The Evolution of Democracy in the Early Republic

Many historians, politicians, and researchers have studied the evolution of democracy between President Jefferson and President Jackson. The Jacksonian and Jeffersonian democracies have emerged as two different terms that underscore democracy under both presidents. President Jefferson respected individual rights including the right to liberty, life, and pursuit of happiness. However, under the rule of President Jackson, there was a struggle between business owners and society, and he acknowledged the importance of changes that would control the capitalist system, protect liberties, and benefit the common people (Jackson, 1829). Ultimately, President Jackson actualized President Jefferson’s vision and created a democratic Republic. 

How was the form of the American Republic different under Jackson than it was under Jefferson?

There were several changes in terms of democracy from President Jefferson compared to Jackson. President Jefferson believed in the role of states in exercising power as opposed to the federal government. He sought to promote the bill of rights and limit the powers by the federal government. This was at a time that only the male white property owners were allowed to vote (Jefferson, 1803), and women and black people could not vote. In terms of education and social mobility, President Jefferson was educated and he believed that education played an important role in preparing citizens to practice democracy. His belief was that educated members of the elite community should rule. He was, however, unable to mobilize support for public education systems. 

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On the other hand, many people hold the view that America was more democratic under President Jackson (Sparks, 1837). This was because his election had the support of most of the electorate and he represented the views of people who believed in him. Even though President Jackson had little education, he was able to open opportunities for people to access corporate charters and move across the social and economic ladder in society.  He was motivated by the struggle between business owners and society, and he strived to implement changes that would empower ordinary citizens (Sparks, 1837).  President Jackson held the view that anyone could hold political office, and that political positions should be rotated. Ultimately, he addressed many challenges that President Jefferson had failed to address, including the expansion of the democratic space to cater to the needs of the common person. 

What caused these changes and how they were significant to the development of the American Republic?

These changes were caused by President Jackson’s political philosophy. Since he was lowly educated, he strived to represent the interests of the common person and make his contribution to the growth of democracy (Jackson, 1829). He sought to promote populism and was passionate about common issues such as natural property, agricultural value, and the abolition of industrialism. He was also focused on human rights, equality, and control of industrialism. Even though President Jefferson supported some of these issues, President Jackson implemented them and helped achieve the American Dream. He specifically faced the problems caused by the Industrial Revolution and promoted government activism, which culminated into the growth of several reform movements that started under President Jefferson’s rule.


Both President Jefferson and President Jackson played important roles in furthering the democratic space and creating the American Republic. Even though President Jefferson recognized social inequality, President Jackson used his popularity and connection with ordinary people to pursue human rights issues, equality, and address the challenges of industrialism. This is the reason why most people hold the view that America was more democratic under President Jackson as compared to President Jefferson.


Jackson, A. (1829). First Annual Message.

Jefferson, T. (1803).  Constitutionality of the Louisiana Purchase 

Sidney, A.  (1698). Discourses Concerning Government. Retrieved from

Sparks,.J. (1837).  The Writings of George Washington. Boston: John B. Russell

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