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Current time:0:00Total duration:6:21

Jacksonian Democracy - mudslinging and the election of 1828

APUSH: KC‑4.1.I.C (KC), PCE (Theme), Unit 4: Learning Objective H

Video transcript

- [Instructor] All right, in the last video, we talked about the election of 1824, which turned into a grudge match between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson in which Andrew Jackson won the popular vote but John Quincy Adams won the electoral vote and the tiebreaker turned out to be Speaker of the House Henry Clay, who helped give the election to Adams but then was shortly named Secretary of State by Adams, leading Andrew Jackson and his partisans to claim that a corrupt bargain had taken place. And this really shows how the nature of American politics had changed because this sort of you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours was common practice in American politics between a few elite men who were generally in charge of the political process. But Andrew Jackson and his supporters say that this is undemocratic. This is the kind of elitist hokum that we do not need in our nation of free white men. So, four years later in the election of 1828, it is a Jackson/John Quincy Adams rematch and the gloves are off. So, in the first video in this series, I mentioned that during this time period, a lot of the aspects that we consider part of American politics first came to the fore. And one of the things that you'll see in the election of 1828, really for the first time, is down and dirty mudslinging, or making angry attacks ad hominem, or at the man, rather than at his principles, attacks on your opponent. So, Andrew Jackson probably already had all the ammunition he needed with the corrupt bargain of 1824. John Quincy Adams kinda considered himself above this kind of mudslinging. But his supporters did not, and they came out with some real gems. Not only did they put out handbills with coffins, this is known as the Coffin Handbill to this day, detailing how many men had been killed by Andrew Jackson, either through execution or duels, they also accused his mother of being a prostitute and his wife of being a bigamist. In fact, Andrew Jackson's wife died shortly before his inauguration and he believed to his dying day that it was the terrible slanders about her that had led to her untimely death. Another first for the election of 1828 is Andrew Jackson as the first candidate for the Democratic Party. This is a new party united around Jackson. In the previous election, all of the candidates had been Republicans in one form or another, but now the Republican Party is going to start to fade away and the Democratic Party will come to the fore. And this is the same Democratic Party that is still in existence in the United States today. Of course, its goals and ideas have changed a great deal since the 1820s. And with his Democratic Party and even with the supporters of John Quincy Adams, what Jackson taps into is this kind of mass party democracy. He has great party machines working for him in Eastern cities. He also really takes advantage particularly of people on the frontier, so white people who are looking to expand westward to kind of make it, as we would say, rugged individuals, people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and they saw that in Andrew Jackson because he had been born fairly penniless. And then, by the time he was elected president in 1828, he had become part of the frontier elite. He was now a slave holder; he was one of the guys who had made it. But those on the frontier looked to him and saw the example of what they wanted to be. Jackson also had the advantage of being a war hero from the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812. And throughout the 19th century, those with valorous military service will do well in national elections. And another thing that Andrew Jackson does quite well is harnesses anti-Indian, anti-Native American sentiment. John Quincy Adams had attempted to bargain in good faith, to try to hold up the side of the United States with Native American nations living in what was then the territorial borders of the United States. He'd bargained with them as if they were sovereign nations unto themselves. Andrew Jackson understood that white settlers desperately wanted Indian lands and he played to those white settlers, assuring him that he would do his utmost to remove Native Americans from those lands, a promise that he will make good on during his presidency. So, Jackson wins the election of 1828 and immediately it's obvious that the democracy under Jackson is quite different from the American system under previous presidents. At his inauguration, he turns to the crowd and bows, signaling that he thinks of himself as being beneath the people that he's serving. He also opens up the White House during what's called the Inaugural Brawl, and it's believed that many people went into the White House and they wrecked the china and they destroyed the furniture and they wouldn't leave until people told them there was alcohol outside on the lawn. And to an earlier generation who had been raised with this early American aristocracy of the Adamses and the Washingtons, this looks like anarchy. They thought this was the beginning of the French Revolution in the United States. It was not, but it was the beginning of massive party politics, political campaigns, and the beginning of a new politics in the United States that appealed to the common man. And we'll talk more about that in the next video.