As is often the case, these good times could not last forever. Just like our modern day governmental debt being financed by foreign investment, Andrew Jackson and the nation faced reality when in 1837 foreign investors came to banks to collect. The speculative bubble of 1837 burst in what historians accurately termed the Panic of 1837. English and other European bankers called in the many outstanding loans the states had out as well as many private investors. Paying back these loans instantly crushed the nation's gold supplies which created a ripple affect where many local and state banks could not pay their debts, investors or the governmental reserves. These events lead to many forced bank failures and a national recession ensued.
The Missouri Compromise
In hindsight, we as a nation know now that the southern states who were in favor of slavery were prepared to defend their right to own slaves by forcing war, but during the Jackson era war was the furthest thing from anyone's mind. "In Jackson's day the chief agent of Southern power was a Northern man with Southern principles, Martin Van Buren of New York. It was he who put together the party coalition which Andrew Jackson led to power. That coalition had its wellsprings in the dramatic crisis over slavery in Missouri, the first great public airing of the slavery question in ante bellum America." (Pessen, 178)
In 1818, the new Missouri Territory had a large population that represented votes and potential admission into the Union as a state. The majority of the settlers of the territory had migrated there from the South so at the time it was assumed the state would become a slave state. But the northern anti-slave states proposed an amendment that passed and would therefore not allow the importation of slaves and it emancipated all slaves born in Missouri. The slave states were incensed and therefore slavery became a major item of concern during Andrew Jackson's terms in office.
One of the more important actions that affected the nation was the Missouri Compromise of 1820-1821. The compromise consisted of a combination of bills that first admitted Maine as a Free State and Alabama as a slave state. The number of free and slave states was off by one so the through a series of negotiated bills and measures, Missouri was added as a slave state but there was a stipulation that prohibiting slavery in the remainder of the Louisiana Purchase. Thus, Maine was granted statehood and Missouri was authorized to alter their constitution to allow slavery.
Common man's time or bust
During Andrew Jackson's time in office, it truly was the era of the common man. The problem with that is that for the non-common of the time, the blacks, Native Indians and women, it was a time filled with the traces of sexism, elitism, and racism found. "The women's magazines and related literature had feared this very dislocation of values and blurring of roles. By careful manipulation and interpretation they sought to convince woman that she had the best of both worlds -- power and virtue -- and that a stable order of society depended upon her maintaining her traditional place in it. To that end she was identified with everything that was beautiful and holy. (Pessen, 64) Obviously the Trail of Tears and political cover ups such as the Missouri Compromise all concur that if you were not a common man you were in for a rough stint during Jackson's term of office.
But in the sense of the ruing oligarchies and old world gentry, Jackson did make major political and social reforms that aided farmers, workers and the common man and has influenced the democracy of this nation. "In conservative eyes, corporations were also democratic institutions. In Iowa, Joseph D. Hoag defended manufacturing corporations on the grounds that their employees "worked by the week or piece, as they pleased, usually; and the operatives often made more than the owners. Common hands who were stronger and careful, would in a comparatively short time, be able to buy small farms, or otherwise go into business for themselves." (Welter 118)
All in all, land ownership was no longer just a thing for the rich. Corporations, states and private citizens all benefited albeit temporarily form the 'wildcat' bank experience and the population expansion were all justifications for calling the time period between 1820 and 1840 as the era of the common man.
In conclusion, this report focused on the period of American history ranging between the years of 1820 and 1840. The period was a time in America when the nation was moving past the Era of Good Feelings and had just recovered from of the War of 1812. The recovery had lead to a truly nationalistic sense of values and togetherness. But the period between 1820 and 1840 also had its own unique label as it was known as the Era of the Common Man because it was presided over by Andrew Jackson who was known as the President of the Common Man. This report therefore tried to verify or contradict the title of the Era of the Common Man.
Brulatour, Meg. Transcendental Ideas: Reform: Social and Political Changes in the Time of Emerson and Thoreau: The 19th Century at a Glance. Ed. Meg Brulatour. VCU. Retrieved on 21 Nov. 2004, from http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/transcendentalism/ideas/reformback.html.
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