Whigs Apush – “Era of Good Feelings”

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During the period between 1820 and 1840 ironically named the “Era of Good Feelings” the period was not as temperate as its name entailed.

The nation was snagged with political conflicts, and economic distresses. During this period between 1820 and1840 the reemergence of a two-party system was due to multiple factors. Essentially two of the main influences were conflicting views on States Rights, and nationwide economic issues. The two parties that were created are, the Whigs, and the Democrats are an important part of our history because their rivalry started the Second Party System we still have in politics today.

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The two political parties the developed during this time period were the Whigs and the Democrats. Ultimately the Whigs were emerging in opposition of President Andrew Jackson and the Democratic Party. These two parties disagreed in many areas of the government. The Democrats advocated for weak federal government, while the Whigs supported a strong central government.

The Democratic Party was essentially a brand of Andrew Jackson, with a belief that the common man should be represented in the government and that the states should have more rights than the federal government. The Jacksonian Democrats were also anti-bank, they only wanted state and regional banks, and democrats claimed the National Bank was elitist and corrupt. The Whigs favored having a national bank and currency. Another difference was the demographics of the people of each party; the Whig party was more popular and supportive of industry and urbanites, while the democrats were popular among and supportive of the small farmers.

The Bank of the U.S. was one states rights issue that ultimately led to the division between and creation of the Democrats and what became the Whig party. On a constitutional basis, the democrats and Jackson did not support the Bank of the U.S. He did not support the first bank of the U.S., instead supporting more control by the states.

This he believed would better represent the people of those states. When Henry Clay, the Secretary of State pushed for the early recharter of the Bank of the U.S. Jackson had set before him, he was left with one of the most pivotal decisions of his presidency.

Jackson vetoed the bill to continue the Bank of the United States. He proclaimed that after being presented with the bill on the Fourth of July and taking into consideration the words of the Constitution, he sent it back to the senate with out approval. The tenth amendment gives the power to the states if not specifically stated in the constitution. Henry Clay, one face of the Whig party, had greater motives when he set that bill in front of President Jackson.

A supporter of a strong central government, and supported by president of the Bank of the United States, Nicholas Biddle, Clay who was to run in the next presidential election used Jackson’s potential decision for political reasons. Clay thought that if President Jackson did not sign the bill, that he would crush his bid for the next election.An economical issue that led to the two party systems was the Bank of the United States. Jackson and the Democratic party were strongly against the re-chartering of the Bank.

Jackson believed that the president of the bank Nicholas Biddle was monopolistic and corrupt with that much power and wealth. The Whig party, more upper class and wealthy citizens supported the bank. Jackson did not sign off on the rechartering of the bank, so he began moving money out in the hopes that the bank would disappear with out its renewal. Jackson put theses funds in multiple pet banks, which caused smaller “wildcat” banks to form.

The banks started to create and issue their own bank notes. Initially this made land in the west easier to obtain, but soon over speculation became a big problem. Jackson issued the Specie Circular, which mandated that all land was to be purchased with metal money. This was towards the end of Jackson’s term as president.

The Panic of 1837 was left to Martin Van Buren, Jackson’s successor who formed the Independent Treasury in 1840. After Van Buren’s reign, the Whigs took over the White House, repealed the Independent Treasury Act and formed the Federal Reserve System. The main differences between the Whigs view on the bank the Democratic view, is how much control they wanted from the central government.One of the economic issues that led to the development of the two-party system was the South Carolina nullification controversy.

The Nullification Crisis of 1832 was targeted around Southern protests against a chain of protective tariffs. The tariffs taxed all foreign goods to help expand the sales of manufactured products in the United States. The goal was to protect the northern manufacturers from the competitive British goods. The Southern economy would be at a great disadvantage, because of their reliance on both the North and foreign countries for finished goods.

Though many people who supported the taxes were centralized in the North and were mostly Whig industrialists. The southern poor farmers, who were more likely to be Democrats, loathed the tariffs. They saw them as unconstitutional and there for wanted them to be nullified more.Nullification was also a states rights issue that helped create the divide of the parties.

South Carolina was to use the Doctrine of Nullification, which was principle first used by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in their Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions. After John C. Calhoun examined the tariffs, and a special convention met in South Carolina with more than two-thirds agreement, South Carolina decided to make the “unconstitutional” and North favoring tariffs null and void in the state. This did not make democratic president, Andrew Jackson very happy.

Defiance and disunion in the nation is something he would not handle. Even though he did not support the tariffs, he used his military ways and made threats to the state, saying they would invade and hang the nullifiers.The Whigs and Democratic parties split for support of Clays American System, specifically on the constitutionality of internal improvements being controlled by the national government. The Whigs supported the stronger central government, while Jackson and the democrats had a strict interpretation of the constitution, believed that Congress did not have the power to decide on the internal improvements.

Jackson believed that the roads and other improvements should be left up to the states. He also believed that their funding should be left up to the states. Like Madison vetoing the roads and canals as unconstitutional, Jackson vetoed the Maysville road project of Kentucky, and other infrastructure projects.The citizens of the United States were pulled in two different directions, through out the “Era of Good Feelings”, where the definition of the federal governments power over the states began to crystallize.

Generally those who believed in a more centralized and powerful government fell in with the Whig Party and those who believed in greater state power leaned Democratically. The formation and maintenance of the United States bank, which became the Federal Reserve, was part of the struggle and divide of the two parties. State abilities to nullify tariffs and laws set by the federal governments were growing pains of the forming nation, and construction of the Whig party and Democratic party.

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Whigs Apush – “Era of Good Feelings”. (2018, Feb 16). Retrieved from


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