Andrew Jackson: A President That Lost Sight Of The People Essay, Research Paper
There have been many arguments made about President Andrew Jackson. A war hero, standing tall and strong, he tried to represented the idea of reform in government and in the American ways. Jackson is often credited to be one of the United States’ greatest presidents, but there are many powerful reasons for doubting that claim. From the beginning, in 1824, Jackson has tried to do what is best for our nation, but evidence like the spoils system, Trail of Tears, and the Bank veto, has shown that in fact most of what he accomplished is now looked on as only causing problems for the Untied States as a whole.
With the presidency of Jackson came the spoils system, which in theory is rewarding political supporters with public office. While this basic idea is “ as old as politics,” (The American Pageant p.271) it is Jackson that extended the system to involve more of the common person. In theory, this would re-enforce loyalties as well as making it possible for politics to become a full-time career. Instead it made government positions more about the spoils than the responsibilities.
The seventh president created the idea of “rotation in office.” Jackson was trying to make “clean sweeps” in the government, cleaning out the ex-president Adams and his “dishonest” supporters like Clay. In the end, he only dismissed one-fifth of the old corrupt government leaving nine thousand out of the original eleven thousand in office. His system not only didn’t succeed in cleaning the government but it was a demoralizing practice that reached a national scale. Citizens were discouraged from entering public service because of the insecurity now found in holding such positions. Jackson made the holding official positions in government a matter of what could this person do for Jackson’s presidency and not the question of what he could do for their country.
Jackson’s system was inevitably accompanied by scandal. Men openly began to buy their government positions. “Illiterates, incompetents, and plain crooks were given positions of public trust,” (p.272) and officials were more interested in the spoils of the office rather than the duties. A perfect example of the corruption that Jackson brought to the government is Samuel Swartwout. He was awarded the high salaried post of collector of customs in New York. Nine years later he left the United States with more than a million dollars. The first person ever to steal money from the American government.
Jackson, with the introducing of the spoils system, spoiled the morals and values of holding government positions. He created a system meant to clean up officials’ act but instead added to the corruption of the politics in Washington. Adding to the dishonesty of the struggling government demonstrates how Jackson presidency lacks in having a strong powerful effect on our government’s history.
While Jackson reduced the national debt, one must ask ones self, at what cost? Jackson opposed a large number of bills that Congress proposed. Previous presidents had used the power of the veto a total of ten times. Jackson uses it at least twelve times, increasing the role of president and its power of the executive branch that he wasn’t meant to hold. Jackson vetoed the Maysville Road Bill, which would authorize the use of federal funds to construct a road between the towns of Maysville and Lexington. While, it was a road in that would only pass through Kentucky, it was connected to inter-state road, which was federally funded.
With the expansion of the West and the increasing population, roads were needed to connect people and businesses within the state as well as throughout the growing country. With vetoing this bill and many bills like it, he was going against the American system, which believed in unity; the same unity that he believed should be found throughout states during the South Carolina problem late in his presidency. He was also working against making his country prosperous. Connecting people would increase trade and movement between states would promote the buying of American-made products, making traveling and transport more efficient. While Jackson had accomplished a great goal by reducing the national debt, the people and the progress of Americans suffered too greatly. Money means nothing if it is not put to proper use.
More than once did Jackson step over his boundaries when it came to his presidency. There is a difference between Jefferson going behind Congress’ back with the purchase of Louisiana and defying the supreme government as well as the natural rights granted to man. The Cherokee appealed to the Supreme Court, in the case Worcester v. Georgia, Chief Justice John Marshall ruled against Georgia, and in the favor of the Native Americans. Jackson ignored the ruling, and did what he wanted to, kick the Native Americans off their land to make room for true, white “Americans”.
The Native Americans like the Cherokee lost more than just their land. They lost their homeland, culture, and family. Jackson’s Native American policy is a stain on the nation’s honor. American’s pride themselves on being free and equal, but yet no matter how hard the Cherokee, tried to be white, we could not except them. If Jackson had excepted the tribal lands, then as the leader of the nation he would have been an example not only of character but also of American pride. Not only does he disgrace the nation, but also goes against the very system created by our founding fathers; the checks and balances system, which balances the power between executive, judicial, and legislative. Jackson breaks the very laws laid down from the beginning. Precious for the government to continue to function effectively. How can a man who disrupts the very natural order of government itself be considered the greatest president? In truth, he can not be.
One of the most controversial issues accompanying Jackson’s presidency is his attack on National Banks. The purposes of this bank were to regulate the flow of currency, control credit, and perform essential banking services for the Department of Treasury. The existence of the bank was based on the idea of Alexander Hamilton, the nation’s first secretary of the treasury, with the idea that the bank would cooperate between commercial interest and the government, to assure a strong national economy. With the removal of government funds, it made it difficult of banks to be reliable, yet it was Jackson decision to do so.
It is true that the BUS needed to be the bank for the people and not for the very rich, yet at the same time it did not need to be completely destroyed. Jackson eliminated something with mass potential for the country because of minor problems. He deprived the Nation of a “sound central bank just as it was entering an era of rapid industrialization”. (p. 291) By not allowing for one strong reliable bank, which was not in the fear of bankruptcy, Jackson created thousands of weak local banks that were undercapitalized and poorly managed. The people of the United States lost precious money to these companies. “Americans paid a stiff economic price for this wide-open system, as Jackson’s “reforms” left a heartbreaking century-long legacy of thousands of bank failures.” (p.292)
While Jackson played the role as a leader of the common people into politics, it was his political party that made him who he was. It was the demand for change, and Jackson just happening to be running at the time when the rules were being changed. It was not him that made improvements in electing process of president or the increase of citizens voting. It was his political party that demanded changes. It was not Jackson, who prevented South Carolina from seceding, it was Henry Clay. In short, Jackson played the role as a symbol of the new American dream, but did not really do anything on his own that prospered the United States.
Andrew Jackson can not be called one of the United States’ greatest presidents because each good thing coming out his presidency must be given credit to anyone but him. Many of his major decisions like the idea of the spoils system and the Trail of Tears, negatively effects not only the prosperity of the nation but also its natural pride and respect. A president must not just serve himself and his beliefs, but must serve his country and what is best for the people. Jackson falls short when the big picture is taken in view.