Andrew Jackson

7th president - 1829-1837


A popular and populist figure, Jackson could not have been more different from the distinguished intellectuals who preceded him. Born in the backwoods of Carolina, he received scant education; fought in the Revolutionary War as a 13-year-old (and was left with a permanent scar on his face after being struck by a British officer while in captivity); and spent much of the remainder of his youth as a notoriously dissolute student.

He later fought in the war of 1812-1814, and became famous as the general who administered the final crushing defeat to the British at New Orleans in 1815. (News that the war was over had not yet filtered through.) He added to his reputation for boldness by invading Florida in pursuit of the war against the Seminole Indians in 1817-1818.

He ran unsuccessfully for the presidency in 1824 and spent most of the next four years preparing his campaign for 1828. The election was the dirtiest that US had yet seen, with vicious mudslinging on both sides, but Jackson ended up winning comfortably and went on to prove a surprisingly effective president.

Generally a supporter of slavery and the rights of southern states, he nonetheless fought one of his defining battles on the issue of "nullification". When South Carolina sought to nullify a federal tariff of 1828, Jackson insisted that such unilateral action was tantamount to treason, and threatened to uphold federal supremacy by force if necessary. The rogue state (mollified by a tactful reduction of the tariff) eventually backed down.

He also engaged in a high-profile power struggle with the Bank of the United States, vetoing a bill to renew the charter of what he regarded as an overprivileged monopoly rather than a valuable national institution. It was a long and bitter fight. "The bank is trying to kill me," Jackson observed to Martin Van Buren at one point. "But I will kill it!"

But Jackson's stance was widely seen as representing the interests of the common man, rather than the political elite, and in 1832 he was re-elected with more than 56 per cent of the popular vote (and almost five times as many electoral votes as his opponent, Henry Clay, who had supported the bank).

Jackson's opponents considered him autocratic. Unlike previous presidents, he rarely deferred to Congress in policy-making but, instead, used his power of the veto and his party leadership to pursue his own agendas. He was also accused of rewarding supporters with government jobs. "If you have a job in your department that can't be done by a Democrat, abolish the job," he allegedly said. (He could also be merciless to his enemies. "He could hate with a Biblical fury," wrote one biographer, "and would resort to petty and vindictive acts to nurture his hatred.")

Conscious of the need to keep his Southern supporters sweet, he opposed abolitionism and encouraged westward expansion at the expense of Native American tribes.

Perhaps not surprisingly, it was during his presidencies that the divided Republican party began to resolve into, on the one hand, the Democratic Republicans, or Democrats, adhering to Jackson; and, on the other, the National Republicans, or Whigs.

Despite his years in office, Jackson never shook off his reputation as a coarse, violent-tempered man. But the reputation did no harm to his popularity. After his second term, he retired to the Hermitage, a mansion he had built near Nashville, Tennessee. His health deteriorated painfully, and he died there in June 1845.

In his own words

"I know what I am fit for. I can command a body of men in a rough way; but I am not fit to be President."

"In general, the great can protect themselves, but the poor and humble require the arm and shield of the law."

"Our Federal Union: it must be preserved."

In others' words

"A man of intelligence, and one of those prompt, frank, ardent souls that I love to meet." Aaron Burr

"A barbarian who could not write a sentence of grammar and hardly could spell his own name." John Quincy Adams


He married Rachel Robards, a divorcée, in 1791. It later emerged that her divorce had not been finalised at the time, so he married her again in 1794. This incident came back to haunt them. In the 1828 election campaign, Jackson's opponents made much of this "adultery", and Jackson blamed Rachel's distress at this for her sudden death – after his victory but before his inauguration. His niece, Emily, acted as his first lady; followed, after her death, by Sarah Jackson, the wife of his adopted nephew.

A prolific dueller, Jackson killed at least one man, in 1806: Charles Dickinson, who had besmirched his wife's honour. The bullet fired by Dickinson remained lodged in Jackson's chest for the rest of his life.

Two other bullets – the legacy of a brawl in 1813 – stayed in his arm for 20 years before being removed.

As a teenager, Jackson had an unfortunate habit of slobbering. The teasing that this provoked has been blamed for his penchant for violence.

His hobbies included cockfighting and racehorse breeding.

Jackson survived the first attempt to assassinate a US president. Richard Lawrence, a madman, attacked him in the Capitol in 1835 with two pistols – both of which, miraculously, misfired.

He was the first president to ride on a railroad train.

His face can be seen on $20 notes.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'