Discussing the Legacy of Andrew Jackson’s Presidency
By Michael M. Nakade
(Four fictional individuals are invited to share their opinions and feelings on President Andrew Jackson, who served from 1829 to 1837.)
1. A presidential Historian, Prof. Smith of Jackson University
Love him or hate him, you can’t ignore what Andrew Jackson did during his 8-year presidency in the first half of the 19th century. He was both wildly popular among common people and stupendously respected for his strong leadership qualities. Yes, he had many enemies, but that was because of his unwavering commitment to serve his supporters.
Considering where he came from, it was a miracle that he climbed to the highest office in the land. His life story gave a sense of hope to millions of those who came from the poor frontier villages in the 19th century. He was neither the Virginia gentry nor the Ivy League school educated East Coast elite. He was an orphan at the age of 13, and became a military leader, which paved the way for his entry into politics. He exemplifies an American frontier virtue of a self-made man. Hollywood could not have come up with a better story than Jackson’s biography.
In terms of his policies, Jackson used his constitutionally specified veto power to block certain legislations. His use of veto power led to the strengthening of the Executive Office in the structure of the American government. He also reacted swiftly to the Nullification crisis brought on by the State of South Carolina in 1832. He ordered the mobilization of the federal troops to deal with one state’s rebellion against the federal government. It was a good precedence for someone like Lincoln in 1861. For these two reasons alone, I deemed the Jackson presidency a success. It’s refreshing to have a president like him every now and then in America.
2. Prof. Jones who teaches Political Science at Andrews University
Andrew Jackson was denied of his rightful presidency in 1824 when the corrupt bargain was struck between President elect John Quincy Adams and Speaker of the House, Henry Clay. In the popular vote count in the general election, he defeated his closest competitor, Quincy Adams by 10%. Jackson had the popular mandate. He was the people’s choice in 1824. The America’s system of electing the president was and still is flawed for this reason. It just isn’t democratic in a true sense of the word when the system allows the second most vote getter to become the elected president.
Andrew Jackson was rightfully elected in 1828 and 1832. Each time, he defeated his next competitor handily. Jackson’s popularity was significant because he was the people’s president. In a democratic system, it means that he had the mandate of the people. His job as the president of the United States was to achieve the best interests of those who supported him. He fought against the renewal of the Bank of the United States and supported the Indian Removal Act passed by the Congress. He did what he believed was right. For the first time in American history, common white men participated in the election of their president, and they overwhelmingly chose Jackson. How Jackson was able to connect with the people was something remarkable in our presidential politics. It is altogether fitting that his presidency in American history was classified as the Age of Jackson or the Jacksonian Democracy. People either loved him or hated him, but no one can dismiss what he meant to the history of the American presidency.
3. A descendent of a Cherokee Indian who survived the Trail of Tears
In my family, Andrew Jackson is regarded as the most cold-blooded human being in history. None of us ever carry $20 bill in our wallets. We always make sure to ask for two $10 bills when we are given a $20 bill as a change in stores. It is beyond us that the United States government continues to honor Jackson as one of the great men from America’s past. The $20 bill is a constant reminder that we, native Americans, get no respect from the American government.
What really upsets us is that Jackson was expected to accept the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Worcester v. Georgia. Chief Justice John Marshall went out of his way to declare that Cherokee Native Americans were entitled to federal protection from the actions of state governments that would infringe on the tribe's sovereignty. It was Jackson’s duty to make sure that the State of Georgia would not kick our ancestors out of their land in western Georgia. Instead, Jackson snickered with the well documented remark: “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!" Jackson then pushed the Congress to sign the treaty with the Cherokees so that the Cherokees would relocate to the designated Indian Territory, present day Oklahoma. The infamous Trail of Tears happened in 1837. Four thousand out of 15,000 died in this forced death march from Georgia to Oklahoma. The Cherokee tribe was the last of the tribe among the five so called civilized tribes to be relocated from their homeland. Jackson personally hated the Native Americans. He used us when it was convenient. But, when it was popular to get us out of our autonomous lands, he acted swiftly and mercilessly. His total disregard for our people set the tone for the Federal government’s policy toward the entire Native American population for the next 90 years. Love him or hate him? Do I even need to say how I feel about Jackson???
4. John Henry Clay, the great-great grandson of the Secretary of State Henry Clay
By all accounts, Andrew Jackson was unfit to be the president of the United States. He was emotionally and mentally unstable, as evidenced by his violent temper and duels that he was involved in. He brought his frontier’s man mentality to the White House and tried to bulldoze his opposition. Quite frankly, my great-great grandfather, Henry Clay, was appalled by Jackson’s deeds and words in Washington D.C.
Mr. Jackson was a popular man among the people of west and south. He was a war hero from the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 and got the following from rather uneducated folks. His popularity among those people made him think that he was qualified to be the president. That was scary. Framers of the United States Constitution established the system of the Electoral College to ensure that a buffoon like Jackson would not be come the president. That’s because they did not trust masses to choose the president of the United States. They put trust in the hands of electors who were to be chosen by each state’s legislature. That’s how the framers of the Constitution safeguarded the office of the President against uneducated masses. In 1824, the system worked because Jackson the buffoon was denied of the presidency, even though he got more popular votes than anyone. Because he did not carry majority in the Electoral College, the House of the Representatives chose the president. My great-great grandfather was instrumental in making sure that the best qualified person would be chosen, and it was John Quincy Adams. My great-great grandfather would have made a good president, too. I say this because both Mr. Adams and Henry Clay were very qualified and had years of experience between them in the government services.
Jackson’s lack of proper manners turned many people off. The Era of Good Feeling came to a sudden and unfortunate end because of his boorish attitude. My great-great grandfather organized a new political party called the Whig Party to oppose Jackson. Although great-great grandfather was not elected as the Whig presidential candidate, he was able to bring much needed checks and balance to Jackson’s autocratic way.
Jackson’s bank war was simply silly. He opposed the bank by vetoing the act of the congress. By opposing, he was creating a ‘class war’ and pitted business people to go up against uneducated farmers in the west and the south. That was both unnecessary and reckless. The truth of the matter was that nation’s business was dependent on the bank’s operation. By erasing the bank altogether, Jackson brought on the credit crunch shortly thereafter. It led to the panic of 1837, and millions of people lost their jobs and income. Jackson was no hero to the common man. He was a silly demagogue who did much damage to the nation’s economic well being in the 1830s.
Love him or hate him? I hate him for what he did to the nation. But in a strange way, it was good that he was so despicable. His boorish way led Henry Clay to create a new political party, and as a result, the two party system was firmly established in the United States. It was an unintended consequence to Jackson’s spiteful character.
(Information in this work came mainly from The History Channel’s DVD on Andrew Jackson, 2006.)
© 2010 Mikio