Following the War of 1812 the voting franchise expanded to include most white men, not just wealthy property owners. Andrew Jackson was elected to the presidency in 1828 as a result in this seachange in voting rights. That Jackson was “a man of the people” was left in no doubt following the raucous inauguration day festivities. Washington socialite, Margaret Bayard Smith described the event:
“Ladies fainted, men were seen with bloody noses and such a scene of confusion took place as is impossible to describe. But it was the people’s day, and the people’s president, and the people would rule.”
Jackson was a figure of great contradictions. The self-styled “champion of the poor” was, in fact, a wealthy, slave-owning cotton planter. The prime benefactor of popular democracy denied the right to vote to women, American Indians, and African-Americans. The self-proclaimed defender of the Constitution challenged the authority of the Supreme Court. Yet, whatever its shortcomings, the Jackson presidency was ground-breaking. Whether “Old Hickory’s executive style, inspired and inflamed by fierce personal loyalties or hatreds, helped or hurt his efforts to achieve the goals of his political philosophy, remains a question of great debate.
World War I is the third installment in the award-winning video series America in the 20th Century. It examines the causes, conduct, and collateral effects of the Great War, including advances in battlefield technology, the American role in the conflict, and efforts to secure a peace settlement. The program also explores the wartime repercussions on the American home front: efforts to garner public support, changing roles of women and African-Americans, and the war’s impact on civil rights and civil liberties.
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