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Populists Were The Political Heirs Of Jacksonian Democrats

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Nineteenth Century Populists Were the Political Heirs of Jacksonian Democrats

The Populists that emerged in the late nineteenth century were in many ways the political heirs of the Jacksonian Democrats, harboring several similar objectives and proposals for reform. Jackson grew up in the backwoods of the Carolinas and as president fought for the common man. Populists were the common people, made up of industrial workers and farmers and created their party to fight politically for what they needed. Fighting for the ordinary person meant fighting for reforms that would provide best for them, including direct election, the demolition of the national bank, and a graduated income tax.

Jacksonian democracy, which flourished from about 1828 to1842, began when Andrew Jackson was elected president. This time period was known as the era of the "common man." Jackson was a war hero who fought alongside trappers and traders in the War of 1812; he was a person that ordinary people could relate to. People said his mind was unclouded by learning, his morals simple and true, and his will fierce and resolute. Everything he wanted to accomplish was for the general public, for the ordinary person, but some decisions were ill-advised. Jackson helped pass the Specie Circular in 1836, which said that all lands must be paid for in specie. He put this in place because he thought paper money helped to rob "honest labour of its earnings to make knaves rich, powerful and dangerous." The Specie Circular instead made people very suspicious of bank notes and hastened the Panic of 1837, in which the ordinary people greatly suffered when banks failed. In 1873 there was another financial panic. The collapse of agricultural prices pushed farmers to create the Farmer's Alliance. The Alliance soon joined forces with the Knights of Labor to create the Populist party, whose political agenda was regulation and reform of national politics, most importantly, to create inflation. The Populist party became another party that fought for the ordinary people.

Also, important to note, is that the election in which Jackson became president, was the first election in which white men without property could vote. Jackson had a very informal attitude towards politics. He would directly address the Congress instead of passing notes for someone else to announce, and when he had White House parties, he allowed every type of person in and did not exclude those with less status or money. Because of this, Jacksonian democracy invited more political participation from the average citizen. This idea of the common man participating more in the government continued with the Populist party.

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