Andrew Jackson And The Jacksonian Era
“If the union is once severed, the line of separation will grow wider and wider, and the controversies which are now debated and settled in the halls of legislation will be tried in the fields of battle and determined by the sword.”
- Andrew Jackson (Farewell Speech)
Throughout the history of American politics, many presidents have faced criticism and disparagement during and even decades after their presidency. Many decisions made throughout Andrew Jackson’s presidency have labeled him as: uneducated, genocidal, irrational and ill-tempered. Historical events such as the Indian Removal Act of 1830, “The Trail of Tears”, the Nullification Act, the Compromise Tariff and the Force Bill, and the “Bank War” are all both positive and negative marks on American history and all marked by Andrew Jackson. An unknown except for his military accomplishments, he began his political career as a man’s man with an unknown past, but who was Andrew Jackson?
The son of Andrew Jackson Sr. and Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson, Andrew Jackson was born March 15, 1767, in the Waxhaw settlement in South Carolina. His father, a frontiersman, was an Irish immigrant and his mother “was a woman so pious that she wanted her son to become a Presbyterian minister”. Andrew’s father passed away two weeks prior to his birth. Not very focused on his scholastic career and at the age of 13, during the American Revolution, Jackson was an orderly to Col. Richard Davie. That was the first of Andrew Jackson’s military experience which would later lead to a very successful military career. In the meantime, Andrew had no problem finding trouble to get into. After his mother died of cholera in 1781, he went through a bit of a wild streak and spent his small inheritance at bars and on gambling. Andrew worked a couple of jobs, school teaching and the saddler’s trade, before he studied law at a law office in Salisbury, N.C. He then got his license to practice law and began to practice law as a public prosecutor for the western district of North Carolina, which later became Tennessee. Jackson made a bad business decision that would put him in major debt and would lead to his resentment towards creditors and banks. He was appointed attorney general in 1790 and in 1796 Andrew Jackson was elected a seat in the House of Representatives for the newly admitted state of Tennessee and a senator the next year.
Jackson’s career in the military would have as much of an impact, if not more, on his reputation and pre-presidential election notoriety than his success as a lawyer and political standing in Tennessee. General Andrew Jackson subdued the Creek Indians in Alabama. In the War of 1812, Jackson would successfully defend New Orleans from the British military by defeating them in the Battle of New Orleans. After leaving the military and returning, Jackson would subdue the Seminole Indians in Florida. While the defeat against the British in the Battle of New Orleans would make him a national hero of the time, the military operations against native American tribes would later on give him the reputation of an “Indian hater”.
Amidst his advancement in careers, Andrew Jackson would meet and marry Rachel Donelson Robards, a once married and at the time still married woman. Rachel’s previous marriage was not a legal divorce. Jackson and Robards would have a second and legal wedding ceremony after the divorce was final. Rachel would support him through his nomination and loss of Jackson’s first presidential election against John Quincy Adams. The election was a close race. Adams won when the House of Representatives voted in his favor. Henry Clay became the Vice President, which brought up suspicion that Clay had given his votes to Adams in order to get the role of Vice President. This infuriated Jackson, who made accusations that it was a “corrupt bargain”. Jackson ran an amazing campaign for the next election. Jackson would win over the voters by going on campaign trails, drinking with and socializing with the voters gave them the sense that they knew Jackson and he would be a president for the people. Towards the end of the campaign, information about Rachel Jackson’s issues with her first marriage and not being fully divorced at the time of her first marriage “leaked out” in an unsuccessful attempt to tarnish Jackson’s reputation. This information did not stop Jackson from winning the election, but Rachel Jackson became ill and suffered from a heart attack and died prior to Jackson being elected as president. Andrew Jackson became the 7th president of the United States and the first Democratic president of the United States a widowed man.
It is easy to see that Jackson had lived a life, up to this point, that none would claim was an easy life. Jackson would face several major decisions that would shape our country into what it is today. The Nullification Act would be passed, which supported states’ rights. When the act was taken advantage of by South Carolina, the first state to succeed from the union leading to the Civil War, Jackson passed the Force Bill. The Force Bill was passed to give the president the power to use military force, in this case, on states attempting to separate themselves from the union.
The biggest issue and probably the most controversial was the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Native Americans were an obstacle for land hungry white settlers. After working against and sometimes alongside native American tribes during his military service, Andrew Jackson had a good understanding of, not a hatred for, the native Americans. Jackson’s actions were to try to protect the native Americans and get them their own land so they could thrive. Jackson went on to take on the National Bank. After dealing with major loss and a large debt of his own, he fought against there being a national bank. Jackson probably felt that the government didn’t need to assist people into debt. Jackson ran in his second election with the banks being a major one of his issues. Jackson stated “The bank is trying to kill me, but I will kill it” Jackson succeeded in killing the bank. Jackson Also succeeded in clearing our nation’s national debt, by using money brought in through tariffs that were so largely disputed.
Andrew Jackson served two terms as president and there were rumors of him running for a third, but he retired to his home Hermitage in Tennessee. He supported his friend and Vice President Martin Van Buren as he ran for election and was at his inauguration when Van Buren won and took over Jackson’s position as the next President.
It is easy to see all the negative aspects of the decisions made by Jackson when in office but try to imagine what America would be like today if Jackson hadn’t made those choices. Jackson used his own life experiences to protect Americans from suffering the same consequences he suffered. Being in the middle of battles between white settlers and native Americans, he saw how the native Americans were suffering and their population was on a path towards extinction. Jackson knew that the split in the union would lead to a civil war. That is why he believed so strongly in protecting the union at all costs. Andrew Jackson might remain a mystery to some, but I have concluded that Andrew Jackson was misunderstood by many. I feel what he was lacking in formal education, he made up for in wisdom. Jackson had an insight to the dangers that could lie ahead for America and his actions were to prevent those dangers from occurring. Andrew Jackson to this day is highly criticized for some of his actions, but I think that Andrew Jackson was a great president that made some difficult decisions that seemed a bit cruel and harsh from an outside perspective but needed to be made.
- “Andrew Jackson” Historic world Leaders, edited by Anne Commire, Gale 1994 Gale in Context: Biography https:link.gale.com/apps/docs/K161000302
- “Andrew Jackson.”.Encyclopedia of World Biography Online Gale, a Cengage Company. Gale, December 21, 2017. https://www.cengage.com/gale-ala/.
- Lohnes, Kate. “Battle of New Orleans.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 6 Nov. 2019, https://www.britannica.com/.
- Bash, Norma.“Marriage, Morals, and Politics in the Election of 1828” The Journal of American History. Vol. 80, no. 3 (Dec 1993) pp. 890-918
- Prusha, F.P. “Andrew Jackson’s Indian Policy: A Reassessment” The Journal of American History. Vol. 56 No. 3 (Dec. 1969) pp.527-529
- Jackson, Andrew. “Andrew Jackson’s Message to Congress” December 6, 1830. Government Public Domain 1/1970
- “Bank War” Encyclopedia Britannica. (Sept. 2017) https://www.britannica.com/event/bank-war
- “National Debt” History.com editors. (May 2018) https://www. https://www.history.com/topics/us-government/national-debt