To Jacksonian Democracy including the "Trail of Tears" Lecture Notes and Links
John Q. and Louisa Adams Links
John Q. Adams // Amistad Case
John Quincy and Louisa Adams
If there was really an Era of Good Feelings, it came to an end in the 1824 presidential election. There was still only one political party, the Democratic-Republicans, but it had broken into factions based over the role of the federal government versus states and economic policies. As a result, four men ran for President in 1824.
John Quincy Adams, the son of John and Abigail Adams and Monroe's Secretary of State was also an experienced diplomat (he negotiated the Treaty of Ghent) and anti-slavery. Andrew Jackson ran as a "plain farmer" and had little experience in government compared to the other candidates although he served briefly in Congress. But, he was seen as a hero by the American people after the Creek Uprising, Battle of New Orleans, and 1st Seminole War. Henry Clay, a Kentucky Congressman, Speaker of the House, and "War Hawk" in 1812, advocated internal improvements, the Bank of the U.S., and tariffs. William Crawford of Georgia had served as Secretary of the Treasury under Monroe and devoted to states' rights. He was ill during the campaign and bled 23 times in three weeks and never recovered completely.
When the votes had been counted, Jackson had won the popular vote with 43% of the vote with Adams in second with 31% of the popular vote. At the same time, that's now how we elect Presidents and in the Electoral College neither man had a majority. Jackson had 99 votes, Adams had 84, Crawford had 41, and Clay had 37. No one had a majority so that threw the election in the House. The Constitution required they select the President from the top three therefore eliminating Henry Clay. Each state had one vote to determine the winner. Clay became the most important because whoever he supported would get his votes and determine the winner. Crawford was relatively ignored due to his illness despite coming in third.
Many in Congress did not trust Andrew Jackson. They believed he lacked morality and intelligence. Henry Clay did not particularly care for Adams but he was qualified and shared Clay's support for a strong federal government. So, Clay endorsed Adams and his supporters helped elect John Quincy Adams. Andrew Jackson was furious and he was not a man people should have irritated. He was combative, stubborn, had an explosive temper, and loved dueling. Jefferson called him a "dangerous man" with terrible passions. When he lost the election, he exploded. Then when Clay was appointed Secretary of State by Adams, Jackson accused them of a "corrupt bargain." Nothing illegal or unethical was uncovered. Jackson returned to Tennessee yelling that the American people had been cheated and began his 1828 campaign for the presidency.
Meanwhile, Adams tried to govern. (Interesting Note: In 1826, his father died. Thomas Jefferson died the same day, July 4, 1826. This was the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of the Declaration of Independence.) Like father, like son and Adams will be an unpopular one term President. He only got 31% of the popular vote so had an uphill battle for four years. He simply did not reflect the dominant mood in the US at the time. Americans were agitating for more democracy and few voting restrictions, but he was conservative, stiff, and even Puritanical. In hindsight, he was not as bad as his contemporaries thought.
First, he tried to bring people together by appointments from all points of view but that angered his supporters. He tried to lead by what he though was right and wrong rather than popular opinion and that made many people mad. He tried to approach problems intellectually and that was not the mood of emotional Americans. He promoted internal improvements and that angered the South, New England, and Congress rejected all his proposals. He tried to push for policies to protect American Indians. That was unpopular everywhere. He tried to organize alliances with Latin American and Caribbean nations that angered the South due to Haiti. The slave revolt there might encourage U.S. slaves. He did send a delegate to the Panama Congress but nothing happened since only four other nations showed up.
His biggest problem, though, was the issue of nullification or voiding a federal law by states. This issue arose again over the Tariff of 1828 or known as the Tariff of Abominations by its opponents in the South. But, the South had caused the problem. The North and West had proposed moderate increases in tariffs. To block it, southerners offered an alternative that included tariffs on raw materials that the North need for manufacturing. Southerners believed this would force them to oppose the bill. Much to the surprise of southerners, the tariff passed and the South went crazy. Vice President John C. Calhoun of South Carolina led the opposition. Calhoun began promoting nullification, an old idea proposed by Jefferson and Madison. It is an extreme states' rights position and gave states the authority to void federal laws they believed exceeded federal authority. The controversy made Adams' re-election unlikely.
Poor John Quincy Adams. Nothing went right. Even his marriage was tumultuous. Louisa Johnson Adams once said "hanging and marriage were strongly similar." This was not a happy marriage in the beginning although seems to have mellowed over the years
Louisa Adams hated being First Lady. She had spent most of her youth in Europe because of her father's business. Although he was from Maryland, she was born in England and her mother was English. She attended school in France where she learned to play the harp, wrote poetry, read a lot and was influenced by a teacher who believed women were equal to men.
She began her relationship with Adams when both were on the rebounds from other romances although they had known each other since childhood. They married in 1797 when she was 23 and he 30. They had little in common. Unfortunately, John Quincy Adams did not share his mother's progressive view about women. He was demanding and expected her do do as told. Most of the time she did, but when she rebelled it was trouble.
One of revealing stories about their relationship occurred in France. Women in France wore make-up unlike in the U.S. where that was associated with being a loose woman without morals. But, when in France...So, Louisa came home one day with rouge on her cheeks like French women. When Adams saw her, he pulled her into the bathroom and scrubbed her face clean. Louisa had her faults, too. She could be impulsive, had a short temper, was stubborn and spoiled. When her father went broke and could not provide her with financial help, money became a constant problem that added to the marital tension. In addition, she did not get along with her mother-in-law, Abigail, and felt Abigail interfered in the marriage.
Apparently, she and John Quincy got along occasionally. She was pregnant 12 or 13 times but had 6 or 7 miscarriages. She did have four sons who lived although one son and daughter died as infants. Even the children were a source of problems with her husband. He was often gone during her pregnancies and not present during most of the births. She resented his strictness with the children and his refusing to consult with her on important decisions. This included an 1809 incident while in Russia. John Quincy decided to leave the two eldest sons behind to gain experience in their culture. She did not see them again until 1815.
Their relationship seems to have improved over the years. She actually enjoyed the 1824 campaign as she handled the paperwork. But, she found the role of First Lady disappointing. Again, she felt left out since her husband was not suited for the social role. He allowed few parties since his unpopularity made him uncomfortable. She kept a low profile and spent her time reading, drawing, cultivating silk worms, gorging on chocolate, writing, and going to health spas. After he left office, things improved as a result of a tragedy when their eldest son committed suicide in 1829. That brought them closer together. Also, both got involved in the anti-slavery and woman's rights movements. He also served as a Congressman after his presidency for 17 years and was involved in the defense of the slaves in the Amistad case which involved slaves capturing a ship. Adams presented the argument in defense of the slaves and the case was won.
That contentment came long after the torture of the Election of 1828. It has become known as one of the dirtiest elections in U.S. history. Despite his unpopularity, Adams fought for victory and his opponent, Andrew Jackson, gave him lost of material to use. Despite the unprecedented political organization Jackson created and referred to as the "Democrats," Adams fought hard. He accused Jackson of adultery. Technically that was true. He had married Rachel Donelson Robards in 1791 thinking she was divorced after her husband deserted her. Then they discovered the papers had never been finalized. They managed to get this done and remarried.
Adams also accused Jackson of being a murdered. Technically, that was also true. He had killed a man in a due and executed a soldier in the Creek Uprising for dubious reasons. Adams also accused Jackson of being the son of a prostitute and African-American man. Technically, we don't know. We know his father died while his mother was pregnant with Andrew. He grew up in very poor circumstances and the possibility of his mother turning to prostitution was not out of the question. We simply do not know much about his father.
Adams also accused Jackson of cursing, cockfighting, and breaking the Sabbath. But, Jackson fought back accusing Adams of being a pimp. A Russian diplomat had requested a companion for the evening and Adams arranged it. Jackson also accused Adams of wasting public funds by purchasing a pool table.
With those choices, Jackson won 178 Electoral College votes to Adams' 83. The era known as Jacksonian Democracy had begun and the Democratic-Republicans became known as the Democrats. And,that takes us to our next topic.
Born in 1767 on the North/South Carolina border, he grew up in poverty and became known as a wild, reckless, bully of a child. At 13, he became a guerrilla warrior in the American Revolution and was wounded and taken prisoner. At 14, his mother died and he really went wild, drinking, gambling and fighting. But at 17 he decided to get his life in order. He could not afford college but got an apprenticeship in a law office and was admitted to the bar at the age of 20. He saw his future out west so he relocated to Tennessee and prospered as a lawyer, Attorney General, judge, and politician. He also created his plantation, The Hermitage, and married Rachel Robards. By 1796, he was living the life of plantation aristocrats with 125 slaves. He served briefly in the House and senate but did not like it. At any rate he was appointed the General of the Tennessee Militia.
One of the most famous incidents in his life came in 1806 when he challenged, Charles Dickinson, a well-known lawyer, politician, and duelist to a duel. This revealed something about Jackson's character. One historian wrote "when Jackson hated, it became a grand passion." Unfortunately for Dickinson, Jackson hated him. Jackson accused Dickinson of insulting his wife so Jackson challenged him to a duel. But, Dickinson was known as a fast draw and excellent marksman. Jackson's friends were concerned.
Jackson had a plan. He assumed Dickinson would get in the first shot and believed he would hit Jackson. The plan was to hopefully survive and then he could take his aim. That's what happened. Dickinson fired and Jackson was struck in the chest. Witnesses or "Seconds" were amazed. Jackson did not flinch. At that point Jackson could do one of two things. He could raise his gun and shoot into the air to end the conflict or he could take his time and aim to shoot his opponent. He shot and killed Dickinson. Jackson carried a bullet on inch from his heart the rest of his life.
Despite this incident, by the end of the War of 1812, Jackson was seen as a hero. Most Americans loved Andrew Jackson but he was a complicated man. By 1828, Americans called him "Old Hickory" or "Old Hero." He was one of "them," a common man. He supported the expansion of the vote and by end of his era most adult white males could vote and serve in elective office. He supported labor organizations to agitate for better conditions. He was many and strong-willed. He raise a Creek child, and hist best friend was an African-American. He will be a popular two term President, and he used his popularity to increase the power of the presidency.
Unfortunately, Jackson began his era as a widower. Rachel died right after the election and he blamed the Adams campaign. They had no children other than the Creek child they raised. So, Jackson was in mourning at the time of the inauguration. Despite this, it was a very big celebration to which he invited "the people" do come and they did. It has been known since then as the "Inaugural Brawl." "The people" came and proceeded to get drunk and tear of the presidential mansion. Jackson escaped out a window while others rolled the beer kegs to the lawn where the party continued.
Once in office he enacted his vision of President and exuded self-confidence. He dominated Congress and the cabinet. He also redefined the veto as a political tool. Prior to him, Presidents only vetoed laws they thought were unconstitutional. Jackson began the practice of vetoing laws he just did not like politically. He also enhanced his power with the "spoils system" or patronage. He rewarded his supporters with government jobs. Unfortunately, many of his supporters turned out to be unqualified and/or incompetent.
Jackson could be unpredictable and took unpopular stand. The most famous example was over nullification. As a known states' righter, it was assumed he would support nullification. Up to 1830 he made no public stand. Finally, at a toast at a Jefferson's Day dinner he said, "Our Union: It must and shall be preserved." In 1832 he was prepared to use force to prevent nullification. He even sent ships to Charleston saying that the Union was perpetual and states did night have the right to nullification or secede (leave the union) without violence. At the same time, he got the "Tariff of Abominations" revised, lowered the tariff, the South saved face, and the crisis calmed. But, as we will see, Jackson did not always oppose nullification.
Jackson actually created some problems of his own. This was true with the economy, but the problems he created did not surface until after he left office so received little criticism. First, he hated the Bank of the U.S. that he saw as a monopoly that helped the wealthy so he vetoed its recharter in his first term. That was a major issue of his re-election campaign and when he won, he said it was a mandate. The Bank was dead and dismantled. This will be a direct cause of another economic depression in 1837 when state banks again began over-issuing currency causing inflation or increase in prices.
Jackson tended to see economic issues as short-term. He ran into trouble again in an odd way by today's standards. He was too efficient in cutting the deficit. He managed to eliminate the deficit with tariff income and ended up with a surplus. Even after $1.3 million a year investments in internal improvements, he still had a surplus. He could have done many things with that surplus but decided to distribute it to the states. This infusion of money led to economic problems down the road with more inflation.
Jackson also had problems with Texas. In 1821, Mexico had won independence from Spain and that included Texas. The region known as Texas now had been a problem due to hostile American Indians such as the Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache. East and west of San Antonio, few settlers could be found. On the other hand, the U.S. had plenty of people willing to try so the Mexican government decided to allow settlers. By 1833, Americans like Stephen Austin had come to Texas and were given land grants. But, soon conflicts grew between Texans and Mexicans.
Mexico had abolished slavery but Texans wanted to bring their slaves. Mexican law required everyone to be a Catholic and most from the U.S. were Protestant. Texans complained about lack of services like roads and schools. In addition, many Hispanics in Texas agreed and saw a better economic and political future if aligned with the U.S. As a result, Texans waged a rebellion in 1835-6 aimed at independence.
One of the best stories about the Texas War for Independence other than the Alamo was the story of Emily West. She has been credit by some for helping to win the revolution. The story goes that Emily, a slave who had been freed by her owner and made an indentured servant instead, caught the eye of the Mexican military leader Santa Anna. He brought her to his camp for the evening. While she distracted him, the Texans attacked and defeated Santa Anna in the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836. Some say Santa Anna was caught with his pants down and Emily West became known as the "Yellow Rose of Texas." The term "yellow" was used to refer to light skinned African-Americans. Almost immediately after the battle, a song was written about her and has been carried down through the decades as a folk song. So we have to sing! Since it is a folk song, there are about 100 versions. This is just one with lyrics below.
After victory, Texans led by Sam Houston requested annexation into the U.S. Jackson refused. With the upcoming election of 1836, he wanted to make sure controversy did not hurt his choice of successor, Martin Van Buren. He feared it would revive the slavery debate and upset the balance. In addition, he feared Mexico would declare war because they still disputed Texas boundaries and the U.S. military was occupied at the time dealing with American Indians. So, Texas began its era as an independent republic.
Meanwhile, Jackson was distracted by issues regarding American Indians. Problems had emerged with the so-called "Five Civilized Tribes." This included the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole in the Southeast. In addition, there were still pockets of American Indians in the Ohio Valley. And Delaware, Sac and Fox had not given up in the western territories east of the Mississippi River. Since the era of Monroe there had been a debate about what to do about the "Indian Problem." Monroe had suggested moving them. John Q. Adams wanted them left alone and protected. There was also a debate over who had authority over American Indians: states, federal government, or American Indians?
The Cherokee got caught up in the middle of this debate. Federal treaties with the Cherokee granted them independence to operate as an independent nation with their own laws, government, and judicial process. They had succeeded in a combination of assimilation and independence. They had a written constitution and their own alphabet developed by Sequoyah. They were economically prosperous, had converted to Christianity, and had African-American slaves although most were freed. In many ways, they acted and lived like other southerners in the area of Georgia.
But that was not good enough for the Georgia government. Georgians wanted the Cherokee land of 7,200 square miles. The state offered them $30,000 for it but the Cherokee refused. Georgia proceeded to refuse to recognize federal authority over them and claimed states' rights over the Cherokee. Then, two laws were passed in 1829. This was nullification in action. The first law extended state authority over the Cherokee including the judiciary The second law forbade whites to live with the Cherokee without a license.
This led to two Supreme Court cases. The first was a murder case. Cherokee Corn Tassel had been accused of murdering another Cherokee. Under federal treaties, this would have been handled by the Cherokee. But, the state of Georgia intervened, arrested Corn Tassel, convicted him and sentenced him to die. This case went to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, another case was filed by white church missionaries living among the Cherokee.
The Supreme Court was still controlled by John Marshall who believed in a strong federal government so the Court decided in favor of the Cherokee and missionaries. Georgia ignored the decision and executed Corn Tassel. President Jackson refused to intervene. He said let the Supreme Court and John Marshall enforce it rulings. Our government does not work that way. Only the President has the power to enforce Supreme Court decisions and Jackson chose not to do that. This was confirmation that nullification was okay some of the time to him.
Later Supreme Court decisions complicated the issue. In 1831, the Court ruled the Cherokee were not a separate nation nor a state so they had no rights in federal courts. They did have the right to property and could not be forced off the land, though. An 1832 decision ruled Georgia had no authority over the Cherokee and could not enter Cherokee territory without permission
Meanwhile, Jackson and Congress had begun the "final solution" to the "Indian Problem." Suddenly southerners approved even though it was a federal action rather than a state solution. Two laws were passed in 1830 and 1832, the Indian Removal Act and Indian Intercourse Act. The first funded and organized the forced removal of all American Indians from east of the Mississippi River to west of the Mississippi River. The second law established "Indian Territory" for the "perpetual protection" of American Indians The result was called the "Trail of Tears" by the Cherokee.
Most American Indians opposed removal and believed the land could be shared. The U.S. promised it would only proceed with treaties agreeing to the removal. The U.S. could always find a "government chief" to sign treaties and over 90 were signed during Jackson's presidency. The U.S. did not recognize that one chief had no authority over other bands in the same nation. In 1830, the removal began after the signing of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek with the Choctaw giving the U.S. all territory East of the Mississippi. The U.S. Army began removal but some escaped into the forest and tried to organize resistance. Most were captured and marched West in the winter. Disease and lack of clothing or food led to deaths on the way to Indian Territory (Oklahoma and part of Arkansas). By 1833, some 7,000 had been moved to Indian Territory to face starvation, psychological depressing, and misery. 700 did manage to escape to Texas. The map below illustrates the movement of American Indians during the Trail of Tears.
For the Creek, the story was similar. About 23,000 Creeks and 1,000 African-Americans were all included in a treaty signed in 1832. The Creeks fought back with attacks on settlers. Warfare erupted from 1834-6 before the Creeks were subdued by U.S. troops. Some escaped but by 1837, most had had been removed in circumstances like the Choctaw. The Chickasaw were the easiest to remove due to their small population. It was useless for them to fight. All they asked was to be placed away from their traditional enemy, the Choctaw. They were moved to Indian territory next to the Choctaw. (That's why we have two casinos relatively close to one another near the Texas-Oklahoma border. The Chickasaw run Winstar and the Choctaw have another casino to the east.)
The most famous removal was the Cherokee. About 20,000 Cherokee and African-Americans applied an 1832 treaty to them all but the U.S. they would fight. Indeed the Cherokee refused to go and used passive resistance. The U.S. ended up making elaborate preparations by building outdoor stockades for prisons and an enormous troop deployment. The U.S. Army implemented a "dragnet" approach rounding up Cherokees wherever they found them. Then, they destroyed all property, robbed graves, looted, and the soldiers claimed land for themselves. The Cherokees were put in the stockades, like concentration camps that would have made Hitler proud. Hundreds died in the stockades. The survivors were then marched or shipped west while the buried the dead on the way. Conditions were so bad that Army doctors complained to Jackson, but he did not care. Some escaped into the Smoky Mountains but most were removed. By the time it was over, 1/5 of the Cherokee were dead. What had been one of the most prosperous of American Indian nations had become paupers.
The most difficult removal for the U.S., however, were the Seminoles of Florida. Only a few would agree to removal and that led to a war by Seminoles against the sell outs. The U.S. could not get a treaty so the Creek treaty was applied to them since they had been part of the Creek nation at one time. Most Seminoles fought every effort of removal, though. Guerrilla warfare in the swamps led by Chief Osceola became known as the 2nd Seminole War, 1835-42, and 3rd Seminole War, 1855-58. The U.S. eventually gave up, created a reservation in Florida and went on to other problems.
While the Trail of Tears proceeded, problems erupted Illinois called the Black Hawk War (1832). The Sac and Fox had moved west but faced starvation So they went back east to Illinois to hunt in their homeland and refused to leave. Scared settlers urged intervention and the militia forced the American Indians back to the West. One interesting note about the Black Hawk War was that Abraham Lincoln was a member of the militia. He saw no combat but this became his only military experience. Most of the 1,000 Sac and Fox were killed during their retreat.
Americans were, in general, overjoyed with Jackson's Indian policy. Again, they saw him as a hero. Do you think he was a hero?
Not everyone loved Jackson, though. Some believed he was a would-be dictator or king. As a result, in the 1830s a new political party developed in opposition to Jackson. The Whigs was a diverse group with only their opposition to Jackson in common. In general, they took the conservative group of the Federalists. They were pro-business, concerned with immorality, feared too much democracy, wanted order, and a strong federal government. They also tended to be opposed to the expansion of slave territory. Some of the best known of the Whigs included Horace Greeley, Daniel Webster, and Henry Clay. Jackson's Democrats favored more freedom, more access to education, more suffrage (right to vote), were pro-labor, pro-agriculture, and favored states'rights including on the slavery issue.
Despite the appearance of the Whig party, Jackson was still enormously popular, the economy was booming, and the U.S. was totally out of debt in 1836. So, his candidate, Martin van Buren was elected over the Whig, William Henry Harrison (of the Battles of the Tippecanoe and Thames River).
Martin Van Buren had been a New York lawyer, Senator, Secretary of state, diplomat and Jackson's Vice President during his second term. He was a widower left with four sons. His wife, Hannah Hoes (unfortunate name) was his cousin. They were married 12 years and in his autobiography he did not mention her.
During his presidency he will enjoy few legislative successes. He did help establish the 10 hour workday on federal projects. Late in his one term he created the so-called "independent treasury" to replace the Bank of the U.S. that included no private banks on no investments in speculation. This came too late to prevent Van Buren's downfall, the Panic of 1837, the second nationwide economic depression in the U.S.
The causes included the continuation of not regulating U.S. currency since state banks continued to issue money recklessly. This led to inflation since money had little value plus the infusion of money by Jackson into states. Speculation was also rampant on new lands taken from American Indians. Then came crop failures and Van Buren strongly opposed government intervention to help people. He was also in office during the Amistad case and advised that the slaves be deported to Cuba.
In the 1840 election the Whigs nominated William Henry Harrison again and labeled Van Buren = Martin Van Ruin and blamed the depression on him although it was more the result of Jackson's policies. Harrison won with the campaign motto "Tippecanoe and Tyler, too." John Tyler was his running mate. The Era of Jacksonian Democracy was over.
To Unit 3: The Industrial Revolution and Social History in the Antebellum Era