The Life of Andrew Jackson
More than virtually any other previous President, Andrew Jackson was elected on the popular vote and as a result saw himself as the representative of the people.
Andrew Jackson was born in a backwoods settlement in South Carolina in 1767. Jackson received very little formal education growing up. However, he was taught to read and in his late teens he studied law for two years. Jackson became an outstanding frontier lawyer in Tennessee, often settling boundary disputes among farmers and assault-and-battery cases. Jackson was known to be highly protective of his personal honour, getting into several brawls and even killing another man in a duel after he insulted Jackson’s wife.
Andrew Jackson’s Early Years
Jackson prospered and was eventually able to purchase slaves. He also built a mansion, The Hermitage, just outside Nashville. Around the same time, Andrew Jackson became the first person to be elected to the House of Representatives from Tennessee. Following this, Jackson also served in the United States Senate. In 1814, Jackson was hailed as a war hero, after defeating the British in the Battle of New Orleans.
President Andrew Jackson
In 1824, Andrew Jackson entered presidential politics. He won the popular vote, but was narrowly defeated by John Quincy Adams, who won the electoral vote with the backing of Henry Clay. Jackson was able to capitalize on the support that he was given in 1824 and wrested the presidency away from Adams, based on allegations of corruption.
In his first Annual Message to Congress, Jackson recommended the abolition of the Electoral College. He also tried to democratize the holding of government offices. At the time the governments of some states were already evolving into systems of patronage. As one New York Senator remarked, “To the victor go the spoils.” Jackson tried to changes this, believing that government offices should be rotated among qualified and deserving applicants.
As the American political landscape polarized around Jackson, the Republican Party began to divide into two. On one side were Jackson’s supporters, the Democratic Republicans, known as just Democrats. On the other side were the National Republicans, which also included many members of the Whig Party.
Opposition to Jackson centred on the fact that, unlike previous presidents, Jackson rarely consultated with Congress when it came to setting government policy. Instead he used his position as party leader and his veto power to seize control of the government.
The Bank Crisis
The greatest partisan battle in Jackson’s first term came in the form of the Second Bank of the United States. On paper, the bank was a private corporation, but in reality the Second Bank of the United States was a government monopoly. When Jackson proved to be hostile to the bank’s interests, its founders set about undermining his authority as President.
However, Jackson’s views won him the approval of the American electorate in the next election and he won a second term, with 56% of the popular vote, more than five times that of his competition.
Following his re-election, Jackson attempted to impose high interstate trade tariffs. Fearing that this would lead to a decrease in trade, a number of congressmen lead by John C Calhoun resolved to fight Jackson’s trade tariffs. Jackson responded by ordering the Army to occupy Charleston, South Carolina and threatened to have Calhoun hung. Henry Clay managed to end the crisis by negotiating a settlement between Jackson and Calhoun.
In January, 1832, Jackson received word that the Senate had rejected Martin Van Buren’s nomination as Minister to England. Angered by this turn of events, Jackson swore, “By the Eternal! I’ll smash them!” He was successful in appointing Van Buren to the vice presidency. Van Buren would become the next President of the United States, following Jackson’s retirement to the Hermitage, where he died in 1845.
Andrew Jackson. The White House. US Government. Mar.10/09
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