The Democratic Party

By Michael F. Holt, Ph.D.

The Democratic Party was the first of these two competitors to form. Combining disparate foes of John Quincy Adams's presidential administration (1825-1829), it coalesced around Andrew Jackson's presidential campaign in 1828. As President Jackson alienated some of his initial supporters who would join the opposition to him, but his actions cemented the loyalty of far more of his initial voters as well as many others. Jackson won reelection in 1832, his Vice President and chosen successor Martin Van Buren would be elected in 1836, and his Tennessee lieutenant James K. Polk would win the presidency in 1844. Particularly strong in the Deep South and newer western states as well as Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, New Hampshire, and Maine, the Democratic party was committed to the strong exertion of executive power vis-a-vis Congress and state legislatures, states' rights, Indian removal, the sale of federal land in the West at low prices, and territorial expansion. It strongly opposed positive governmental intervention into the economy in the form of charters for banks and other corporations, the sale of state bonds, subsidies for internal improvements like road and canal construction, and protective tariffs because it believed that such actions created privilege for the wealthy at the expense of others' equal rights. As a result, almost everywhere in the nation its strongest bases of voter support were in areas still outside the nexis of the market economy and among those in urban areas who believed they had been victimized by the market economy. Democrats were also far more hospitable to Catholics and immigrants than were their political rivals just as they were far more hostile to abolitionists and the rights of blacks than those rivals.