Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson

7th President, 1829-1837

Early Life and Pre-presidency

Andrew Jackson Portrait by Thomas Sully, ca. 1857

Andrew Jackson Portrait by Thomas Sully, ca. 1857

  • Born on March 15, 1767 in the Waxhaws area on the North Carolina and South Carolina border.
  • Parents: Andrew Jackson, Sr. and Elizabeth Hutchinson. Brothers: Hugh and Robert. His father died 3 weeks before he was born, his mother died when he was 14, and his two brothers died shortly thereafter, leaving Jackson an orphan and the only surviving member of the family at 14 years old.
  • At age 13, he joined a local militia fighting during the American Revolutionary War. He and his brother Robert were captured by the British and kept in a prison where they contracted smallpox. Robert died of the disease but Jackson recovered. His other brother Hugh had died fighting in the same war.
  • His early education was sporadic, but in his late teens he studied law in Salisbury, North Carolina and was admitted to the bar in 1787.
  • Married Rachel Donelson Robards (1767–1828) on August 1791. Second ceremony January 17, 1794. One adopted son, Andrew Jackson, Jr., who was the son of Rachel’s brother Severn. In 1813, Jackson also adopted a Creek Indian boy who had been orphaned. They named him Lyncoya. He died in 1828.
  • Rachel Donelson had asked for a divorce from Lewis Robards and she married Jackson in 1791 believing the divorce had been settled. They later found out that it had not been completed, which made her marriage to Jackson a bigamy and thus invalid. After the divorce was finalized, they remarried in 1794. The issue of bigamy was used against Jackson by his opponents during the 1824 elections.
  • He practiced law in Jonesborough in North Carolina, an area which would eventually become the state of Tennessee in 1796.
  • In 1796, he became a delegate to the constitutional convention of Tennessee. When Tennessee became a state in the same year, Jackson ran for and won the first U.S. House of Representative seat for the state.
  • In 1797, he was elected to the U.S. Senate but resigned eight months later and returned home. He was then elected a judge of the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1798 and served until 1804.
  • Appointed colonel, then major general of the Tennessee militia in 1802.
  • He commanded 5,000 soldiers in the 1815 Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. Their decisive victory over 7,000 British troops made Jackson a national hero.
  • Lead the defeat of the Red Sticks, or Creek Indians, in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814 commanding Tennessee militia, U.S. regulars, and Indian allies. He was commissioned as Major General of the United States after this victory.
  • In 1817, he received orders from President Monroe to subdue raiding Seminole Indians who were taking refuge in Spanish Florida. Jackson interpreted this as permission to invade Florida, which he did by capturing Pensacola and St. Marks. Although many in Congress and the Spanish government believed his actions were unauthorized, then Secretary of State John Quincy Adams used this opportunity to negotiate the Adams–Onis Treaty in 1819 in which Spain ceded Florida to the U.S. Jackson served as military governor of Florida from March 1821 to December 1821.
  • In 1804, he bought a cotton plantation outside Nashville that he renamed The Hermitage, which would remain his home until his death.
  • He was re-elected to the U.S. Senate in 1822 and ran for President in the 1824 election. Although he won the popular vote and received the highest number of electoral votes, it was not enough for him to win. So the Presidency was decided by a vote in the U.S. House of Representative in which John Quincy Adams won. Jackson resigned his seat in the Senate and vowed to defeat Adams in the next election.

Presidency

Andrew Jackson Portrait by Ralph Eleaser Whiteside Earlm, ca. 1837

Andrew Jackson Portrait by Ralph Eleaser Whiteside Earlm, ca. 1837

  • Took his oath of office on March 4, 1829 at the East Portico, U.S. Capitol.
  • Vice Presidents: John C. Calhoun (1829–1832); Martin Van Buren (1833–1937).
  • His wife died of a heart attack two weeks after Jackson won in the 1828 election, but two months before he took his oath of office.
  • Founder of the Democratic Party when the Democratic–Republican Party split during the 1828 election into Democrats and Whigs.
  • Signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, which either forcibly removed or removed by signing removal treaties several American Indian nations from their lands to the west of the Mississippi River. 46,000 Indians were relocated during Jackson’s term, but many died from disease and starvation on the way to their destination. These forced relocations became known as the Trail of Tears.
  • Jackson paid off the remaining national debt in January 1835, marking the only time in U.S. history that this has been done. But the Panic of 1837 resulted in an increase of the national debt to $3.3 million by January 1838, and it has not been paid off since.
  • Called for the abolition of the Electoral College throughout his two terms, recommending that the choice of President and Vice President be given to the people.
  • He implemented a “rotation in office” system for appointing Federal employees believing that tenure led to corruption. Subsequently, his removal of officers known to oppose his views and their replacement by those loyal to him led to what was called the “Spoils system.”
  • Vetoed the re-charter of the Second Bank of the United States, whose 20-year charter was set to expire in 1836. He withdrew U.S. funds from the bank in 1833 and invested them in local and state banks.
  • States admitted to the Union: Arkansas on June 15, 1836 and Michigan on January 26, 1837.
  • The Panic of 1837, brought on by Jackson’s Specie Circular, was a deep economic depression that lasted several years. It required that government land buyers pay in either gold or silver coins. Many banks did not have enough specie to exchange for notes, so they collapsed and created the panic.
  • The Nullification Crisis from 1828 to 1832, a result of the Tariff of 1828, threatened to split the Union when South Carolina declared that it had the right to nullify any Federal law that went against its interests. The issue was resolved with the passage of a bill lowering tariffs to the satisfaction of the state.
  • Jackson experienced an assassination attempt during his term. In 1835, just outside the U.S. Capitol, an unemployed housepainter named Richard Lawrence aimed a pistol at the President. The pistol misfired, so the assassin took out a second pistol, which also misfired. Later tests with the pistols showed them working perfectly. This was the first time an assassination attempt had been carried out on a U.S. President.
  • He was often at war with Congress and did not defer to them in matters of policy-making. Instead he used his leadership of his party and his power of the veto to exert his command.
  • The “gag rule” in which any petition to discuss or debate slavery would not be tabled was adopted by Congress during Jackson’s administration. When northern abolitionsists sent thousands of anti-slavery tracts to officials, the clergy, and influential citizens in the south, they were intercepted by southern postmasters and mobs. Such actions were approved by Jackson and the Postmaster General. Jackson referred to these actions as “wicked attempts” to incite slave rebellion.

Post-presidency

Andrew Jackson at age 78 Photograph by Edward Anthony

Andrew Jackson at age 78
Photograph by Edward Anthony

  • Retired to his estate, The Hermitage, in Nashville, Tennessee.
  • On his last day as President, he said that his two regrets were that he “had been unable to shoot Henry Clay or to hang John C. Calhoun.”
  • Joined the First Presbytarian Church one year after his retirement as President.
  • Continued to influence Washington politics after his retirement. He threw his support behind and advised his successor Martin Van Buren and the 10th President, John Tyler.
  • The national two-party system is considered his most enduring legacy: The Democratic Party, which he solidified during his two terms, and the Whig Party, which existed until the mid-1850s.
  • Favored the annexation of Texas and worked to have fellow Tennessean James K. Polk, who also supported annexation, win the Democratic nomination for the 1844 Presidential election against Jackson’s former ally Martin Van Buren, who opposed annexation.
  • Attended the 25th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans in 1840.
  • He died on June 8, 1845 at The Hermitage of heart failure, edema, and chronic tuberculosis.
  • He and his wife are interred in a tomb in The Hermitage garden.
  • His entire estate was entrusted to his adopted son Andrew Jackson, Jr.
  • The Hermitage was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960.
  • His portrait appears on the $20 bill.
  • He was very popular among the American people, as evidenced by his victories in the popular vote during the two times he ran for election. After his retirement, he continued to receive the public at this estate.
  • He was a Freemason and served as the sixth Grand Master of Masons of Tennessee, a position he held from October 7, 1822 until October 4, 1824. His tomb is decorated with a Masonic plaque.
  • Several daguerreotype portraits of Jackson exist, taken sometime between 1844–1845 during the early years of its proliferation in the United States.