Tuesday, February 26, 2008

#7 - Andrew Jackson, 1829-1837

Our first frontier president, Andrew Jackson, was not a man you wanted mad at you. Just ask his predecessor, John Quincy Adams, and Henry Clay, who Jackson believed were in collusion to give Adams the presidency, when suddenly Clay was given the job of Secretary of State in the new Adams administration. Jackson, who had won the most votes, was denied the presidency, when the election was thrown to the House of Representatives, where Clay, who had been a candidate, threw his support to Adams.

Jackson constantly defended his honor, engaging in brawls and duels, killing one man who slandered his wife, Rachel, but not before the man shot Jackson, lodging a bullet near his heart, which was never removed. Jackson had a deep hatred for the British - he had scars on his hand and face from the sword of a British officer, when Jackson refused to polish the boots of the officer. Jackson's entire immediate family died from "war-related hardships" that left him an orphan at age 14.

Jackson was deeply protective of his wife, Rachel. She had been married before and while it was believed she had secured a divorce from her first husband, there was overlap between the time it was official and when she married Jackson. Rachel and Andrew re-married later but Jackson's political adversaries filed that away for later use. She died on December 22, 1828, just after the election of Jackson to the presidency. Jackson blamed John Quincy Adams for Rachel's death as the scandal was brought up in the election of 1828. He believe the stress had contributed to her death and never forgave Adams.

Jackson served in the House and Senate, representing Tennessee, but it was his exploits at the Battle of New Orleans, during the War of 1812 (more appropriately, after the war ended, as the battle took place after the treaty signing) that made him a household name.

The one major issue that Jackson fought during his two terms as President was the fight against the Second National Bank of the United States. The Bank was a private corporation but largely sponsored by the Federal government. Jackson thought about doing away with it and the Bank leveled its sights on him. Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, two of the leaders in Congress in the newly established Whig Party (Jackson's election led to the split of the Democratic-Republican party and the birth of Jacksonian Democrats and the National Republicans, or Whigs) fought for the bank and Jackson tried to kill it. The American people were behind Jackson and he won reelection with 56% of the popular vote in 1832 and received more than five times the number of electoral votes of his opponent, Henry Clay. The Bank lost its charter in 1836 and folded in 1841.

Another crisis that afflicted the Jackson administration was the Nullification Crisis with South Carolina, led by his Vice President, John C. Calhoun. The crisis nearly boiled over into rebellion, but Henry Clay managed to broker a compromise and the Union was preserved, at least for now.

Another significant crisis during Jackson's presidency was the notorious Indian Removal Act of 1830. This is the incident in which Native American tribes (Cherokee, Seminole, Choctaw, Creek, and Chickasaw) were removed from their homelands in the south and relocated to what was called the Indian Territory, which later became Oklahoma. Many of these people died along what has become known as the infamous Trail of Tears.

Jackson also holds a dubious record. He is the first president to have an attempt made on his life. In 1833, after Jackson ordered the dismissal of Robert Randolph from the U.S. Navy, Randolph appeared before Jackson and struck him and fled. Jackson did not press charges. Two years later, while walking in the U.S. Capitol, Richard Lawrence approached Jackson and tried to shoot Jackson. The guns misfired and Jackson tried to beat Lawrence with his cane. While some restrained Jackson, others subdued Lawrence, including Congressman David Crockett, yes that Davy Crockett.

The Facts:
  • born March 15, 1767 in Waxhaw, North Carolina
  • died June 8, 1845 at the Hermitage in Nashville, Tennessee (age 78)
  • His nickname was "Old Hickory," largely for his reputation of toughness.
  • Jackson, ever the people's president, recommended in his first Annual Message to Congress, the abolishing of the Electoral College, still bitter from his loss in 1824.
  • Jackson was the second president to have been a prisoner of war, having been imprisoned by the British during the American Revolution (Washington had been captured by the French during the French and Indian War).
  • When Jackson's choice for an ambassador was denied by the Congress, Jackson installed the man as his vice president. And Martin Van Buren became the eighth president. Oh, and Van Buren had also been Jackson's (wait for it) Secretary of State.
  • Andrew Jackson opened the White House every year for visitors. Refreshments would be served, including a "big block of cheese," which was later publicized on The West Wing.
  • In 1829, James Smithson's estate provided the funding for a little museum in Washington DC.
  • In 1835, the United States was debt-free for the only time in its history.
  • Jackson is the first president to ride on a train and the first to be born in a log cabin


Mary Witzl said...

Good Old Hickory, and what a shame we no longer have presidents born in log cabins. Now it's all photo op and the new wing or library Daddy donated to the university.

I enjoy singing 'The Battle of New Orleans' whenever I feel my family have become a little hard on me. I like the part about the Redcoats running through the bush and the brambles. When I'm feeling really feisty, a spirited rendition of the tune on my violin helps especially.

Anonymous said...

watch that attitude, son. The Great State of Tennessee has many and varied attractions. What other state can claim sites such as Graceland, the Sun Sphere, Opryland and Dollywood? And let's not forget the most important attraction Tennessee has to offer, Jack Daniels.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Texas on a street named Old Hickory in honor of Andrew Jackson. Always thought it referred to a type of tree...

Lana Gramlich said...

The 2nd Nat'l Bank would be rolling over in its grave if it knew Jackson's now on the $20. *L* Lots of interesting (& depressing) stuff here.

Archivalist said...

Nothing like a nice, quiet eight years in office. I didn't know about the assassination attempt on Jackson. Not surprised he tried to cane the guy, :0

Brave Astronaut said...

Mary - I love the image of you and your violin singing about Jackson.

NJM - as previously discussed, hold still while I take the hook out. You rose to defend your "homeland" when I wouldn't mind a tour through Tennessee.

Ed - now Texas on the other hand . . . but I suppose there's golf there.

Lana - I aim to please . . . and inform. Glad your getting something out of it.

Archivalist - My place of work made sure we all knew about the attempt, it was on our internal web page for that day in history. I happened to be working in a unit that holds the records of Congress so I went and looked at the House record for the day, but there was only the reference that they were all going to the funeral.