Andrew Jackson Essay, Research Paper
Andrew Jackson, in the author’s words, was “mild, polite, polished,
benevolent, and democratic.” It would not be in anyone’s favor to question the
validity of the his words, but to understand them with unrestrained faith in
those words will help to insure complete insight into the book. Moreover, this
book stresses the immortal fact that Jackson’s private life had as much irony
and agony as his political/outside life did. With those factors understood,
Jackson’s life and the times he lived in, will become clear to all.
The important point to understand about most things in this world is the
nature of their origins, Andrew Jackson is no different. Born with no idea as to
what his father looks like, Andrew Jackson Jr., third son from Elizabeth and
Andrew Jackson Sr., will be raised at the home of Elizabeth’s sister and
brother-in-law, the Crawfords in the state of South Carolina. Andrew Jackson Sr.
descended from a long line Ulster families that were thrown out of Ireland,
seeking refuge in the United States, made their home in South Carolina. Jackson
Sr., dying suddenly before his son’s birth, left Andrew to grow up without a
male parental figure. Living in the Crawfords gave young Andrew little rewards;
he was given very little schooling of basic reading, writing, and figuring. So,
how, in fact, does a man that receives less education than the average American
at that time, not to mention the likes of John Adams or Thomas Jefferson, be, in
the many historians minds, greater than Adams or Jefferson? The long answer to
that question will start when “Andy” as the young, and slim Jackson is called,
attains to the age of 13.
The year was 1780, British troops had taken South Carolina, Andy’s oldest
brother had joined the American regiment fighting in their home town, but died
due to heat exhaustion in battle. At the sight of his deceased brother Hugh,
Jackson joins the army as a mounted messenger. After the fighting halted, both
Andrew Jackson and his brother Robert (who had also joined the American army by
now) went back home to the Crawfords. Even though official battles had been
temporarily stopped, the “civil war” raged on as Patriots fought Tories in the
towns of South Carolina, catching young Andrew Jackson in the midst of the fight.
In one bloody encounter, Jackson and his brother were taken prisoner by British
dragoons. A British officer ordered Andrew to clean his boots. The boy refused,
claiming his right as a prisoner of war not to be treated like a servant. The
furious officer whipped out his sword and slashed at the boy’s head. Luckily
for Jackson, his stealth saved him from certain death, but leaving him with
scars on his left hand and head which he carried with him his whole life, along
with a hatred for the British. Thrown into prison camp, Elizabeth Jackson would
not let her sons rot in British cells, and making deals for exchange of
prisoners, got her sons in the trade. Alas, Robert died during the trip home,
and Elizabeth was barely able to save Andrew. Being the courageous woman that
she was, Elizabeth Jackson made a journey to Charlestown Harbor, where she
intended to help American soldiers sick in British prison ships, but while
nursing the plague-ridden men, she caught cholera herself and died. Andrew
Jackson’s response, “I felt utterly alone”, was all that needed to conclude his
feelings about events at that time.
The following years after that, until he ventured into politics,
included going from city to city in South Carolina seeking the horse-race and
drinking his heart out. Uncontrolled and unrestrained by anyone or anything
besides money, Andrew would come to see and do almost everything imaginable at
that time in the United States. He had also gone into various professions, from
teaching to law. It was at law where he began his rise to politics.
On the road to becoming a lawyer, Jackson’s first stop was be apprentice
to Spruce MaCay, in North Carolina. But simply being apprentice wasn’t enough,
Jackson left MaCay after two years, and when he finally got admitted to the
state bar, he began drifting about the local courts, taking a case here and
there. It wasn’t until an old friend made him the public prosecutor of the new
Western District of North Carolina that he got his first major break as a lawyer.
Now in his twenties, Jackson finally gains wealth and becomes a indispensable
lawyer to the speculators in Nashville, N. Carolina.
It was also during this time, that Andrew Jackson takes a wife. He had
an intimate relationship with the landlady’s daughter Rachel that he lived with
during his time in Nashville but could not move in on her because she was
married. Her husband left her, and by the fall of 1790, rumor had spread that
he was ready for divorce. Andrew and Rachel then got married, but this event
became an issue because of the fact that Rachel’s husband’s divorce was only a
rumor, where, in later years, in the great game of politics, the issue would be
brought up over and over again that Andrew Jackson committed ungentlemen-like
Marriage had brought Jackson a few miles ahead in the road through
politics. Being the very influential family that Rachel Donelson was from, she
helped provide Jackson with enough political and economic boost to become one of
the richest men on the Western Frontier. Due to his vast holdings, and his
leadership on this new state called “Tennessee”, Andrew Jackson landed a seat in
the U.S. Senate. Showing very little political ambition, and not accomplishing
a whole lot, Jackson soon resigns his seat.
It was after his senate resigning that Jackson would become major
general of the militia of Tennessee and where his great accomplishments in the
battle field start. During the War of 1812, General Jackson, with his troop of
2,500 men, was to march to Natchez, at the tip of the Mississippi, to prepare
strikes on either Pensacola, Mobile, or New Orleans. But unfortunately the War
Department in Congress recalled his troops, and along the hardship-filled way
back (through Indian territory, without pay, transportation, or medicine) to
Nashville, Jackson received the nickname that would cling to him forever-Old
Hickory-because of his willingness to walk alongside his troops in support,
comforted the sick, encouraged the weary, and doled out rations. Shortly after
he had received the Old Hickory name came Jackson’s greatest victory courtesy of
the battle of New Orleans which ended the War of 1812. The time was following
Napoleon Bonaparte’s defeat in France, Great Britain had now assembled a troop
of 14,000 men to attack the U.S. in three directions: top from Lake Champlain,
Chesapeake Bay in the middle, and New Orleans in the south. The Lake Champlain
and Chesapeake Bay campaigns were easy victories for Britain, but the most
important battle rested in New Orleans, even with their victories, the tide can
turn with a win by General Jackson in New Orleans against the British.
Recruiting two regiments of African Americans, dastardly employing pirates, it
is still known as a miracle today that he pulls off this great win considering
that the odds of 7:3 against the Americans which make this battle even more
memorable. “New Year’s Day, 1815, General Edward Pakenham of Great Britain
commands his (7,000) troops to begin a heavy bombardment of the American
positions. In two hours of steady fire, the British were outgunned; they failed
to breach the American line. Pakenham then came up with an unworkable plan. He
would hurl all his power straight ahead through the Americans’ well-prepared
fortifications. It meant committing thousands of his redcoats to a frontal
assault in the hop that their superior numbers would shatter the American
resistance. Fighting starts at dawn on the eighth of January, the files of
soldiers made two direct attacks in the face of deadly rifle and artillery fire.
All the Americans had to do was shoot them down as them came. ?The British
broke completely and fled the field.”
Some years after that great victory in Orleans, once he regains his
health in his Hermitage, Jackson enters politics in the form of assuming the
newest state (Florida) to enter the Union’s governorship. And after a few years
of that, at the age of 55, but, “?looking 65″, he is once again elected into the
U.S. Senate. The interesting event that occurs during his third stint on the
Senate is that now, the idea of Andrew Jackson as the next president of the
United States has suddenly crept into everyone’s mind. The stage was now set
for the greatest election the world has known in that time.
Jackson’s candidacy had come from state legislatures due to the collapse
of the party caucus system. Backed by one of the best politician in the U.S. at
that time (William B. Lewis) and one of the wealthiest men (John Overton), his
campaign was destined to be a success. His opponents were John Quincy Adams of
Massachusetts, who was the Secretary of State; Henry Clay of Kentucky, majority
leader of the House of Representatives; Secretary of War from South Carolina,
John C. Calhoun, and William Crawford of Georgia, the Secretary of the Treasury.
Due to lack of support for himself, and the apparent overwhelming support for
Jackson, Calhoun withdrew from the race and joined Andrew Jackson’s forces as
the vice-presidential candidate.
As the campaign went on, Jackson’s men had to sway voters by saying one
thing in one state, while his men in another state would contradict that same
statement, making him seem like a vote-monger in the eyes of many people and to
which his opponents used as a weapon against him. But, alas, Jackson was not to
be denied votes since he stood so firmly on the issue of slavery. Defending
slavery caused him to finish with the most popular votes overall, but did not
get enough votes to win the electoral college. Upon which case, the irony of
this election started. It so happened that Henry Clay wound up as the last of
the candidates to have a chance at the presidency, and since Jackson, Adams, and
Crawford now needed to win by vote in the House of Representatives, Clay, being
Speaker of the House, struck a deal with his least hated person out of the three,
which was Adams. So therefore, Adams getting the support of the leader of the
House, wins the election of 1824, much to the dismay of Jackson.
At this point in time, angry Old Hickory makes plans to usurp and defeat
Adams in 1828 following the possible “corrupt bargain” that was struck between
Clay and Adams. Andrew Jackson and his followers now formed the Democratic
Party. With men such as Martin Van Buren and John C. Calhoun campaigning and
propagandizing on his behalf, he found Campaign ‘28 to be an easy victory,
despite vast accusations about his personal life from opponents that led to the
saddest day in Andrew Jackson’s life when Rachel, reacting to pamphlets about
her alleged affair with Andrew, and other assorted gossip, grows ill and dies.
This event shocked and made Jackson utter the words, “I feel utterly alone” once
again in his life: but he strives on, being the Old Hickory that he is, and
inaugurates as the 7th President of the United States of America.
One of the most memorable items during Jackson’s terms was his “Kitchen
Cabinet”, which consisted of Francis P. Blair, Amos Kendall, Isaac Hill and
William Lewis; all of whom are newspaper editors with the exception of Lewis.
The four men would assist in close matters with Jackson, who does not really
trust the competence of his Congressional Cabinet. These men’s ideas helped
shape Jackson’s administrative policy, but in no way did they dictate what
Jackson said or did, because he was “master in his own White House”. That label
would soon come to bestow upon him the honor of being one of the most “king-
like” presidents in history, due to his over-excessive use of the veto power.
Andrew Jackson’s greatest battle in the political ground also resulted in his
re-election when he started his War against the Bank (of the United States).
The Bank’s story begins with Alexander Hamilton, who made Congress pass the Bank’
s charter in 1791, it was meant to stabilize the government’s finances and
establish its credit. Partly private, partly government-financed and -
controlled, it became the cornerstone of the American economy by providing a
safe place to deposit the government’s funds, lend the government money when
needed, regulate state banks’ lending, issue bank notes, and collect taxes.
The Bank’s charter had ended in 1811, but in 1816, President Madison
rechartered the Bank for twenty years. By the Panic of 1819, when (land)
speculative fever pushed people to the brink of bankruptcy and failure, state
and local banks also arrived at that point because they made loans that they did
not have equal amounts in gold or silver to back up. Distrust everywhere, by
mostly everyone in the system of the Bank had arrived at an all time high. But
a resurgence by the bank in the 1820’s, led by its young, handsome, and
energetic president, Nicholas Biddle, allowed it to survive.
Biddle continues to do well until the early 1830’s, when he tries to
recharter the bank. He tried to appeal to Jackson for recharter. It is
interesting to see that what fueled Jackson’s anger towards the Bank of the
United States was his own misfortune at the hands of it: during a time where he
had planned to open a merchandise store, but a land-speculating deal gone awry,
mainly because of Bank of the United State bank notes, forced him to forfeit his
plans on the merchandise store, and left him in poverty for a time.
And so with that hatred, Jackson makes this great fight against the bank,
charging that the bank was the beneficiary of special privilege, granted a
monopoly of the government’s business by charter. That monopoly worked for the
aristocrats, and hurt the common man. Not only was the bank evil, but it was
also unconstitutional. With that said, President Jackson rallied the people
behind him in the stand on the Bank of the U.S. So in the election of 1832,
Henry Clay, the opponent of Jackson, supports the Bank’s recharter, and
therefore loses the election. With his last breadth at a time of his greatest
power, Clay gathers enough votes in Congress to pass a recharter of the Bank;
but Jackson vetoes it, and that ended the life of the first Bank of the United
With that beening his greatest use of the veto power, President Andrew
Jackson becomes “King Andrew I” that so many people portrayed him to be. In the
totally contradicting statement, he cannot be that because him and his followers
started the democratic party, which was essentially the party for the people!
Ending, it is interesting to see how his early childhood and wife shaped him,
from being juvenile teenager, to the Old Hickory millions have come to praise.
The new knowledge that I’ve gained from this book complements the ones I’
ve received reading Hofstadter. Where Hofstadter tells me mainly of the
political side into the life of Jackson, this book gave me feelings and emotions
towards Jackson’s life. In a sense, Hofstadter has a touch of “coldness” about
his works, whereas the author of this book gives Andrew Jackson a heart. Also,
I see the great detail implemented in this book, or lack thereof from our text
books which causes me to wonder about the quality of our textbooks, and that
maybe I should always read a biography of a character in American History every
time someone famous is mentioned in the textbooks.
My insight into this book is that as most biographies go, this one is
truly exemplary. Not only does it tell of one of the most interesting men that
ever graced this earth, it tells it in a melodramatic way, from the unparalleled
reactions of Jackson’s shooting of Charles Dickinson to Jackson hopeless
mourning over the corpse of his dead wife, as he “(hopes) vainly for signs of
returning life(in her)”. Jackson’s pure energy, raw emotion, as shown in the
Battle of new Orleans, where even sick, he can give orders to win the battle,
is truly mind-boggling. Also, being the first ever “self-made” man and
president, he is truly a character that seems almost fictional in the way he can
transcend from one thing to another. His survival at the hands of several duels,
and to live to the incredible age of 78 with several bullets lodged in his chest
from duels, truly shows how incredible a man Jackson had been. The statement
that he was “born poor and died rich” fits Andrew Jackson perfectly.
My most important insight into this book is that if you take away the
politics and egotistical displays of power, and make the Battle of New Orleans
the focus, Jackson would make a great hero for young kids. Also, if you strip
away his machinations with battle and fighting, you could make Jackson to be the
true self-made man that Abraham Lincoln is, in the rise to politics.
Relationship Between Book & 19th Century American History This book’s
intricate relation to developments of the 19th century include the rights and
questions of slavery, the American Frontier and its ideals of the “self-made”
man, and questions about the rights of Indians to their lands.
Regarding the slavery issue, the book tells clearly of Andrew Jackson’s
dealings as a “average” slave holding. By “average”, I mean that he would
probably not do anymore or less to hurt or command his slaves around than anyone
else would in other plantations. To that end, what he cannot possibly condone
was runaways; he would pay extra for slave catchers to have the runaways lashed
in the effort to teach obedience. Andrew Jackson is a very commanding and
forceful person by nature, and when slaves step out of line, he had the right to
punish them, so he feels no sorrow for either peoples-black or red-only contempt.
In one time, during a raid on a Negro Fort before Florida had joined the Union,
Jackson and his soldier massacred free blacks, just because of the “slave-
holders’ desire to enslave or kill blacks enjoying their lives in freedom.”
Slave trading contributed to those ideas that regarded him as the first
“self-made” man/president. Abraham Lincoln might’ve been the best example of a
“self-made” man, but Andrew Jackson was the forefather of that ideology. Having
born into poverty, and struggled most of his life through poverty, he climbed
the first step in the ladder of success by knowing that the step was in the
practice of law. After some years of practice, it paid off, eventually leading
to his marriage into aristocracy to Rachel Donelson.
Out of all three of these relationships into 19th century American
History, Andrew Jackson’s thoughts and acts towards the Native Americans is the
most intensified subject. In this field, Jackson typified the “white man that
would cheat the Indian out of land he did not own in the first place!”
President Jackson’s greatest action towards Indian removal came in the form of
the Trail of Tears. This started in the state of Georgia, where the Cherokee
nation was “catching” up to the white man, and as a measure of defense or out of
fear, as Calhoun states, “The whole trouble with the Cherokees, ?, was precisely
their progress in civilization.” Jackson, whom sometime ago made treaties and
talked of peace with the “5 civilized tribes” of the Southeast, is now driving
the Cherokees out of land that the “white, middle-classed” man wants. And so,
with the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Cherokee Indian population was forced
to move from Georgia into what is now Oklahoma, losing about 1/4th of the total
population along the way.
Merits and Assessment
My assessment as to the merit of this book is that it is one of great
moral and intellectual integrity. It cannot stress more on the moral side as it
unbiasly tells the reader the whole truth about Andrew Jackson’s love life,
family life, war life, and political life. This book is intellectually
stimulating, making you feel the urge to somehow, some way, relive the life of
Jackson, but you know that is not possible, so you go and reread the book again.
Andrew Jackson and His America clearly depicts emotions, and even though there
is no open dialogue, you get a sense of what the characters feel during trying