After completing this chapter, you should be able to:
- Describe and analyze the factors that contributed to the Era of Good Feelings, especially the nationalist tendencies of the government and the sectional tensions those tendencies caused.
- Explain Andrew Jackson’s democratic vision and analyze the role Jacksonian Democracy played on public policy debates in the 1830s.
- Describe the reasons behind the collapse of the first party system and analyze the factors that led to the development of the second party system.
- Explain and evaluate the causes of the Panic of 1819, the Missouri Compromise, Indian Removal, the Nullification Crisis, the Bank War, and the Panic of 1837.
After the War of 1812, a number of significant transformations took place in the United States. Cities became the center of commerce and manufacturing in order to meet the demand for finished goods from the nation’s everincreasing population. Simultaneously, the countryside became the source for raw materials, launching calls for territorial expansion. The market revolution wove local life together with regional, national, and international developments at a time when American men became more politically active. Between 1816 and 1828, most states stopped tying the right to vote to property ownership. Therefore, the number of white men voting more than doubled. The framers’ vision of a republic led by enlightened elites faded from view as politicians embraced a democracy guided by the will of the people expressed in popular elections.
Many leading politicians sought to deal with deficiencies in the nation’s financial and transportation systems exposed by the war. During the Era of Good Feelings, which coincided with James Monroe’s presidency, a new generation of leaders such as John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, and Daniel Webster committed themselves to a program of nationally-minded growth to further the market revolution. However, a number of tensions in American society emerged to undermine their programs and the unity of the period. Economic, population, and territorial growth resulted in much change; these changes prompted public debates over tariffs, banking, internal improvements, the extension of slavery, and Indian removal. Most Americans supported continued growth, but they differed on the best means to achieve that growth.
Their debates laid the groundwork for the emergence of new political parties in the Age of the Common Man, which coincided with Andrew Jackson’s presidency. As Americans divided over the president’s policies, the second party system emerged to replace the first party system. The Democrats supported Jackson’s views on the relationship between the people and their government. They believed the government should reflect the will of the majority and should work to promote the interests of the common citizen. The Whigs preferred the nationalist tendencies of the postwar years because they thought the government played an important role in economic growth. By the early 1840s, most Americans recognized how much the United States had changed economically and socially since the days of the Revolution, and those changes affected their political outlook.
Thumbnail: President Andrew Jackson. (Public Domain; Alexander Hay Ritchie. Image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3a08417).