Andrew Jackson (March 15, 1767 – June 8, 1845) was the seventh President of the United States (1829–1837). Based in frontier Tennessee, Jackson was a politician and army general during the War of 1812 who defeated the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (1814) and the British at the Battle of New Orleans (1815).
A polarizing figure who dominated the Second Party System in the 1820s and 1830s, as president, he destroyed the national bank and relocated most Indian tribes from the Southeast to the west of the Mississippi River.
His enthusiastic followers created the modern Democratic Party. The 1830-1850 period later became known as the era of Jacksonian democracy.
Jackson was nicknamed "Old Hickory" because of his toughness and aggressive personality; he fought in duels, some fatal to his opponents. He was a rich slaveholder who appealed to the common men of the United States and fought politically against what he denounced as a closed, undemocratic aristocracy. He expanded the spoils system during his presidency to strengthen his political base.
Elected president in 1828, Jackson supported a small and limited federal government. He strengthened the power of the presidency, which he saw as a spokesman for the entire population, as opposed to Congressmen from a specific small district. He was supportive of states' rights, but during the Nullification Crisis, declared that states do not have the right to nullify federal laws.
He was opposed to the national bank. He vetoed the renewal of its charter and ensured its collapse.
Historians acknowledge his protection of popular democracy and individual liberty for United States citizens and criticize him for his support for slavery and for his role in Indian removal.
Jackson was born on March 15, 1767, to Andrew Jackson Sr. and Elizabeth Hutchinson. His parents were Scots-Irish immigrants who migrated to America in 1765.
Three weeks before his birth, Jackson's father died at the age of 29 in a tragic accident.
Jackson was 9 years old when the Revolutionary War broke out, and at the age of 13, he aided the local militia.
His eldest brother Hugh died from heat stroke in the Battle of Stono Ferry in 1779.
Later, he and his brother Robert were captured by the British and nearly starved while in captivity. During their captivity, Jackson refused to shine the boots of a British officer and was rewarded with a slash of a British saber that left scars on his left hand and head.
During their captivity, the two brothers contracted smallpox. Robert died on April 27, 1781, and Andrew was returned to his mother. When Andrew recovered, his mother volunteered to nurse the sick on board ships in Charleston, where there had been an outbreak of cholera. She would die of the disease in November of that year, leaving Jackson an orphan. He would go through the rest of his life hating the British.
Jackson had a scant legal education and was able to secure a position as a county lawyer on the frontier.
He grew in popularity in Tennessee and was elected as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1796. Tennessee achieved statehood a year later, and he would be elected as a Representative.
As he grew successful in politics, he also became a successful planter. For the standards of his time, he was considered a humane slave owner.
Jackson was appointed colonel of the Tennessee militia in 1801.
He successfully defeated the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814 and imposed severe terms in the Treaty with the Creeks.
Jackson's greatest military accomplishment came at the Battle of New Orleans when he decimated the British invasion force. After his victory, he enforced martial law.
In 1817, on the orders of James Monroe, Major General Andrew Jackson attacked the Seminole Indians. During the Seminole wars, Jackson successfully conquered the Florida territory.
Election of 1824
In 1824, the political scene was in disarray. James Monroe had been successfully labeled a bipartisan who managed to cross party lines with his cabinet and his politics. During his presidency, the Federalist Party faded, and he ran unchallenged for his second term. The result was the collapse of the Democratic-Republican caucus system, and the Presidency became more of a regional fight.
Five contenders fought for the office of President of the United States of America: John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, and William H. Crawford. With the exception of Henry Clay, all of these men served in James Monroe’s cabinet, and all had served brilliantly.
During the election, Calhoun dropped out of the race, leaving four contenders. Soon after, Crawford fell ill and had to leave the race, leaving three contenders. John Quincy had strong support in New England. No doubt, his father’s legacy aided him, but he was viewed as a brilliant legal mind as well as a brilliant diplomat. His life of public service to his country had given him the reputation of a true patriot.
Come election day, it was the popular Andrew Jackson who won the popular vote, but not enough of a majority in the electoral college to claim a victory. The election then fell to the House of Representatives, and Henry Clay, the odd man out who did not care for Andrew Jackson, cast the deciding vote in favor of John Quincy Adams.
Clay’s vote for Adams was based on a personal dislike for Andrew Jackson and similar views on domestic policies with John Quincy Adams. After the election, John Quincy appointed Henry Clay as his Secretary of State.
Andrew Jackson and his followers argued that the move wreaked political corruption. The election left a bad taste in the mouth of the many Jacksonian Democrats who took office in Congress.
This would cause great division throughout the Presidency of John Quincy Adams and would become a rallying cry that would eventually lead Andrew Jackson into the White House in 1828.
Election of 1828
Jackson resigned from the Senate in 1825 to begin campaigning for the 1828 elections. He attracted the support of former Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, New York native Martin Van Buren, and Thomas Ritchie. Together, the coalition executed an exceptional campaign against the incumbent John Quincy Adams, who had been struggling to get anything passed through Congress.
They revived the old Republican party that died out after James Monroe and renamed it the Democratic Party, thus founding the modern Democratic Party.
The coalition easily defeated John Quincy Adams for President of the United States.
While the victory came easy in the realm of political support, it did not come easy to Jackson in his personal life.
His wife, Rachel Jackson, was accused by the supporters of John Quincy Adams as a bigamist. While the accusation did have some merit, it had been many years prior and was irrelevant to the campaign. Rachel took it very personally, and her health suffered from it.
On December 22, 1828, Rachel died suddenly and was buried on Christmas Eve. She never saw him swear into office. Jackson took the loss hard and said that he would forgive those who attacked him throughout the campaign, but he would never forgive those who attacked his wife.
When Andrew Jackson took office, the national debt had been significantly decreased due to the frugal work of John Quincy Adams. Jackson continued the work of Adams and paid off the entire national debt during his presidency.
This would be the only time in United States History that America would be debt-free. It did not last long. Shortly after Jackson left office, the Panic of 1837 sent the nation into a seven-year depression, which was caused by Jackson's letting the charter of the Second National Bank expire.
Andrew Jackson always believed that what happened to him in the election of 1824 was unjust. From that point on, he believed that the Electoral College should be abolished and that the vote should be based on the popular vote. He worked to pass an Amendment in Congress, but it was to no avail. It never came to pass, and America still uses the Electoral College today.
Andrew Jackson's Presidency is traditionally remembered for three important events and/or policies:
- The Bank War
- Nullification Crisis
- Indian Removal (Trail of Tears)
During the Bank War, Jackson's main focus was to rescind the Federal charter of the Second Bank of the United States. The Bank of the United States was begun by Alexander Hamilton during the Presidency of George Washington. It was somewhat controversial at the time as many Democratic-Republicans believed that it would lead to the federal government having too much power. Thomas Jefferson would not renew the charter during his Presidency, and James Madison then allowed the charter to expire.
However, Madison learned that the Bank of the United States was helpful, especially in times of war. The War of 1812 became increasingly difficult to finance, and after the war was over, Madison chartered the Second Bank of the United States.
Andrew Jackson believed in the same ideals as Thomas Jefferson in that he believed America should be an agricultural republic with most of the power derived from the individual states. Any threat of state power should be abolished, and he saw the Second Bank of the United States as a mechanism used to improve the lives of the elites in the Industrial world at the expense of the farmers and laborers of the agricultural world.
The process for rescinding the Second Bank of the United States was long but was eventually realized when Jackson vetoed its re-charter in 1832 and withdrew U.S. funds from it in 1833.
This ideological move caused devastating effects throughout the U.S. economy and would become a direct result of the Panic of 1837.
The Nullification Crisis was one of the most divisive portions of Andrew Jackson's Presidency and became one of the first signs of state disunion in America. While it became more of an issue over secession, the issue arose over tariffs. Critics alleged that high tariffs on imports of common manufactured goods made in Europe made those goods more expensive than ones from the northern U.S., raising the prices paid by planters in the South. Southern politicians argued that tariffs benefited northern industrialists at the expense of southern farmers. Jackson sympathized with the southern farmers on this issue but disagreed entirely with how they went about solving it.
One of the leaders of the Nullification Crisis was John C. Calhoun from South Carolina. Calhoun argued that a state should be allowed to secede from the union when federal law did not serve the state's interest. Andrew Jackson vehemently disagreed and believed that the union was more important than state rights. He stated, "The Constitution... forms a government, not a league... To say that any State may at pleasure secede from the Union is to say that the United States is not a nation." Calhoun and the people of South Carolina continued to pursue secession.
Andrew Jackson then asked Congress to pass the Force Bill, which would allow him to send troops into South Carolina to enforce federal law. They were reluctant to do so until Henry Clay suggested the Compromise Tariff alongside the Force Bill.
Congress passed them both, and Jackson signed them both into law.
South Carolina backed off their claim to secede. However, Andrew Jackson saw the precursors of the Civil War when he said, "The tariff was only the pretext, and disunion and southern confederacy the real object. The next pretext will be the negro, or slavery question." Jackson would be proved right, and it would be after his death that South Carolina would secede again using a different topic to apply the same argument. It would lead to the Civil War, which Abraham Lincoln would preside over.
The most famous act of Andrew Jackson's Presidency was his legislation on Indian removal.
Jackson had always been a strong supporter of expansion and had personally led troops into battle against various Indian tribes. The most famous event of Indian removal happened with the Trail of Tears, in which the Cherokee Indians presented their case before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall presided over the case Worcester v. Georgia. During the case, the Cherokee Nation argued that Georgia did not have the right to impose its laws on Cherokee tribal lands. John Marshall ruled in favor of the Cherokee Indians, to which Andrew Jackson allegedly said, "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!"
It is unknown if these words ever came out of Jackson's mouth, but his actions proved the words to be true. Jackson removed over 45,000 Native Americans from their homeland, and his successor, Martin Van Buren, ordered 7,000 troops to remove the Cherokees from Georgia.
Many historians say that the removal of the Indians is one of the saddest portions of American History. However, most Americans wanted these policies in place and supported the removal of Indians to the west.
After his presidency, Jackson returned to his plantation in Tennessee.
Due to the Panic of 1837, he was unpopular in his retirement.
He always remained a supporter of the union and opposed a southern confederacy.
He died on June 8, 1845, of chronic tuberculosis, dropsy, and heart failure.
He left everything to his adoptive son, Andrew Jackson Jr.