"Andrew Jackson, I am given to understand, was a patriot and a traitor. He was one of the greatest of generals, and wholly ignorant of the art of war. A writer brilliant, elegant, eloquent, and without being able to compose a correct sentence, or spell words of four syllables. The first of statesmen, he never devised, he never framed a measure. He was the most candid of men, and was capable of the profoundest dissimulation. A most law-defying, law-obeying citizen. A stickler for discipline, he never hesitated to disobey his superior. A democratic aristocrat. An urbane savage. An atrocious saint." James Parton, the "father of American biography", writing a few years after Jackson's presidency, was tempted to throw up his hands over Jackson - an apparent bundle of contradictions. It is not just that his friends and enemies see two different men; the very facts make one wonder whether he was pragmatic or dogmatic, a great statesman or a bull in the china shop. Likewise the "Jackson Era" is bewildering in its complexity. A period of the strangest of strange bedfellows in politics. Of Anti-Masonic Parties and utopian communes. Of theological religious obsession such as most Westerners can hardly conceive today. A nation doubling in size, and moving from the age of wood and animal power to that of iron and steam power. The speed of change was very comparable to that of the 20th century.
Meanwhile, the United States was dividing along regional lines, with the established Northeast and Southeast each trying to put their stamp on the West.
Summary of Jackson's Life Prior to the Presidency
He lived from 1767 to 1845. The child of poor Scotch-Irish immigrants; he was orphaned by the ferocity of the American Revolution in the Carolinas. He got a reasonable education for his day, being qualified to practice law (educational requirements were low). In his early 20s, he went to the territory of Tennessee, not yet a state, where he achieved prominence as a lawyer, moderate sized plantation owner and judge. By about 30, he had been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives of the new state, and was elected Senator but resigned after one year.
He was appointed, on his return from the Senate, a Superior Court Judge, where he proved capable and flamboyant. While remaining on the bench, he sought and won the position of Major General of the Tennessee militia.
During the War of 1812, he managed - with difficulty due to some enemies he had made - to get into action in important theatres. In between subduing various Indian tribes, he won, in New Orleans by far the greatest American victory in the war. Americans badly needed cheering up after the war, in which much of the Capitol city of Washington was burned by the British.
Jackson, early in the war, became a U.S. Major General - vastly different from a state militia Major General. He continued to have military successes - though in his invasion of Spanish Florida he got the reputation with some people of being a kind of Caesar.
Summary of the Quest for the Presidency
In the 1821, Jackson, at 54 was in very precarious health. He had, like many Southerners, defended his "honor" in a two or three duels and one shoot-out, and had sustained a bullet lodged beside his heart, and another which smashed his arm. At about this time, the "Hero of New Orleans" was perhaps the most popular man in the country, and he received a "favorite son" endorsement for the presidency from his state of Tennessee. Believing that Washington had become a sink or corruption, he felt called upon to work for the office. To gain credibility, he ran for and won a seat in the Senate. This time, in his maturity, he handled the job well, making a favorable impression on old government hands, many of whom expected a wild man in buckskins. He immediately made peace with Thomas Hart Benton, whom he once said he would thrash in the streets of Nashville, and who, with his brother, left a bullet in Jackson's...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document