In many ways, both James Monroe and Andrew Jackson—both of whom lived through the Revolutionary Era—served as symbols for their age. Monroe represented the political elite of that generation who hoped through their government service to preserve some semblance of order in the United States. While good feelings pervaded his time in office, his presidency harkened back to the ceremony of the Federalist Era. Jackson represented the common individual of that generation who saw the break from Great Britain as an opportunity for social and economic mobility for average Americans. True, Jackson had travelled quite far from his humble origins, but he still managed to speak to and for those Americans who wanted democratic principles to mean something in their own lives.
From 1815 to 1840, the United States came of age economically and politically. The market revolution changed the way the American people related to one another and to their government, especially as that government sought to promote economic growth. The emergence of the second party system composed of the Democrats and the Whigs helped the American people to make sense of the changes affecting the nation. By 1840, they had accepted the idea that permanent political parties would help define the important political and economic issues of the day and provide a means for public debate on those issues. Moreover, they saw the political parties as the best way to safeguard democratic principles and personal liberties. However, the central debates over the rights of the states and the rights of the federal government left one question—the future of slavery—unanswered. And unanswered, that question became a dangerous and poisonous element in American life.