Andrew Jackson, nicknamed “Old Hickory,” was the 7th American President and served his country from 1829-1837.
More nearly than any of his predecessors, Andrew Jackson was elected by popular vote; as President he sought to act as the direct representative of the common man.
Born in a backwoods settlement in the Carolinas in 1767, he received sporadic education. But in his late teens he read law for about two years, and he became an outstanding young lawyer in Tennessee. Fiercely jealous of his honor, he engaged in brawls, and in a duel killed a man who cast an unjustified slur on his wife Rachel.
Jackson prospered sufficiently to buy slaves and to build a mansion, the Hermitage, near Nashville. He was the first man elected from Tennessee to the House of Representatives, and he served briefly in the Senate. A major general in the War of 1812, Jackson became a national hero when he defeated the British at New Orleans.
Forming the Coalition
By 1824, Jackson had w on favor from some of the state political groups, and in another four years, he had enough support to help him win many of the state elections. “Old Hickory”, as he was called, eventually found himself in control of Washington’s federal administration.
In Andrew Jackson’s first Annual Message to Congress, he proposed the discontinuation of the Electoral College. He also used this opportunity to urge Congress to open up federal jobs for election as well. This would be a oppose the quiet policy that the states were rewarding their most-deserving patrons. One New York Senator openly acknowledged “that to the victors belong the spoils… “
Jackson showed he took a milder view when he criticized those politicians who seemed to have life-time positions. Andrew Jackson thought government jobs should be “so plain and simple” and should be held by different deserving applicants over time.
As national politics chose sides around Andrew Jackson and his opposition, two parties grew out of the old Republican Party–the Democratic Republicans, or Democrats, adhering to Jackson; and the National Republicans, or Whigs, opposing him.
Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and other Whig leaders proclaimed themselves defenders of popular freedoms against the usurpation of Jackson. Hostile cartoonists even portrayed him as King Andrew I.
Their accusations were a result of fact that Andrew Jackson, unlike previous American Presidents, did not defer to Congress in policy-making, but instead he used his veto powers and his party leadership to assume control.
His decisions show Jackson was a passionate patriot and strongly supported partisanism. He denounced nullification and secession. He disagreed with the tariff policy, claiming it fostered sectional disagreements. He also showed his nationalistic pride, controversially, using Indian Removal and support of cheap land prices in the West to aid in the expansion of the country.
The greatest party battle centered around the Second Bank of the United States, a private corporation but virtually a government-sponsored monopoly. When Jackson appeared unsupportive toward it, the Bank used its influence against him.
Clay and Webster, who had acted as attorneys for the Bank, led the fight for its re-charter in Congress. “The bank,” Jackson told Martin Van Buren, “is trying to kill me, but I will kill it!” Jackson, vetoed the bill for reinstatement, claiming the Bank had undue economic privilege.
His views won approval from the American electorate, and in 1832, he earned more than 56 percent of the popular vote and almost five times as many electoral votes as Clay.
In January, 1832, while the President was dining with friends at the White House, someone whispered to him that the Senate had rejected his nomination of Martin Van Buren as Minister to England. Jackson abruptly stood and exclaimed, “By the Eternal! I’ll smash them!” And so he did. His favorite, Van Buren, became Vice President and succeeded to the Presidency when “Old Hickory” retired to the Hermitage, where he died in June 1845.
Jackson is often remembered for his infamous campaign of Indian removal. However, his ability to form a diverse group of supporters who had elected him into the country’s most long-lived and successful political party was legendary. He was an electoral machine whose organization and discipline is still used as a model for all others. At the same time, his controversial actions while in office provoked his opponents to organize the Whig party. The Democratic Party was Jackson’s child; the national two-party system that dominates American politics today is his legacy.
The following poster provides an attractive and concise summary of Andrew Jackson’s achievements throughout his lifetime: