Lesson Plan: Overview

Jacksonian America:

South Carolina’s Role in Shaping the New Nation

Grade Level: High School

Andrew Jackson Portrait

Academic Standards

Social Studies Standard USHC-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the westward movement and the resulting regional conflicts that took place in America in the nineteenth century.

3.3 Compare economic development in different regions of the country during the early nineteenth century, including agriculture in the South, industry and finance in the North, and the development of new resources in the West.

Social Studies Literacy Elements

K. Use texts, political cartoons, and documents to observe and interpret trends and relationships between the regions and political groups.

O. Consider multiple perspectives of documents and stories.
Essential Questions

1. How did sectionalism lead to threats of secession in the early 1800s?
2. How did Jackson and his contemporaries shape the nation then and now?

Historical Background Notes

The first half of the nineteenth century was a time of great change and development for the newly-formed United States.  During this period, the nation saw the emergence of a new era, The Age of Jackson.  Jacksonian America was marked as a time of expansion of male suffrage, economic growth and turmoil, and a sectional crisis that put South Carolina at the heart of the debate.  Several national leaders emerged from the era including South Carolina’s Andrew Jackson and John C. Calhoun.  Other leaders that played key roles were Henry Clay of Kentucky and Daniel Webster of Massachusetts.  

Although the dates of Jacksonian America vary, most historians cite the period began with the emergence of Andrew Jackson as a national figure in 1815. The end of Jacksonian America is more debatable.  Many historians cite the end being in the 1840s with the defeat of Henry Clay as president to James K. Polk, also known as “Young Hickory” (Meacham 2008, 351). However, others have extended the era later into the nineteenth century. 

Growing up in the backwoods of western South Carolina, the namesake of the era was the first of the log cabin presidents.  Jackson received little formal education, instead was mostly self-taught (Meacham 2008, 18).  Despite the disadvantages, Jackson began his career in the military where he quickly rose through the ranks.  By 1815, Andrew Jackson had become a household name as the hero of the Battle of New Orleans. 

After moving to Tennessee and marrying into a wealthy, slave-owning family, Jackson began his career in politics.  By the 1800s, the nation began to grant universal white male suffrage.  Jackson saw this as an opportunity to run for the presidency in 1824.  Despite losing to Whig candidate John Quincy Adams, Jackson had begun to lay the foundation as a leader of the common man.  In the years following his presidential defeat, Jackson and long-time friend and colleague, Martin Van Buren, built a new political party-the Democrats (Meacham 2008, 143). 

Jackson won the following Election of 1828 and began a two-term presidential career marked by social changes, geo-political growth and controversy.  Among the issues that Jackson faced was the removal of Native Americans from the Southeast, the war on the national bank and most importantly, the Nullification Crisis. 

The Nullification Crisis (1832-1833) put South Carolina in the center of a heated battle over sectional issues.  Leading the debate on issues such as tariffs, slavery and states’ rights was South Carolinian John C. Calhoun.  Unlike Jackson’s modest beginnings, Calhoun was born into a family of wealth and privilege (Freehling 1990, 262).  The Nullification Crisis centered on how much power the federal government had over the states.  If the government could make southern states abide by laws such as the tariff, what would stop the Congress from ultimately abolishing slavery? In an effort to avoid secession, Calhoun proposed nullification, or the states’ right to overturn a congressional act (Freehling 1990, 257-258).   

At the height of the crisis, South Carolina threatened to secede from the Union over the “Tariff of Abominations.”  Jackson took a stand on the issue and issued his Proclamation on Nullification.  Not allowing the nation to be torn apart, Jackson appealed to the people of South Carolina “…with the feelings of a Father to retrace your steps”  (Jackson 1832).    Ultimately, Jackson and Calhoun’s personal and political relationship was shattered.  Jackson went on to be elected for another term as president, tackling new sectional issues such as the renewal of the national bank’s charter and the economic crisis that followed. 

The issues Andrew Jackson, John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster faced during this tumultuous and dynamic period helped shape the nation. Each man shaped the region they represented and helped mold the United States into the nation that it is today.  South Carolina took center stage in the fight over states’ rights and slavery, even threatening to secede.  Although South Carolina retracted its threat, it would not be the last of its kind.  Kentuckian Henry Clay, heavily involved in the various issues of the era, helped shape the emerging West; while New Englander Daniel Webster continued to support the issues of the Northeast (Heidler, and Heidler 2010, 251-253).  All of these men played pivotal roles, not just regionally but nationally.  Long after all four leaders faded from the national scene, the battles they began continued throughout the nineteenth century (Heidler, and Heidler 2010, xiv).
Cultural Institution Partner

No cultural institution partner available for this lesson plan.


Primary Sources

"Calhoun, John C. to Virgil Maxcy, September 11, 1830." Available from http:// www.pbs.org/kcet/andrewjackson/edu/ calhounonnullification.pdf. Internet, Public Broadcasting Service. Accessed 28 October 2010.

"Cass, Lewis, 'Report of the Secretary of War,' November 21, 1831." Available from http:// www. pbs.org/kcet/andrewjackson/edu/ secretarycassonindianremoval.pdf.  Internet, Public Broadcasting Service. Accessed 28 October 2010.

"Douglass, Frederick, 'What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? Extract from an Oration, at Rochester, July 5, 1852,' in My Bondage and My Freedom." Available from http://www.pbs.org/kcet/andrewjackson/
. Internet, Public Broadcasting Service. Accessed 28 October 2010.

“Evarts, Jeremiah, The Removal of the Indians...and An Exhibition of the Advancement of the Southern Tribes, in Civilization and Christianity.” Available from http://www.pbs.org/ kcet/andrewjackson/edu/onindian removal _stateofmorals.pdf. Internet, Public Broadcasting Service. Accessed 28 October 2010.

"Garrison, William Lloyd, The Liberator: 'To the Public,' 1831."  Available from 
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h2928.html. Internet, Public Broadcasting Service. Accessed 28 October 2010.

Growth of Universal White Male Suffrage.”  Map.  As reproduced in John Mack Faragher, et. al.  Out of Many: A History of the American People, page 352.  Sixth Edition, New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc., 2007.

Jackson, Andrew. “Proclamation on Nullification,” 1832.  State Papers on Nullification. Boston: Dutton and Wentworth, 1834.

Jackson Versus the Bank.”  Cartoon.  As reproduced in Paul S. Boyer, et. al.  The Enduring Vision, page 294.  Fifth Edition, New York:  Houghton Mifflin Co., 2004.

"Register of Debates in Congress...First Session of the Twenty-Second Congress." Available from
http://www.pbs.org/kcet/andrewjackson/edu/clayonbankveto.pdf. Internet, Public Broadcasting Service. Accessed 28 October 2010.

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, “Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments,” 1848.  Available from http://memory.loc.gov/master/rbc/rbcmil/scrp4006801/002.jpg.  Internet, Library of Congress.  Accessed 25 October 2010.

Secondary Sources

Freehling, William W.  The Road to Disunion: Secessionists at Bay 1776-1854.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Heidler, David S., and Jeanne T. Heidler.  Henry Clay: The Essential American. New York: Random House Inc., 2010.

Meacham, Jon.  American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House.  New York: Random House Inc., 2008.

• Internet access for website, www.pbs.org
• Worksheet of primary document quotes for the group assignment

Lesson Plans

Day 1:  The Rise of Jacksonian America
Lecture: 30 minutes

  • Andrew Jackson’s political career
  • Founding of the Democratic Party
  • Indian Removal Act

Video: 30 minutes

  • PBS’s documentary clips on Andrew Jackson and his presidency

In-class/Homework Assignment: 30 minutes

  • Web Diagram-students will create a web diagram of Andrew Jackson’s key viewpoints and political actions on four major topics: Native Americans, women, slavery, and corporations and the national bank.

Day 2: Nullification Crisis
Lecture: 30 minutes

  • Key arguments for and against it
  • Major political leader’s viewpoints: Jackson, Clay, Calhoun, Webster
  • Underlying issue: slavery

Video: 30 minutes

  • PBS’s documentary clips on Andrew Jackson and his presidency

In-class/Homework Assignment: 30 minutes

  • Group Work-students will be given a selection of quotes from primary documents and a set of questions identifying and analyzing who stated them and their meaning.  Each group will then be called upon to present one of the quotes and analysis to the class.

Day 3: War on the Bank
Lecture: 45 minutes

  • Sectional conflicts continue over the national bank
  • Major political leader’s viewpoints: Jackson, Clay, Calhoun, Webster
  • Outcome of the issue

In-class/Homework Assignment: 45 minutes

  • Free-Write-Students will complete a free-write assignment titled, Does Andrew Jackson Deserve to be on the Twenty-Dollar Bill?  Students must identify both pros and cons of his political career and viewpoints.

Teacher Reflections

One of the greatest challenges as a U.S. history teacher in South Carolina is teaching students their nation’s history while also preparing them for the state’s end-of-course test (EOC).  As one of the newest EOC tests to be added to the state curriculum, it is also one of the most challenging.  All of this must be accomplished within a semester.  I found that the Teaching American History in South Carolina class has helped me to be a better teacher and more prepared to tackle the complex topics that are part of our state’s new standards. 

One of the ways that I have benefitted as a teacher from the summer classes is through the master scholar’s content lectures.  Dr. Kevin Witherspoon’s lectures were insightful and thoughtfully planned out each day.  One of Witherspoon’s greatest gifts as a professor is taking complex information and breaking it down into manageable lessons that are easy to follow.  Since his lectures were well organized through PowerPoint presentations, I was able to take away a lot of new information as well as new perspectives on American history.  Witherspoon frequently wove primary documents into his lessons.  This taught me new ways how to effectively present them to my classes.  This knowledge has helped me grow as a lecturer myself. 

One example of how I learned new ways to introduce my students to primary documents was at the Florence County Museum.  After the master scholar lecture, the class spent time analyzing a William H. Johnson painting.  By asking questions, not just about the content of the painting, but what the real-life size of it is and what it was painted on prompted the class to analyze the painting in new ways.  Then, we saw it in the museum and learned it was painted on burlap. I was able to gain a better perspective on the historical background of both the artist and the period of time.  Not only has the painting stuck in my memory, but what I learned about it and its period of time.  This lesson was a great example on how primary documents can make history come alive and take on new meanings. 

I found that the various cultural institutions introduced me to the various possibilities of historical information that is available in our region.  I enjoyed each one, in particular the Florence County Museum for the reasons cited above and the South Carolina State Archives.  The tour at Francis Marion University was informative; although I was disappointed that the class did not take a tour of the university’s special collection on namesake Francis Marion.  I have been fortunate to see this collection of primary documents and feel that it would have been valuable to the class.  Various documents and maps from the Revolutionary War era are housed in their collection.  I would like to take my students to visit some of the cultural institutions, albeit financing field trips has become an issue for our district.  Despite this setback, I hope to utilize these wonderful resources in the future. 

The daily master teacher sessions were also insightful.  I took away a lot of useful information on how to create better lesson plans and various assessments that can be used to teach my class history.  One issue that I did have with the master teacher sessions was that they tended to be geared toward elementary school students.  One of the challenges I have faced in the past several years at various conferences and classes is finding useful information that will better enable me to prepare my high school students for the EOC test and college.  It would be nice to see a master teacher address issues and challenges that the high school teachers are facing.  The test is very challenging, and the state fail rate is high.  The standards are also very detailed and rigorous, which is great, but with limited time, can pose a challenge.  My colleagues and I have been tackling the issue of pacing and effective lesson plans and assessments.  It would be helpful to see these challenges being addressed in professional forums as well. 

One of the major challenges I faced in creating a lesson plan on Jacksonian America is taking a complex topic and breaking it down in a way that high school students can understand.  For my lesson plan, I decided to gear it toward my AP students since they make up the majority of my classes.  Creating a lesson plan for AP students posed another challenge.  Not only did I need to come up with a lesson plan that prepared the students for the EOC test, but also the AP test.  Since South Carolina’s standards are more detailed than the national AP standards, I used them as a guideline. 

I taught my lesson in three days, breaking down the major issues of Jacksonian America into more-manageable topics.  One focus of my lessons was to show my students that South Carolina not only played a significant role in the Nullification Crisis but in other Jacksonian America issues as well.  I strove to portray South Carolina political leaders such as Andrew Jackson and John C. Calhoun, not just influencing our state history but our national history as well.  One way I tackled this is by discussing how these leaders were instrumental, not just in the Nullification Crisis but in other national issues such as Indian Removal and the war on the national bank.  By allowing students to see how South Carolina played significant roles throughout the era, I hope they gained a better appreciation of our state’s history. 

One weakness in the lesson plan was trying to portray a balanced history of both Andrew Jackson and John C. Calhoun.  Both men were very complex and had various interactions with other national leaders such as Henry Clay and Daniel Webster.  It is all too easy to assume that Jackson was a negative leader based on his handling of Indian Removal and the Nullification Crisis.  This viewpoint was frequently reflected in the student’s free-write assignment.  Each student wrote about whether or not Jackson should be on the twenty-dollar bill.  They had to argue various pros and cons about Jackson.  The overall assessment was that Jackson did not deserve to be portrayed on the twenty-dollar bill in light of his controversial decisions made as president. 

John C. Calhoun was a little easier to analyze in class.  Like Jackson, it is easy to demonize him for his support of slavery and miss out on the complexities of the issue.  One challenge I face as a teacher is to get my students to not be presentistic about history but to try to see it through the eyes of the people who lived it.  This is where primary documents become so important. 

In order to challenge my students and better prepare them for the AP test and college, I gave them a document-based question (DBQ) essay as part of their final assessment.  Overall, they did a great job writing their DBQ essay.  I feel that the assessments they completed as homework leading up to the unit test better prepared them for the essay.  Next year, I will use the same assessments, though maybe add one in which students must debate the pros and cons of Jackson and Calhoun’s decisions.  By hearing other opinions on the two leaders, my goal is to provide alternate viewpoints and broaden the scope of my students' understanding.

Student Assessment

Students will complete a document-based question (DBQ) on Jacksonian America. The essay will count as a test grade and includes the analysis of 10 primary documents from the era.

The essay will be graded using the standard AP grading rubric used for the AP test.

Examples of Students Work

Student DBQ Essay
Student Web Diagram
Student Web Diagram 2
Student Free-Write Assignment
Student Free-Write Assignment 2


Alison Johnson
West Florence High School
Florence, South Carolina