Jacksonian Democracy: Myth or Reality?

By James L. Bugg Jr. | Go to book overview
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MARVIN MEYERS ( 1921- ), like Ward, is determined to discover a more adequate explanation for the Jacksonian appeal. He finds it not in any class or sectional challenge, but in the "expressive role" of politics. A dynamic economy and a liberal society fired the ambition of the American at the same time that rapid and ceaseless change aroused his fears by threatening the stability of his society and the permanence of his accepted values. Jackson appealed to a nation of incipient entrepreneurs by recalling the image of the "Old Republic" with its enduring virtues of integrity, morality, frugality, and simplicity. He spoke "to a society drawn fatally to the main chance" in terms of a return to a lost "agrarian republican innocence."*

The Restoration of the Old Republic Theme in the Jacksonian Persuasion

On Jackson's Message

On his way toward the presidency Andrew Jackson had gained a splendid military reputation and a loose distinction as the plain man's candidate against the hierarchs of the republican statesmen's club. The broadening of the franchise, the shift to direct choice of presidential electors, the fading of old party lines: all prepared the way for a national hero, combining dramatic flair with the common touch, to break the chain of decorous successions and seize the first place in American political life. The time was ready for the popularity principle to supplant the rule of cabinet promotions in the choice of president; Jackson was precisely the man for the opportunity. His plurality in 1824 and then the decisive majority in 1828 must be regarded first as personal triumphs of the Old Hero, a man whose patriotic deeds, "hickory" character, and exemplary progress from obscurity to fame had wakened a new sort of political enthusiasm. National pride and nascent class ambition were drawn to a natural protagonist.

As Jackson's initial victories were essentially personal, so his early opposition took the form of an ill-matched anti- Jackson junto. Slowly during the first

Reprinted from The Jacksonian Persuasion: Politics and Belief by Marvin Meyers with the permission of the publishers, Stanford University Press. © 1957 by the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. Footnotes omitted by permission of the author and his publisher.


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