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Andrew Jackson - Dominating American Politics

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Battle of New Orleans, War of 1812

The Battle of New Orleans, during the War of 1812, not only raised Andrew Jackson, then a little known Southerner, to the highest rank of military and political importance; but, ended forever the danger that a foreign power might dominate the Mississippi Valley.


Without union our independence and liberty would never have been achieved; without union they never can be maintained. ... The loss of liberty, of all good government, of peace, plenty, and happiness, must inevitably follow a dissolution of the Union.

---Andrew Jackson, Second Inaugural Address, 1833



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Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) - Military commander, politician and seventh president of the United States, Jackson was a polarizing figure who dominated American politics in the 1820's and 1830's. More than any of his predecessors, Andrew Jackson was elected by popular vote and as president, he sought to act as the direct representative of the common man.

He was born in a backwoods settlement in the Carolinas on March 15, 1767 to Scotch-Irish colonists Andrew and Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson. However, his father died three weeks before he was born. He was the youngest of three boys, his older brother Hugh, born in 1763 and Robert born in 1764. He received a sporadic education as a youth and at the age of 13, joined a local regiment as a courier in the American Revolution. His eldest brother, Hugh, died from heat exhaustion during the Battle of Stono Ferry, on June 20, 1779. Jackson and his brother Robert were captured by the British and held as prisoners of war. During their captivity, they nearly starved to death and when Jackson refused to clean the boots of a British officer, he was slashed in the head and left hand with a sword, leaving him scarred for life.


While imprisoned, both he and his brother, Robert, contracted smallpox and their mother worked hard to have the two released. Let out of captivity on April 27, 1781, his brother died just a few days later. Assured that Andrew would recover, his mother  volunteered as a nurse tending to prisoners of war on board two ships in Charleston harbor, where there had been an outbreak of cholera. In November, she died from the disease, leaving Andrew an orphan with no immediate family.


But, in his late teens he read law for about two years, and he became an outstanding young lawyer in Tennessee. Fiercely jealous of his honor, he engaged in brawls, and in a duel killed a man who cast an unjustified slur on his wife Rachel.

Jackson prospered sufficiently to buy slaves and to build a mansion, the Hermitage, near Nashville. He was the first man elected from Tennessee
to the House of Representatives, and he served briefly in the Senate. A major general in the War of 1812, Jackson became a national hero when he defeated the British at New Orleans.

Renowned for his toughness, he was nicknamed "Old Hickory," and in 1824 he ran for President, with several state political factions rallying around him, but, lost to John Quincy Adams. However, by 1828 enough had joined with him to win numerous state elections and he won against Adam's bid for re-election.  During this election Jackson's opponents referred to him as a "jackass".  Jackson didn't mind it and actually used the jackass (donkey) as a symbol for a while.  It would later become the recognized symbol of the Democratic Party long after Jackson's presidency.


In his first Annual Message to Congress, Jackson recommended eliminating the Electoral College. He also tried to democratize Federal office holding. Already state political machines were being built on patronage, and a New York Senator openly proclaimed "that to the victors belong the spoils ...."


Jackson took a milder view. Decrying officeholders who seemed to enjoy life tenure, he believed Government duties could be "so plain and simple" that offices should rotate among deserving applicants.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of Jackson's presidency was his policy regarding American Indians, which involved the ethnic cleansing and leading in the policy known as the Indian Removal Act. Jackson had been negotiating treaties and removal policies with Indian leaders for years before his election as president. In his December 8, 1829, First Annual Message to Congress, Jackson stated:

"This emigration should be voluntary, for it would be as cruel as unjust to compel the aborigines to abandon the graves of their fathers and seek a home in a distant land. But, they should be distinctly informed that if they remain within the limits of the States they must be subject to their laws. In return for their obedience as individuals they will without doubt be protected in the enjoyment of those possessions which they have improved by their industry."



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Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson (1767-1845)

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