Second Party System -

Second Party System

The Second Party System is a name for the political party system in the United States during the 1800s. It is a phrase used by historians and political scientists to describe the time period between 1828 and 1854. People quickly became more interested in voting starting in 1828. More people came to political rallies and showed up to vote on election day. There were also more partisan newspapers, which supported a certain political party. People became very loyal to their party. [1] [2]

There were two main political parties during this time period. One was the Democratic Party, led by Andrew Jackson. The other was the Whig Party, started by Henry Clay. The Whig party was made up of members of the National Republican Party and other people who opposed Jackson.

There were also a number of important minor parties. The Anti-Masonic Party (1827-34) was important in developing political ideas and laws. The Liberty Party in the 1840s was an important abolitionist party (against slavery). The United States Free Soil Party in 1848 and 1852 was another anti-slavery party.

The Second Party System was an important part of the politics, society, economics, and culture of the Jacksonian Era. It was followed by the Third Party System after 1854. [3]



The phrase "second party system" was defined by the historian Richard P. McCormick. He said that the system was:[4]


A number of important historical people were political leaders in this system. Some famous democrats were: Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, John C. Calhoun, James K. Polk, Lewis Cass, and Stephen Douglas. Some famous Whigs were: Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, William H. Seward, and Thurlow Weed.[2]


The United States presidential election in 1824 did not have any political parties. There were four main candidates for president: Henry Clay, William Crawford, Andrew Jackson, and John Quincy Adams. At the end of the race, none of the candidates had enough votes in the electoral college to win, and the United States House of Representatives had to choose the winner. The three final candidates were Adams, Crawford, and Jackson. Even though Clay was not one of these finalists, he was the Speaker of the House, and it was his job to negotiate who would become president. Jackson had the most popular votes (votes cast by citizens) and the most electoral votes (votes cast by the electoral college), but was not elected. Instead, John Quincy Adams was elected president. He immediately chose Clay to be his Secretary of State.[5]

Jackson loudly declared this to be a "corrupt bargain." Jackson was a very popular politician, the most famous fighter of the American Indian Wars, and a hero of the War of 1812. He gathered his supporters in politics and the local militias and created the Democratic Party. Martin Van Buren, a brilliant leader in New York politics, was Jackson's most important supporter. Van Buren was popular in Virginia and Pennsylvania, and he had the support of their electoral college votes. The new Democratic Party beat Adams in the U.S. presidential election of 1828 and Jackson was elected president. Van Buren became the Secretary of State, and later Vice President. Adams, Clay, and their supporters in the Democratic-Republican Party became known as the National Republicans.[5]

The Bank War

Andrew Jackson was against the idea of giving special favors to special interest groups. He strongly opposed the Second Bank of the United States. [6] The Bank was a federal institution that worked somewhat like a central bank. (It was very similar to the Federal Reserve System that would be developed later.) The bank was controlled by the banker Nicholas Biddle and supported by Henry Clay. Jackson did not like any banks, and he did not believe in paper money. (He believed that money should only be gold and silver.) As president, he was able to close the Second Bank.[2]

Jackson continued to attack the banking system. He issued his Specie Circular in July 1836. (Specie is a word that means gold and silver used as money.) The Circular said that only gold and siver coins, and not paper money, could be used to buy federal land. This made most businessmen and bankers join the Whig party. Also, cities that depended on commerce (trade) and industry became supporters of the Whig party. Jackson became more popular with subsistence farmers (farmers who grow crops to eat, but not to sell) and day laborers.[6]

Spoils System

In US politics, the Spoils System was the practice of a political party giving its supporters positions in government. These government jobs were given as rewards and incentives (something that makes a person try harder) to keep working for the political party.

Jackson used the spoils system a lot when he was president. He rewarded his supporters and promised future jobs if local and state politicians joined his team. He believed in the theory of rotation in office, where people would only remain in a position for a short time.[7] He believed that this would keep the civil service from becoming corrupt. Other leaders of the Democratic Party wanted to give civil service jobs to friends and loyal party members. In total, Jackson dismissed less than twenty percent (20%) of the original civil service.[8]

As president, Jackson encouraged the use of the spoils system. It became an important part of the Second Party System and the Third Party System. The spoils system was ended in the 1890s.

Related pages


  1. Brown 1999.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Wilentz 2006.
  3. Holt 1992.
  4. McCormick 1966, pp. 14-16.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Parsons 2009.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Howe 2009.
  7. "Andrew Jackson's First Annual Message to Congress" . The American Presidency Project. Retrieved 2006-11-21.
  8. "Jacksonian Democracy: The Presidency of Andrew Jackson" . Retrieved 2006-11-21.. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)


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Categories: Political systems | 19th century in the United States

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