The spirit of Jacksonian Democracy animated the party from the early 1830s to the 1850s, shaping the era, with the Whig Party the main opposition. The new Democratic Party became a coalition of farmers, city-dwelling laborers, and Irish Catholics.
The new party was pulled together by Martin Van Buren in 1828 as Andrew Jackson crusaded against the corruption of President John Quincy Adams. The new party (which did not get the name "Democrats" until 1834) swept to a landslide. As Norton et al. explain regarding 1828:
Jacksonians believed the people's will had finally prevailed. Through a lavishly financed coalition of state parties, political leaders, and newspaper editors, a popular movement had elected the president. The Democrats became the nation's first well-organized national party.
The platforms, speeches, and editorials were founded upon a broad consensus among Democrats. As Norton et al. explain:
The Democrats represented a wide range of views but shared a fundamental commitment to the Jeffersonian concept of an agrarian society. They viewed a central government as the enemy of individual liberty and they believed that government intervention in the economy benefited special-interest groups and created corporate monopolies that favored the rich. They sought to restore the independence of the individual--the artisan and the ordinary farmer--by ending federal support of banks and corporations and restricting the use of paper currency.
Jackson vetoed more legislation than all previous presidents combined. The long-term effect was to create the modern strong presidency. Jackson and his supporters also opposed reform as a movement. Reformers eager to turn their programs into legislation called for a more active government. But Democrats tended to oppose programs like educational reform and the establishment of a public education system. They believed, for instance, that public schools restricted individual liberty by interfering with parental responsibility and undermined freedom of religion by replacing church schools.
Jackson supported white supremacy, as did nearly every major politician of the day. He looked at the Indian question in terms of military and legal policy, not as a problem due to their race. Indeed, in 1813 he adopted and treated as his own son a three-year-old Indian orphan—seeing in him a fellow orphan that was "so much like myself I feel an unusual sympathy for him." In legal terms, when it became a matter of state sovereignty versus tribal sovereignty, he went with the states and moved the Indians to fresh lands with no white rivals in what became Oklahoma.
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