Ap Us History Essay Jackson

The APUSH Short Answer is one of the newer components of the APUSH exam. The purpose of the short answer question is to combine the content knowledge you will display in the Multiple Choice section, while asking you to demonstrate key historical thinking skills. The short answers make up 20% of your total score, making them the third most important component of your overall APUSH exam score. Keep reading for some practice APUSH short answer questions – and the scoring guidelines to match!

What’s the format for the short answers?

For the short answers, you will be asked a series of short questions related to some historical topic. Some questions may include historical documents, charts, or tables. Regardless of the content you receive to answer the question, the goal is the same: you are to demonstrate what you know best. You will receive a point for every complete and correct response you give. You could receive partial credit (see Official Scoring Guide), but you want to receive maximize points: answer all parts of the question.

Here’s an example of a short answer question from the 2016 APUSH exam.

From APUSH 2016 Exam.

What will short answers ask me to do?

There is no specific format a short answer question will take: some may have sources for you to draw upon, others may not. But the overarching point of a short answer is for you to show what you know. Generally speaking, the short answers will ask you to demonstrate one of the following types of thinking:

  1. Explain
  2. Compare and contrast
  3. Extend

Explaining will require you to describe as many relevant pieces of information as you can to answer the question. Comparing and contrasting will require you to look for similarities (comparing) and differences (contrasting) between two different viewpoints or events (this will likely be asked if you are looking at two different documents from two opposing points of view). Finally, extending will require you to use the information given to you in the prompt and draw on knowledge outside of the prompt to answer the question.

If we use the 2016 example above to demonstrate these concepts, it seems obvious that prompts (a) – (c) ask you to explain. However, imagine if this short answer also included the image below:

From Stanford History Education Group. Thomas Nast, Cartoon, Harper’s Weekly, December 7, 1876

You can now imagine several different questions that would ask you to compare and contrast the information presented in the graph, as well as extend the themes in the two sources to events beyond those directly mentioned. From the table below, you can see how the types of thinking overlap.

Sample Questions
Briefly explain how ONE specific historical event or development from the period 1820-1880 could be used to support the sentiment expressed in the political cartoon
Identify ONE specific example from history about anti-Irish immigration sentiment

Below, I will give three short answer examples for you to practice; check your responses against the scoring guide provided at the end of the blog post. Remember that your goal is to demonstrate what you know through a combination of explaining, comparing and contrasting, and extending

Happy studying!

APUSH Short Answer Question Examples

Example Short Answer Question 1

Excerpted from The DBQ Project: How Democratic Was Andrew Jackson?

“The present Bank of the United States…enjoys an exclusive privilege of banking…almost a monopoly of the foreign and domestic exchange. It appears that more than a fourth part of the stock is held by foreigners and the (rest) is held by a few hundred of our own citizens, chiefly of the richest class. Of the twenty-five directors of this bank five are chosen by the government and twenty by citizen stockholders…It is easy to conceive that great evils to our country…might flow from such a concentration of power in the hands of a few men irresponsible to the people…”
Andrew Jackson’s Bank Veto Message to Congress July 10, 1832

“(President Jackson’s message) extends the grasp of (the chief executive) over every power of the government….It sows…the seeds of jealousy and ill-will against the government of which its author is the official head. It raises a cry that liberty is in danger, at the very moment when it puts forth claims to powers heretofore unknown and unheard of… It manifestly seeks to inflame the poor against the rich, it wantonly attacks whole classes of people, for the purposes of turning against them the prejudices and resentments of the other classes.”
Daniel Webster’s Reply to Andrew Jackson’s Bank Veto Message July 11, 1832

Answer (a), (b), and (c)

(a) Briefly describe ONE significant difference between Jackson’s interpretation of government powers as expressed in his message to Congress and Webster’s.
(b) Briefly explain how ONE specific historical event or development from the period 1790-1840 could be used to support the sentiment expressed in Jackson’s message.
(c) Briefly explain how ONE specific historical event or development from the period 1790-1840 could be used to support the sentiment expressed in Webster’s message.

Example Short Answer Question 2

Answer (a), (b), and (c)

(a) Briefly explain ONE important goal of the Missouri Compromise of 1820.
(b) Briefly explain ONE reason why this compromise was successful in achieving the goal you outlined in part (a).
(c) Briefly explain ONE reason why this compromise was unsuccessful in achieving the goal you outlined in part (a).

Example Short Answer Question 3


From the Library of Congress

Answer questions (a), (b), and (c)

(a) Briefly explain how ONE major historical factor contributed to creation of the image.
(b) Briefly explain ONE historical response to the image.
(c) Briefly explain ONE historical response to the image that diverges from what you wrote in part (b).

Brief Answer Key

Short Answer Question 1

Examples of responses to (a) that would earn the point:

  • Jackson believed that the Bank of the United States (BUS) was an institution that was appointed and was therefore not accountable to citizens
  • Webster believed that Jackson was acting inappropriately as President in discrediting another government institution, as the President of the United States is the leader of the government
  • What’s most important is that you connect your response about the two different interpretations to views about the role and power of the government.

    Examples of responses to (b) that would earn the point:

  • The BUS charter of 1791 was opposed by states’ rights advocates such as Thomas Jefferson who did not think the federal government had the power to establish a bank
  • The Panic of 1819 was the result of the more conservative lending practices of the BUS, such as a sharp decrease in lending to western banks
  • Historical events that show how centralized power (i.e. the BUS) was harmful to Westerners, agrarians, and other “common men” would support Jackson’s point of view.

    Examples of responses to (c) that would earn the point:

  • Establishment of the Whig Party where Webster would oppose unfettered populism
  • The various economic panics that were the result of a weak central bank practices, such as liberal lending policies and support of land speculation
  • Historical events that show how unified, centralized power was beneficial to the United States, as a whole – and Northerners like Webster in particular – would support Webster’s point of view.

    Short Answer Question 2

    Examples of responses to (a) that would earn the point:

  • Create balanced representation of politicians from slave and free states in the federal government
    Appease southern slaveholders in Congress
  • Big idea for the Missouri Compromise: have a clear idea of what new territories would be admitted as slave and free states.

    Examples of responses to (b) that would earn the point:

  • List of states that were admitted in pairs under this compromise (Maine as free, Missouri as slave; Arkansas as slave, Michigan as free)
  • For a short period of time, the Missouri Compromise did what it intended to do.

    Examples of responses to (c) that would earn the point:

  • Another compromise was required in 1850 that addressed the shortcomings of the compromise of 1820
  • The most important idea is that the Missouri Compromise did not deal with the issue at hand: the expansion of slaveholding power in the United States government.

    Short Answer Question 3

    Examples of responses to (a) that would earn the point:

  • The 13th-15th Amendments
  • The Reconstruction Acts
  • These black legislators in Louisiana were the result of Radical Reconstruction.

    Examples of responses to (b/c) that would earn the point:

  • Radical Republican proposed legislation (i.e. militarization proposed by Thaddeus Stevens, Reconstruction Act of 1867)
  • The development of the Ku Klux Klan
  • The Compromise of 1877
  • A discussion of the political and/or social support and backlash for black voting rights and legislative rights would be appropriate.

    About Allena Berry

    Allena Berry loves history; that should be known upfront. She loves it so much that she not only taught high school history and psychology after receiving her Master's degree at Stanford University, she is now studying how students learn history at Northwestern. That being said, she does not have a favorite historical time period (so don't bother asking). In addition to history, she enjoys writing, practicing yoga, and scouring Craigslist for her next DIY project or midcentury modern piece of furniture.


    Magoosh blog comment policy: To create the best experience for our readers, we will approve and respond to comments that are relevant to the article, general enough to be helpful to other students, concise, and well-written! :) If your comment was not approved, it likely did not adhere to these guidelines. If you are a Premium Magoosh student and would like more personalized service, you can use the Help tab on the Magoosh dashboard. Thanks!


    A man of war and the West, Andrew Jackson (not to be confused with Andrew Johnson – Jackson was never threatened with impeachment) and the period he’s known for, the Jacksonian Era, is bound to show up on the APUSH exam.

    Known for championing the common people (when they were white men), hating banks, supporting state’s rights while contradictorily expanding presidential power, and gaining so many enemies the backlash against him had enough force to create the modern two-party system, he’s not just one of the most important 19th century figures, he’s also one of the most complicated. So, what do you need to know for the exam, exactly?

    What did he do before he became President?

    Andrew Jackson was a war hero

    Even before he ran for president, he had accomplished some pretty impressive feats. Although he was an orphan at 14, he worked his way up to become a Supreme Court judge in Tennessee and fought in the war of 1812 as a major general. He also invaded Spanish Florida after putting down a rebellion in the First Seminole War, which means you can thank Jackson for the acquisition of the Sunshine State.

    An easy way to remember Jackson’s back-country roots, toughness and rough personality is to keep the nickname his troops gave him in mind, Old Hickory.

    Jackson gave birth to the two-party system in the New (Jacksonian) Democracy

    For better or worse, Andrew Jackson changed the face of American politics. Before he became president in 1824, there had only been one political party, but by the time he’d left office, his opponents had united their hate to form the Whig party. A year later Jackson and his followers officially created the Democratic Party in 1834, giving rise to the two party system. Who knew hate could be strong enough to forge the basis of a system that would last to the present day?

    Jackson garnered such a dislike for a lot of reasons, which you’ll be able to glimpse in the following points. If you’re asked on the APUSH exam how the two party system came about, make sure you know the following facts as well to back up your argument.

    Jackson’s election was a reflection of shifting social and political power

    Winning the presidency was more than a personal victory. It also demonstrated a transition in political power. Domination of politics by wealthy aristocrats was giving way to a more liberal democracy where common people (as long as they weren’t women, Native Americans or black) had a bigger say in politics. By 1828, most states had eliminated property requirements to vote. This meant more people could vote than ever before, and they voted for Jackson. He won a sweeping victory in the elections of 1828 and again in 1832. Supporters hailed his presidency as one for the ‘common man,’ although his opponents would dub it ‘mob rule.’

    While Jackson may have represented a broader social base, keep in mind that it didn’t include quite a lot of people. A 2001 question from the APUSH exam asked to what extent the Jacksonian Era really represented the common man. Knowing who was included and excluded (women, Native Americans or black) will help you develop a better argument.

    What did Jackson do as President?

    Jackson expanded presidential power in three key ways

    Knowing in what ways Jackson manipulate his power as president may be helpful if you come across a DBQ or short essay question relating to the era. In the past, the APUSH exam has asked about how the power of federal government has or hasn’t expanded over time or asked students to evaluate how the Jacksonian’s lived up to their beliefs. Knowing how Jackson used his presidential power may be helpful to answer questions like these.

    1. Spoils system

    When Jackson became president, he didn’t forget about the common people who helped him get there. Aside from simple gestures such as inviting the public to the White House ball after his inauguration, he also fired a lot of people (over 900) to make room for those who’d helped him get into the oval office creating the patronage or spoils system that lasted until the 1900s.

    2. Kitchen Cabinet

    Those who showed him loyalty weren’t just rewarded with government positions; he also created the “kitchen” cabinet by consulting a group of men outside the official government cabinet advisors on political issues. He thought some politicians were out of touch with the real world, and valued the opinions of everyday people. In fact, after the Eaton Affair, sometimes referred to as the Petticoat Affair, Jackson asked his cabinet members to resign to make room for more loyal advisors, but still kept a kitchen cabinet on the side.

    3. Use of Veto

    His heavy handedness in selecting who worked in the white house wasn’t the only way he expanded power. He also used his power to veto liberally, vetoing more bills than all his predecessors combined.

    He used his veto to vote down a bill to renew the charter for the Bank of the United States, which Jackson hated with such a passion he is often quoted as saying it “makes the rich richer and the potent more powerful.” His veto even went against the Supreme Court’s decision in McCulloch vs. Maryland, which had ruled the Bank Charter of the United States constitutional, actually destroying the bank completely by 1836.

    Jackson passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830

    Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, which allocated land west of the Mississippi for Indian reservations. The idea was the federal government would negotiate with the Native Americans to gain control over all the land in the southern states, in part because gold was found on Native American land in Georgia. Although many tribes contested this, and the Supreme Court even backed Native American rights in Worcester v. Georgia, Jackson favored their removal. Jackson chose not to enforce the Supreme Court decision, forcibly removing Native Americans in what came to be known as the Trail of Tears.

    Knowing how Native Americans were viewed and dealt with by the federal government can also help you build an argument and support for essays related to Native American policies.

    Jackson alienated the South by not fully reducing the Tariff of 1828, causing South Carolina to threaten secession

    This was another step that led to the alienation of the south, and the eventual decision to cede from the United States later on. If you’re asked about the causes that led up to the civil war on the APUSH exam, don’t be afraid to site this as an example.

    The Tariff of 1828, also known as the Tariff of Abominations in the south, increased tariffs on raw materials and duties by 45 percent. Many raw materials were made in the south, so when the Tariff, which was never meant to pass, actually did, there was a huge outcry.

    This led to an ongoing Nullification Crisis, where South Carolina tried to gain support to nullify the tariff. The Tariff of 1828 had been passed under John Quincy Adams, and those who had voted for Jackson in the south thought he would do away with it. To reach a compromise, Jackson passed the Tariff of 1832, which reduced the tariffs outlined in the original law. Not enough for South Carolina, they passed an ordinance declaring both tariffs to be unconstitutional and even began to prepare militarily to resist its implementation, even threatening to secede. This sticky situation was a foreshadowing of the secession that would occur 17 years later. Jackson reacted by passing the Force Bill, which gave him the authorization to use force to settle the issue, but simultaneously worked to pass the Tariff of 1833, which finally rectified the situation and averted further crisis.

    Jackson acquired the state of Texas from Mexico

    Andrew Jackson had always wanted to add Texas to the union, and even offered to buy the territory from Mexico in 1829. However, the offer was denied. However, when pro-slavery settlers in Texas gained independence themselves in 1836, and asked to be annexed by the United States, Jackson was hesitant to accept. Although he wanted the state, they had already legalized slavery, making accepting the state to the union a touchy issue, especially so close to elections. To kill two birds with one stone, he waited until the elections were over and his successor Martin Van Buren had secured his position as president to annex Texas as a slave state on his last day as President in 1837.

    Applying Jackson’s Legacy to the AP US History Exam

    Andrew Jackson or the policies and changes that took place under his presidency inevitably turn up on the APUSH exam every few years. Actually, over the last ten years, five AP US history exams have featured questions related to political policies that were implemented by Jackson and his followers.

    In 2014, one of the free response questions on the AP US historyexam directly asked about Andrew Jackson’s political party:

    Compare and contrast the Jacksonian Democratic Party and the Whig Party of the 1830’s and 1840’s.

    Focus on TWO of the following.

    The role of the federal government in the economy

    Social reform

    Westward expansion

    Let’s look at the economy and westward expansion.

    The Role of the Federal Government in the Economy

    Image Source : Wikimedia Common

    The Whigs believed in more protections and government regulations, as well as the power of congress, but the Jacksonians wanted less regulation and put more emphasis on state’s rights. Jackson’s goal was to destroy the Bank of the United States, and was eventually successful by using his power to veto to override congress.The Whigs had supported the bank. In terms of protective tariffs, the Whig party had initiated many as just another aspect of government regulation. Tariffs had been increasing ever since the end of the War of 1812. Against this type of governmental power, Jackson tried to reach a compromise on the overbearing Tariff of 1828 by reducing the Tariff in 1832, and again in 1833.

    Westward Expansion

    The Jacksonian Democrats favored rapid western expansion and advocated concepts like manifest destiny, while the Whig party was generally against this. When writing about westward expansion on an APUSH free response question, it’s essential to mention how Jackson and his democratic party sought to gain Texas. Also include the Indian Removal act in your response, which gave the United States further access to lands in already established territory, while simultaneously moving Native Americans to a distant location further in the West. Most Whig Party members were against the seemingly reckless westward expansion that continued to continue after Jackson’s Presidency when James K. Polk went to war with Mexico and eventually gained western territories, including what is now California, Nevada and Utah.

    Questions about westward expansion also showed up on the APUSH exam in 2012and 2010, asking how expansion led to sectional tensions between the North and South and about the political debate surrounding expansion, respectively.

    In 2004, a free response slightly different, but also related to western expansion asked students how effective political compromise had been in reducing sectional tensions from 1820 to 1861.

    Here, you’ll also need to know about the acquisition of Texas and the issue of slavery, but should also mention the Nullification Crisis, and how Jackson sought to reach a compromise by passing the Tariff of 1832, which was rejected by South Carolina. It seems that compromise was not totally effective, because even in 1832 South Carolina was threatening to secede from the union. However, this was tampered when Jackson finally appeased them by reducing the tariffs even further in 1833, averting a crisis.

    Andrew Jackson’s legacy is undeniable, which is why it is so often reflected on the AP US history exam. Knowing about Jackson and what he did will help you answer questions related to the Jacksonian Era and the Democratic Party he helped to create, as well as questions related to western and governmental expansion.

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