(March 15, 1767 – June 8, 1845) was an American soldier and statesman who served as the seventh president of the United States from 1829 to 1837. Before being elected to the presidency, Jackson gained fame as a general in the United States Army and served in both houses of Congress. As president, Jackson sought to advance the rights of the “common man” against a “corrupt aristocracy” and to preserve the Union.
Born in the colonial Carolinas to a Scotch-Irish family in the decade before the American Revolutionary War, Jackson became a frontier lawyer and married Rachel Donelson Robards. He served briefly in the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate, representing Tennessee. After resigning, he served as a justice on the Tennessee Supreme Court from 1798 until 1804. Jackson purchased a property later known as The Hermitage, and became a wealthy, slaveowning planter. In 1801, he was appointed colonel of the Tennessee militia and was elected its commander the following year. He led troops during the Creek War of 1813–1814, winning the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. The subsequent Treaty of Fort Jackson required the Creek surrender of vast lands in present-day Alabama and Georgia. In the concurrent war against the British, Jackson’s victory in 1815 at the Battle of New Orleans made him a national hero. Jackson then led U.S. forces in the First Seminole War, which led to the annexation of Florida from Spain. Jackson briefly served as Florida’s first territorial governor before returning to the Senate. He ran for president in 1824, winning a plurality of the popular and electoral vote. As no candidate won an electoral majority, the House of Representatives elected John Quincy Adams in a contingent election. In reaction to the alleged “corrupt bargain” between Adams and Henry Clay and the ambitious agenda of President Adams, Jackson’s supporters founded the Democratic Party.
Jackson ran again in 1828, defeating Adams in a landslide. Jackson faced the threat of secession by South Carolina over what opponents called the “Tariff of Abominations.” The crisis was defused when the tariff was amended, and Jackson threatened the use of military force if South Carolina attempted to secede. In Congress, Henry Clay led the effort to reauthorize the Second Bank of the United States. Jackson, regarding the Bank as a corrupt institution, vetoed the renewal of its charter. After a lengthy struggle, Jackson and his allies thoroughly dismantled the Bank. In 1835, Jackson became the only president to completely pay off the national debt, fulfilling a longtime goal. His presidency marked the beginning of the ascendancy of the party “spoils system” in American politics. In 1830, Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, which forcibly relocated most members of the Native American tribes in the South to Indian Territory. The relocation process dispossessed the Indians and resulted in widespread death and disease. Jackson opposed the abolitionist movement, which grew stronger in his second term. In foreign affairs, Jackson’s administration concluded a “most favored nation” treaty with Great Britain, settled claims of damages against France from the Napoleonic Wars, and recognized the Republic of Texas. In January 1835, he survived the first assassination attempt on a sitting president.
In his retirement, Jackson remained active in Democratic Party politics, supporting the presidencies of Martin Van Buren and James K. Polk. Though fearful of its effects on the slavery debate, Jackson advocated the annexation of Texas, which was accomplished shortly before his death. Jackson has been widely revered in the United States as an advocate for democracy and the common man. Many of his actions proved divisive, garnering both fervent support and strong opposition from many in the country. His reputation has suffered since the 1970s, largely due to his role in Native American removal. Surveys of historians and scholars have ranked Jackson favorably among U.S. presidents.
Early life and education
Andrew Jackson was born on March 15, 1767 in the Waxhaws region of the Carolinas. His parents were Scots-Irish colonists Andrew and Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson, Presbyterians who had emigrated from present day Northern Ireland two years earlier. Jackson’s father was born in Carrickfergus, County Antrim, in current-day Northern Ireland, around 1738. Jackson’s parents lived in the village of Boneybefore, also in County Antrim. His paternal family line originated in Killingswold Grove, Yorkshire, England.
When they immigrated to North America in 1765, Jackson’s parents probably landed in Philadelphia. Most likely they traveled overland through the Appalachian Mountains to the Scots-Irish community in the Waxhaws, straddling the border between North and South Carolina. They brought two children from Ireland, Hugh (born 1763) and Robert (born 1764). Jackson’s father died in a logging accident while clearing land in February 1767 at the age of 29, three weeks before his son Andrew was born. Jackson, his mother, and his brothers lived with Jackson’s aunt and uncle in the Waxhaws region, and Jackson received schooling from two nearby priests.
Jackson’s exact birthplace is unclear because of a lack of knowledge of his mother’s actions immediately following her husband’s funeral. The area was so remote that the border between North and South Carolina had not been officially surveyed. In 1824, Jackson wrote a letter saying that he was born on the plantation of his uncle James Crawford in Lancaster County, South Carolina. Jackson may have claimed to be a South Carolinian because the state was considering nullification of the Tariff of 1824, which he opposed. In the mid-1850s, second-hand evidence indicated that he might have been born at a different uncle’s home in North Carolina. As a young boy, Jackson was easily offended and was considered something of a bully. He was, however, said to have taken a group of younger and weaker boys under his wing and been very kind to them.
Revolutionary War service
During the Revolutionary War, Jackson’s eldest brother, Hugh, died from heat exhaustion after the Battle of Stono Ferry on June 20, 1779. Anti-British sentiment intensified following the brutal Waxhaws Massacre on May 29, 1780. Jackson’s mother encouraged him and his elder brother Robert to attend the local militia drills. Soon, they began to help the militia as couriers. They served under Colonel William Richardson Davie at the Battle of Hanging Rock on August 6. Andrew and Robert were captured by the British in 1781 while staying at the home of the Crawford family. When Andrew refused to clean the boots of a British officer, the officer slashed at the youth with a sword, leaving him with scars on his left hand and head, as well as an intense hatred for the British. Robert also refused to do as commanded and was struck with the sword. The two brothers were held as prisoners, contracted smallpox, and nearly starved to death in captivity.
Later that year, their mother Elizabeth secured the brothers’ release. She then began to walk both boys back to their home in the Waxhaws, a distance of some 40 miles (64 km). Both were in very poor health. Robert, who was far worse, rode on the only horse that they had, while Andrew walked behind them. In the final two hours of the journey, a torrential downpour began which worsened the effects of the smallpox. Within two days of arriving back home, Robert was dead and Andrew in mortal danger. After nursing Andrew back to health, Elizabeth volunteered to nurse American prisoners of war on board two British ships in the Charleston harbor, where there had been an outbreak of cholera. In November, she died from the disease and was buried in an unmarked grave. Andrew became an orphan at age 14. He blamed the British personally for the loss of his brothers and mother.
Legal career and marriage
After the Revolutionary War, Jackson received a sporadic education in a local Waxhaw school. On bad terms with much of his extended family, he boarded with several different people. In 1781, he worked for a time as a saddle-maker, and eventually taught school. He apparently prospered in neither profession. In 1784, he left the Waxhaws region for Salisbury, North Carolina, where he studied law under attorney Spruce Macay. With the help of various lawyers, he was able to learn enough to qualify for the bar. In September 1787, Jackson was admitted to the North Carolina bar. Shortly thereafter, a friend helped him get appointed to a vacant prosecutor position in the Western District of North Carolina, which would later become the state of Tennessee. During his travel west, Jackson bought his first slave and in 1788, having been offended by fellow lawyer Waightstill Avery, fought his first duel. The duel ended with both men firing into the air, having made a secret agreement to do so before the engagement.
Jackson moved to the small frontier town of Nashville in 1788, where he lived as a boarder with Rachel Stockly Donelson, the widow of John Donelson. Here Jackson became acquainted with their daughter, Rachel Donelson Robards. The younger Rachel was in an unhappy marriage with Captain Lewis Robards; he was subject to fits of jealous rage. The two were separated in 1790. According to Jackson, he married Rachel after hearing that Robards had obtained a divorce. Her divorce had not been made final, making Rachel’s marriage to Jackson bigamous and therefore invalid. After the divorce was officially completed, Rachel and Jackson remarried in 1794. To complicate matters further, evidence shows that Rachel had been living with Jackson and referred to herself as Mrs. Jackson before the petition for divorce was ever made. It was not uncommon on the frontier for relationships to be formed and dissolved unofficially, as long as they were recognized by the community.
Land speculation and early public career
In 1794, Jackson formed a partnership with fellow lawyer John Overton, dealing in claims for land reserved by treaty for the Cherokee and Chickasaw. Like many of their contemporaries, they dealt in such claims although the land was in Indian country. Most of the transactions involved grants made under the ‘land grab’ act of 1783 that briefly opened Indian lands west of the Appalachians within North Carolina to claim by that state’s residents. He was one of the three original investors who founded Memphis, Tennessee, in 1819.
After moving to Nashville, Jackson became a protege of William Blount, a friend of the Donelsons and one of the most powerful men in the territory. Jackson became attorney general in 1791, and he won election as a delegate to the Tennessee constitutional convention in 1796. When Tennessee achieved statehood that year, he was elected its only U.S. Representative. He was a member of the Democratic-Republican Party, the dominant party in Tennessee. Jackson soon became associated with the more radical, pro-French and anti-British wing. He strongly opposed the Jay Treaty and criticized George Washington for allegedly removing Republicans from public office. Jackson joined several other Republican congressmen in voting against a resolution of thanks for Washington, a vote that would later haunt him when he sought the presidency. In 1797, the state legislature elected him as U.S. Senator. Jackson seldom participated in debate and found the job dissatisfying. He pronounced himself “disgusted with the administration” of President John Adams and resigned the following year without explanation. Upon returning home, with strong support from western Tennessee, he was elected to serve as a judge of the Tennessee Supreme Court at an annual salary of $600. Jackson’s service as a judge is generally viewed as a success and earned him a reputation for honesty and good decision making. Jackson resigned the judgeship in 1804. His official reason for resigning was ill health. He had been suffering financially from poor land ventures, and so it is also possible that he wanted to return full-time to his business interests.
After arriving in Tennessee, Jackson won the appointment of judge advocate of the Tennessee militia. In 1802, while serving on the Tennessee Supreme Court, he declared his candidacy for major general, or commander, of the Tennessee militia, a position voted on by the officers. At that time, most free men were members of the militia. The organizations, intended to be called up in case of conflict with Europeans or Indians, resembled large social clubs. Jackson saw it as a way to advance his stature. With strong support from western Tennessee, he tied with John Sevier with seventeen votes. Sevier was a popular Revolutionary War veteran and former governor, the recognized leader of politics in eastern Tennessee. On February 5, Governor Archibald Roane broke the tie in Jackson’s favor. Jackson had also presented Roane with evidence of land fraud against Sevier. Subsequently, in 1803, when Sevier announced his intention to regain the governorship, Roane released the evidence. Jackson then published a newspaper article accusing Sevier of fraud and bribery. Sevier insulted Jackson in public, and the two nearly fought a duel over the matter. Despite the charges leveled against Sevier, he defeated Roane, and continued to serve as governor until 1809.
Planting career and controversy
In addition to his legal and political career, Jackson prospered as planter, slave owner, and merchant. He built a home and the first general store in Gallatin, Tennessee, in 1803. The next year, he acquired the Hermitage, a 640-acre (259 ha) plantation in Davidson County, near Nashville. He later added 360 acres (146 ha) to the plantation, which eventually totaled 1,050 acres (425 ha). The primary crop was cotton, grown by slaves—Jackson began with nine, owned as many as 44 by 1820, and later up to 150, placing him among the planter elite. Jackson also co-owned with his son Andrew Jackson Jr. the Halcyon plantation in Coahoma County, Mississippi, which housed 51 slaves at the time of his death. Throughout his lifetime, Jackson may have owned as many as 300 slaves.
Men, women, and child slaves were owned by Jackson on three sections of the Hermitage plantation. Slaves lived in extended family units of between five and ten persons and were quartered in 400 square feet (37 m2) cabins made either of brick or logs. The size and quality of the Hermitage slave quarters exceeded the standards of his times. To help slaves acquire food, Jackson supplied them with guns, knives, and fishing equipment. At times he paid his slaves with monies and coins to trade in local markets. The Hermitage plantation was a profit-making enterprise. Jackson permitted slaves to be whipped to increase productivity or if he believed his slaves’ offenses were severe enough. At various times he posted advertisements for fugitive slaves who had escaped from his plantation. In one advertisement placed in the Tennessee Gazette in October 1804, Jackson offered “ten dollars extra, for every hundred lashes any person will give him, to the amount of three hundred.”
The controversy surrounding his marriage to Rachel remained a sore point for Jackson, who deeply resented attacks on his wife’s honor. By May 1806, Charles Dickinson, who, like Jackson, raced horses, had published an attack on Jackson in the local newspaper, and it resulted in a written challenge from Jackson to a duel. Since Dickinson was considered an expert shot, Jackson determined it would be best to let Dickinson turn and fire first, hoping that his aim might be spoiled in his quickness; Jackson would wait and take careful aim at Dickinson. Dickinson did fire first, hitting Jackson in the chest. The bullet that struck Jackson was so close to his heart that it could not be removed. Under the rules of dueling, Dickinson had to remain still as Jackson took aim and shot and killed him. Jackson’s behavior in the duel outraged men in Tennessee, who called it a brutal, cold-blooded killing and saddled Jackson with a reputation as a violent, vengeful man. He became a social outcast.
After the Sevier affair and the duel, Jackson was looking for a way to salvage his reputation. He chose to align himself with former vice president Aaron Burr. Burr’s political career ended after the killing of Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804; in 1805 he set out on a tour of what was then the western United States. Burr was extremely well received by the people of Tennessee, and stayed for five days at the Hermitage. Burr’s true intentions are not known with certainty. He seems to have been planning a military operation to conquer Spanish Florida and drive the Spanish from Texas. To many westerners like Jackson, the promise seemed enticing. Western American settlers had long held bitter feelings towards Spain due to territorial disputes and the persistent failure of the Spanish to keep Indians living on their lands from raiding American settlements. and by Spain’s disinterest in returning fugitive slaves. On October 4, 1806, Jackson addressed the Tennessee militia, declaring that the men should be “at a moment’s warning ready to march.” On the same day, he wrote to James Winchester, proclaiming that the United States “can conquer not only the Floridas [at that time there was an East Florida and a West Florida.], but all Spanish North America.” He continued:
I have a hope (Should there be a call) that at least, two thousand Volunteers can be lead into the field at a short notice—That number commanded by firm officers and men of enterprise—I think could look into Santafee and Maxico—give freedom and commerce to those provinces and establish peace, and a permanent barier against the inroads and attacks of forreign powers on our interior—which will be the case so long as Spain holds that large country on our borders.
Jackson agreed to provide boats and other provisions for the expedition. However, on November 10, he learned from a military captain that Burr’s plans apparently included seizure of New Orleans, then part of the Louisiana Territory of the United States, and incorporating it, along with lands won from the Spanish, into a new empire. He was further outraged when he learned from the same man of the involvement of Brigadier General James Wilkinson, whom he deeply disliked, in the plan. Jackson acted cautiously at first, but wrote letters to public officials, including President Thomas Jefferson, vaguely warning them about the scheme. In December, Jefferson, a political opponent of Burr, issued a proclamation declaring that a treasonous plot was underway in the West and calling for the arrest of the perpetrators. Jackson, safe from arrest because of his extensive paper trail, organized the militia. Burr was soon captured, and the men were sent home. Jackson traveled to Richmond, Virginia, to testify on Burr’s behalf in trial. The defense team decided against placing him on the witness stand, fearing his remarks were too provocative. Burr was acquitted of treason, despite Jefferson’s efforts to have him convicted. Jackson endorsed James Monroe for president in 1808 against James Madison. The latter was part of the Jeffersonian wing of the Democratic-Republican Party. Jackson lived relatively quietly at the Hermitage in the years after the Burr trial, eventually accumulating 640 acres of land.
War of 1812
Creek campaign and treaty
Leading up to 1812, the United States found itself increasingly drawn into international conflict. Formal hostilities with Spain or France never materialized, but tensions with Britain increased for a number of reasons. Among these was the desire of many Americans for more land, particularly British Canada and Florida, the latter still controlled by Spain, Britain’s European ally. On June 18, 1812, Congress officially declared war on the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, beginning the War of 1812. Jackson responded enthusiastically, sending a letter to Washington offering 2,500 volunteers. However, the men were not called up for many months. Biographer Robert V. Remini claims that Jackson saw the apparent slight as payback by the Madison administration for his support of Burr and Monroe. Meanwhile, the United States military repeatedly suffered devastating defeats on the battlefield.
On January 10, 1813, Jackson led an army of 2,071 volunteers to New Orleans to defend the region against British and Native American attacks. He had been instructed to serve under General Wilkinson, who commanded Federal forces in New Orleans. Lacking adequate provisions, Wilkinson ordered Jackson to halt in Natchez, then part of the Mississippi Territory, and await further orders. Jackson reluctantly obeyed. The newly appointed Secretary of War, John Armstrong Jr., sent a letter to Jackson dated February 6 ordering him to dismiss his forces and to turn over his supplies to Wilkinson. In reply to Armstrong on March 15, Jackson defended the character and readiness of his men, and promised to turn over his supplies. He also promised, instead of dismissing the troops without provisions in Natchez, to march them back to Nashville. The march was filled with agony. Many of the men had fallen ill. Jackson and his officers turned over their horses to the sick. He paid for provisions for the men out of his own pocket. The soldiers began referring to their commander as “Hickory” because of his toughness, and Jackson became known as “Old Hickory.” The army arrived in Nashville within about a month. Jackson’s actions earned him respect and praise from the people of Tennessee. Jackson faced financial ruin, until his former aide-de-camp Thomas Benton persuaded Secretary Armstrong to order the army to pay the expenses Jackson had incurred. On June 14, Jackson served as a second in a duel on behalf of his junior officer William Carroll against Jesse Benton, the brother of Thomas. In September, Jackson and his top cavalry officer, Brigadier General John Coffee, were involved in a street brawl with the Benton brothers. Jackson was severely wounded by Jesse with a gunshot to the shoulder.
On August 30, a group of Muscogee (also known as Creek Indians) called the Red Sticks, so named for the color of their war paint, perpetrated the Fort Mims massacre. During the massacre, hundreds of white American settlers and non-Red Stick Creeks were slaughtered. The Red Sticks, led by chiefs Red Eagle and Peter McQueen, had broken away from the rest of the Creek Confederacy, which wanted peace with the United States. They were allied with Tecumseh, a Shawnee chief who had launched Tecumseh’s War against the United States, and who was fighting alongside the British. The resulting conflict became known as the Creek War.
Jackson, with 2,500 men, was ordered to crush the hostile Indians. On October 10, he set out on the expedition, his arm still in a sling from fighting the Bentons. Jackson established Fort Strother as a supply base. On November 3, Coffee defeated a band of Red Sticks at the Battle of Tallushatchee. Coming to the relief of friendly Creeks besieged by Red Sticks, Jackson won another decisive victory at the Battle of Talladega. In the winter, Jackson, encamped at Fort Strother, faced a severe shortage of troops due to the expiration of enlistments and chronic desertions. He sent Coffee with the cavalry (which abandoned him) back to Tennessee to secure more enlistments. Jackson decided to combine his force with that of the Georgia militia, and marched to meet the Georgia troops. From January 22–24, 1814, while on their way, the Tennessee militia and allied Muscogee were attacked by the Red Sticks at the Battles of Emuckfaw and Enotachopo Creek. Jackson’s troops repelled the attackers, but outnumbered, were forced to withdraw to Fort Strother. Jackson, now with over 2,000 troops, marched most of his army south to confront the Red Sticks at a fortress they had constructed at a bend in the Tallapoosa River. On March 27, enjoying an advantage of more than 2 to 1, he engaged them at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. An initial artillery barrage did little damage to the well-constructed fort. A subsequent Infantry charge, in addition to an assault by Coffee’s cavalry and diversions caused by the friendly Creeks, overwhelmed the Red Sticks.
The campaign ended three weeks later with Red Eagle’s surrender, although some Red Sticks such as McQueen fled to East Florida. On June 8, Jackson accepted a commission as brigadier general in the United States Army, and 10 days later became a major general, in command of the Seventh Military Division. Subsequently, Jackson, with Madison’s approval, imposed the Treaty of Fort Jackson. The treaty required the Muscogee, including those who had not joined the Red Sticks, to surrender 23 million acres (8,093,713 ha) of land to the United States. Most of the Creeks bitterly acquiesced. Though in ill-health from dysentery, Jackson turned his attention to defeating Spanish and British forces. Jackson accused the Spanish of arming the Red Sticks and of violating the terms of their neutrality by allowing British soldiers into the Floridas. The first charge was true, while the second ignored the fact that it was Jackson’s threats to invade Florida which had caused them to seek British protection. In the November 7 Battle of Pensacola, Jackson defeated British and Spanish forces in a short skirmish. The Spanish surrendered and the British fled. Weeks later, he learned that the British were planning an attack on New Orleans, which sat on the mouth of the Mississippi River and held immense strategic and commercial value. Jackson abandoned Pensacola to the Spanish, placed a force in Mobile, Alabama to guard against a possible invasion there, and rushed the rest of his force west to defend the city.
The Creeks coined their own name for Jackson, Jacksa Chula Harjo or “Jackson, old and fierce.”
Battle of New Orleans
After arriving in New Orleans on December 1, 1814, Jackson instituted martial law in the city, as he worried about the loyalty of the city’s Creole and Spanish inhabitants. At the same time, he formed an alliance with Jean Lafitte‘s smugglers, and formed military units consisting of African-Americans and Muscogees, in addition to recruiting volunteers in the city. Jackson received some criticism for paying white and non-white volunteers the same salary. These forces, along with U.S. Army regulars and volunteers from surrounding states, joined with Jackson’s force in defending New Orleans. The approaching British force, led by Admiral Alexander Cochrane and later General Edward Pakenham, consisted of over 10,000 soldiers, many of whom had served in the Napoleonic Wars. Jackson only had about 5,000 men, most of whom were inexperienced and poorly trained.
The British arrived on the east bank of the Mississippi River on the morning of December 23. That evening, Jackson attacked the British and temporarily drove them back. On January 8, 1815, the British launched a major frontal assault against Jackson’s defenses. An initial artillery barrage by the British did little damage to the well-constructed American defenses. Once the morning fog had cleared, the British launched a frontal assault, and their troops made easy targets for the Americans protected by their parapets. Despite managing to temporarily drive back the American right flank, the overall attack ended in disaster. For the battle on January 8, Jackson admitted to only 71 total casualties. Of these, 13 men were killed, 39 wounded, and 19 missing or captured. The British admitted 2,037 casualties. Of these, 291 men were killed (including Pakenham), 1,262 wounded, and 484 missing or captured. After the battle, the British retreated from the area, and open hostilities ended shortly thereafter when word spread that the Treaty of Ghent had been signed in Europe that December. Coming in the waning days of the war, Jackson’s victory made him a national hero, as the country celebrated the end of what many called the “Second American Revolution” against the British. By a Congressional resolution on February 27, 1815, Jackson was given the Thanks of Congress and awarded a Congressional Gold Medal.
Alexis de Tocqueville (“underwhelmed” by Jackson according to a 2001 commentator) later wrote in Democracy in America that Jackson “was raised to the Presidency, and has been maintained there, solely by the recollection of a victory which he gained, twenty years ago, under the walls of New Orleans.” Some have claimed that, because the war was already ended by the preliminary signing of the Treaty of Ghent, Jackson’s victory at New Orleans was without importance aside from making him a celebrated figure. However, the Spanish, who had sold the Louisiana Territory to France, disputed France’s right to sell it to the United States through the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Had the British defeated Jackson at New Orleans, they might have held on to the territory or returned it to Spain. In April 1815, Spain, assuming that the British had won at New Orleans, asked for the return of the Louisiana Territory. Spanish representatives claimed to have been assured that they would receive the land back. Furthermore, Article IX of the Treaty of Ghent stipulated that the United States must return land taken from the Creeks to their original owners, essentially undoing the Treaty of Fort Jackson. Thanks to Jackson’s victory at New Orleans, the American government felt that it could safely ignore that provision and it kept the lands that Jackson had acquired.
Enforced martial law in New Orleans
Jackson, still not knowing for certain of the treaty’s signing, refused to lift martial law in the city. In March 1815, after U.S. District Court Judge Dominic A. Hall signed a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a Louisiana legislator whom Jackson had detained, Jackson ordered Hall’s arrest. State senator Louis Louaillier had written an anonymous piece in the New Orleans newspaper, challenging Jackson’s refusal to release the militia after the British ceded the field of battle. He too was put in jail. Jackson did not relent his campaign of suppressing dissent until after ordering the arrest of a Louisiana legislator, a federal judge, and a lawyer, and after the intervention of State Judge Joshua Lewis. Lewis was simultaneously serving under Jackson in the militia, and also had signed a writ of habeas corpus against Jackson, his commanding officer, seeking Judge Hall’s release.
Civilian authorities in New Orleans had reason to fear Jackson—he summarily ordered the execution of six members of the militia who had attempted to leave. Their deaths were not well publicized until the Coffin Handbills were circulated during his 1828 presidential campaign.
First Seminole War
Following the war, Jackson remained in command of troops on the southern border of the U.S. He conducted business from the Hermitage. He signed treaties with the Cherokee and Chickasaw which gained for the United States large parts of Tennessee and Kentucky. The treaty with the Chickasaw, finally agreed to later in the year, is commonly known as the Jackson Purchase.
Several Native American tribes, which became known as the Seminole, straddled the border between the U.S. and Florida. The Seminole, in alliance with escaped slaves, frequently raided Georgia settlements before retreating back into Florida. These skirmishes continually escalated, and the conflict is now known as the First Seminole War. In 1816, Jackson led a detachment into Florida which destroyed the Negro Fort, a community of escaped slaves and their descendants. Jackson was ordered by President Monroe in December 1817 to lead a campaign in Georgia against the Seminole and Creek Indians. Jackson was also charged with preventing Florida from becoming a refuge for runaway slaves, after Spain promised freedom to fugitive slaves. Critics later alleged that Jackson exceeded orders in his Florida actions. His orders from President Monroe were to “terminate the conflict.” Jackson believed the best way to do this was to seize Florida from Spain once and for all. Before departing, Jackson wrote to Monroe, “Let it be signified to me through any channel … that the possession of the Floridas would be desirable to the United States, and in sixty days it will be accomplished.”
Jackson invaded Florida on March 15, 1818, capturing Pensacola. He crushed Seminole and Spanish resistance in the region and captured two British agents, Robert Ambrister and Alexander Arbuthnot, who had been working with the Seminole. After a brief trial, Jackson executed both of the men, causing a diplomatic incident with the British. Jackson’s actions polarized Monroe’s cabinet, some of whom argued that Jackson had gone against Monroe’s orders and violated the Constitution, since the United States had not declared war upon Spain. He was defended by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. Adams thought that Jackson’s conquest of Florida would force Spain to finally sell the province, and Spain did indeed sell Florida to the United States in the Adams–Onís Treaty of 1819. A congressional investigation exonerated Jackson, but he was deeply angered by the criticism he received, particularly from Speaker of the House Henry Clay. After the ratification of the Adams–Onís Treaty in 1821, Jackson resigned from the army and briefly served as the territorial Governor of Florida before returning to Tennessee.
Election of 1824
In the spring of 1822, Jackson suffered a physical breakdown. His body had two bullets lodged in it, and he had grown exhausted from years of hard military campaigning. He regularly coughed up blood, and his entire body shook. Jackson feared that he was on the brink of death. After several months of rest, he recovered. During his convalescence, Jackson’s thoughts increasingly turned to national affairs. He obsessed over rampant corruption in the Monroe administration and grew to detest the Second Bank of the United States, blaming it for causing the Panic of 1819 by contracting credit.
Jackson turned down an offer to run for governor of his home state, but accepted John Overton’s plan to have the legislature nominate him for president. On July 22, 1822, he was officially nominated by the Tennessee legislature. Jackson had come to dislike Secretary of the Treasury William H. Crawford, who had been the most vocal critic of Jackson in Monroe’s cabinet, and he hoped to prevent Tennessee’s electoral votes from going to Crawford. Yet Jackson’s nomination garnered a welcoming response even outside of Tennessee, as many Americans appreciated Jackson’s attacks on banks. The Panic of 1819 had devastated the fortunes of many, and banks and politicians seen as supportive of banks were particularly unpopular. With his growing political viability, Jackson emerged as one of the five major presidential candidates, along with Crawford, Adams, Clay, and Secretary of War John C. Calhoun. During the Era of Good Feelings, the Federalist Party had faded away, and all five presidential contenders were members of the Democratic-Republican Party. Jackson’s campaign promoted him as a defender of the common people, as well as the one candidate who could rise above sectional divisions. On the major issues of the day, most prominently the tariff, Jackson expressed centrist beliefs, and opponents accused him of obfuscating his positions. At the forefront of Jackson’s campaign was combatting corruption. Jackson vowed to restore honesty in government and to scale back its excesses.
In 1823, Jackson reluctantly allowed his name to be placed in contention for one of Tennessee’s U.S. Senate seats. The move was independently orchestrated by his advisors William Berkeley Lewis and U.S. Senator John Eaton in order to defeat incumbent John Williams, who openly opposed his presidential candidacy. The legislature narrowly elected him. His return, after 24 years, 11 months, 3 days out of office, marks the second longest gap in service to the chamber in history. Although Jackson was reluctant to serve once more in the Senate, he was appointed chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs. Eaton wrote to Rachel that Jackson as a senator was “in harmony and good understanding with every body,” including Thomas Hart Benton, now a senator from Missouri, with whom Jackson had fought in 1813. Meanwhile, Jackson himself did little active campaigning for the presidency, as was customary. Eaton updated an already-written biography of him in preparation for the campaign and, along with others, wrote letters to newspapers praising Jackson’s record and past conduct.
Democratic-Republican presidential nominees had historically been chosen by informal Congressional nominating caucuses, but this method had become unpopular. In 1824, most of the Democratic-Republicans in Congress boycotted the caucus. Those who attended backed Crawford for president and Albert Gallatin for vice president. A Pennsylvania convention nominated Jackson for president a month later, stating that the irregular caucus ignored the “voice of the people” in the “vain hope that the American people might be thus deceived into a belief that he [Crawford] was the regular democratic candidate.” Gallatin criticized Jackson as “an honest man and the idol of the worshipers of military glory, but from incapacity, military habits, and habitual disregard of laws and constitutional provisions, altogether unfit for the office.” After Jackson won the Pennsylvania nomination, Calhoun dropped out of the presidential race and successfully sought the vice presidency instead.
In the presidential election, Jackson won a plurality of the electoral vote, taking several southern and western states as well as the mid-Atlantic states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He was the only candidate to win states outside of his regional base, as Adams dominated New England, Clay took three western states, and Crawford won Virginia and Georgia. Jackson won a plurality of the popular vote, taking 42 percent, although not all states held a popular vote for the presidency. He won 99 electoral votes, more than any other candidate, but still short of 131, which he needed for a true majority. With no candidate having won a majority of the electoral votes, the House of Representatives held a contingent election under the terms of the Twelfth Amendment. The amendment specifies that only the top three electoral vote-winners are eligible to be elected by the House, so Clay was eliminated from contention. Jackson believed that he was likely to win this contingent election, as Crawford and Adams lacked Jackson’s national appeal, and Crawford had suffered a debilitating stroke that made many doubt his physical fitness for the presidency. Clay, who as Speaker of the House presided over the election, saw Jackson as a dangerous demagogue who might topple the republic in favor of his own leadership. He threw his support behind Adams, who shared Clay’s support for federally funded internal improvements such as roads and canals. With Clay’s backing, Adams won the contingent election on the first ballot. Furious supporters of Jackson accused Clay and Adams of having reached a “corrupt bargain” after Adams appointed Clay as his Secretary of State. “So you see,” Jackson growled, “the Judas of the West has closed the contract and receive the thirty pieces of silver. [H]is end will be the same.” After the election, Jackson resigned his Senate seat and returned to Tennessee.
Election of 1828 and death of Rachel Jackson
Almost immediately, opposition arose to the Adams presidency. Jackson opposed Adams’s plan to involve the U.S. in Panama‘s quest for independence, writing, “The moment we engage in confederations, or alliances with any nation, we may from that time date the down fall of our republic.” Adams damaged his standing in his first annual message to Congress, when he argued that Congress must not give the world the impression “that we are palsied by the will of our constituents.”
Jackson was nominated for president by the Tennessee legislature in October 1825, more than three years before the 1828 election. It was the earliest such nomination in presidential history, and it attested to the fact that Jackson’s supporters began the 1828 campaign almost as soon as the 1824 campaign ended. Adams’s presidency foundered, as his ambitious agenda faced defeat in a new era of mass politics. Critics led by Jackson attacked Adams’s policies as a dangerous expansion of Federal power. New York Senator Martin Van Buren, who had been a prominent supporter of Crawford in 1824, emerged as one of the strongest opponents of Adams’s policies, and he settled on Jackson as his preferred candidate in 1828. Van Buren was joined by Vice President Calhoun, who opposed much of Adams’s agenda on states’ rights grounds. Van Buren and other Jackson allies established numerous pro-Jackson newspapers and clubs around the country, while Jackson avoided campaigning but made himself available to visitors at his Hermitage plantation. In the election, Jackson won a commanding 56 percent of the popular vote and 68 percent of the electoral vote. The election marked the definitive end of the one-party Era of Good Feelings, as Jackson’s supporters coalesced into the Democratic Party and Adams’s followers became known as the National Republicans. In the large Scots-Irish community that was especially numerous in the rural South and Southwest, Jackson was a favorite.
The campaign was heavily personal. As was the custom at the time, neither candidate personally campaigned, but their political followers organized campaign events. Both candidates were rhetorically attacked in the press. Jackson was labelled a slave trader who bought and sold slaves and moved them about in defiance of higher standards of slaveholder behavior. A series of pamphlets known as the Coffin Handbills were published to attack Jackson, one of which revealed his order to execute soldiers at New Orleans. Another accused him of engaging in cannibalism by eating the bodies of American Indians killed in battle, while still another labeled his mother a “common prostitute” and stated that Jackson’s father was a “mulatto man.”
Rachel Jackson was also a frequent target of attacks, and was widely accused of bigamy, a reference to the controversial situation of her marriage with Jackson. Jackson’s campaigners fired back by claiming that while serving as Minister to Russia, Adams had procured a young girl to serve as a prostitute for Emperor Alexander I. They also stated that Adams had a billiard table in the White House and that he had charged the government for it.
Rachel had been under extreme stress during the election, and often struggled while Jackson was away. She began experiencing significant physical stress during the election season. Jackson described her symptoms as “excruciating pain in the left shoulder, arm, and breast.” After struggling for three days, Rachel finally died of a heart attack on December 22, 1828 three weeks after her husband’s victory in the election (which began on October 31 and ended on December 2) and 10 weeks before Jackson took office as president. A distraught Jackson had to be pulled from her so the undertaker could prepare the body. He felt that the abuse from Adams’s supporters had hastened her death and never forgave him. Rachel was buried at the Hermitage on Christmas Eve. “May God Almighty forgive her murderers,” Jackson swore at her funeral. “I never can.”
Jackson’s name has been associated with Jacksonian democracy or the shift and expansion of democracy with the passing of some political power from established elites to ordinary voters based in political parties. “The Age of Jackson” shaped the national agenda and American politics. Jackson’s philosophy as president was similar to that of Jefferson, advocating Republican values held by the Revolutionary generation. Jackson took a moral tone, with the belief that agrarian sympathies, and a limited view of states rights and the federal government, would produce less corruption. He feared that monied and business interests would corrupt republican values. When South Carolina opposed the tariff law, he took a strong line in favor of nationalism and against secession.
Jackson believed in the ability of the people to “arrive at right conclusions.” They had the right not only to elect but to “instruct their agents & representatives.” Office holders should either obey the popular will or resign. He rejected the view of a powerful and independent Supreme Court with binding decisions, arguing that “the Congress, the Executive, and the Court must each or itself be guided by its own opinions of the Constitution.” Jackson thought that Supreme Court justices should be made to stand for election, and believed in strict constructionism as the best way to ensure democratic rule. He called for term limits on presidents and the abolition of the Electoral College. Jackson “was far ahead of his times–and maybe even further than this country can ever achieve.”
Jackson departed from the Hermitage on January 19 and arrived in Washington on February 11. He then set about choosing his cabinet members. Jackson chose Van Buren as expected for Secretary of State, Eaton of Tennessee as Secretary of War, Samuel D. Ingham of Pennsylvania as Secretary of Treasury, John Branch of North Carolina as Secretary of Navy, John M. Berrien of Georgia as Attorney General, and William T. Barry of Kentucky as Postmaster General. Jackson’s first choice of cabinet proved to be unsuccessful, full of bitter partisanship and gossip. Jackson blamed Adams in part for what was said about Rachel during the campaign, and refused to meet him after arriving in Washington. Therefore, Adams chose not to attend the inauguration.
On March 4, 1829, Andrew Jackson became the first United States president-elect to take the oath of office on the East Portico of the U.S. Capitol. In his inaugural speech, Jackson promised to respect the sovereign powers of states and the constitutional limits of the presidency. He also promised to pursue “reform” by removing power from “unfaithful or incompetent hands.” At the conclusion of the ceremony, Jackson invited the public to the White House, where his supporters held a raucous party. Thousands of spectators overwhelmed the White House staff, and minor damage was caused to fixtures and furnishings. Jackson’s populism earned him the nickname “King Mob.”
Jackson devoted a considerable amount of his presidential time during his early years in office responding to what came to be known as the “Petticoat affair” or “Eaton affair.” Washington gossip circulated among Jackson’s cabinet members and their wives, including Calhoun’s wife Floride Calhoun, concerning Secretary of War Eaton and his wife Peggy Eaton. Salacious rumors held that Peggy, as a barmaid in her father’s tavern, had been sexually promiscuous or had even been a prostitute. Controversy also ensued because Peggy had married soon after her previous husband’s death, and it was alleged that she and her husband had engaged in an adulterous affair while her previous husband was still living. Petticoat politics emerged when the wives of cabinet members, led by Mrs. Calhoun, refused to socialize with the Eatons. Allowing a prostitute in the official family was unthinkable—but Jackson refused to believe the rumors, telling his Cabinet that “She is as chaste as a virgin!” Jackson believed that the dishonorable people were the rumormongers, who in essence questioned and dishonored Jackson himself by, in attempting to drive the Eatons out, daring to tell him who he could and could not have in his cabinet. Jackson was also reminded of the attacks that were made against his wife. These memories increased his dedication to defending Peggy Eaton.
Meanwhile, the cabinet wives insisted that the interests and honor of all American women was at stake. They believed a responsible woman should never accord a man sexual favors without the assurance that went with marriage. A woman who broke that code was dishonorable and unacceptable. Historian Daniel Walker Howe notes that this was the feminist spirit that in the next decade shaped the woman’s rights movement. Secretary of State Martin Van Buren, a widower, was already forming a coalition against Calhoun. He could now see his main chance to strike hard; he took the side of Jackson and Eaton.
In the spring of 1831, Jackson, at Van Buren’s suggestion, demanded the resignations of all the cabinet members except Barry. Van Buren himself resigned to avoid the appearance of bias. In 1832, Jackson nominated Van Buren to be Minister to Great Britain. Calhoun blocked the nomination with a tie-breaking vote against it, claiming the defeated nomination would “… kill [Van Buren], sir, kill dead. He will never kick, sir, never kick.” Van Buren continued to serve as an important adviser to Jackson and was placed on the ticket for vice president in the 1832 election, making him Jackson’s heir-apparent. The Petticoat affair led to the development of the Kitchen Cabinet. The Kitchen Cabinet emerged as an unofficial group of advisors to the president. Its existence was partially rooted in Jackson’s difficulties with his official cabinet, even after the purging.
Indian removal policy
Throughout his eight years in office, Jackson made about 70 treaties with Native American tribes both in the South and the Northwest. Jackson’s presidency marked a new era in Indian-Anglo American relations initiating a policy of Indian removal. Jackson himself sometimes participated in the treaty negotiating process with various Indian tribes, though other times he left the negotiations to his subordinates. The southern tribes included the Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, Seminole and the Cherokee. The northwest tribes include the Chippewa, Ottawa, and the Potawatomi.
Relations between Indians and Americans increasingly grew tense and sometimes violent as a result of territorial conflicts. Previous presidents had at times supported removal or attempts to “civilize” the Indians, but generally let the problem play itself out with minimal intervention. There had developed a growing popular and political movement to deal with the issue, and out of this policy to relocate certain Indian populations. Jackson, never known for timidity, became an advocate for this relocation policy in what many historians consider the most controversial aspect of his presidency.
In his First Annual Message to Congress, Jackson advocated land west of the Mississippi River be set aside for Indian tribes. On May 26, 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which Jackson signed into law two days later. The Act authorized the president to negotiate treaties to buy tribal lands in the east in exchange for lands farther west, outside of existing state borders. The act specifically pertained to the Five Civilized Tribes in the South, the conditions being that they could either move west or stay and obey state law, effectively relinquishing their sovereignty.
Jackson, Eaton, and General Coffee negotiated with the Chickasaw, who quickly agreed to move. Jackson put Eaton and Coffee in charge of negotiating with the Choctaw. Lacking Jackson’s skills at negotiation, they frequently bribed the chiefs in order to gain their submission. The tactics worked, and the chiefs agreed to move. The removal of the Choctaw took place in the winter of 1831 and 1832, and was wrought with misery and suffering. The Seminole, despite the signing of the Treaty of Payne’s Landing in 1832, refused to move. In December 1835, this dispute began the Second Seminole War. The war lasted over six years, finally ending in 1842. Members of the Creek Nation had signed the Treaty of Cusseta in 1832, allowing the Creek to either sell or retain their land. Conflict later erupted between the Creek who remained and the white settlers, leading to a second Creek War. A common complaint amongst the tribes was that the men who had signed the treaties did not represent the whole tribe.
The state of Georgia became involved in a contentious dispute with the Cherokee, culminating in the 1832 Supreme Court decision in Worcester v. Georgia. Chief Justice John Marshall, writing for the court, ruled that Georgia could not forbid whites from entering tribal lands, as it had attempted to do with two missionaries supposedly stirring up resistance amongst the tribespeople. Jackson is frequently attributed the following response: “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.” The quote, apparently indicating Jackson’s dismissive view of the courts, was attributed to Jackson by Horace Greeley, who cited as his source Representative George N. Briggs. Remini argues that Jackson did not say it because, while it “certainly sounds like Jackson…[t]here was nothing for him to enforce.” This is because a writ of habeas corpus had never been issued for the missionaries. The Court also did not ask federal marshals to carry out the decision, as had become standard.
A group of Cherokees led by John Ridge negotiated the Treaty of New Echota. Ridge was not a widely recognized leader of the Cherokee, and this document was rejected by some as illegitimate. Another faction, led by John Ross, unsuccessfully petitioned to protest the proposed removal. The Cherokee largely considered themselves independent, and not subject to the laws of the United States or Georgia. The treaty was enforced by Jackson’s successor, Van Buren. Subsequently, as many as 4,000 out of 18,000 Cherokees died on the “Trail of Tears” in 1838. More than 45,000 American Indians were relocated to the West during Jackson’s administration, though a few Cherokees walked back afterwards or migrated to the high Smoky Mountains. The Black Hawk War took place during Jackson’s presidency in 1832 after a group of Indians crossed into U.S. territory.
Reforms, rotation of offices, and spoils system
In an effort to purge the government of corruption, Jackson launched presidential investigations into all executive Cabinet offices and departments. He believed appointees should be hired on merit and withdrew many candidates he believed were lax in their handling of monies. He asked Congress to reform embezzlement laws, reduce fraudulent applications for federal pensions, revenue laws to prevent evasion of custom duties, and laws to improve government accounting. Jackson’s Postmaster General Barry resigned after a Congressional investigation into the postal service revealed mismanagement of mail services, collusion and favoritism in awarding lucrative contracts, as well as failure to audit accounts and supervise contract performances. Jackson replaced Barry with Treasury Auditor and prominent Kitchen Cabinet member Amos Kendall, who went on to implement much needed reforms in the Post Office Department.
Jackson repeatedly called for the abolition of the Electoral College by constitutional amendment in his annual messages to Congress as president. In his third annual message to Congress, he expressed the view “I have heretofore recommended amendments of the Federal Constitution giving the election of President and Vice-President to the people and limiting the service of the former to a single term. So important do I consider these changes in our fundamental law that I can not, in accordance with my sense of duty, omit to press them upon the consideration of a new Congress.”
Although he was unable to implement these goals, Jackson’s time in office did see a variety of other reforms. He supported an act in July 1836 that enabled widows of Revolutionary War soldiers who met certain criteria to receive their husband’s pensions. In 1836, Jackson established the ten-hour day in national shipyards.
Jackson enforced the Tenure of Office Act, signed by President Monroe in 1820, that limited appointed office tenure and authorized the president to remove and appoint political party associates. Jackson believed that a rotation in office was a democratic reform preventing hereditary officeholding and made civil service responsible to the popular will. Jackson declared that rotation of appointments in political office was “a leading principle in the republican creed.” Jackson noted, “In a country where offices are created solely for the benefit of the people no one man has any more intrinsic right to official station than another.” Jackson believed that rotating political appointments would prevent the development of a corrupt bureaucracy. The number of federal office holders removed by Jackson were exaggerated by his opponents; Jackson only rotated about 20% of federal office holders during his first term, some for dereliction of duty rather than political purposes. Jackson, nonetheless, used his presidential power to award loyal Democrats by granting them federal office appointments. Jackson’s approach incorporated patriotism for country as qualification for holding office. Having appointed a soldier who had lost his leg fighting on the battlefield to postmaster, Jackson stated, “[i]f he lost his leg fighting for his country, that is … enough for me.”
Jackson’s theory regarding rotation of office generated what would later be called the spoils system. The political realities of Washington sometimes forced Jackson to make partisan appointments despite his personal reservations. Supervision of bureaus and departments whose operations were outside of Washington (such as the New York Customs House; the Postal Service; the Departments of Navy and War; and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, whose budget had increased enormously in the previous two decades) proved to be difficult. Remini claims that because “friendship, politics, and geography constituted the President’s total criteria for appointments, most of his appointments were predictably substandard.”
In 1828, Congress had approved the “Tariff of Abominations“, which set the tariff at an historically high rate. Southern planters, who sold their cotton on the world market, strongly opposed this tariff, which they saw as favoring northern interests. The South now had to pay more for goods it did not produce locally; and other countries would have more difficulty affording southern cotton. The issue came to a head during Jackson’s presidency, resulting in the Nullification Crisis, in which South Carolina threatened disunion.
The South Carolina Exposition and Protest of 1828, secretly written by Calhoun, asserted that their state had the right to “nullify”—declare void—the tariff legislation of 1828. Although Jackson sympathized with the South in the tariff debate, he also vigorously supported a strong union, with effective powers for the central government. Jackson attempted to face down Calhoun over the issue, which developed into a bitter rivalry between the two men. One incident came at the April 13, 1830, Jefferson Day dinner, involving after-dinner toasts. Robert Hayne began by toasting to “The Union of the States, and the Sovereignty of the States.” Jackson then rose, and in a booming voice added “Our federal Union: It must be preserved!” – a clear challenge to Calhoun. Calhoun clarified his position by responding “The Union: Next to our Liberty, the most dear!”
In May 1830, Jackson discovered that Calhoun had asked President Monroe to censure Jackson for his invasion of Spanish Florida in 1818 while Calhoun was serving as Secretary of War. Calhoun’s and Jackson’s relationship deteriorated further. By February 1831, the break between Calhoun and Jackson was final. Responding to inaccurate press reports about the feud, Calhoun had published letters between him and Jackson detailing the conflict in the United States Telegraph. Jackson and Calhoun began an angry correspondence which lasted until Jackson stopped it in July. The Telegraph, edited by Duff Green, initially supported Jackson. After it sided with Calhoun on nullification, Jackson needed a new organ for the administration. He enlisted the help of longtime supporter Francis Preston Blair, who in November 1830 established a newspaper known as the Washington Globe, which from then on served as the primary mouthpiece of the Democratic Party.
Jackson supported a revision to tariff rates known as the Tariff of 1832. It was designed to placate the nullifiers by lowering tariff rates. Written by Treasury Secretary Louis McLane, the bill lowered duties from 45% to 27%. In May, Representative John Quincy Adams introduced a slightly revised version of the bill, which Jackson accepted. It passed Congress on July 9 and was signed by the president on July 14. The bill failed to satisfy extremists on either side. On November 24, the South Carolina legislature nullified both the Tariff of 1832 and the Tariff of 1828. In response, Jackson sent U.S. Navy warships to Charleston harbor, and threatened to hang any man who worked to support nullification or secession. On December 28, 1832, Calhoun resigned as vice president to become a U.S. Senator for South Carolina. This was part of a strategy whereby Calhoun, with less than three months remaining on his vice presidential term, would replace Robert Y. Hayne in the Senate, who would then become governor. Hayne had often struggled to defend nullification on the floor of the Senate, especially against fierce criticism from Senator Daniel Webster of Massachusetts.
In December 1832, Jackson issued a resounding proclamation against the “nullifiers,” stating that he considered “the power to annul a law of the United States, assumed by one State, incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which it was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed.” South Carolina, the president declared, stood on “the brink of insurrection and treason,” and he appealed to the people of the state to reassert their allegiance to that Union for which their ancestors had fought. Jackson also denied the right of secession: “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 are not a nation.” Jackson tended to personalize the controversy, frequently characterizing nullification as a conspiracy between disappointed and bitter men whose ambitions had been thwarted.
Jackson asked Congress to pass a “Force Bill” explicitly authorizing the use of military force to enforce the tariff. It was introduced by Senator Felix Grundy of Tennessee, and was quickly attacked by Calhoun as “military despotism.” At the same time, Calhoun and Clay began to work on a new compromise tariff. A bill sponsored by the administration had been introduced by Representative Gulian C. Verplanck of New York, but it lowered rates more sharply than Clay and other protectionists desired. Clay managed to get Calhoun to agree to a bill with higher rates in exchange for Clay’s opposition to Jackson’s military threats and, perhaps, with the hope that he could win some Southern votes in his next bid for the presidency. The Compromise Tariff passed on March 1, 1833. The Force Bill passed the same day. Calhoun, Clay, and several others marched out of the chamber in opposition, with the only dissenting vote coming from John Tyler of Virginia. The new tariff was opposed by Webster, who argued that it essentially surrendered to South Carolina’s demands. Jackson, despite his anger over the scrapping of the Verplanck bill and the new alliance between Clay and Calhoun, saw it as an efficient way to end the crisis. He signed both bills on March 2, starting with the Force Bill. The South Carolina Convention then met and rescinded its nullification ordinance, but in a final show of defiance, nullified the Force Bill. On May 1, Jackson wrote, “the tariff was only the pretext, and disunion and southern confederacy the real object. The next pretext will be the negro, or slavery question.”
Addressing the subject of foreign affairs in his First Annual Address to Congress, Jackson declared it to be his “settled purpose to ask nothing that is not clearly right and to submit to nothing that is wrong.”
When Jackson took office, spoliation claims, or compensation demands for the capture of American ships and sailors, dating from the Napoleonic era, caused strained relations between the U.S. and French governments. The French Navy had captured and sent American ships to Spanish ports while holding their crews captive forcing them to labor without any charges or judicial rules. According to Secretary of State Martin Van Buren, relations between the U.S. and France were “hopeless.” Jackson’s Minister to France, William C. Rives, through diplomacy was able to convince the French government to sign a reparations treaty on July 4, 1831, that would award the U.S. ₣ 25,000,000 ($5,000,000) in damages. The French government became delinquent in payment due to internal financial and political difficulties. The French king Louis Philippe I and his ministers blamed the French Chamber of Deputies. By 1834, the non-payment of reparations by the French government drew Jackson’s ire and he became impatient. In his December 1834 State of the Union address, Jackson sternly reprimanded the French government for non-payment, stating the federal government was “wholly disappointed” by the French, and demanded Congress authorize trade reprisals against France. Feeling insulted by Jackson’s words, the French people began pressuring their government not to pay the indemnity until Jackson had apologized for his remarks. In his December 1835 State of the Union Address, Jackson refused to apologize, stating he had a good opinion of the French people and his intentions were peaceful. Jackson described in lengthy and minute detail the history of events surrounding the treaty and his belief that the French government was purposely stalling payment. The French accepted Jackson’s statements as sincere and in February 1836, reparations were paid.
In addition to France, the Jackson administration successfully settled spoliation claims with Denmark, Portugal, and Spain. Jackson’s state department was active and successful at making trade agreements with Russia, Spain, Turkey, Great Britain, and Siam. Under the treaty of Great Britain, American trade was reopened in the West Indies. The trade agreement with Siam was America’s first treaty between the United States and an Asiatic country. As a result, American exports increased 75% while imports increased 250%.
Jackson’s attempt to purchase Texas from Mexico for $5,000,000 failed. The chargé d’affaires in Mexico, Colonel Anthony Butler, suggested that the U.S. take Texas over militarily, but Jackson refused. Butler was later replaced toward the end of Jackson’s presidency. In 1835, the Texas Revolution began when pro-slavery American settlers in Texas fought the Mexican government for Texan independence. By May 1836, they had routed the Mexican military, establishing an independent Republic of Texas. The new Texas government legalized slavery and demanded recognition from President Jackson and annexation into the United States. Jackson was hesitant in recognizing Texas, unconvinced that the new republic could maintain independence from Mexico, and not wanting to make Texas an anti-slavery issue during the 1836 election. The strategy worked; the Democratic Party and national loyalties were held intact, and Van Buren was elected president. Jackson formally recognized the Republic of Texas, nominating Alcée Louis la Branche as chargé d’affaires on the last full day of his presidency, March 3, 1837.
Jackson failed in his efforts to open trade with China and Japan and was unsuccessful at thwarting Great Britain’s presence and power in South America.
Bank veto and election of 1832
The 1832 presidential election demonstrated the rapid development and organization of political parties during this time period. The Democratic Party’s first national convention, held in Baltimore, nominated Jackson’s choice for vice president, Van Buren. The National Republican Party, who had held their first convention in Baltimore earlier in December 1831, nominated Henry Clay, now a senator from Kentucky, and John Sergeant of Pennsylvania. The Anti-Masonic Party emerged by capitalizing on opposition to Freemasonry, which existed primarily in New England, after the disappearance and possible murder of William Morgan. The party, which had earlier held its convention also in Baltimore in September 1831, nominated William Wirt of Maryland and Amos Ellmaker of Pennsylvania. Clay was, like Jackson, a Mason, and so some anti-Jacksonians who would have supported the National Republican Party supported Wirt instead.
In 1816, the Second Bank of the United States was chartered by President James Madison to restore the United States economy devastated by the War of 1812. Monroe had appointed Nicholas Biddle as the Bank’s executive. Jackson believed that the Bank was a fundamentally corrupt monopoly. Its stock was mostly held by foreigners, he insisted, and it exerted an unfair amount of control over the political system. Jackson used the issue to promote his democratic values, believing the Bank was being run exclusively for the wealthy. Jackson stated the Bank made “the rich richer and the potent more powerful.” He accused it of making loans with the intent of influencing elections. In his address to Congress in 1830, Jackson called for a substitute for the Bank that would have no private stockholders and no ability to lend or purchase land. Its only power would be to issue bills of exchange. The address touched off fiery debate in the Senate. Thomas Hart Benton, now a strong supporter of the president despite the brawl years earlier, gave a speech excoriating the Bank and calling for debate on its recharter. Webster led a motion to narrowly defeat the resolution. Shortly afterward, the Globe announced that Jackson would stand for reelection.
Despite his misgivings about the Bank, Jackson supported a plan proposed in late 1831 by his moderately pro-Bank Treasury Secretary Louis McLane, who was secretly working with Biddle, to recharter a reformed version of the Bank in a way that would free up funds which would in turn be used to strengthen the military or pay off the nation’s debt. This would be done, in part, through the sale of government stock in the Bank. Over the objections of Attorney General Roger B. Taney, an irreconcilable opponent of the Bank, he allowed McLane to publish a Treasury Report which essentially recommended rechartering the Bank.
Clay hoped to make the Bank an issue in the election, so as to accuse Jackson of going beyond his powers if he vetoed a recharter bill. He and Webster urged Biddle to immediately apply for recharter rather than wait to reach a compromise with the administration. Biddle received advice to the contrary from moderate Democrats such as McLane and William Lewis, who argued that Biddle should wait because Jackson would likely veto the recharter bill. On January 6, 1832, Biddle submitted to Congress a renewal of the Bank’s charter without any of the proposed reforms. The submission came four years before the original 20-year charter was to end. Biddle’s recharter bill passed the Senate on June 11 and the House on July 3, 1832. Jackson determined to veto it. Many moderate Democrats, including McLane, were appalled by the perceived arrogance of the bill and supported his decision. When Van Buren met Jackson on July 4, Jackson declared, “The Bank, Mr. Van Buren, is trying to kill me. But I will kill it.” Jackson vetoed the bill on July 10. The veto message was crafted primarily by Taney, Kendall, and Jackson’s nephew and advisor Andrew Jackson Donelson. It attacked the Bank as an agent of inequality that supported only the wealthy. The veto was considered “one of the strongest and most controversial” presidential statements and “a brilliant political manifesto.” The National Republican Party immediately made Jackson’s veto of the Bank a political issue. Jackson’s political opponents castigated the veto as “the very slang of the leveller and demagogue,” claiming Jackson was using class warfare to gain support from the common man.
At Biddle’s direction, the Bank poured thousands of dollars into a campaign to defeat Jackson, seemingly confirming Jackson’s view that it interfered in the political process. Jackson successfully portrayed his veto as a defense of the common man against governmental tyranny. Clay proved to be no match for Jackson’s ability to resonate with the people and the Democratic Party’s strong political networks. Democratic newspapers, parades, barbecues, and rallies increased Jackson’s popularity. Jackson himself made numerous public appearances on his return trip from Tennessee to Washington, D.C. He won the election by a landslide, receiving 54 percent of the popular vote and 219 electoral votes. Clay received 37 percent of the popular vote and 49 electoral votes. Wirt received only eight percent of the popular vote and seven electoral votes while the Anti-Masonic Party eventually declined. Jackson believed the solid victory was a popular mandate for his veto of the Bank’s recharter and his continued warfare on the Bank’s control over the national economy.
Removal of deposits and censure
In 1833, Jackson attempted to begin removing federal deposits from the bank, whose money-lending functions were taken over by the legions of local and state banks that materialized across America, thus drastically increasing credit and speculation. Jackson’s moves were greatly controversial. He removed McLane from the Treasury Department, having him serve instead as Secretary of State, replacing Edward Livingston. He replaced McLane with William J. Duane. In September, he fired Duane for refusing to remove the deposits. Signalling his intent to continue battling the Bank, he replaced Duane with Taney. Under Taney, the deposits began to be removed. They were placed in a variety of state banks which were friendly to the administration’s policies, known to critics as pet banks. Biddle responded by stockpiling the Bank’s reserves and contracting credit, thus causing interest rates to rise and bringing about a financial panic. The moves were intended to force Jackson into a compromise. “Nothing but the evidence of suffering abroad will produce any effect in Congress,” he wrote. At first, Biddle’s strategy was successful, putting enormous pressure on Jackson. But Jackson handled the situation well. When people came to him complaining, he referred them to Biddle, saying that he was the man who had “all the money.” Jackson’s approach worked. Biddle’s strategy backfired, increasing anti-Bank sentiment.
In 1834, those who disagreed with Jackson’s expansion of executive power united and formed the Whig Party, calling Jackson “King Andrew I,” and named their party after the English Whigs who opposed seventeenth century British monarchy. A movement emerged among Whigs in the Senate to censure Jackson. The censure was a political maneuver spearheaded by Clay, which served only to perpetuate the animosity between him and Jackson. Jackson called Clay “reckless and as full of fury as a drunken man in a brothel.” On March 28, the Senate voted to censure Jackson 26–20. It also rejected Taney as Treasury Secretary. The House however, led by Ways and Means Committee chairman James K. Polk, declared on April 4 that the Bank “ought not to be rechartered” and that the depositions “ought not to be restored.” It voted to continue allowing pet banks to be places of deposit and voted even more overwhelmingly to investigate whether the Bank had deliberately instigated the panic. Jackson called the passage of these resolutions a “glorious triumph.” It essentially sealed the Bank’s demise. The Democrats later suffered a temporary setback. Polk ran for Speaker of the House to replace Andrew Stevenson. After Southerners discovered his connection to Van Buren, he was defeated by fellow-Tennessean John Bell, a Democrat-turned-Whig who opposed Jackson’s removal policy.
Payment of US national debt
The national economy following the withdrawal of the remaining funds from the Bank was booming and the federal government through duty revenues and sale of public lands was able to pay all bills. On January 1, 1835, Jackson paid off the entire national debt, the only time in U.S. history that has been accomplished. The objective had been reached in part through Jackson’s reforms aimed at eliminating the misuse of funds and through his vetoes of legislation which he deemed extravagant. In December 1835, Polk defeated Bell in a rematch and was elected Speaker. Finally, on January 16, 1837, when the Jacksonians had a majority in the Senate, the censure was expunged after years of effort by Jackson supporters. The expunction movement was led ironically by Benton.
In 1836, in response to increased land speculation, Jackson issued the Specie Circular, an executive order that required buyers of government lands to pay in “specie” (gold or silver coins). The result was high demand for specie, which many banks could not meet in exchange for their notes, contributing to the Panic of 1837. The White House Van Buren biography notes, “Basically the trouble was the 19th-century cyclical economy of ‘boom and bust,’ which was following its regular pattern, but Jackson’s financial measures contributed to the crash. His destruction of the Second Bank of the United States had removed restrictions upon the inflationary practices of some state banks; wild speculation in lands, based on easy bank credit, had swept the West. To end this speculation, Jackson in 1836 had issued a Specie Circular …”
Attack and assassination attempt
The first recorded physical attack on a U.S. president was directed at Jackson. He had ordered the dismissal of Robert B. Randolph from the navy for embezzlement. On May 6, 1833, Jackson sailed on USS Cygnet to Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he was to lay the cornerstone on a monument near the grave of Mary Ball Washington, George Washington‘s mother. During a stopover near Alexandria, Randolph appeared and struck the president. He fled the scene chased by several members of Jackson’s party, including the writer Washington Irving. Jackson declined to press charges.
On January 30, 1835, what is believed to be the first attempt to kill a sitting president of the United States occurred just outside the United States Capitol. When Jackson was leaving through the East Portico after the funeral of South Carolina Representative Warren R. Davis, Richard Lawrence, an unemployed house painter from England, aimed a pistol at Jackson, which misfired. Lawrence then pulled out a second pistol, which also misfired. Historians believe the humid weather contributed to the double misfiring. Jackson, infuriated, attacked Lawrence with his cane. Others present, including Davy Crockett, restrained and disarmed Lawrence.
Lawrence offered a variety of explanations for the attempted shooting. He blamed Jackson for the loss of his job. He claimed that with the president dead, “money would be more plenty,” (a reference to Jackson’s struggle with the Bank of the United States) and that he “could not rise until the President fell.” Finally, Lawrence told his interrogators that he was a deposed English king—specifically, Richard III, dead since 1485—and that Jackson was his clerk. He was deemed insane and was institutionalized.
Afterwards, the pistols were tested and retested. Each time they performed perfectly. Many believed that Jackson had been protected by the same Providence that also protected their young nation. The incident became a part of Jacksonian mythos. Jackson initially suspected that a number of his political enemies might have orchestrated the attempt on his life. His suspicions were never proven.
During the summer of 1835, Northern abolitionists began sending anti-slavery tracts through the postal system into the South. Pro-slavery Southerners demanded that the postal service ban distribution of the materials, which were deemed “incendiary,” and some began to riot. Jackson wanted sectional peace, and desired to placate Southerners ahead of the 1836 election. He fiercely disliked the abolitionists, whom he believed were, by instituting sectional jealousies, attempting to destroy the Union. Jackson also did not want to condone open insurrection. He supported the solution of Postmaster General Amos Kendall, which gave Southern postmasters discretionary powers to either send or detain the anti-slavery tracts. That December, Jackson called on Congress to prohibit the circulation through the South of “incendiary publications intended to instigate the slaves to insurrection.”
U.S. Exploring Expedition
Jackson initially opposed any federal exploratory scientific expeditions during his first term in office. The last scientific federally funded expeditions took place from 1817 to 1823, led by Stephen H. Harriman on the Red River of the North. Jackson’s predecessor, President Adams, attempted to launch a scientific oceanic exploration in 1828, but Congress was unwilling to fund the effort. When Jackson assumed office in 1829 he pocketed Adams’ expedition plans. Eventually, wanting to establish his presidential legacy, similar to Jefferson and the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Jackson sponsored scientific exploration during his second term. On May 18, 1836, Jackson signed a law creating and funding the oceanic United States Exploring Expedition. Jackson put Secretary of the Navy Mahlon Dickerson in charge, to assemble suitable ships, officers, and scientific staff for the expedition; with a planned launch before Jackson’s term of office expired. Dickerson proved unfit for the task, preparations stalled and the expedition was not launched until 1838, during the presidency of Van Buren. One brig ship, USS Porpoise, later used in the expedition; having been commissioned by Secretary Dickerson in May 1836, circumnavigated the world and explored and mapped the Southern Ocean, confirming the existence of the Antarctica continent.
Panic of 1837
In spite of economic success following Jackson’s vetoes and war against the Bank, reckless speculation in land and railroads eventually caused the Panic of 1837. Contributing factors included Jackson’s veto of the Second National Bank renewal charter in 1832 and subsequent transfer of federal monies to state banks in 1833 that caused western banks to relax their lending standards. Two other Jacksonian acts in 1836 contributed to the Panic of 1837: the Specie Circular, which mandated western lands only be purchased by money backed by gold and silver, and the Deposit and Distribution Act, which transferred federal monies from eastern to western state banks and in turn led to a speculation frenzy by banks. Jackson’s Specie Circular, albeit designed to reduce speculation and stabilize the economy, left many investors unable to afford to pay loans in gold and silver. The same year there was a downturn in Great Britain’s economy that stopped investment in the United States. As a result, the U.S. economy went into a depression, banks became insolvent, the national debt (previously paid off) increased, business failures rose, cotton prices dropped, and unemployment dramatically increased. The depression that followed lasted for four years until 1841, when the economy began to rebound.
Administration and cabinet
|The Jackson Cabinet|
|Vice President||John C. Calhoun||1829–1832|
|Martin Van Buren||1833–1837|
|Secretary of State||Martin Van Buren||1829–1831|
|Secretary of Treasury||Samuel D. Ingham||1829–1831|
|William J. Duane||1833|
|Roger B. Taney||1833–1834|
|Secretary of War||John H. Eaton||1829–1831|
|Attorney General||John M. Berrien||1829–1831|
|Roger B. Taney||1831–1833|
|Benjamin Franklin Butler||1833–1837|
|Postmaster General||William T. Barry||1829–1835|
|Secretary of the Navy||John Branch||1829–1831|
Jackson appointed six justices to the Supreme Court. Most were undistinguished. His first appointee, John McLean, had been nominated in Barry’s place after Barry had agreed to become postmaster general. McLean “turned Whig and forever schemed to win” the presidency. His next two appointees–Henry Baldwin and James Moore Wayne–disagreed with Jackson on some points but were poorly regarded even by Jackson’s enemies. In reward for his services, Jackson nominated Taney to the Court to fill a vacancy in January 1835, but the nomination failed to win Senate approval. Chief Justice Marshall died in 1835, leaving two vacancies on the court. Jackson nominated Taney for Chief Justice and Philip Pendleton Barbour for Associate Justice. Both were confirmed by the new Senate. Taney served as Chief Justice until 1864, presiding over a court that upheld many of the precedents set by the Marshall Court. He was generally regarded as a good and respectable judge, but his opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford largely overshadows his career. On the last full day of his presidency, Jackson nominated John Catron, who was confirmed.
States admitted to the Union
Two new states were admitted into the Union during Jackson’s presidency: Arkansas (June 15, 1836) and Michigan (January 26, 1837). Both states increased Democratic power in Congress and helped Van Buren win the presidency in 1836. This was in keeping with the tradition that new states would support the party which had done the most to admit them.
Later life and death
In 1837, after serving two terms as president, Jackson was replaced by his chosen successor Martin Van Buren and retired to the Hermitage. He immediately began putting it in order as it had been poorly managed in his absence by his adopted son, Andrew Jackson Jr. Although he suffered ill health, Jackson remained highly influential in both national and state politics. He was a firm advocate of the federal union of the states and rejected any talk of secession, insisting, “I will die with the Union.” Blamed for causing the Panic of 1837, he was unpopular in his early retirement. Jackson continued to denounce the “perfidy and treachery” of banks and urged his successor, Van Buren, to repudiate the Specie Circular as president.
As a solution to the panic, he supported an Independent Treasury system, which was designed to hold the money balances of the government in the form of gold or silver and would be restricted from printing paper money so as to prevent further inflation. A coalition of conservative Democrats and Whigs opposed the bill, and it was not passed until 1840. During the delay, no effective remedy had been implemented for the depression. Van Buren grew deeply unpopular. A unified Whig Party nominated popular war hero William Henry Harrison and former Jacksonian John Tyler in the 1840 presidential election. The Whigs’ campaign style in many ways mimicked that of the Democrats when Jackson ran. They depicted Van Buren as an aristocrat who did not care for the concerns of ordinary Americans, while glorifying Harrison’s military record and portraying him as a man of the people. Jackson campaigned heavily for Van Buren in Tennessee. He favored the nomination of Polk for vice president at the 1840 Democratic National Convention over controversial incumbent Richard Mentor Johnson. No nominee was chosen, and the party chose to leave the decision up to individual state electors.
Harrison won the election, and the Whigs captured majorities in both houses of Congress. “The democracy of the United States has been shamefully beaten,” Jackson wrote to Van Buren. “but I trust, not conquered.” Harrison died only a month into his term, and was replaced by Tyler. Jackson was encouraged because Tyler had a strong independent streak and was not bound by party lines. Sure enough, Tyler quickly incurred the wrath of the Whigs in 1841 when he vetoed two Whig-sponsored bills to establish a new national bank, bringing satisfaction to Jackson and other Democrats. After the second veto, Tyler’s entire cabinet, with the exception of Daniel Webster, resigned.
Jackson strongly favored the annexation of Texas, a feat he had been unable to accomplish during his own presidency. While Jackson still feared that annexation would stir up anti-slavery sentiment, his belief that the British would use Texas as a base to threaten the United States overrode his other concerns. He also insisted that Texas was part of the Louisiana Purchase and therefore rightfully belonged to the United States. At the request of Senator Robert J. Walker of Mississippi, acting on behalf of the Tyler administration, which also supported annexation, Jackson wrote several letters to Texas president Sam Houston, urging him to wait for the Senate to approve annexation and lecturing him on how much being a part of the United States would benefit Texas. Initially prior to the 1844 election, Jackson again supported Van Buren for president and Polk for vice president. A treaty of annexation was signed by Tyler on April 12, 1844, and submitted to the Senate. When a letter from Secretary of State Calhoun to British Ambassador Richard Pakenham linking annexation to slavery was made public, anti-annexation sentiment exploded in the North and the bill failed to be ratified. Van Buren decided to write the “Hamlet letter,” opposing annexation. This effectively extinguished any support that Van Buren might previously have enjoyed in the South. The Whig nominee, Henry Clay, also opposed annexation, and Jackson recognized the need for the Democrats to nominate a candidate who supported it and could therefore gain the support of the South. If the plan failed, Jackson warned, Texas would not join the Union and would potentially fall victim to a Mexican invasion supported by the British.
Jackson met with Polk, Robert Armstrong, and Andrew Jackson Donelson in his study. He then pointed directly at a startled Polk, telling him that, as a man from the southwest and a supporter of annexation, he would be the perfect candidate. Polk called the scheme “utterly abortive,” but agreed to go along with it. At the 1844 Democratic National Convention, Polk emerged as the party’s nominee after Van Buren failed to win the required two-thirds majority of delegates. George M. Dallas was selected for vice president. Jackson convinced Tyler to drop his plans of running for re-election as an independent by promising, as Tyler requested, to welcome the president and his allies back into the Democratic Party and by instructing Blair to stop criticizing the President. Polk won the election, defeating Clay. A bill of annexation was passed by Congress in February and signed by Tyler on March 1.
Jackson’s age and illness eventually overcame him. On June 8, 1845, he was surrounded by family and friends at his deathbed. Jackson, startled by their sobbing, said, “What is the matter with my dear children? Have I alarmed you? Oh, do not cry. Be good children and we will all meet in Heaven.” He died immediately after at the age of 78 of chronic dropsy and heart failure. According to a newspaper account from the Boon Lick Times, “[he] fainted whilst being removed from his chair to the bed … but he subsequently revived … Gen. Jackson died at the Hermitage at 6 o’clock P.M. on Sunday the 8th instant. … When the messenger finally came, the old soldier, patriot and Christian was looking out for his approach. He is gone, but his memory lives, and will continue to live.” In his will, Jackson left his entire estate to Andrew Jackson Jr. except for specifically enumerated items that were left to various friends and other family members.
Jackson had three adopted sons: Theodore, an Indian about whom little is known, Andrew Jackson Jr., the son of Rachel’s brother Severn Donelson, and Lyncoya, a Creek Indian orphan adopted by Jackson after the Battle of Tallushatchee. Lyncoya died of tuberculosis on July 1, 1828, at the age of sixteen.
The Jacksons also acted as guardians for eight other children. John Samuel Donelson, Daniel Smith Donelson, and Andrew Jackson Donelson were the sons of Rachel’s brother Samuel Donelson, who died in 1804. Andrew Jackson Hutchings was Rachel’s orphaned grand nephew. Caroline Butler, Eliza Butler, Edward Butler, and Anthony Butler were the orphaned children of Edward Butler, a family friend. They came to live with the Jacksons after the death of their father.
The widower Jackson invited Rachel’s niece Emily Donelson to serve as hostess at the White House. Emily was married to Andrew Jackson Donelson, who acted as Jackson’s private secretary and in 1856 ran for vice president on the American Party ticket. The relationship between the president and Emily became strained during the Petticoat affair, and the two became estranged for over a year. They eventually reconciled and she resumed her duties as White House hostess. Sarah Yorke Jackson, the wife of Andrew Jackson Jr., became co-hostess of the White House in 1834. It was the only time in history when two women simultaneously acted as unofficial First Lady. Sarah took over all hostess duties after Emily died from tuberculosis in 1836. Jackson used Rip Raps as a retreat.
Jackson’s quick temper was notorious. Biographer H. W. Brands notes that his opponents were terrified of his temper: “Observers likened him to a volcano, and only the most intrepid or recklessly curious cared to see it erupt. … His close associates all had stories of his blood-curdling oaths, his summoning of the Almighty to loose His wrath upon some miscreant, typically followed by his own vow to hang the villain or blow him to perdition. Given his record—in duels, brawls, mutiny trials, and summary hearings—listeners had to take his vows seriously.”
On the last day of his presidency, Jackson admitted that he had but two regrets, that he “had been unable to shoot Henry Clay or to hang John C. Calhoun.” On his deathbed, he was once again quoted as regretting that he had not hanged Calhoun for treason. “My country would have sustained me in the act, and his fate would have been a warning to traitors in all time to come,” he said. Remini expresses the opinion that Jackson was typically in control of his temper, and that he used his anger, along with his fearsome reputation, as a tool to get what he wanted.
Jackson was a lean figure, standing at 6 feet 1 inch (1.85 m) tall, and weighing between 130 and 140 pounds (59 and 64 kg) on average. Jackson also had an unruly shock of red hair, which had completely grayed by the time he became president at age 61. He had penetrating deep blue eyes. Jackson was one of the more sickly presidents, suffering from chronic headaches, abdominal pains, and a hacking cough. Much of his trouble was caused by a musket ball in his lung that was never removed, that often brought up blood and sometimes made his whole body shake.
In 1838, Jackson became an official member of the First Presbyterian Church in Nashville. Both his mother and his wife had been devout Presbyterians all their lives, but Jackson himself had postponed officially entering the church in order to avoid accusations that he was joining only for political reasons.
Jackson was a Freemason, initiated at Harmony Lodge No. 1 in Tennessee. He was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee in 1822 and 1823. During the 1832 presidential election, Jackson faced opposition from the Anti-Masonic Party. He was the only U.S. president to have served as Grand Master of a state’s Grand Lodge until Harry S. Truman in 1945. His Masonic apron is on display in the Tennessee State Museum. An obelisk and bronze Masonic plaque decorate his tomb at the Hermitage.
Jackson remains one of the most studied and controversial figures in American history. Historian Charles Grier Sellers says, “Andrew Jackson’s masterful personality was enough by itself to make him one of the most controversial figures ever to stride across the American stage.” There has never been universal agreement on Jackson’s legacy, for “his opponents have ever been his most bitter enemies, and his friends almost his worshippers.” He was always a fierce partisan, with many friends and many enemies. He has been lauded as the champion of the common man, while criticized for his treatment of Indians and for other matters. James Parton was the first man after Jackson’s death to write a full biography of him. Trying to sum up the contradictions in his subject, he wrote:
Andrew Jackson, I am given to understand, was a patriot and a traitor. He was one of the greatest generals, and wholly ignorant of the art of war. A brilliant writer, elegant, eloquent, without being able to compose a correct sentence or spell words of four syllables. The first of statesmen, he never devised, he never framed, a measure. He was the most candid of men, and was capable of the most profound dissimulation. A most law-defying law-obeying citizen. A stickler for discipline, he never hesitated to disobey his superior. A democratic autocrat. An urbane savage. An atrocious saint.
Jackson was criticized by his contemporary Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America for flattering the dominant ideas of his time, including the mistrust over the federal power, for sometimes enforcing his view by force and disrespect towards the institutions and the law:
Far from wishing to extend the Federal power, the President belongs to the party which is desirous of limiting that power to the clear and precise letter of the Constitution, and which never puts a construction upon that act favorable to the government of the Union; far from standing forth as the champion of centralization, General Jackson is the agent of the state jealousies; and he was placed in his lofty station by the passions that are most opposed to the central government. It is by perpetually flattering these passions that he maintains his station and his popularity. General Jackson is the slave of the majority: he yields to its wishes, its propensities, and its demands—say, rather, anticipates and forestalls them. … General Jackson stoops to gain the favor of the majority; but when he feels that his popularity is secure, he overthrows all obstacles in the pursuit of the objects which the community approves or of those which it does not regard with jealousy. Supported by a power that his predecessors never had, he tramples on his personal enemies, whenever they cross his path, with a facility without example; he takes upon himself the responsibility of measures that no one before him would have ventured to attempt. He even treats the national representatives with a disdain approaching to insult; he puts his veto on the laws of Congress and frequently neglects even to reply to that powerful body. He is a favorite who sometimes treats his master roughly.
In the 20th century, Jackson was written about by many admirers. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.‘s Age of Jackson (1945) depicts Jackson as a man of the people battling inequality and upper-class tyranny. From the 1970s to the 1980s, Robert Remini published a three-volume biography of Jackson followed by an abridged one-volume study. Remini paints a generally favorable portrait of Jackson. He contends that Jacksonian democracy “stretches the concept of democracy about as far as it can go and still remain workable. … As such it has inspired much of the dynamic and dramatic events of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in American history—Populism, Progressivism, the New and Fair Deals, and the programs of the New Frontier and Great Society.” To Remini, Jackson serves as “the embodiment of the new American … This new man was no longer British. He no longer wore the queue and silk pants. He wore trousers, and he had stopped speaking with a British accent.” Other 20th-century writers such as Richard Hofstadter and Bray Hammond depict Jackson as an advocate of the sort of laissez-faire capitalism that benefits the rich and oppresses the poor.
Jackson’s initiatives to deal with the conflicts between Indians and American settlers has been a source of controversy. Starting mainly around 1970, Jackson came under attack from some historians on this issue. Howard Zinn called him “the most aggressive enemy of the Indians in early American history” and “exterminator of Indians.” Conversely, in 1969, Francis Paul Prucha argued that Jackson’s removal of the “Five Civilized Tribes” from the extremely hostile white environment in the Old South to Oklahoma probably saved their very existence. Similarly, Remini claims that, if not for Jackson’s policies, the Southern tribes would have been totally wiped out, just like other tribes-namely, the Yamasee, Mahican, and Narragansett–which did not move. Jackson has long been honored, along with Thomas Jefferson, in the Jefferson–Jackson Day fundraising dinners held by state Democratic Party organizations to honor the two men whom the party regards as its founders. Because both Jefferson and Jackson were slave owners, as well as because of Jackson’s Indian removal policies, many state party organizations have renamed the dinners.
Brands argues that Jackson’s reputation suffered since the 1960s as his actions towards Indians and African Americans received new attention. He also claims that the Indian controversy has eclipsed Jackson’s other achievements in public memory. Brands notes that he was often hailed during his lifetime as the “second George Washington,” because, while Washington had fought for independence, Jackson confirmed it at New Orleans and made the United States a great power. Over time, while the Revolution has maintained a strong presence in the public conscience, memory of the War of 1812, including the Battle of New Orleans, has sharply declined. Brands argues that this is because once America had become a military power, “it was easy to think that America had been destined for this role from the beginning.”
Still, Jackson’s performance in office compared to other presidents has generally been ranked in the top half in public opinion polling. His position in C-SPAN‘s poll dropped from 13th in 2009 to 18th in 2017.
Portrayal on banknotes and stamps
Jackson has appeared on U.S. banknotes as far back as 1869, and extending into the 21st century. His image has appeared on the $5, $10, $20, and $10,000 note. Most recently, his image has appeared on the U.S. $20 Federal reserve note beginning in 1928. In 2016, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced his goal that by 2020 an image of Harriet Tubman would replace Jackson’s depiction on the front side of the $20 banknote, and that an image of Jackson would be placed on the reverse side, though the final decision will be made by his successors.
Jackson has appeared on several postage stamps. He first appeared on an 1863 two-cent stamp, which is commonly referred to by collectors as the Black Jack due to the large portraiture of Jackson on its face printed in pitch black. During the American Civil War, the Confederate government issued two Confederate postage stamps bearing Jackson’s portrait, one a 2-cent red stamp and the other a 2-cent green stamp, both issued in 1863.
Numerous counties and cities are named after him, including the city of Jacksonville in Florida and North Carolina; the cities of Jackson in Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee; Jackson County in Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and Oregon; and Jackson Parish in Louisiana.
Memorials to Jackson include a set of four identical equestrian statues by the sculptor Clark Mills: in Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C.; in Jackson Square, New Orleans; in Nashville on the grounds of the Tennessee State Capitol; and in Jacksonville, Florida. Other equestrian statues of Jackson have been erected elsewhere, as in the State Capitol grounds in Raleigh, North Carolina. That statue controversially identifies him as one of the “presidents North Carolina gave the nation,” and he is featured alongside James Polk and Andrew Johnson, both U.S. presidents born in North Carolina. There is a bust of Andrew Jackson in Plaza Ferdinand VII in Pensacola, Florida, where he became the first governor of the Florida Territory in 1821. There is also a 1928 bronze sculpture of Andrew Jackson by Belle Kinney Scholz and Leopold Scholz in the U.S. Capitol Building as part of the National Statuary Hall Collection.
Popular culture depictions
Jackson and his wife Rachel were the main subjects of a 1951 historical novel by Irving Stone, The President’s Lady, which told the story of their lives up until Rachel’s death. The novel was the basis for the 1953 film of the same name starring Charlton Heston as Jackson and Susan Hayward as Rachel.
Jackson has been a supporting character in a number of historical films and television productions. Lionel Barrymore played Jackson in The Gorgeous Hussy (1936), a fictionalized biography of Peggy Eaton starring Joan Crawford. The Buccaneer (1938), depicting the Battle of New Orleans, included Hugh Sothern as Jackson, and was remade in 1958 with Heston again playing Jackson. Basil Ruysdael played Jackson in Walt Disney‘s 1955 Davy Crockett TV miniseries. Wesley Addy appeared as Jackson in some episodes of the 1976 PBS miniseries The Adams Chronicles.