|The Jackson Inauguration: King Mob or Champion of Democracy? |
Students examine the inauguration of Andrew
Jackson in 1828 and identify the ways Jackson's election signaled important changes
in the American political landscape.
By using the activities of this lesson, the students will:
- describe the inauguration of Andrew Jackson;
- discuss how Jackson
embodied the political culture of his era;
- compare the politics of Jacksonian
democracy with contemporary American politics.
The election of Andrew Jackson was seen by many as a victory
for the common citizen in much the same way as Jefferson brought an end to the
Federalist aristocracy. He was the first president elected from a state that was
not one of the original thirteen colonies, and he represented the interests of
the rural western frontier rather than the industrial northeast.
Jackson is said to have slipped quietly into the Capitol in February 1829, his
inauguration seemed to predict the tone of his administration. The usually uninhabited
town of Washington, D.C., was packed with inaugural onlookers who saw Jackson
as a savior. Cheering was heard when Jackson emerged on the steps of the capitol
to take the presidential oath, muffling the oath as well as the inaugural address.
The throng crowded the new president as he made his way to the White House.
The inaugural ball has been recorded by history as a raucous event that showed
little discipline or culture. Participants in the festivities ranged from the
highest members of the American political elite to the mud-covered agrarian element
so strongly represented by the Jeffersonian ideal. The crowd became so rowdy that
Jackson was forced to slip out of the White House secretly. As the party was moved
outside, many of the guests used all exits, including windows, to be present for
the ice cream and wine. Even though his inauguration seemed to symbolize the excesses
of democracy, to many of his day, it was a refreshing wind that removed the corruption
and incompetence of an antiquated system and installed a new era of rule by the
- Research Andrew
Jackson's life and rise to power. Some good sites include:
- Ask students to brainstorm what they know about Jackson's predecessor,
John Quincy Adams. Information about Adams may be found at the following sites:
- Is George W. Bush more like John Quincy Adams or Andrew Jackson?
Create visual displays that show what characteristics Bush shares with each of
these former presidents.
- Explain that when Jackson was elected, many viewed
it as a victory for the "common man" (see Background Information, above). Prior
to Jackson's election, many citizens and public figures had feared that American
politics was too elitist. Ask students if they think politics today is elitist.
Stage a debate, a mock political talk show, or ask students to write position
papers defending their opinions with examples.
The lesson may be evaluated through the following measures:
- the informational
content and organization of the student's chart comparing George W. Bush, Andrew
Jackson, and John Quincy Adams;
- the student's ability to defend his or her
opinions about contemporary American politics with specific examples, either orally
or in writing.
students examine primary source documents and images related to Jackson's inauguration.
Some good resources include:
Ask students to write a first-person
account of the inauguration and describe the nation's capital as it would have
existed in 1829.
- How do modern inaugural ceremonies compare with the events
surrounding Jackson's inauguration? Visit the Senate's Inaugural
Ceremonies site to learn more about recent ceremonies. Take elements from
different ceremonies, add your own, and design an "ideal" inaugural program. Send
your ideas to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (contact
information provided on the Senate Web site).