political development in the united states, 1790-1840
Inauguration Day, 1829 was tumultuous. Thousands of people descended on the White House grounds to celebrate Andrew Jackson's decisive victory over John Quincy Adams, nearly injuring the new president in their fervor and doing some considerable damage to physical property. These frenetic events, which horrified some observers and delighted others, symbolized the culmination of a half century of American political development under the Constitution. Two political parties had vigorously contested for the highest office in the nation, more than one million voters in twenty-four states had cast ballots, and each candidate had received substantial support from devoted adherents. A man whom some considered violent, uncouth, and rustic, but whom others thought of as a tribune of the common people, had successfully challenged the leader of the eastern establishment.
Fifty years before, the political situation had not been as energetic, as organized, as large scale, or as complex. Colonial politics had had its share of political conflicts between vigorously contesting social groups, bitter political rhetoric, and sharp electoral confrontation. But relatively few people had been involved in these battles. In most colonies, laws severely restricted the number of citizens who could vote. In addition, the institutions of American politics were undeveloped. The parties and factions of colonial America were impermanent, transient things,