Jacksonian Democracy

Teacher Guide By Richard Cleggett

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Jacksonian Democracy Lesson Plans

Student Activities for Jacksonian Democracy Include:

Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, was a military veteran and a ruthless politician. He rose to power on a wave of populist appeal, and was central in shaping early America. He quashed threats of succession, forced the relocation of Native Americans, and dismantled the national bank.

Jacksonian Democracy Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

The Election of 1824: A Corrupt Bargain

For this activity, students will outline the Election of 1824. A traditional storyboard will be used to detail the candidates, their positions, and what became known as the “corrupt bargain”. The idea of the corrupt bargain will tie together each side, and how each candidate played a role in the “bargain”. By outlining and defining each candidate (Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and Henry Clay) students will be able to summarize their political stances.

The top of the boards should define each candidate, his position, and his election results (popular vote and electoral votes). The bottom portions of the boards describe the role each played in what would become the “corrupt bargain”. Adams will win, Jackson will meet with defeat, and Clay will secure a position in Adams’s cabinet as part of their “deal”.

Candidates of the Election of 1824

Andrew Jackson
  • As a war hero of the War of 1812, Jackson was immensely popular. Receiving 99 electoral votes, victory in the Presidential Election of 1824 was all but guaranteed... until it was realized he needed a majority of electoral votes to win.

  • Jackson lost the vote conducted by the House of Representatives. Seeing it as a 'corrupt bargain', Jackson blamed political corruption and favoritism for his defeat. His feelings of righteous indignation would fuel a strong campaign in 1828.

John Quincy Adams
  • The son of President John Adams, John Quincy Adams, came out of the Election of 1824 with 84 electoral votes, second to Jackson. Still, with Jackson not receiving majority electoral votes, the House of Representatives would vote on the presidency, which will come to work in Adams' favor.

  • By forming a New England-Ohio Valley alliance with Clay, Adams supporters teamed up with Clay supporters to sway the vote towards Adams presidential victory. By naming Clay his Secretary of State, a 'corrupt bargain' secured Adams the victory in 1824.

Henry Clay
  • A Kentucky politician, Clay, served as the Speaker of the House. Clay detested Jackson, and was a staunch opponent of his policies. Finishing fourth in the electoral votes, Clay made decisive moves to secure a Jackson loss, and an Adams win.

  • Accepting loss, Clay and his supporters swayed the vote towards John Quincy Adams for president in 1824. Adams became president, and Clay was appointed Secretary of State, leaving Jackson completely out (as Clay was staunchly against Jackson).

Extended Activity

Have students research a current political race (presidential, senatorial, etc.) and define the results of the election. Have students look into the policies, ideologies, and beliefs of each candidate, as well as research any “bargains” that may have taken place. This should serve as a connector to current events and current day politics.

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Jackson's Victory in 1828

In this activity, students will detail not only how, but also why Jackson’s popularity and political appeal to the common folk helped him secure a presidential victory in 1828. A spider map storyboard will help students organize the “5 Ws” of the election, and why Jackson emerged victorious. By detailing the rise of Jackson, his political party (the Jacksonian Democrats), and the response of a newly formed voting population, students will be able to connect the important elements of the election.

Example Election of 1828 5 Ws

WHO was involved in the campaign?

Andrew Jackson won a major victory in the presidential Election of 1828. With support of a much larger voting contingent, and 70% of the electoral votes, Jackson redeemed what he considered a 'corrupt bargain' in the previous Election of 1824.

WHAT was important about the 1828 election?

The Election of 1828 was much anticipated. Adams had left the presidency unpopular in many of his policies. Jackson, armed with an image catering to the 'common man', secured a strong victory, leading to what will become a 'Jacksonian Democracy'.

WHERE did new voter contingents emerge?

The Election of 1828 is unique; voter eligibility greatly expanded to landowners and 'the common man'. New voters in the Ohio River Valley and recently settled western lands worked to Jackson's advantage.

WHEN did the election occur?

The Election of 1828 had been in the making since the results of the Election of 1824. The election resulted in Jackson's victory and a strong case for his run in 1832.

WHY did the election play out the way it did?

Jackson secured victory for several reasons. Adams presidency proved to be unpopular. In addition, Jackson appealed to more common voters with his position as both a war hero and staunch opponent of the federal government influence.

Extended Activity

For an extended activity, have students research the evolution, rise, and importance of the right to vote. Like most elections in American history, the right to vote is an extremely important element of the Election of 1828. Students should focus on amendments, and population changes.

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The Spoils System and Jackson’s “Kitchen Cabinet”

Students will compare and contrast what makes up the president’s cabinet, as well as how Jackson utilized his own personnel. This activity will allow students to see what major positions make up the president’s cabinet, and who Jackson used as his true advisers to certainly work towards his favor. With a T-Chart storyboard, students can compare and contrast what a true cabinet position does (and who held it) alongside who Jackson chose to listen to (and what their positions were).


Vice President
John C. Calhoun, a Senator from South Carolina, will serve as Jackson's Vice President in 1828. However, strained relations will cause Calhoun to resign.

Secretary of State
Several individuals will serve as Jackson's Secretary of State, particularly after the Martin van Buren is promoted to Vice President. The Secretary of State deals primarily with foreign affairs, and is instrumental in any presidential cabinet.

Secretary of War
John Eaton served as Jackson's initial Secretary of War. However, Eaton was soon at odds with Jackson, particularly over what has now become the 'Eaton Affair' (a scandal involving a recently widowed woman). As Secretary of War, Eaton's duties included managing and controlling the United States defenses and armed forces.

Secretary of Treasury
Several members will come and go as Secretary of the Treasury for Jackson. This position deals primarily with taxes, customs, and financial reports to Congress. Jackson, swapped the holder of this position several times, relying on advice and guidance from his kitchen cabinet.


Martin van Buren
Martin van Buren will come to serve as Jackson's Vice President upon the resignation of Calhoun. He was considered a close political ally and friend of Jackson, whom Jackson consistently turned to as part of his 'kitchen cabinet'.

Francis Preston Blair
Blair served as an independent adviser to Jackson. He established Globe, a court journal in Washington, D.C. that helped manipulate media to the advantage of Jackson.

Amos Kendall
Like Blair, Amos Kendall was a journalist and contributor to the Globe, a pro-Jacksonian newspaper. He was appointed fourth auditor of the Treasury, and is considered one of the strongest members of Jackson's 'kitchen cabinet'.

Duff Green
Duff Green also served as an editor and backer of Jackson, through his paper was The United States Telegraph. A common theme for Jackson's kitchen cabinet, journalists and editors alike helped promote a favorable perspective to the public concerning Jackson's policy.

Extended Activity

Have students research and explain the evolution of the presidential cabinet, as it has grown from the beginning of American politics, and the position of the presidency. Examine the current presidential cabinet and what their roles are advising the president. Have students research if there are still any external influences on the president today.

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Jackson and the Tariff Crisis of 1828-1833: A Neutralized Threat

This activity will help students lay out a timeline of the Tariff Crisis, beginning in 1828 and ending in 1833. There are many unique events in this crisis, as it was one of the first threats of secession by a state in response to a federal action. Furthermore, it helps illustrate Jackson’s use of military power and his power as president. By detailing the initiation of a high tariff on manufactured goods, students will explore each event and response by President Jackson, as well as how the tariff highlights differences among states' needs, rights, and responses (in particular South Carolina’s threat of secession). Students will also examine Jackson’s Force Bill, nullification, and state sovereignty.

Jackson and the Nullification Crisis of 1828 - 1833


The ‘Tariff of Abominations’

Under President Adams, a high tariff to promote American manufacturing was issued. The tariff greatly harmed southern economies, particularly South Carolina. It was thought Jackson would significantly reduce this tariff, however, he did not.

July 14, 1832

Jackson’s Tariff of 1832

On July 14th, 1832, Jackson signed into law a tariff that helped ease tensions on the issue, but did not satisfy southern businesses and politicians. Jackson's vice president, John C. Calhoun, resigned to take position in the Senate to better fight the tariff.

November 24, 1832

Ordinance of Nullification

South Carolinian politicians began organizing around the cause against the tariffs. On November 24th, 1832, they adopted the Ordinance of Nullification, ultimately refusing to adhere to the tariff ('nullifying' the law).

March 1, 1833

The Admission of the Force Bill

In response to South Carolina's open nullification of federal law, Jackson issued the Force Bill, allowing presidential use of military force against South Carolina to enforce cooperation and quash South Carolina's threat of secession from the Union.

March 15,1833

Compromise Tariff of 1833

With the issuance of the Force Bill, South Carolina agreed to compromise on a new tariff to avoid any further issues. They repealed their Nullification Ordinance, but also nullified the Force Bill, as a symbol of its principles.

Extended Activity

Have students research and define a current bill or law that divides states. This could include a number of current day issues, e.g. gay marriage, and the divide among states/federal government’s response, or the Affordable Care Act. Students should utilize a timeline storyboard to track the bill, law, etc., how it passed (or did not pass), and the response of states nationwide.

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Jackson and Indian Removal Act - Tail of Tears Graphic Organizer

Using the Frayer Model, have students focus their board on Jackson, his stance on the Native American population, and his actions. This includes Jackson as an enemy of the natives (War of 1812, fighting of the Seminoles in Florida), his policies concerning American civilian interaction/conflict with the natives, the Trail of Tears, and the eventual Indian Removal Act of 1830. Students should define, describe, and relate Jackson as a soldier, and president, in terms of his actions and responses to the “Indian problem”.

First Seminole War

As a military leader, Jackson first acted against Indians through his conquests in the First Seminole War of 1817. On behalf of President James Madison, Jackson invaded Florida and forcibly conquered the native Seminole population. He later served as Military General of Florida throughout 1821.

Second Seminole War

In 1835, as president, Jackson conducted further warfare against Indians in the southern United States. As part of a series of wars conducted between settlers and natives, Jackson took a strong position against natives, believing that American settlers had proper claims to the land.

Trail of Tears

Through Jackson's policies and laws concerning tribal lands and American settlers, Indian removal eliminated many conflicts between settlers and natives. The result is know as the Trail of Tears, in which thousands of Cherokee tribal members were forcibly marched from Florida and Georgia to reservations in Oklahoma. Many perished as a result.

Indian Removal Act of 1830

This legislation Jackson pushed through Congress allowed him to negotiate treaties and solve land disputes between native tribes and settlers. Ultimately, it resulted in many unfair treaties and agreements that worked against natives and their claims to lands that conflicted with American settlers.

Extended Activity

Students should research Worcester vs. Georgia, which will help incorporate the Supreme Court’s stance on Indian relocation, and rights to certain lands. Furthermore, it will help students understand Jackson’s response and defiance of the Supreme Court’s decision. It will be useful for students to connect the Executive Branch and Judicial Branch. In addition, they will be able to relate each branch to civil and human rights.

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Jackson and the Bank War Graphic Organizer

For this activity, students will examine and explain Jackson and his fight against the Second Bank of the United States. It will exemplify Jackson’s belief in limited government, but also his expansive presidential powers. Using a grid storyboard, students will research the national bank, and articulate its purpose and function. Then, students will research and examine Jackson’s response and actions against the bank, and its effects of the American economy. This activity will also touch on the Election of 1832, in which Jackson again emerged victorious, and his exercise of the veto power.

Jackson and the Bank War

Jackson’s Actions Outcomes / Effects
In 1832, Jackson vetoed a bill that would renew the charter of the Second Bank of the United States. A great opponent to the bank, Jackson saw the institution as one that favored the wealthy and went against the 'common man'. By vetoing the Second Bank, Jackson began his 'war' against the bank. Many saw this as an attempt to foment class warfare and generate support from the common folk. This move increased his popularity and helped secure the election in 1832.
As another attack on the National Bank, Jackson stopped depositing funds into federal banks altogether. Instead, he instituted a depository system where state banks received funds. His enemies called them Jackson's 'pet banks'. Jackson's stance against the bank was solidified, however, his pet banks allowed wild inflation and speculation to take place. Soon, crisis ensued and America entered what historians refer to as the Panic of 1837.
In response to the overwhelming inflation and speculation crisis, Jackson issued an executive order forbidding purchase lands except through gold and silver specie. This, in turn, led to a great demand for banknotes to be redeemed by gold and silver. The banks, however, did not have enough gold and silver to supply the increasing demand. The economy was further depressed. Before the issue could be resolved, Jackson would leave the presidency, saddling his successor, Martin van Buren, with the economic mess.

Extended Activity

Have students research the current standing and function of the Federal Reserve, our national “bank”, and securer of funds. Have students explain and understand its functions, the role it plays in the American economy today, and how it affects the common people of America today on a traditional storyboard.

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Jacksonian Era & Democracy

Andrew Jackson served the United States as the seventh president. A war hero who fought in the War of 1812, Jackson was a controversial president, but instrumental in establishing a firm stance on several issues. Jackson hailed from Tennessee, and was the first president from west of the Appalachians. He was a wealthy plantation owner, and served as Senator in the 1790s. With political experience as well as a highly touted reputation for his military actions, Jackson served as an emblem of the common man of America. He became the face of the average American, but his presidency will remain shrouded in controversy.

Jackson first emerged on the presidential stage in 1824, where he lost to John Quincy Adams through an unusual political alliance, what Jackson deemed a “corrupt bargain”. With renewed vengeance, and nearly triple the voting contingent, Jackson seized the presidency in both 1828 and 1832. Catering to the people's fear of big government, Jackson went on to reduce government influence.

He battled the national bank, and dealt with one of the first crises of secession and disunity among the states. Jackson turned to his closest advisers, his “kitchen cabinet”, for guidance, to the dismay and disapproval of many politicians. He also set a staunch precedent in dealing with the native population, helping establish an even more extreme response to the “Indian problem”. Overall, Andrew Jackson left a mark not only the position of the presidency, but also the nation as a whole. He remains instructive as part of life in early America.

Essential Questions for Jacksonian Democracy

  1. What was the nature of the Election of 1824 and the “corrupt bargain”?
  2. How did the Election of 1824 influence political parties and elections? How does it still serve as a learning tool in today’s politics?
  3. What were Jackson’s actions concerning the national bank, and how did he aim to limit its influence and power?
  4. How did Jackson aim to limit the powers of the national government, but also expand his own powers as president?
  5. What was the tariff crisis, and how did Jackson solve what was, at the time, a major concern of secession and disunity among the vastly different American states? How does this exemplify state vs. national powers?
  6. What was Jackson’s view and stance on the Native American population? What actions did Jackson take to attempt to “solve” this issue, and how does it exemplify America’s treatment of Native Americans?

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