President Andrew Jackson Essay
Jackson, Andrew, the seventh President of the United States. His election in 1828 marked the end of the aristocratic tradition in the Presidency that had prevailed since the nation’s beginning. Jackson, a self- made man, frontiersman, and military hero, was the first President from west of the Appalachians. He was identified with a new kind of democracy—a democracy embracing the entire population rather than only those who were wealthy or owned property.
Jackson was neither an original nor a profound thinker, and did not always follow or understand the principles of the “Jacksonian democracy” that bears his name. However, he did know how to interpret the aspirations and viewpoints of the common people who were clamoring for a voice in government. Jackson was skilled and astute politician, who molded a faction, composed mostly of Southerners and Westerners into the Democratic Party. Although politically conservative and a believer in states’ rights, he expanded the powers of the Presidency and was fervently committed to the preservation of the Union.
Jackson had a domineering personality. He was proud, ambitious, and aggressive. Throughout his life, his temper frequently caused him to act hastily or injudiciously, and he was often swayed by personal prejudices. However, his fearlessness, honesty, and loyalty endeared him to wide sections of the populace. His influence was felt well beyond his two terms, and the period from his election to that of Abraham Lincoln is often referred to as the “Age of Jackson”.
Jackson was born March 15, 1767, in a backwoods settlement called Waxhaw on the border between North Carolina and South Carolina. Jackson said South Carolina was his birth place, but there has been much controversy on the subject. His father, mother, and two brothers had arrived there in 1765 from Northern Ireland. His parents had been linen drapers. His father, for whom he was named, died in an accident shortly before Andrew was born.
Jackson had attended school for a while before British troops began operating in the Carolinas during the Revolutionary War. Though only 13, Jackson joined a local militia company along with his brother Robert in 1780. Their older brother Hugh had already been killed in the war. After a skirmish with the British in 1781, Jackson and his brother were captured. When a British officer ordered Andrew to polish his boots, he refused and demanded to be treated as a prisoner of war. The angry officer slashed Jackson with his saber, leaving him scarred for life
The brothers were sent to a military prison, where they contracted smallpox. Their mother won their release. But Robert died on the way home. Not long after, Mrs. Jackson died while nursing two of Andrew’s cousins, who were soldiers imprisoned by the British. Andrew was left alone at the age of 14.
Jackson lived at the Hermitage managing his business holdings until the outbreak of the War of 1812, when he volunteered his services and was commissioned a major general of U.S Volunteers. In 1813 Creek Indians massacred the inhabitants of Fort Mims in what is now Alabama. In 1814, Jackson led his troops against the Creeks, routing them at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. His endurance in the field won Jackson the nickname “Old Hickory,” after one of his soldiers remarked that he was “tough as hickory”.
Shortly after being commissioned a major general in the United States Army, Jackson expelled the British from Florida. Then with a motley force that included Jean Lafitte’s pirates, he repulsed a British attack on New Orleans. Ironically, the peace treaty had been signed before the battle was fought on January 8, 1815. Jackson’s victory made him a national hero. In 1818, invades Florida and defeats Seminole Indians. In 1821, was appointed military governor of Florida while also resigned within the year. 1823, he was again elected to U.S Senate from Tennessee and resigns in 1825. Then on 1828 he was elected President of the United States.
First Administration (1829- 1833)
Jackson chose his cabinet from among his and Calhoun’s supporters without much regard for their ability. He made little use of the cabinet, except for Secretary of State Martin Van Buren and Secretary of War John. H. Eaton. Instead, he often sought advice from personal friends, who came to be called his “kitchen cabinet”. Jackson’s replacement of his incumbent officeholders with his friends and allies gave rise to the term “spoils system”. Jackson did not originate this practice, however, but merely carried it out on a larger scale than previous Presidents had done. During his eight years as President, Jackson replaced about one- fifth of all federal officeholders.
The first crisis of the new administration was caused by the so- called “petticoat war”. The wives of other cabinet members snubbed Margaret O’ Neal Eaton, wife of Secretary of war Eaton, because she had reputedly had an affair with Eaton while married to her fist husband and because she was a travernkeeper’s daughter. Jackson, remembering the attacks against his wife, angrily came to Mrs. Eaton’s defense. Cabinet members took sides over the issue, with Van Buren aligning himself with Jackson and Eaton in opposition to Calhoun and his supporters. This led to political conflict that continued until Jackson reorganized the cabinet in 1831.
The protective tariff, opposed by the agricultural South, was a major issued during Jackson’s first term. Vice President Calhoun contended that South Carolina should nullify or set aside the tariff of 1828, the Tariff of Abominations, because it violated states’ rights. The South Carolina nullificationists were confident that Jackson, a Southerner, would support them, but he was a moderate on the tariff issue, holding some protection necessary. He also believed nullification would lead to dissolution of the Union.
In July, 1838, Congress passed a more moderate tariff bill, but it was still considered oppressive by South Carolina. In November, a state convention declared the law null and void. Jackson reacted by sending a warship and revenue cutters to Charleston, warning that “Disunion by armed force is treason.’ The crisis was resolved when Henry Clay secured passage of a compromise tariff in 1833. This bill satisfied South Carolina, which then repealed the nullification ordinance.
Jackson’s early administration had been marked by intense rivalry between Vice President Calhoun and Secretary of State Van Buren, both of whom hoped to succeed him. As Jackson’s first term ended, it became apparent that Van Buren had the upper hand. Calhoun, at odds with the President on nullification, resigned the Vice Presidency in 1832.
Jackson had long disapproved of the Bank of the United States, which he regarded as an agency of monopoly and special privilege. When it was proposed to renew the bank’s charter in 1832, four years before its expiration date, he vetoed the measure. Henry Clay made this veto an issue in the 1832 Presidential campaign. The voters supported Jackson, however, and he defeated Clay by 219 electoral votes to 49 and a popular vote of 687, 502 to 530, 189.
Van Buren was Jackson’s running mate on the ticker of the Democratic Party. This was the first election in which all candidates were nominated by national conventions.
Reassured by his heavy election majority in 1832, Jackson indicated early in his second term that the Bank of the United States would no longer be a depository for public funds and ordered them deposited instead in certain state banks called pet banks by Jackson’s enemies. This act eventually destroyed the Bank of the United States, but it also contributed to a financial panic.
In 1835, for the first time in the history of the nation, the national debt was paid off. The government had a surplus of $37,000,000, much of it deposited in the “pet” banks. The following year Congress voted to divide the federal surplus among the states. The “pet” banks faced a crisis when the government began to withdraw its funds, leading to the financial and commercial panic of 1837, which occurred after Jackson had left office. Another cause of this panic was Jackson’s Specie Circular of 1836, which ordered that payment for government land be made in gold or silver rather than in paper money.
This act was intended to curb land speculation but hurt the Western banks. In foreign relations, Jackson faced few major problems. Relations with Great Britain went smoothly. A long- standing claim against France for damages to American shipping during the Napoleonic Wars caused a crisis in 1835-36 but was settled favorably. Texas won independence from Mexico in 1836, but the United States was not yet involved in its affairs, although Jackson recognized its independence on his last day of office.
Jackson was a few days short of 70 years of age when he left office-the oldest President until Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was more popular when he retired than when he took office as President. Although in ill health, he remained active in party affairs. An opposition party-the Whigs—had been formed during his Presidency, and from that point on the two- party system remained in effect. Jackson died on June 8, 1845.
Latner, R. B. The Presidency of Andrew Jackson (University of Georgia, 1979).
Remini, R.V. Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Empire, 1767-1821(Harper & Row, 1977).
Remini, R.V. Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Democracy, 1833- 1845(Harper & Row, 1984).
Sabin, Louis. Andrew Jackson: Frontier Patriot (Troll, 1985).
Schlesinger, A. M. The Age of Jackson (Little, Brown, 1945).
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