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

Minutiae

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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there