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Andrew Jackson - 7th President of the United States

Portrait of Andrew Jackson (National Archives)
Portrait of Andrew Jackson (National Archives)

Andrew Jackson was the 7th (1829-1837) President of the United States, sometimes called "Old Hickory." Jackson was wounded in a duel as a young man. Jackson became regarded as a national hero after his defeat of the British in the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.

In the Presidential Election of 1824 Jackson won both more popular and electorial votes than any other candidate, but did not receive an overall majority so the election went to the House of Representatives, who picked John Quincy Adams as President. Jackson beat Adams with a substantial majority four years later, and took office as President in 1829.

Jackson was responsible for the notorious Indian Removal Act of 1830, and thus the Trail of Tears, in unconstitutional defiance of a Supreme Court ruling.

Jackson was the first U.S. president who came from outside the original Revolutionary circle. Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison were notable figures in the War of Independence and in the formation of the U.S. Constitution. James Monroe fought in the Revolutionary War. John Quincy Adams was the son of John Adams. Jackson's election represented a significant break from that past.

Jackson is remembered for introducing the spoils system to American politics. Upon his election as President, a sizable number of people holding positions in Washington, DC offices found that they had suddenly been replaced by supporters of Jackson, who had worked to ensure his election. This practice has endured in political circles in the United States ever since.

As President, Jackson worked to dismantle the Bank of the United States, which had been originally introduced in 1791 by Alexander Hamilton as a way of providing a national debt and increasing the power of the federal government. This first Bank lapsed in 1811. It was followed by the second Bank, authorised by James Madison in 1816 to alleviate the economic problems caused by the War of 1812. It was instrumental in the growth of the U.S. economy but was opposed by Jackson on ideological grounds. Jackson followed Jefferson as a supporter of the ideal of an agricultural republic, and felt the Bank improved the fortunes of an elite circle of commercial and industrial entrepreneurs at the expense of farmers and labourers. After a titanic struggle with the Bank's President, Nicholas Biddle, Jackson succeeded in destroying the bank by vetoing its 1832 recharter by Congress. It was a Pyrrhic victory, however, as the Bank's money-lending functions were taken over by the legions of local and state banks that sprang up, and the commercial progress of the nation's economy was not noticeably dented.

The other notable crisis of his period of office was the nullification crisis, which merged issues of sectional strife and disagreements over trade tariffs. High tariffs on imports of common goods were seen by many in Southern colonies as unfairly benefitting Northern merchants and industrial entrpreneurs at the expense of those who had to buy the goods subject to the tariffs, mostly Southern farmers. The issue came to a head when the Vice President, John C. Calhoun, supported the claim of his home state, South Carolina, that it had the right to 'nullify' - declare illegal - the tariff legislation of 1828, and more generally the right of a state to nullify laws which went against its interests. Although Jackson sympathised with the Southern interpretation of the tariff debate, he was also a strong supporter of federalism (in the sense of supporting a strong union with considerable powers for the central government) and attempted to face Calhoun down over the issue, which developed into a bitter rivalry between the two men. Particularly famous was an incident at the April 13, 1829 Jefferson Day dinner, involving after-dinner toasts. Jackson rose first and toasted "Our federal Union: it must be preserved!", a clear challenge to Calhoun. Calhoun responded with a toast to ""The Union: next to our liberty, most dear", an astonishingly quick-witted riposte.

The crisis was resolved in 1833 with a compromise settlement which, by substantially lowering the tariffs, hinted that the central government considered itself weak in dealing with determined opposition by an individual state.

Jackson's wife died just prior to his taking office as President. She, Rachel Donelson Robards, had divorced her first husband (Col. Lewis Robards, sometimes mistakenly cited as "Roberts"), but there were some questions about the legality of the divorce, and she was never accepted in polite society, which Jackson deeply resented. His only child was an adopted son, Andrew, Jr. In his will, Andrew, Sr., left his granddaughter "several" slaves, his two grandsons each one male slave, and his daughter-in-law four female slaves, one of whom he had bought for her and the other three of whom were a household servant of his and her two daughters.

Jackson's portrait appears on the U.S. $20 bill.


Photographs and Documents of President Andrew Jackson

General Andrew Jackson (National Archives)
General Andrew Jackson (National Archives)

Message of President Andrew Jackson nominating Roger B. Taney and Philip B. Barbour to be Justices of the Supreme Court, 12/28/1835 (National Archives)
Message of President Andrew Jackson nominating Roger B. Taney and Philip B. Barbour to be Justices of the Supreme Court, 12/28/1835 (Note: Glance at Andrew Jackson's scrawling signature.) (National Archives)

General Andrew Jackson, photograph by Mathew Brady Studio (National Archives)
General Andrew Jackson, photograph by Mathew Brady Studio (National Archives)

Andrew Jackson Letter June 29, 1863, 06/29/1863 (National Archives)
Handwritten letter of President Andrew Jackson to Henry Horn and Henry Simpson responding to invitation. June 29, 1863, 06/29/1863 (National Archives)

Quick Facts about President Andrew Jackson

Rank: 7th (1829-1837)
Followed: John Quincy Adams
Succeeded by: Martin Van Buren
Date of Birth March 15, 1767
Place of Birth: Waxhaw, South Carolina
Date of Death: June 8, 1845
Place of Death: The Hermitage, Nashville, Tennessee
First Lady: Rachel Donelson Robards
Occupation: lawyer, soldier
Political Party: Democrat
Vice President: John C. Calhoun (1829-1832]]
                Martin Van Buren (1829-1837)

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