KICK-STARTING POLITICAL ACTION
History shows how social developments influence political outcomes. Factories allowed for the growth of towns. The growth of towns provided a place for social movements like abolition, labor unions, and temperance organizations. Women who came together for the Second Awakening got interested in women's rights and abolition, often at the same time. (See "Transcendentalism and the Second Great Awakening" later in this chapter.) The U.S. grew and changed rapidly, which may explain why the country went through so many different presidents, and why the Supreme Court gained so much power during this era.
Question: Some artists say, "I don't care who makes the laws as long as I can write the songs." How did social developments in the 1820s and 1830s influence the development of the United States?
Answer: In addition to the connections outlined just before this sample question, you can also point to the growth in Jacksonian democracy that brought down the Bank of the U.S. (see "War on the Bank of the U.S."), the cotton farming that pushed American Indians off southern land (see "Slavery Grows with Cotton" and "The Trail of Tears"), and the improvements in transportation that allowed the spread of culture (see "Feeling in Art, Education, and Belief").
Presidents during this period
Besides Andrew Jackson, only one other president in this period stuck around for a full two terms: James Monroe, who governed during the Era of Good Feelings (1817 to 1825). Other than presiding over the Missouri Compromise and issuing the Monroe Doctrine, Monroe was the first president to ride on a steamboat.
Andrew Jackson was a popular guy who had actually won the most votes for president in 1824, the first time the whole country voted directly for the presidential electors. Unfortunately for him, he didn't have a majority. The three other candidates, one of whom was John Quincy Adams, pooled their support in the House of Representatives to elect Adams, who had ties to the beginning of the country: His father was the second U.S. president.
Other presidents of this era include
- John Quincy Adams (1825-1829): During Adams' one term, the U.S. developed the Erie Canal and the Baltimore & Ohio railroad, revolutionizing transportation. Adams also had the honor of losing to Andrew Jackson twice. The first time Jackson ran for president, Adams squeezed into the White House with the help of the House of Representatives.
- Andrew Jackson (1829-1837): Jackson was the superstar of this era and the godfather of Jacksonian democracy. He threw such a big populist party on inauguration day that he had to crawl out a back window of the White House to find a place to sleep. Check out "Andrew Jackson: Bringing Tough-Guy Democracy to Washington" later in this chapter for more information.
- Martin Van Buren (1837-1841): Van Buren had the bad luck to be president during the depression economy following the Panic of 1837 and during the infamous Trail of Tears. With experiences like that, one term was enough.
- William Henry Harrison (1841): Harrison didn't even have time to get settled in the White House. He delivered an almost two-hour inauguration speech, caught pneumonia, and died.
- John Tyler (1841-1845): Tyler, William Henry Harrison's vice president who became President at Harrison's death, annexed Texas, fought against a national bank, and found time to have 15 children. The population of the nation grew almost as fast as Tyler's family.
- James Polk (1844-1849): During the first year of expansion-minded James Polk's presidency, Texas got added to the nation.