By: J Kay
Andrew Jackson was born in a backwoods settlement in the Carolinas in 1776. His parents, Scotch-Irish folk, came to America two years before his birth. His mother was widowed while pregnant with him. At age 13, Andrew joined a regiment. He and his brother were both captured and imprisoned together by the British. Their mother got them released, but his brother died on the long trip home. During his independent days, he lived in a tavern with other students. He gained a reputation for charisma, and wildness and hooliganism (Morris, Introduction). After practicing law for a few years in North Carolina, he took up a job as public prosecutor. And after another several years of practicing law, he married Rachel Donelson Robards, the estranged wife of an abusive husband. Andrew also cultivated the imposing bearing of a “gentleman”, which entailed, in those days in the South, a challenge to a duel in responses to any grave insult, or otherwise with whipping or caning (Morris, Introduction). In late 1795, Andrew was on the committee to draft a constitution. He was under some powerful men who made him the first member of the House of Representatives from Tennessee. While in Congress, he co-signed in a land speculation with partners who went bankrupt. Fortunately for him, he escaped debtors prison. He retained a lifelong distrust of banks, and paper money, which was involved in the transaction (Morris, Section 3). In an episode of Jackson’s presidency, he was at war with the Bank of the United States. The Bank of the United States held a monopoly on the deposits of the federal government, which owned one-fifth of the Bank’s stock. The bank provided credit to growing enterprises, issued bank notes which served as a dependable medium of exchange throughout the country, and it exercised a restraining effect on the less well manages state banks. Nicholas Biddle, who ran the Bank, tried to put the institution on a sound and prosperous basis. But Andrew Jackson was always determined to destroy it (Brinkley, 249). The Bank had two opposition groups: the “soft-money” faction and the “hard-money” faction. Soft money advocates objected to the Bank of the United States because it restrained the state banks from issuing notes freely. Hard money advocates believed that coin was the only safe currency, and they condemned all banks that issued bank notes. Although Jackson was a hard money supporter, he was sensitive to his many soft money supporters, and made it clear that he would object to renewing the charter of the Bank of the United States, which was due to expire in 1836. When Jackson could not legally abolish the Bank of the United States before the expiration of its charter, he weakened it by removing the government’s deposits from the bank. Jackson fired two of his secretary of treasury when they refused to carry out the order because they believed that such an action would destabilize the financial system. Jackson got Roger Taney to carry out his order. Taney took the deposits out of the Bank of the United States and put them in state banks. Biddle, in response, called in loans and raised the interest rates, in which his actions precipitated a short recession. Supporters of the Bank petitioned to Washington urging a rechartering of the Bank. Jackson blamed the recession on Biddle and refused. When the Bank of the United States died in 1836, it left the country with a fragmented and chronically unstable banking system that plagued the economy for many years (Brinkley, 251). Jackson also wanted to make changes in the government. In his first Annual Message to Congress, he recommended eliminating the Electoral College, and tried to democratize Federal officeholding. He believed that the duties in government could be plain and simple that offices should rotate among deserving applicants (Jackson, Seventh President 1829-1837). During his eight years of presidency, he removed no more than one-fifth of the federal officeholders. In doing so, embraced the philosophy of the spoils system (Brinkley, 239). Jackson favored tariffs for raising revenue. On one occasion, he met head-on the challenge of John Calhoun, leader of forces trying to rid themselves of a high protective tariff. When South Carolina assumed to nullify the tariff, Jackson ordered armed forces to Charleston and privately threatened to hang Calhoun. Violence seemed imminent until Clay negotiated a compromise tariffs were lowered and South Carolina dropped nullification (Jackson, Seventh President 1829-1837). Jackson never liked the Indians, and his attitude toward them was clear. He wanted them to move out of the way of expanding white settlement. His hostility toward the Indians was particularly intense due to his earlier experiences leading military campaigns against the tribes (Brinkley, 244). Andrew Jackson retired from public life in 1837, being the most beloved political figure of his age (Brinkley, 256). He may be considered the most beloved political figure of his age, but he is certainly not a great president. Although the Jackson’s era radically changed the American party system and methods of electioneering, I consider him to be an aggressive, violent, bias, and racist president. An aggressive president for firing two of his secretary of treasury for not carrying out his order; a violent president for threatening to hang Calhoun; a bias president for destroying the Bank of the United States and his views on the banking system; and a racist president for attitude and view toward the Indians. I believe for a person to be the president of the United States, he does not represent only one race or one group of people but rather the whole nation, everyone as a whole. This he did not accomplish and therefore in my eyes, he was not a great president.
Word Count: 952