Ah, what could be more boring than a discussion of the Age of Jackson? He was President of the United States between 1829 and 1837. That was almost 200 years ago and who cares about people in antebellum America. They sure didn’t call it “antebellum” in those days, for obvious reasons. But many important things developed at that time, which of course we take for granted now. The standard biography about Andrew Jackson is the three volume set by Robert Remini, though many have written biographies about Andrew Jackson, a very interesting President whose character tells us much about America, though that might not be good. A very good overview of Jacksonian America is The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln by Sean Wilentz. What I am referring to as “Jacksonian America” or the Age of Jackson started before the man was elected President, and just like Ronald Reagan, he served as a symbol for changes that were sweeping the country.
The Age of Jackson is important now because that was when the country started many of the characteristics that are bedevilling it currently. With the election of Jackson, as shown below, the country veered off from the path it had followed up to that time. Many claim that the country became democratic, or at least more democratic, since by that time more could vote than just property holding white males. Of course, women and Blacks, whether freed or slaves, could not vote. Women had the vote for a brief time in some places, such as New Jersey. This is the period in which America became a “hustler” nation (as described in Walter McDougall’s book Freedom Just Around the Corner and Morris Berman’s Why America Failed), a nation devoted to what’s best for Number One, a change from a democracy of fraternity to a democracy of cupidity (Hofstadter) as discussed previously.
Democrats claim that Jackson and Jefferson were the founders of their party, and have a Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner once a year. While Jackson did pay obeisance to Jefferson, I think there was a disconnect between the party of Jefferson and the party of Jackson, which was called The Democracy. And while Jackson gets the credit for creating the Democratic Party, the hard organizational work was done by Martin Van Buren (who according to Gore Vidal in his novel Burr was the illegitimate son of Aaron Burr) who was Jackson’s Vice-President in his second term, and served a single term thereafter, because the Panic of 1837 (partially caused by Jackson’s dispute with Nicholas Biddle and the Bank of the United States) doomed him to only one term. Van Buren, called the Little Magician and Martin Van Ruin, who was the first of non-British descent to make President, also ran for President in the Free Soil Party which became part of the Republican Party twenty years later.
Like other eponymous President Ages, the Age of Jackson started before Andrew Jackson became president, or even before he first ran for President. Ages get names for significant Presidents who happened to be in office when major changes were overtaking the country, and they were just one of the changes, and something about their behavior or actions symbolized the changes taking place in the country. For those who accept the Great Man theory of history, then the President was the person responsible for the changes taking place in the country.
In the United States, the country had as Presidents up until Jackson either Founding Fathers or relatives of such, and most of those Presidents before Jackson were members of what is called the Virginia Mafia, since they were all from Virginia. The Presidents of the United States were George Washington, from Virgina, and then John Adams, from Massachusetts, first Washington’s Vice President and then a one-term President, then Thomas Jefferson, from Virginia, the James Madison, from Virginia, then James Monroe, from Virginia, and then John Quincy Adams, from Massachusetts and son of the first Adams. In the contested election of 1824 Jackson ran against Adams and, even though he had more electoral votes, did not have enough and so the issue was settled in the House of Representatives. One of the candidates, Henry Clay of Kentucky, withdrew and threw his support to Adams. Later, when Adams was President he appointed Clay to be Secretary of State. This was not a politically wise thing to do, but since Clay was obviously the most qualified person for the post, it was natural that he was appointed by Adams. Jackson was very upset at what he considered a “corrupt bargain” and began campaigning for the next election. There was so much ill will towards Adams that not much was accomplished in his term, but his remains the most accomplished post-presidential career. Jackson beat Adams in the next election and served two terms.
At this point in the early Nineteenth Century the Industrial Revolution, which had began in England over 100 years before, finally spread into the wider world. The Industrial Revolution is declared to have come to America in 1790 when Samuel Slater, who was an apprentice in England, brought ideas of the Industrial Revolution to New England. England had attempted to keep the ideas of the Industrial Revolution within England, but that could only last so long.
By the third decade of the Nineteenth Century what is called Laissez-Faire Capitalism developed within America. This had been started by the publication of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations in 1776. Laissez-Faire implies leaving people alone to follow their own path. What it amounted to in reality is that businesses could do whatever that wanted, within reason, to make money. At the beginning of this revolution, because it was certainly a revolutionary principle, things went along fine. It wasn’t until after the Civil War and the rise of corporations, starting with the railroads which had been empowered by the War, that things began to vary from the ideal.
Along with this was the development of something called the Market Revolution in America. The cotton gin had been invented at the end of the Eighteenth Century, and it was coming into use in the South, where much cotton was grown. Before the cotton gin, people wondered if there was a future for slavery, but the cotton gin made possible the use of a type of cotton that had previously been difficult to use. This made the need for slaves to harvest the cotton more important than ever. This cotton was shipped to the many weaving factories in New England that had been automated by the work of Samuel Slater. Massachusetts especially developed many weaving factories and employed young women from the cities.
At this time, when the Age of Jackson was starting, there was also a Transportation Revolution. Before this time goods could be slowly transported by horse and wagon over relatively primitive roads or shipped down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. But in this period many well maintained roads — call turnpikes — were build by the Federal government, which allowed faster transportation by horse-drawn wagons. There was also the building of the Eire Canal in upstate New York, joining the Great Lakes to the Hudson River whose outlet was New York City. This allowed ships to enter the Hudson River at New York and access the many cities bordering the Great Lakes, including Chicago, and from there reach by wagons much of the Midwest. While the Eire Canal is in much disrepair now, at the time it was revolutionary and allowed the country along the canal to build up, as well as the land of middle America that could now be reached from the Atlantic. Other canals were built at this time, connecting, for example, Lake Eire and the Ohio River. The Cumberland Road, also known as the Nation Road, was built in this period and extended over 600 miles from Cumberland, Maryland into Illinois. It became the first road in America surfaced with macadam. Steamboats became popular on the Mississippi River (think Mark Twain) and allowed relatively easy transport of people and goods up and down the most important river in the country, and helping to unite the Midwest. Accentuating this trend to easier transportation, the railroad was first introduced into the United States in 1828. By 1830 the Tom Thumb, first common-carrier railroad, was built. The development of a railroad system in the United States was helped by much investment from England.
The Communication Revolution is another event that occurred in antebellum America. America had been a country interested in writing since the early days. Daniel Boone, when he was out in the country, enjoy being told the tales of Shakespeare. Bookstores were one of the first establishments to go into a new town. In this Jacksonian period the Napier steam-driven press was developed in England and allowed more books and newspapers to be printed easily. This allowed the burgeoning middle classes to more easily find books, magazines, and newspapers, and helped support a literate population. Schooling increased and eventually public schools became commonplace. The telegraph was invented at the end of this period by artist Samuel F. B. Morse in 1835. The telegraph has been called the Victorian Internet and for the first time ever allowed near instantaneous communication.
The most important transit for this period, and one with deep seated meaning, is that of Pluto over the IC of the US chart, and thus opposite the MC (black arrow chart 1). The IC represents the foundation or base of the entity in question, in this case the Untied States. Transits over the IC appear to last longer and their meaning less obvious than transits to more visible points. Since Pluto moves so slow, this transit had never happened in the history of the country; it previously happened in the 1570s. Pluto represent large scale change or transformation, and that is indeed what the Age of Jackson had to offer. There was a massive change in the United States, which had only won their war for independence forty or so years previously. The country had started to become its own person (cf Joyce Appleby, Inheriting the Revolution for a description of the first generation of post-Revolution Americans). Pluto then went on to square the Sun of the US in 1832–38 (black arrow chart 4). This was the time of the development of abolitionism and William LLoyd Garrison’s newspaper The Liberator. The closing of the Pluto Sun cycle, and of course the beginning of the next cycle happened with the Pluto conjunct Sun aspect in the Twenties.
Compounding this situation during these years was the actions of Uranus and Neptune. These two planets were conjunct in 1820-23 (red arrow in first chart) and square the MC of the United States. This conjunction happens three times per 500 years and the next time that conjunction happened was in the early 1990s and we are still strongly witnessing the effects of that conjunction. The conjunction of the early Nineteenth Century was opposite two of the core planets of America, Jupiter and Venus. Uranus went on to oppose the Sun in 1823-24 (black arrow in second chart) and Neptune opposed the Sun 1824-27 (black arrow in third chart). These aspects just added to the central changes happening in the country, in so many areas. In this group of aspects the final one was Uranus conjunct the US Moon (chart 4), which has been discussed before and signified the revolution of Texas, which had been part of Mexico but then split away, hoping to be part of the United States.