Andrew Jackson’s ‘Era of the Common Man’ or the ‘Jacksonian Period’ (1824-1845) starts at his inauguration, and ends as the Civil War begins. Jackson was the first president that was not born into wealth or education, but instead made his own wealth, and taught himself up to a prime education, a ‘self-made man’, as some may say, this and his military history made him the defining figure of his age. Although, he downplayed his past successes to make him more like the ‘common man’, and appeal to the voters, his past, and his future changes to political policies, economy, and the overall society, marks this special period as the Era of the Common Man.
On a political level, Jackson changed the way the president is elected, by repeatedly pressing for the election of the President and the Vice-President to be left to the people, rather than the Electoral College, who he felt could not accurately capture the wants or needs of the people.
To allow the common man to vote with greater ease, a great reduction of voting requirements happened, nearly all states eliminating the past requirement of land ownership. Some radical states, went sp far as to say that a man need not to be a taxpayer to be able to vote, these policies made the common’s man voice more powerful in the government. Also during the Jacksonian Period the concept to look elsewhere then the elite politicians to fill jobs in government came about in Jackson’s ‘Spoil System’.
The position filled in this system were often called ‘common men’, these men seemed to more accurately speak for the American population, than the rich, upper-class elites. These ‘common men’, were also the men Jackson would console with, instead of the actual presidential cabinet that was filled with the elite for political reasons. The addition of common men into the government further proves how much more the common man was represented in the Jacksonian Era, than in any other period before in American Government.
The ‘Nullification Crisis’ of 1828-1832, once again brought up the concept that the states have the right to nullify federal laws that they found to be unconstitutional, and even had the right to so far as to succeed from the Union. Although, this principle, at face value, may seem to favor the common man, but in it’s true principles, betray the common man. Jackson strongly fought this ideal, saying that the federal government was made to protect and represent the common man, even when the common man turned on one another, and to protect the common man the Union must be persevered.
These issues came to a head, when Vice-President Calhoun, in the South Carolina Exposition and Protest of 1828, supported his home state in nullifying the federal tariff of 1828, which implied he supported the ‘Nullification Rights’ of the state. Jackson, although supporting South Carolina’s view of the tariff, prized the preservation of the Union more, and squashed this rebellion down with the threat of troops being sent. This incident protected the common man, by making it clear that the differing views of a minority will not be able to hurt the common man, so long as the Union can be preserved.
These principles against the Nullification rights of the state, were shown once again when, at the April 13, 1830, Jefferson Day dinner, Calhoun toasted “The Union of the U.S., and the Sovereignty of the States”, showing his support of Nullification, and Jackson toasted is respond “Our federal Union: it must be preserved”, showing his opposition to Nullification, and exposing the widening gap between himself and Calhoun. This incident further proves Jackson, the prime figure in the Era of the Common Man Economically, the government also began to support, and endorse smaller state banks, to better spread the wealth, rather than concentrating all of it into the National Bank, which Jackson vetoed the renewal for in 1832.
He vetoed on the premise that too much power and privilege was placed into too few of the elite, and this was unfair to the common man Jackson so much protected. The veto shut down the National Bank, in which the government placed all its money in, and once it had shut down, the money was then placed into multiple smaller state banks, giving the control back to the common man. The tariff in question of the South Carolina Exposition and Protest of 1828 was the Tariff of 1828, which was a protective tariff which raised the tax of imports up by 45%. This tariff benefited the North-East are, more specific ally the merchants within, as this tariff raised profit, thus benefiting the economy.
This was the opposite for the South; this tariff raised the imports the South relied on from foreign powers, hurting the economy, and was protested. The tariff went against the concepts and ideals of the common man, as it benefited so little of the population, and seemed to favor the North. On this premise, Jackson had opposed this tariff, but not to the extent Calhoun and the rest of South Carolina did. The Era of the Common Man increased the level in which the public interacted with the government, and its policies. Thus the appearance of women taking active roles within the Temperance Movement, along with the common man despite the failure to get federal laws banning/mentioning alcohol consumption, is a consequence of the new power in government of the common man.
But the need for defining the true ‘common man’ is raised the Temperance Movement, because the common men in the south for, example did not support it. Since, the broad definition of the common man is an adult white male, which still excluded rather large parts of society, such as freed blacks, Native Americans, and, although for many other reasons, women. The increased feeling of universal white-male suffrage spread about, all these excluded groups began to protest for their own suffrage.
Most notably, women suffrage was pushed for, by both men and women, at the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, again unsuccessful, but was done by the feelings produced by, and within, the Era of the Common Man. The Jacksonian Period, was dubbed the Era of the Common Man justly, due to it success of bringing the voice of the, well, common men of the nation. Despite the conflict, and exclusion, of the term of the ‘common man’, its serves as a catalyst to the notion of universal suffrage for man, and in the far off future, the universal suffrage of all citizens of the United States.