Jacksonian Democracy: Myth or Reality?

By James L. Bugg Jr. | Go to book overview

CLAUDE G. BOWERS ( 1879-1958), journalist, biographer, diplomat, and historian, finds the central theme of American history in a struggle between the forces of democracy and aristocracy. The vivid and dramatic style that characterizes his studies of the Jeffersonians and Jacksonians assures widespread familiarity with and interest in his books. Jefferson and Jackson emerge as master political leaders, formulators and guardians of the democratic tradition and opponents of privilege. In fact, interpreted through the skilful pen and oratory of Bowers, the main lines of American History appear as the working out of the goals of the Democratic party. His optimism contrasts strongly with the pessimism of his fellow liberal, Parrington, both of whom published in the 1920s.*


Andrew Jackson: The Homeric Battles of His Administration

I

When in the election of 1828 Andrew Jackson was borne on the backs of the people to the seat of power, a new day dawned in American history. The democratic philosophy of Thomas Jefferson became a reality. That ideology of liberty and personal rights to which Jefferson arrived through study and meditation was inherent in the nature of his disciple. In the wilderness among the pioneers, in the camps from which robust individualists and patriots followed him to victories, among the valiant men who cleared the forests and plowed the fields, he had lived the democracy he felt. From these associations had come his contempt for show and sham and snobbery, his distrust of the too great centralization of power, his hostility to monopoly, his challenge to the growing influence of wealth and privilege, and his utter devotion to the interest of the common man.

Jackson was the first of the Presidents to fight his way from actual poverty to power. His parents had migrated to America from Ireland to escape oppression and in search of opportunity. The death of his father in his fourteenth year left him wholly dependent on his own resources. At that early age when the patriots of the colonies began their march to independence, he joined the Revolutionary army. He saw his brothers

____________________
*

From Claude G. Bowers, Making Democracy A Reality: Jefferson, Jackson, and Polk. Memphis: Memphis State College Press, 1954.

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