Andrew Jackson: More Than a Common American
Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, remains one of the most controversial figures in American history. Some accounts portray Jackson as a heroic and courageous man, who proved his mettle in various military endeavors, most notably the War of 1812. Others, however, judge Jackson more harshly, as they are deeply offended by his actions regarding Native Americans during his presidency. Andrew Jackson presented himself as a man of the people and his politics strengthened a nascent American nationalism. Jackson, born in 1767 in the Carolinas a few months after the death of his father, enlisted in the Revolution at the young age of thirteen. He was captured by British troops at the age of fourteen. Upon the tragic death of his family during the Revolutionary War, Jackson inherited from his family a large plot of land as well a sense of great patriotism from the Revolution. While his education was sporadic as a child, Jackson set out to study law. He soon became a public solicitor and prospered as a cotton planter and merchant (Hofstadter 59-60). Jackson went onto serve in the War of 1812 and led several devastating campaigns against Native Americans in the Creek War. He had become a national hero by the end of the War of 1812 with an American victory at New Orleans and he was a person that many Americans admired. Jackson’s term as president espoused a new era in American politics. This was the first time in American history in which a man born in humble circumstances could be elected president. Andrew Jackson’s celebration of the common man was a chimera. He actually confused, confounded and co-opted the common man by consistently placing rhetoric before reason, image before ideology and personality before politics. Jackson's tenure as president coincided with the rise of capitalism, enormous social and economic change, and an era of political upheaval.
Andrew Jackson’s rise marked a new turn in the development of American political institutions. As historian Richard Hofstadter explains, “during the period from 1812 to 1828 the two-party system disappeared and personal, local, and sectional conflicts replaced broad differences over public policy as the central fact in national politics” (64). The Election of 1824 was unique in that there was no party unity after the Federalist Party had dissolved. Sectionalism had developed and all sections of the country were represented by different candidates. The rising west was even represented in this election as politics slowly began to drift westward. In addition, the newly emerging western states granted universal manhood suffrage, and many states dropped property qualifications of voters. The Democratic-Republican Party splintered as four candidates sought the presidency. The candidates of this election included John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts, Henry Clay of Kentucky, William Crawford of Georgia, and Andrew Jackson of Tennessee. Clay was able to sway enough votes that Jackson was not able to receive a majority of electoral votes. Jackson had a plurality of both popular and electoral votes but he did not hold the majority. The election was decided by the House of Representatives. Henry Clay happened to be the Speaker of the House and threw his support to Adams. Therefore, John Quincy Adams became the sixth president and Clay was immediately appointed Secretary of State. “Jackson himself was easily persuaded that Clay and Adams had been guilty of a ‘corrupt bargain’ and determined to retake from Adams what he felt was rightfully his” (Hofstadter 70). Furious that he had lost the election, Jackson began planning and strategizing for the next election.
A new political atmosphere was discernable in the Jacksonian era. Jackson established the political machine that is still present today. He began his campaign of 1828 almost immediately after John Quincy Adam’s inauguration. Jackson would prove in this election...
Cited: Brinkley, Alan. American History a Survey. 12th ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2007. Print
Hofstadter, Richard. The American Political Tradition: and the Men Who Made It. New York: Vintage, 1973. Print.
Pessen, Edward. Jacksonian America; Society, Personality, and Politics. Homewood, IL: Dorsey, 1969. Print.
Remini, Robert V. Andrew Jackson & His Indian Wars. New York: Viking, 2001. Print.
Remini, Robert V. Andrew Jackson. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. Print.
Remini, Robert Vincent. The Age of Jackson. Columbia: University of South Carolina, 1972. Print.
Schlesinger, Arthur M. The Age of Jackson. Boston: Little, Brown and, 1945. Print.
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