Engraving of Andrew Jackson, 1860, by A.H. Ritchie, based on the painting by D.M. Carter (Library of Congress)
Historians are fascinated by Andrew Jackson and his impact on the development of the Democratic Party. He was a complex man whose forceful personality (he was universally known as “Old Hickory”) influenced the political culture of his time as he dominated both the presidency and Congress for two terms (1828-36). The years characterized by a struggle for popular rights and the issues and events that informed the development of the second major political party have become known as the Jacksonian era.
Historian Stephen D. Engle revisits the Jackson presidency and examines the gap between the appearance and the reality of what we have come to believe about that time—and how it relates to our current political culture.
9:30--10:45 a.m. The Rise of Andrew Jackson and the Democratic Party
Between 1815 and 1828, economic and social changes gave rise to a second political party. These changes transformed American culture, giving rise to tensions that were expressed through political ideologies and competing definitions of freedom. An expanded electorate helped to bring about a Democratic victory and a new style of leadership in Jackson.
11 a.m.--12:15 p.m. The Jacksonian Character: Personality, Traits, and Values
Legend has it that Americans who brought Jackson to power were frontiersman, drunkards, gamblers, and other “vulgar” types. Yet Jackson’s election coincided with the emergence of an American middle class that cultivated respectability and yielded power at the polls.
12:15--1:30 p.m. Lunch (participants provide their own)
1:30--2:45 p.m. The Politics of the Common Man and the Democrats in Power
Jackson’s election was the product of electoral changes and voter mobilization that transformed American politics. Once in power, he defied established procedures, ignored congressional opinion, and fought centralized financial control of the Bank of the United States. His aggressive leadership style set off shock waves and galvanized his opponents.
3--4:15 p.m. The Jacksonian Legacy on the American Presidency
The Jacksonian Presidency has been called the triumph of the common man. Scholars, however, still debate his effectiveness in helping the people who put him in office. The two-party system as we know it today was fully formed by the end of Jackson’s second term, but the people who were the primary supporters of his revolution appeared to benefit the least from his presidency.
Engle is a professor of history and director of the history symposium series at Florida Atlantic University.
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)