Andrew Jackson, Common Man, 7th President, American history, policies, controversies, historical impact, everyday citizens
Constitution History

Andrew Jackson and The Common Man


Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States, epitomizes the complicated relationship between politics and the “common man” in American history. He was a man whose presidency was a testament to the idea that political power should be accessible to ordinary Americans. His term in office was marked by populist policies that endeared him to a large segment of the electorate. But who was Andrew Jackson, and how did his political career shape the concept of the common man in American politics? This comprehensive article explores Jackson’s life, his political ideology, and his lasting impact on the American political landscape.

Humble Beginnings

Born in 1767 in the Carolinas to a poor family, Andrew Jackson’s life was anything but privileged. His father passed away shortly before his birth, and his mother died when he was only 14. These hardships instilled in him a sense of rugged individualism and an understanding of the struggles faced by average Americans, a perspective that would greatly influence his political career.

Military Success: A Gateway to Politics

Jackson first rose to national prominence as a military hero during the War of 1812, where his leadership at the Battle of New Orleans made him a household name. The common people saw in Jackson a man who had risen from hardship and adversity, cementing his appeal among ordinary Americans and setting the stage for his political ascent.

The Changing Face of American Politics

The early 19th century was a transformative period in American politics. The right to vote was gradually extended to include not just property owners but also white males who didn’t own property. This expanded electorate was increasingly dissatisfied with the political elite, setting the stage for a populist figure like Jackson to seize the reins of power.

The Election of 1828: A Watershed Moment

The presidential election of 1828 was unlike any other. It was marked by a level of popular involvement previously unseen in American politics. Jackson’s campaign was the first to employ modern tactics like rallies, political slogans, and direct appeals to voters. He successfully painted himself as the champion of the common man, fighting against what he viewed as a corrupt political establishment.

Andrew Jackson’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Power of Informal Advisors

One unique aspect of Jackson’s presidency was his reliance on an informal group of advisors known as the “Kitchen Cabinet.” This was an assembly of friends, newspaper editors, and political allies who had no official government role but wielded immense influence behind the scenes. Jackson’s use of this informal group was another demonstration of his populist leanings; he often valued the counsel of these ordinary men over that of his formal cabinet members.

However, critics argued that this unconventional approach undermined the established system of governance, as these informal advisors were not subjected to Senate approval or public scrutiny. This duality encapsulates the complex relationship Jackson had with institutional frameworks—while he sought to make government more accessible to the common man, he sometimes bypassed traditional channels to achieve his goals.

The Nullification Crisis: Testing Federal Power

Another defining moment in Jackson’s presidency came during the Nullification Crisis of the early 1830s. South Carolina, objecting to federal tariffs, declared that states had the right to nullify federal laws within their borders. This stance was a direct challenge to federal authority and could have plunged the nation into civil war.

Jackson, ever the nationalist, vehemently opposed South Carolina’s actions. He passed the Force Bill, which authorized him to use the military to enforce federal laws. Yet, his response was also tempered with a political solution; he supported a compromise tariff to lower the rates over time. This episode showcased Jackson’s willingness to use federal power to maintain the Union, even as he championed states’ rights in other areas.

The Spoils System: Patronage and its Pitfalls

Jackson is often credited with popularizing the “spoils system,” the practice of awarding government positions to political supporters. While this system enabled ordinary citizens to hold public office, it also led to inefficiency and corruption, as many appointees lacked the qualifications for their positions. The spoils system would continue to plague American politics for decades, ultimately leading to civil service reform in the late 19th century.

Policies and Populism

Once in office, Jackson made it clear that his presidency would focus on populist policies. Among his most notable actions was the dissolution of the Second Bank of the United States, which he believed favored the wealthy elite. His stand against the bank was a powerful statement about the redistribution of economic power, and it resonated strongly with average Americans.

However, Jackson’s presidency was not without its controversies. His implementation of the Indian Removal Act led to the infamous Trail of Tears, a black mark on American history. His staunch stance against nullification threatened to divide the young nation. These policies, while designed to protect and empower the common man, often had unintended negative consequences.

The Legacy: A Mixed Bag

Jackson’s legacy is a subject of much debate among historians. His expansion of executive powers and direct appeal to the masses transformed the American presidency, laying the groundwork for future populist leaders. However, his administration was also marred by policies that led to significant suffering for marginalized communities, casting a shadow over his accomplishments.

The Influence on Modern Populism

The spirit of Jacksonian Democracy lives on in modern populist movements. The idea that political power should be in the hands of the people is a lasting contribution from the era of Andrew Jackson. Modern politicians often channel the Jacksonian ethos, appealing directly to voters with promises to shake up the establishment and bring power back to the people.


The life and presidency of Andrew Jackson serve as an intriguing case study of the role of populism in American politics. Jackson was a transformative figure who broadened the scope of American democracy by making it more inclusive for the common man. While his legacy is tinged with controversial decisions, his influence on American political thought is undeniable. By analyzing Jackson’s leadership and its impact on the United States, we can gain valuable insights into the power and pitfalls of populism, offering lessons that remain incredibly relevant in today’s political climate.

Through this in-depth examination of Andrew Jackson and his influence on the concept of the common man in American politics, we can better understand the historical roots of populism in the United States. His complex legacy serves as a cautionary tale, reminding us that while the empowerment of ordinary people is a noble goal, the means by which it is achieved must be carefully considered.

Andrew Jackson remains an enduring, albeit polarizing, figure in American history. His life story—from humble beginnings to the highest office in the land—serves as an embodiment of the American Dream. However, his presidency also serves as a warning about the potential dangers of unchecked populism, making him a figure whose relevance extends far beyond his era.