THE RIGHTS OF THE PEOPLE (1830-1860)
By 1830 the first interpretations of civil liberty had been made. These involved: (1) the rejection of the English traditions and laws found unsuitable to the new form of government or the spirit of the people; (2) the definition of the powers of the United States respecting the liberties of the citizens of the separate states; (3) and the new ideas consequent upon the transfer of sovereign power from a hereditary monarch to the people acting through a majority. For the first, the divorce from England had been declared final. For the second, the principle was laid down that the central government had nothing to do with protecting the liberties of the citizens of states. The third--the new ideas of democratic control--now engages us.
For forty years the "founding Fathers" had guided the nation. They had formed a sort of aristocratic succession to bridge the gap between monarchy and democracy. Now they were gone. The people were left alone with their government. The power had descended upon them, and through their new self-created leaders, Andrew Jackson first, they heard proclaimed the divine right of the people. They were easily flattered into a conviction of their wisdom, their power, and their final right to settle with the minority. Civil liberty became a question of resisting this new power, expressed either by law or by mobs.
The people had won important enlargements of political and economic rights: a greatly extended suffrage, generally without property or religious tests; equality of representation;