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Teaching Guide: Exploring Jacksonian Democracy

This teaching guide helps instructors use a specific primary source set, Jacksonian Democracy?, in the classroom. It offers discussion questions, classroom activities, and primary source analysis tools. It is intended to spark pedagogical creativity by giving a sample approach to the material. Please feel free to share, reuse, and adapt the resources in this guide for your teaching purposes.

Discussion questions

  1. Using the two presidential vetoes, explain why Jackson vetoed the Maysville Road Bill and the Bank of the United States bill. Could these vetoes be seen as democratic or nationalistic?

  2. According to Jackson’s 1833 message about nullification and the ode by James Nack, what is nullification? What is Jackson’s message to the South Carolinians during the Nullification Crisis? Could Jackson’s words be seen as an act of preserving the union?

  3. While viewing the images of “hard times tokens” and the political cartoon about public opinion regarding Jackson and bank deposits, determine whether a President could/should take actions that affect a country’s economic system. Do you believe Jackson caused the Panic of 1837 by vetoing the Bank of the United States?

  4. Using Jackson’s message to Congress concerning Indian Removal and the 1830 pamphlet by the Cherokee nation, determine whether Indian Removal was a democratic action taken by the federal government or an invasion of Cherokee sovereignty.

  5. Using the 1830 engraving, the illustrations, the printed copy of Jackson’s inaugural address, and the 1842 poem, explain how Jackson remembered in the American consciousness? Should this memory be preserved or should it change with the times and our understanding of democratic ideals?

Classroom activities

  1. Write an essay arguing whether Andrew Jackson’s actions as president were democratic or nationalistic. What do each of these terms mean? Determine your stance through research and discovery and defend your choice by citing specific sources in the document set.

  2. In the 1833 ode, the author mockingly compares Andrew Jackson to George Washington. Use this ode and other items in this set to compare the military service and presidency of the two.

  3. In class, hold a mock treason trial of Andrew Jackson, charging him with crimes against humanity for causing the Panic of 1837 and the Trail of Tears. Use items in this set as evidence and to prepare arguments for the trial. (Look especially at the two presidential vetoes, the images of “hard times tokens”, the political cartoon about public opinion regarding Jackson and bank deposits, Jackson’s message to Congress concerning Indian Removal, the 1830 pamphlet by the Cherokee nation and the 1842 poem). The two sides of the trial should offer a rich debate on Jackson’s political decisions. Extend your understanding of Jackson by pulling in materials from his military campaigns. Compare Jackson’s choices to those of other historical players.

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