Born on March 15, 1767 Andrew Jackson has been considered a controversial president, right down to his birth. Jackson maintained he was from South Carolina, but later in his life both Carolinas claim him as their own. His parents were Irish immigrants so Jackson was deprived of an official education. During the Revolutionary War his mother and two brothers died during the encounter. As he was taken as a prisoner of war, it left him with an intense hatred for the British. He took an interest in law and began reading it, sparking the beginning of his career. During the end of his adolescence he was admitted to the North Carolina bar in 1787. He began his studies as an attorney and made a name for himself in Tennessee and started his own business.
He then married Rachel Donelson Robard. In 1798 Jackson acquired an expansive plantation in Davidson County, Tennessee (near Nashville), called the Hermitage. At the outset, nine African-American slaves worked on the cotton plantation.
By the time of Jackson’s death in 1845, however, approximately 150 slaves labored in the Hermitage’s fields. In 1796 he became the first elected official from Tennessee to join the U.S. House of Representatives. Though he declined to seek reelection and returned home in March 1797, he was almost immediately elected to the U.S. Senate.
Jackson resigned a year later and was elected judge of Tennessee’s superior court. He was later chosen to head the state militia, a position he held when war broke out with Great Britain in 1812. Creating even a larger name for himself as a military hero in the Battle of New Orleans, Jackson was given the title commander of the army’s southern district. Jackson’s next moves made him a controversial man, invading and capturing Spanish outposts in Flordia.
While it was debated in Washington he was backed by John Quincy Adams, which sped the American acquisition of Florida up significantly. With his collected fame through his military actions and congressional history it was up in the air on whether he would run for presidency. After some convincing, he managed to get a nomination.
What happened next made it one of the most contentious elections in history. AJ was able to snag the popular vote, but for the first time since the establishment of the electoral system there was a five-way tie between them. The House of Representatives were given the choice of deciding between the top three candidates. William H. Crawford was taken out due to a stroke, making Speaker of the House Henry Clay bump up to third place. This reduction left it down to Jackson, Adams, and Clay. Clay put himself behind Adams, who ended up winning the race with his support.
Adams chose Clay to be his Secretary of State. Many saw this as an unfair and biased decision. This angered any and all Jackson supporters who claimed it “the Corrupt Bargain”. Jackson received another crack at the presidency four years later.
Now this time he won, but with a few rattles along the way. Him and his wife were informally charged with adultery. This claim was made because Rachel was not properly divorced from her former husband. Unfortunately, soon after Jackson’s triumph, Rachel passed away at their Hermitage estate. Andrew thought her passing was a result of the negative threats made towards her. She was later buried in her inaugural dress.
Jackson became a strong leader for the nation and his policies created a larger divide between political parties. Opponents of him founded the Whig Party, while his supporters (Democrat-Republicans) became shortened to just Democrats. Many shortly found out he was not afraid to use his executive powers. He made 12 vetoes, more than his six predecessors combined. He also coined the first “pocket veto.” Some of his challengers even dubbed him as an autocratic ruler and referenced him to “King Andrew I”. Just like his followers, Jackson had some pretty strong views on the matters of the time.
Ironically, he opposed the Bank of the United States and was content with having its charter run out. Old Hickory was believed to be for the common people, stating banks were corrupt and out to get the average man. Despite this controversial battle, he still won reelection effortlessly over Clay. Though in theory Jackson supported states’ rights he confronted a legislative issue head on with John C.
Calhoun. South Carolina adopted a resolution declaring federal taxes passed between 1828 and 1832 void and invalid starting the Nullification Crisis. This enraged Jackson as he sent federal troops into the state to formally enforce his laws. The Palmetto state stepped down, and AJ was credited with preserving the Union in the worst crisis they have faced- so far.
His probably his most controversial and hated incident would have to come down to what he did in Georgia, or what he did not do. Georgia claimed millions of acres that were rightfully given to the Cherokees. Jackson’s military force was missing as he made no actions to protect the Native Americans. The Cherokees were awarded territory west of Arkansas, and forced to relocate there on foot. Some believe as many as 15,000 Native Americans were forced to walk the infamous “Trail of Tears”. There were thousands of deaths and is just one of the many struggles the natives were mandatorily put through. Jackson set up the building blocks for the Democratic Party and left office with his candidacy leaving a permanent mark on politics.
He said, “After eight years of presidency I only have two regrets; that I have not shot Henry Clay or hanged John C. Calhoun.” He later retired and passed away on his estate on June 8th, 1885. Jackson boldly casted himself as America’s tribune standing up for their special interests and fighting the minions of congress. He was the father of the democratic party, and his legacy was to make a two-party system.
He only passed one major law, the Indian Removal Act. His job was to expand presidential authority, which he achieved by forcing out cabinet members who would not execute commands. He believed government should be simple and accessible, and his policies reflected that. Andrew was not a deep thinker and to that he appealed greatly to the common man. His authority to this day gives historians split views on whether he was strong or vengeful and self-obsessed. I am leaning more towards the vengeful and autocratic side. Although he may have used executive action to path the way for future presidents, he did it in a brutal manner.
What he did to the Indians was cruel and unjustifiable, and is hard to look past despite his “notable authority.”