The common person did not always hold the electoral clout the he does today. Political parties were dominated more by party elites in the Early National era. One example: the term “King Caucus” refers to the system in which party elites would choose nominees for major national offices. The common person had little input for nominations. Additionally, the common man had less of a say in the choice of President. Electoral College delegates were not required to follow the popular vote tallies–that is, in times and places where the people at large were even permitted to say any role in the choosing of the President.
The Jacksonian Era saw a major shift in the role that the common person played in political campaigns. Primaries were introduced in this era and participation in them were broaden to include more than just elites. Thus, “King Caucus” died. Further, Electoral College delegates were increasingly chosen by the common person. The common man began, during this time, to be courted for his partisan support. Political activity increased exponentially, as the people were increasingly engaged at all political levels. Certainly, by 1840, a more modern system emerged in which two political parties mobilized the masses in order to win political office.
Teachers of Advanced Placement United States History (APUSH) are familiar with the document-based question (DBQ). The College Board, which operates the myriad AP programs, has a website that allows teachers access to many helpful resources concerning the DBQ.
A previous APUSH exam had students analyze the rise of political participation during the Jacksonian Era. Even if you do not teach APUSH, this website can be a tremendous boon to adding critical thinking into the classroom. Teachers can give this document set to students to introduce the the question of the rise of political participation during the Jackson Era.
Teachers could then have students analyze the documents using this DBQ Analysis Sheet from APUSH guru Warren Hierl, or can have students write an essay answer to the DBQ.
Additionally, in helping prep students for the DBQ essay, teachers can print these analysis aides for interpreting the documents. This link also includes a long list of specifically factual information terms that could be useful in providing a breadth of content. There is also a scoring rubric given.
Finally, this site provides teachers with sample student responses. Scroll down to the end of this PDF in order to view them.