Davy Crockett, the National Republicans, and the Battle for America’s Heritage by Garrett Smith

One of the best political parties you’ve never heard of, and their resistance to Andrew Jackson and the Democratic Party.

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Most people are at least somewhat familiar with the legend of Davy Crockett. He has been renowned as a mountain man from Tennessee, who sacrificed his life for Texas at the Battle of the Alamo. What many people are unfamiliar with, however, is the political side of Crockett, as well as the party in which he was a part of.

Following the nation’s founding, two political parties emerged to wrestle for the fate of America’s future governmental structure: The Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton; and the Anti-Federalists, more officially known as the Democratic-Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson. In short, the Federalists supported a strong central government at America’s core, whereas the Democratic-Republicans favored more power to the people, and their ideal nation was that of one based largely on a population of Yeoman farmers. George Washington was not a member of either party, though he supported many of Hamilton’s policies, including the idea of a strong central government. By 1816, the Federalist Party collapsed, leaving the Democratic-Republicans as the solely-dominant political party. In the 1820s, the Democratic-Republican Party split, creating two new parties: The Democratic Party under Andrew Jackson, and the National Republican Party under John Quincy Adams. Following Jackson’s presidential election win in 1828, the National Republicans were also known as the “Anti-Jacksonians.”

Andrew Jackson was no conservative in the traditional sense. The Democrats, under Jackson, opposed the conservative system enacted by Hamilton and the Federalists, and they also sought to abolish the Electoral College, after considering the outcome of the 1824 election to be the result of a “corrupt bargain.”[1] Jackson owned slaves, as did most of the Founding Fathers, but Jackson differs from them in the sense that the founders wanted an eventual end to slavery, and they knew that the Declaration of Independence laid the groundwork for abolition. They also wished to contain slavery to the states where it already existed, which was one of the conditions of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 (though the ordinance did, unfortunately, contain a fugitive slave clause).[2] Jackson, on the other hand, was a supporter of extending slavery into the western territories.[3] His vice president, John C. Calhoun, insisted that slavery was a “positive good,” which was certainly a step away from the founders.

On the opposing side, we have the National Republican Party, comprised mainly of former Federalists. Within these ranks, an adventurous mountain man would rise to be one of the leading voices against Andrew Jackson and his policies. Born in Limestone, Tennessee, an area that was originally in North Carolina, Crockett has been renowned in folklore as “King of the Wild Frontier.” A member of the National Republican Party, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and during his time in Congress, he heavily opposed many of Jackson’s policies.[4]

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Crockett, 1834

Then comes 1831, during which we see one of the most horrific instances in American history, perpetrated by the Democratic Party: The Trail of Tears. Signed into law by Andrew Jackson, the Indian Removal Act gave Jackson the power to negotiate Native relocation with the heads of various tribes, and then to relocate them to federal lands in the west. The Supreme Court had previously ruled in Johnson v. M’Intosh that Natives could occupy and control lands but could not claim them.[1] Even this, however, was not good enough for the Jacksonian Democrats, who sought to steal Native lands. Starting in 1831, five of the most cherished tribes in America would be forcibly removed and placed on the Trail of Tears, during which thousands of them died along the way to the west. Alexis de Tocqueville, the French philosopher who toured the states in the 1830s, witnessed the Trail of Tears and the hardship that the Choctaws suffered while attempting to cross the Mississippi River in winter.[2]

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In the midst of this tragedy, Davy Crockett became a leading voice for the National Republicans, and he spoke out against Jackson’s Indian removal policies. In 1834, he wrote a letter to Congress, stating his anger towards Jackson. He claimed that if Martin van Buren were to be elected, he would leave for Texas, which is exactly what he did, even before the election. He would go on to give his life for the Republic of Texas at the Battle of the Alamo just two years later. Crockett died a hero, believing that all people had a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. My personal hope is that someone as great as Crockett did not lose hope in the United States, due to the greedy interests of a few politicians.

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Battle of the Alamo, 1836

The Jacksonian Democrats may have won the dispute over Native Lands, but the good fight of the National Republican Party was far from over. This party would later transform into the Whigs, and that party would transform into what John Calvin Batchelor called the “Pageant of American Politics” – the Republican Party. Batchelor also describes the Republican Party as the most successful revolutionary party “in the history of democracy.” Today, through the spirit of courageous souls such as Davy Crockett, the Republican Party continues the good fight. Although the GOP may be far from perfect, as is the case with any political party, the GOP continues the legacy of America’s most memorable figures, including Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan. Just as Davy Crockett and the National Republicans stood up to the horrors perpetrated under the Jacksonian democrats, it is up to us, and all who are willing to join us, to continue the good fight against the policies of the Democratic Party.

[1] “Indian Removal 1814-1858.” Public Broadcasting System. 2009.

[2] https://www.thoughtco.com/the-trail-of-tears-1773597

[1] http://www.ushistory.org/us/23d.asp

[2] Finkelman, Paul. “Slavery and the Northwest Ordinance,” p. 345

[3] https://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/andrew-jackson

[4] Lofaro, Michael A. “David ‘Davy’ Crockett.” Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. 2010.

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