History30 Jul 2007 09:52 am
Andrew Jackson affected a radical, and beneficial, change in American politics by the efforts of his new party – the Democrats – to make the presidential election less dependent on state-appointed “electors.” There was, however, a downside to his populism: Jackson may have made American politics more democratic, but this also made it more difficult for presidents to stand against popular causes that they opposed.
The downside of Jacksonian populism was most clearly illustrated by the Indian Removal Act of 1930. To appease Southern voters who wanted access to Native American lands, Jackson lobbied for and signed a law that caused the forcible removal of Native Americans from Eastern lands to areas West of the Mississippi. Though the act called for “treaties” to be signed between the United States government and the various Native American tribes, it functioned very differently in practice. Tribes were forced to accept the terms of the act, and those who resisted were dealt with very harshly. The most famous example is the Cherokee Nation, who were rounded up by the military into camps where thousands died of malnutrition and disease before being sent into exile on the “Trail of Tears.” This was a clear indication of just how destructive a “majority” could be.
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