help you develop a better argument.

What did Jackson do as President?

Jackson expanded presidential power in three key ways

Knowing in what ways Jackson manipulate his power as president may be helpful if you come across a DBQ or short essay question relating to the era. In the past, the APUSH exam has asked about how the power of federal government has or hasn’t expanded over time or asked students to evaluate how the Jacksonian’s lived up to their beliefs. Knowing how Jackson used his presidential power may be helpful to answer questions like these.

1. Spoils system

When Jackson became president, he didn’t forget about the common people who helped him get there. Aside from simple gestures such as inviting the public to the White House ball after his inauguration, he also fired a lot of people (over 900) to make room for those who’d helped him get into the oval office creating the patronage or spoils system that lasted until the 1900s.

2. Kitchen Cabinet

Those who showed him loyalty weren’t just rewarded with government positions; he also created the “kitchen” cabinet by consulting a group of men outside the official government cabinet advisors on political issues. He thought some politicians were out of touch with the real world, and valued the opinions of everyday people. In fact, after the Eaton Affair, sometimes referred to as the Petticoat Affair, Jackson asked his cabinet members to resign to make room for more loyal advisors, but still kept a kitchen cabinet on the side.

3. Use of Veto

His heavy handedness in selecting who worked in the white house wasn’t the only way he expanded power. He also used his power to veto liberally, vetoing more bills than all his predecessors combined.

He used his veto to vote down a bill to renew the charter for the Bank of the United States, which Jackson hated with such a passion he is often quoted as saying it “makes the rich richer and the potent more powerful.” His veto even went against the Supreme Court’s decision in McCulloch vs. Maryland, which had ruled the Bank Charter of the United States constitutional, actually destroying the bank completely by 1836.

Jackson passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830

Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, which allocated land west of the Mississippi for Indian reservations. The idea was the federal government would negotiate with the Native Americans to gain control over all the land in the southern states, in part because gold was found on Native American land in Georgia. Although many tribes contested this, and the Supreme Court even backed Native American rights in Worcester v. Georgia, Jackson favored their removal. Jackson chose not to enforce the Supreme Court decision, forcibly removing Native Americans in what came to be known as the Trail of Tears.

Knowing how Native Americans were viewed and dealt with by the federal government can also help you build an argument and support for essays related to Native American policies.

Jackson alienated the South by not fully reducing the Tariff of 1828, causing South Carolina to threaten secession

This was another step that led to the alienation of the south, and the eventual decision to cede from the United States later on. If you’re asked about the causes that led up to the civil war on the APUSH exam, don’t be afraid to site this as an example.

The Tariff of 1828, also known as the Tariff of Abominations in the south, increased tariffs on raw materials and duties by 45 percent. Many raw materials were made in the south, so when the Tariff, which was never meant to pass, actually did, there was a huge outcry.

This led to an ongoing Nullification Crisis, where South Carolina tried to gain support to nullify the tariff. The Tariff of 1828 had been passed under John Quincy Adams, and those who had voted for Jackson in the south thought he would do away with it. To reach a compromise, Jackson passed the Tariff of 1832, which reduced the tariffs outlined in the original law. Not enough for South Carolina, they passed an ordinance declaring both tariffs to be unconstitutional and even began to prepare militarily to resist its implementation, even threatening to secede. This sticky situation was a foreshadowing of the secession that would occur 17 years later. Jackson reacted by passing the Force Bill, which gave him the authorization to use force to settle the issue, but simultaneously worked to pass the Tariff of 1833, which finally rectified the situation and averted further crisis.

Jackson acquired the state of Texas from Mexico

Andrew Jackson had always wanted to add Texas to the union, and even offered to buy the territory from Mexico in 1829. However, the offer was denied. However, when pro-slavery settlers in Texas gained independence themselves in 1836, and asked to be annexed by the United States, Jackson was hesitant to accept. Although he wanted the state, they had already legalized slavery, making accepting the state to the union a touchy issue, especially so close to elections. To kill two birds with one stone, he waited until the elections were over and his successor Martin Van Buren had secured his position as president to annex Texas as a slave state on his last day as President in 1837.

Applying Jackson’s Legacy to the AP US History Exam

Andrew Jackson or the policies and changes that took place under his presidency inevitably turn up on the APUSH exam every few years. Actually, over the last ten years, five AP US history exams have featured questions related to political policies that were implemented by Jackson and his followers.

In 2014, one of the free response questions on the AP US historyexam directly asked about Andrew Jackson’s political party:

Compare and contrast the Jacksonian Democratic Party and the Whig Party of the 1830’s and 1840’s.

Focus on TWO of the following.

The role of the federal government in the economy

Social reform

Westward expansion

Let’s look at the economy and westward expansion.

The Role of the Federal Government in the Economy

Image Source : Wikimedia Common

The Whigs believed in more protections and government regulations, as well as the power of congress, but the Jacksonians wanted less regulation and put more emphasis on state’s rights. Jackson’s goal was to destroy the Bank of the United States, and was eventually successful by using his power to veto to override congress.The Whigs had supported the bank. In terms of protective tariffs, the Whig party had initiated many as just another aspect of government regulation. Tariffs had been increasing ever since the end of the War of 1812. Against this type of governmental power, Jackson tried to reach a compromise on the overbearing Tariff of 1828 by reducing the Tariff in 1832, and again in 1833.

Westward Expansion

The Jacksonian Democrats favored rapid western expansion and advocated concepts like manifest destiny, while the Whig party was generally against this. When writing about westward expansion on an APUSH free response question, it’s essential to mention how Jackson and his democratic party sought to gain Texas. Also include the Indian Removal act in your response, which gave the United States further access to lands in already established territory, while simultaneously moving Native Americans to a distant location further in the West. Most Whig Party members were against the seemingly reckless westward expansion that continued to continue after Jackson’s Presidency when James K. Polk went to war with Mexico and eventually gained western territories, including what is now California, Nevada and Utah.

Questions about westward expansion also showed up on the APUSH exam in 2012and 2010, asking how expansion led to sectional tensions between the North and South and about the political debate surrounding expansion, respectively.

In 2004, a free response slightly different, but also related to western expansion asked students how effective political compromise had been in reducing sectional tensions from 1820 to 1861.

Here, you’ll also need to know about the acquisition of Texas and the issue of slavery, but should also mention the Nullification Crisis, and how Jackson sought to reach a compromise by passing the Tariff of 1832, which was rejected by South Carolina. It seems that compromise was not totally effective, because even in 1832 South Carolina was threatening to secede from the union. However, this was tampered when Jackson finally appeased them by reducing the tariffs even further in 1833, averting a crisis.

Andrew Jackson’s legacy is undeniable, which is why it is so often reflected on the AP US history exam. Knowing about Jackson and what he did will help you answer questions related to the Jacksonian Era and the Democratic Party he helped to create, as well as questions related to western and governmental expansion.

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Andrew Jackson Document Based Question

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During The Jacksonian Era many different views and ideas were predominant about the United States. The Jacksonian Democrats were a loose coalition of different peoples and interests pulled together by a common practical idea. That idea was that they all were followers of President Andrew Jackson. Jacksonian Democrats viewed themselves as guardians of the Constitution when in fact they were not. When dealing with politics and ideas within the Democratic Party of the time the Jacksonians proved to be both guardians and violators of the Constitution. Individual liberty is another area in which the Jacksonians were advocates to different sides of the topic at different times. The Jacksonians also proved to be champions for equality of economic opportunity. The Jacksonians demonstrated themselves to be, not the proponents they thought they were, but instead violators of the US Constitution.
Throughout the Jacksonian era the Jacksonians proved to be violators of the United States Constitution and not the guardians they believed themselves to be. Both the Jacksonians and President Jackson went against the Supreme Courts regarding cases that were said to be constitutional. In the Supreme Court case of Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Cherokee Nation. This ruling of the Supreme Court did not stop Jackson and the Jacksonians from driving the Cherokees off of their land, and by doing this the Constitution was violated. Also, when dealing with the south, Jackson and the Jacksonians were not guardians of the US Constitution. In vetoing the national bank, Jackson did so because he thought that the act that created it was not compatible with the constitution. However, the Supreme Court had already ruled that the bank was constitutional. In this act Jackson and the Jacksonians were not guarding the constitution, but they were utilizing it to suit their own needs. However sometimes the Judiciary and Executive branches agree such as the incident when South Carolina declared a reduced tariff void and threatened to secede, President Jackson responded in an unconstitutional manner. Jackson threatened to send militia to enforce the tariff implementation and the Jacksonian Congress passed a bill approving this military force, if necessary.

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This was in direct violation of the Constitution. Another action in which Jackson and the Jacksonian Democrats violated the Constitution was when they put censors on the mails and intercepted abolitionist literature or mail into or from the south. This was an infringement on the Constitution because it violated the first amendment. Another area in which Andrew Jackson and the Jacksonians proved to be on both sides of the fence was political democracy.
The Jacksonians and President Jackson proved to be both curators and malefactors of political democracy. Jacksonians did not protect political democracy for non-white men. In the cases involving both the Cherokees and the African-Americans,
as the victims of persecution by the government and of riots by white supremacists, nearly all of whom of who were Jacksonian democrats. Jackson and the Jacksonians provided to be guardians of political democracy when dealing with both the poor and the rich white men. Jackson said he was defending the farmers, mechanics, and laborers against the politically powerful, who had access to government and wanted special undemocratic advantages from it. This proves that Jackson guarded political democracy for the common man. Webster agrees with this view, by defending the poor, Webster claimed, Jackson was about to create a class war and rile up the poor against the rich. The Jacksonians and President Jackson proved also to be guardians and violators of individual liberty.
The Jacksonians and President Jackson proved to be a very unsteady opinionated body on the topic of individual liberty throughout the Jacksonian Era. Jackson and his followers were supporters of liberty only for white males. The Jacksonians set up a policy of rotation in office in order to give all white men the opportunity to hold public office. Since all men were equal, they believed all men were capable of holding public office. The Jacksonians and Jackson did not guard the individual liberty of non-white males and women. Black men and women were excluded from most if not all of the individual liberties and freedoms held by white land-owning males. The Jacksonians limited black men or permitted repression to happen. Also, they did not care at all about the rights of Native American Indians. In the Jacksonian era, women were hardly considered thinking people. Even though households were almost completely run by women they failed to gain even the basic rights that every male had. This allowed for the Jacksonians to overlook them when guarding the individual liberties of white males. Another area in which Jackson and his democrats proved to be guardians was when dealing with equality of economic opportunity.
When dealing with lands, Jackson and the Jacksonians seemed to be always guardians of economic opportunity. The picture of the Trail of Tears, where Indian tribes were forced to move to reservations, serves as an example of the Jacksonians and President Jackson being guardians of economic opportunity. By removing all Indians from their lands and placing them on reservations, lands opened up for farmers and the economic opportunity for men increased. This also help Jackson in another way; since 1/3 of Jackson's supporters were these new western farmers. This opened up many lands for farmers and working men. When dealing with the bank and the Supreme Court, Jackson and the Jacksonians seemed to be always guardians of economic opportunity. Andrew Jackson and the Jacksonian democrats believed that the US bank placed too much control into the hands of a wealthy few. Due to this fact, Jackson vetoed the banks recharter in 1832. In an attempt to benefit the lower working classes, he placed the federal money in "pet" state banks. Judge Tany, who was a supporter and a person who gave advice to Jackson and the Jacksonians, helped equal opportunity by killing the monopoly of the Charles River Bridge Corporation. This allowed others to compete with that corporation and allowed for economic opportunity to be increased. The Jacksonian view of themselves was both true and false in many aspects.
While thinking and saying one thing the Jacksonians would often do something completely different. Throughout the Jacksonian era this theme played an important role in many political topics, which arose, and which the Jacksonians took different views upon. These views eventually grew to help for many of the ideas that we hold true today, that allow the United States to grow even more powerful and better than ever before in conflict and in ideology.