Andrew Jackson: Life in Brief | Miller Center
Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, was the dominant player in American politics between Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. Born of dark parents and orphaned in youth, he was the first “self-made man” and the first Westerner to reach the White House. he became a symbol of democracy and founder of the democratic party, the most venerable political organization in the country. During his two-term presidency, he expanded executive powers and transformed the role of the president from chief administrator to tribune of the people.
Jackson was born in 1767 in Wahaw, South Carolina, the son of Scotch-Irish immigrants. he fought in the revolutionary war as a boy, studied law, and in 1788 moved west to nashville. In 1791, he began living with Rachel Donelson Robards, whose husband had abandoned her. They were formally married after their divorce in 1794. Adultery charges that arose from the episode dogged Jackson’s later political career. After serving as a prosecutor, judge, congressman, and senator from Tennessee, he gained fame as a major general in the War of 1812 with overwhelming victories against the Creek Indians in 1814 and the British at New Orleans in January 1815.
Jackson’s triumph in New Orleans quickly became the stuff of legend, making him America’s greatest military hero since George Washington. In 1818, he led an army in pursuit of Seminole Indians in Spanish Florida, sparking an international furore. After Spain ceded Florida, Jackson served briefly as Territorial Governor and then Senator, representing Tennessee, from 1823 to 1825. In a mixed-up four-way presidential race in 1824, Jackson led the popular and electoral vote but lost in the house of representatives, through the influence of speaker henry clay, to john quincy adams. Jackson challenged Adams again in 1828 and defeated him in a campaign that centered on Jackson’s image as a man of the people fighting against aristocracy and corruption. Jackson easily defeated Henry Clay in 1832.
Jackson’s presidency was defined by two central episodes: the nullification crisis and the “bank war.” Jackson took office amid growing sectional acrimony over the “American System” program of fostering economic development through transportation subsidies. and through protective tariffs on imports to help US manufacturers. many southerners believed that these policies promoted the growth of the north at their expense. Jackson brought the American system to a halt by vetoing highway and canal laws beginning with the Maysville Highway in 1830. However, in 1832 the state of South Carolina declared the existing tariff unconstitutional, null and void. the state took steps to block the collection of fees within its borders. Although he favored a lower rate, Jackson moved quickly to defend federal supremacy, by force if necessary. In a loud proclamation, he declared the union indivisible and described the annulment as treason. Congress reduced the rate in 1833, defusing the crisis.
The Second Bank of the United States was a corporation chartered by Congress to provide a national paper currency and manage government finances. Like Thomas Jefferson, Jackson believed that bank was dangerous and unconstitutional. In 1832, he vetoed a bill to extend the bank’s charter beyond its scheduled expiration in 1836. Jackson’s veto message pitted the virtuous and simple people against the bank’s privileged stockholders. The following year, Jackson moved the bank’s federal government deposits to state-chartered banks, sparking a brief financial panic and leading to censure by the Senate in 1834. Undeterred, Jackson launched a broader attack on all forms of government grant. privilege, especially corporate letters. His farewell speech in 1837 warned of an insidious “power of money”.
Jackson’s bank war and his populist, egalitarian rhetoric shaped the platform and rhetoric of his new democratic party. (Possibly his policies also helped trigger a financial panic in 1837, which deepened into a severe depression.) By casting himself as the people’s tribune against the moneyed elite and their tools in government, he introduced an enduring theme to American politics.
He also carved out a stronger role for the presidency. Jackson replaced many government officials for partisan reasons, inaugurating the “spoils system.” Catering to his regional core constituency of southern planters and western frontiersmen, he condemned anti-slavery agitation, favored cheaper public land, and forced armed Indian tribes to drive out the west. from the mississippi In a confrontation between Georgia and the Cherokee Nation, Jackson backed state authority against tribal sovereignty and refused to protect Indian treaty rights despite their recognition by the United States Supreme Court. Jackson vigorously exercised executive powers, challenging Congress, vetoing more bills than all of his predecessors combined, and frequently reshuffling his cabinet.
Strong-willed and quick-tempered, a fierce patriot and rabid supporter, Jackson was always controversial, both as a general and as president. he personalized disputes and demonized opponents. In a notorious episode, Jackson opened his first cabinet and forced a break with Vice President John C. Calhoun defending the character of Peggy Eaton, the vivacious and controversial wife of the Secretary of War. Yet behind Jackson’s soaring rages often lay an astute calculation of his political effects.
Jackson secured the presidential succession in 1836 to his faithful lieutenant and second vice president, Martin van Buren. He then retired to Hermitage, his cotton plantation near Nashville, where he died in 1845.