Andrew Jackson (March 15, 1767 June 8, 1845) was the seventh President of the United States (1829–1837). He was military governor of Florida (1821), commander of the American forces at the Battle of New Orleans (1815), and eponym of the era of Jacksonian democracy. He was a polarizing figure who dominated American politics in the 1820s and 1830s. His political ambition combined with widening political participation by more people shaped the modern Democratic Party. Renowned for his toughness, he was nicknamed "Old Hickory". As he based his career in developing Tennessee, Jackson was the first President primarily associated with the frontier.
He received a sporadic education in the local "old-field" school. During the American Revolutionary War, Jackson, at age thirteen, joined a local regiment as a courier. Andrew and his brother Robert Jackson were captured by the British and held as prisoners of war; they nearly starved to death in captivity. When Andrew refused to clean the boots of a British officer, the irate redcoat slashed at him with a sword, giving him scars on his left hand and head, as well as an intense hatred for the British. While imprisoned, the brothers contracted smallpox. Robert died a few days after their mother secured their release. Jackson's entire immediate family died from war-related hardships which Jackson blamed on the British, and he was orphaned by age 14.
Jackson was the last U.S. President to have been a veteran of the American Revolution, and the second President to have been a prisoner of war (Washington was captured by the French in the French and Indian War).
In 1781, Jackson worked for a time in a saddle-maker's shop. Later he taught school and studied law in Salisbury, North Carolina. In 1787, he was admitted to the bar, and moved to Jonesboro, in what was then the Western District of North Carolina, and later became Tennessee.
Though his legal education was scanty, Jackson knew enough to practice law on the frontier. Since he was not from a distinguished family, he had to make his career by his own merits; soon he began to prosper in the rough-and-tumble world of frontier law. Most of the actions grew out of disputed land-claims, or from assaults and battery. In 1788, he was appointed Solicitor of the Western District and held the same position in the territorial government of Tennessee after 1791.
In 1796, Jackson was a delegate to the Tennessee constitutional convention. When Tennessee achieved statehood in 1796, Jackson was elected its U.S. Representative. In 1797 he was elected U.S. Senator as a Democratic-Republican. He resigned within a year. In 1798, he was appointed a judge of the Tennessee Supreme Court, serving until 1804.
Besides his legal and political career, Jackson prospered as a planter and merchant. In 1803 he owned a lot, and built a home and the first general store in Gallatin. In 1804, he acquired the "Hermitage", a plantation in Sumner County, near Nashville. Jackson later added to the farm. The primary crop was cotton, grown by enslaved workers. Jackson started with nine slaves, by 1820 he held as many as 44, and later held up to 150 slaves.
During the War of 1812, Tecumseh incited the "Red Stick" Creek Indians of northern Alabama and Georgia to attack white settlements. Four hundred settlers were killed in the Fort Mims Massacre. In the resulting Creek War, Jackson commanded the American forces, which included Tennessee militia, U.S. regulars, and Cherokee, Choctaw, and Southern Creek Indians.
Jackson defeated the Red Stick Creeks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814. Eight hundred "Red Sticks" were killed, but Jackson spared chief William Weatherford. Sam Houston and David Crockett served under Jackson in this campaign. After the victory, Jackson imposed the Treaty of Fort Jackson upon both the Northern Creek enemies and the Southern Creek allies, wresting twenty million acres (81,000 km²) from all Creeks for white settlement. Jackson was appointed Major General after this action.
Jackson's service in the War of 1812 against the United Kingdom was conspicuous for bravery and success. When British forces threatened New Orleans, Jackson took command of the defenses, including militia from several western states and territories. He was a strict officer but was popular with his troops. It was said he was "tough as old hickory" wood on the battlefield, which gave him his nickname. In the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815, Jackson's 5,000 soldiers won a victory over 7,500 British. The British had more than 2,000 casualties to Jackson's 13 killed and 58 wounded or missing.
The war, and especially this victory, made Jackson a national hero. He received the Thanks of Congress and a gold medal by resolution of February 27, 1815.
Jackson served in the military again during the First Seminole War. He was ordered by President James Monroe in December 1817 to lead a campaign in Georgia against the Seminole and Creek Indians. Jackson was also charged with preventing Spanish Florida from becoming a refuge for runaway slaves. Critics later alleged that Jackson exceeded orders in his Florida actions. His directions were to "terminate the conflict. Jackson believed the best way to do this would be to seize Florida. Before going, Jackson wrote to Monroe, "Let it be signified to me through any channel... that the possession of the Floridas would be desirable to the United States, and in sixty days it will be accomplished. Monroe gave Jackson orders that were purposely ambiguous, sufficient for international denials.|
The Seminoles attacked Jackson's Tennessee volunteers. The Seminoles' attack, however, left their villages vulnerable, and Jackson burned them and the crops. He found letters that indicated that the Spanish and British were secretly assisting the Indians. Jackson believed that the United States would not be secure as long as Spain and the United Kingdom encouraged Indians to fight and argued that his actions were undertaken in self-defense. Jackson captured Pensacola, Florida, with little more than some warning shots, and deposed the Spanish governor. He captured and then tried and executed two British subjects, Robert Ambrister and Alexander Arbuthnot, who had been supplying and advising the Indians. Jackson's action also struck fear into the Seminole tribes as word spread of his ruthlessness in battle.
The Tennessee legislature nominated Jackson for President in 1822. It also elected him U.S. Senator again.
By 1824, the Democratic-Republican Party had become the only functioning national party. Its Presidential candidates had been chosen by an informal Congressional nominating caucus, but this had become unpopular. In 1824, most of the Democratic-Republicans in Congress boycotted the caucus. Those who attended backed Treasury Secretary William H. Crawford for President and Albert Gallatin for Vice President. A Pennsylvanian convention nominated Jackson for President a month later, stating that the irregular caucus ignored the "voice of the people" and was a "vain hope that the American people might be thus deceived into a belief that he [Crawford] was the regular democratic candidate. Gallatin criticized Jackson as "an honest man and the idol of the worshippers of military glory, but from incapacity, military habits, and habitual disregard of laws and constitutional provisions, altogether unfit for the office.
Besides Jackson and Crawford, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams and House Speaker Henry Clay were also candidates. Jackson received the most popular votes (but not a majority, and four states had no popular ballot). The Electoral votes were split four ways, with Jackson having a plurality. Since no candidate received a majority, the election was decided by the House of Representatives, which chose Adams. Jackson denounced this result as a "corrupt bargain" because Clay gave his support to Adams. Later Adams appointed Clay as Secretary of State. Jackson's defeat burnished his political credentials, however, since many voters believed the "man of the people" had been robbed by the "corrupt aristocrats of the East."
During the election, Jackson's opponents referred to him as a "jackass." Jackson liked the name and used the jackass as a symbol for a while, but it died out. However, it later became the symbol for the Democratic Party when cartoonist Thomas Nast popularized it.
Jackson's wife Rachel died suddenly on December 22, 1828, prior to his inauguration, and was buried on Christmas Eve.
Jackson was the first President to invite the public to attend the White House ball honoring his first inauguration. Many poor people came to the inaugural ball in their homemade clothes. The crowd became so large that Jackson's guards could not hold them out of the White House. The White House became so crowded with people that dishes and decorative pieces in the White House began to break. Some people stood on good chairs in muddied boots just to get a look at the President. The crowd had become so wild that the attendants poured punch in tubs and put it on the White House lawn to lure people out of the White House. Jackson’s raucous populism earned him the nickname King Mob.
The Second Bank of the United States was authorized for a twenty year period during James Madison's tenure in 1816. As President, Jackson worked to rescind the bank's federal charter. In Jackson's veto message (written by George Bancroft), the bank needed to be abolished because:
Following Jefferson, Jackson supported an "agricultural republic" and felt the Bank improved the fortunes of an "elite circle" of commercial and industrial entrepreneurs at the expense of farmers and laborers. After a titanic struggle, Jackson succeeded in destroying the Bank by vetoing its 1832 re-charter by Congress and by withdrawing U.S. funds in 1833.
The bank's money-lending functions were taken over by the legions of local and state banks that sprang up. This fed an expansion of credit and speculation. At first, as Jackson withdrew money from the Bank to invest it in other banks, land sales, canal construction, cotton production, and manufacturing boomed. However, due to the practice of banks issuing paper banknotes that were not backed by gold or silver reserves, there was soon rapid inflation and mounting state debts. Then, in 1836, Jackson issued the Specie Circular, which required buyers of government lands to pay in "specie" (gold or silver coins). The result was a great demand for specie, which many banks did not have enough of to exchange for their notes. These banks collapsed. This was a direct cause of the Panic of 1837, which threw the national economy into a deep depression. It took years for the economy to recover from the damage.
The U.S. Senate censured Jackson on March 28, 1834, for his action in removing U.S. funds from the Bank of the United States. When the Jacksonians had a majority in the Senate, the censure was expunged.
The issue came to a head when Vice President Calhoun, in the South Carolina Exposition and Protest of 1828, supported the claim of his home state, South Carolina, that it had the right to "nullify"—declare void—the tariff legislation of 1828, and more generally the right of a state to nullify any Federal laws which went against its interests. Although Jackson sympathized with the South in the tariff debate, he was also a strong supporter of a strong union, with effective powers for the central government. Jackson attempted to face down Calhoun over the issue, which developed into a bitter rivalry between the two men.
Particularly notable was an incident at the April 13, 1830 Jefferson Day dinner, involving after-dinner toasts. Robert Hayne began by toasting to "The Union of the States, and the Sovereignty of the States." Jackson then rose, and in a booming voice added "Our federal Union: It must be preserved!" a clear challenge to Calhoun. Calhoun clarified his position by responding "The Union: Next to our Liberty, the most dear!
The next year, Calhoun and Jackson broke apart politically from one another. Around this time, the Petticoat Affair caused further resignations from Jackson's cabinet, leading to its reorganization as the "Kitchen Cabinet." Martin Van Buren, despite resigning as Secretary of State, played a leading role in the new unofficial cabinet. At the first Democratic National Convention, privately engineered by members of the Kitchen Cabinet, Van Buren replaced Calhoun as Jackson's running mate. In December 1832, Calhoun resigned as Vice President to become a U.S. Senator for South Carolina.
In response to South Carolina's nullification claim, Jackson vowed to send troops to South Carolina to enforce the laws. In December 1832, he issued a resounding proclamation against the "nullifiers," stating that he considered "the power to annul a law of the United States, assumed by one State, incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which it was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed." South Carolina, the President declared, stood on "the brink of insurrection and treason," and he appealed to the people of the state to reassert their allegiance to that Union for which their ancestors had fought. Jackson also denied the right of secession: "The Constitution... forms a government not a league... To say that any State may at pleasure secede from the Union is to say that the United States is not a nation.
Jackson asked Congress to pass a "Force Bill" explicitly authorizing the use of military force to enforce the tariff. But it was held up until protectionists led by Clay agreed to a reduced Compromise Tariff. The Force Bill and Compromise Tariff passed on March 1, 1833. and Jackson signed both. The South Carolina Convention then met and rescinded its nullification ordinance. The Force Bill became moot because it was no longer needed.
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of Jackson's presidency was his policy regarding American Indians. Jackson was a leading advocate of a policy known as Indian removal. In his December 8, 1829 First Annual Message to Congress, Jackson stated:
Prior to his election as president, Jackson had been involved wth the issue of Indian removal for over ten years. The removal of the Native Americans to the west of the Mississippi River had been a major part of his political agenda in both the 1824 and 1828 presidential elections. After his election he signed the Indian Removal Act into law in 1830. The Act authorized the President to negotiate treaties to purchase tribal lands in the east in exchange for lands further west, outside of existing U.S. state borders.
While frequently frowned upon in the North, the Removal Act was popular in the South, where population growth and the discovery of gold on Cherokee land had increased pressure on tribal lands. The state of Georgia became involved in a contentious jurisdictional dispute with the Cherokees, culminating in the 1832 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Worcester v. Georgia) which ruled that Georgia could not impose its laws upon Cherokee tribal lands. Jackson is often quoted (regarding the decision) as having said, "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it!" Whether or not he actually said it is disputed.
In any case, Jackson used the Georgia crisis to pressure Cherokee leaders to sign a removal treaty. A small faction of Cherokees led by John Ridge negotiated the Treaty of New Echota with Jackson's representatives. Ridge was not a recognized leader of the Cherokee Nation, and this document was rejected by most Cherokees as illegitimate. Over 15,000 Cherokees signed a petition in protest; it was ignored by the Supreme Court. The treaty was enforced by Jackson's successor, Van Buren, who ordered 7,000 armed troops to remove the Cherokees. This resulted in the deaths of over 4,000 Cherokees on the "Trail of Tears."
By the 1830s, under constant pressure from settlers, each of the five southern tribes had ceded most of its lands, but sizable self-government groups lived in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida. All of these (except the Seminoles) had moved far in the coexistence with whites, and they resisted suggestions that they should voluntarily remove themselves. Their non-violent methods earned them the title the Five Civilized Tribes.
In all, more than 45,000 American Indians were relocated to the West during Jackson's administration. During this time, the administration purchased about 100 million acres (400,000 km²) of Indian land for about $68 million and 32 million acres (130,000 km²) of western land. Jackson was criticized at the time for his role in these events, and the criticism has grown over the years. Remini characterizes the Indian Removal era as "one of the unhappiest chapters in American history.
The first attempt to do bodily harm to a President was against Jackson. Jackson ordered the dismissal of Robert B. Randolph from the Navy for embezzlement. On May 6, 1833, Jackson sailed on USS Cygnet to Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he was to lay the cornerstone on a monument near the grave of Mary Ball Washington, George Washington's mother. During a stopover near Alexandria, Virginia, Randolph appeared and struck the President. He then fled the scene with several members of Jackson's party chasing him, including the well known writer Washington Irving. Jackson decided not to press charges.
On January 30, 1835, a more serious attack occurred in the Capitol. Jackson was crossing the Capitol Rotunda after the funeral of South Carolina Representative Warren R. Davis when Richard Lawrence approached Jackson. Lawrence aimed two pistols at Jackson, which both misfired. Jackson then attacked Lawrence with his cane, prompting his aides to restrain him. Others present, including David Crockett, restrained and disarmed Lawrence, who was clearly deranged.
Richard Lawrence gave the doctors several reasons for the shooting. He had recently lost his job painting houses and somehow blamed Jackson. He claimed that with the President dead, "money would be more plenty"—a reference to Jackson’s struggle with the Bank of the United States—and that he "could not rise until the President fell." Finally, he informed his interrogators that he was actually a deposed English King—Richard III, specifically, dead since 1485—and that Jackson was merely his clerk. He was deemed insane, institutionalized, and never punished for his assassination attempt.
Jackson's statue in the Rotunda is placed in front of the doorway in which the attempt occurred.
Shortly after Jackson first arrived in Nashville in 1788, he took up residence as a boarder with Rachel Stockley Donelson, the widow of John Donelson. Here Jackson became acquainted with their daughter, Rachel Donelson Robards. At the time, Rachel Robards was in an unhappy marriage with Captain Lewis Robards, a man subject to irrational fits of jealous rage. Due to Lewis Robards' temperament, the two were separated in 1790. Shortly after their separation, Robards sent word that he had obtained a divorce. Trusting that the divorce was complete, Jackson and Rachel were married in 1791. Two years later they learned that the divorce had never actually been finalized, making Rachel's marriage to Jackson illegitimate. After the divorce was officially completed, Rachel and Jackson re-married in 1794.
The controversy surrounding their marriage remained a sore point for Jackson, who deeply resented attacks on his wife's honor. Jackson fought 13 duels, many nominally over his wife's honor. Charles Dickinson, the only man Jackson ever killed in a duel, had been goaded into angering Jackson by Jackson's political opponents. In the duel, fought over a horse-racing debt and an insult to his wife on May 30, 1806, Dickinson shot Jackson in the ribs before Jackson returned the fatal shot; Jackson actually allowed Dickinson to shoot first, knowing him to be an excellent shot, and as his opponent reloaded, Jackson shot, even as the bullet lodged itself in his chest. The bullet that struck Jackson was so close to his heart that it could never be safely removed. Jackson had been wounded so frequently in duels that it was said he "rattled like a bag of marbles. At times he would cough up blood, and he experienced considerable pain from his wounds for the rest of his life.
Rachel died of a heart attack on December 22, 1828, two weeks after her husband's victory in the election and two months prior to Jackson taking office as President. Jackson blamed John Quincy Adams for Rachel's death because the marital scandal was brought up in the election of 1828. He felt that this had hastened her death and never forgave Adams.
Jackson had two adopted sons, Andrew Jackson Jr., the son of Rachel's brother Severn Donelson, and Lyncoya, a Creek Indian orphan adopted by Jackson after the Creek War. Jackson had planned to have Lyncoya educated at West Point, but he died of tuberculosis in 1828, at the age of sixteen.
The Jacksons also acted as guardians for eight other children. John Samuel Donelson, Daniel Smith Donelson and Andrew Jackson Donelson were the sons of Rachel's brother Samuel Donelson, who died in 1804. Andrew Jackson Hutchings was Rachel's orphaned grand nephew. Caroline Butler, Eliza Butler, Edward Butler, and Anthony Butler were the orphaned children of Edward Butler, a family friend. They came to live with the Jacksons after the death of their father.
The widower Jackson invited Rachel's niece Emily Donelson to serve as hostess at the White House. Emily was married to Andrew Jackson Donelson, who acted as Jackson's private secretary and in 1856 would run for Vice President on the American Party ticket. The relationship between the President and Emily became strained during the Petticoat Affair, and the two became estranged for over a year. They eventually reconciled and she resumed her duties as White House hostess. Sarah Yorke Jackson, the wife of Andrew Jackson Jr., became co-hostess of the White House in 1834. It was the only time in history when two women simultaneously acted as unofficial First Lady. Sarah took over all hostess duties after Emily died from tuberculosis in 1836.
Jackson remained influential in both national and state politics after retiring to The Hermitage in 1837. Though a slave-holder, Jackson was a firm advocate of the federal union of the states, and declined to give any support to talk of secession.
Jackson was a lean figure standing at 6 feet, 1 inch (1.85 m) tall, and weighing between 130 and 140 pounds (64 kg) on average. Jackson also had an unruly shock of red hair, which had completely grayed by the time he became president at age 61. He had penetrating deep blue eyes. Jackson was one of the more sickly presidents, suffering from chronic headaches, abdominal pains, and a hacking cough, caused by a musket ball in his lung which was never removed, that often brought up blood and sometimes even made his whole body shake. After retiring to Nashville, he enjoyed eight years of retirement and died at The Hermitage on June 8, 1845 at the age of 78, of chronic tuberculosis, "dropsy" and heart failure.
In his will, Jackson left his entire estate to his adopted son, Andrew Jackson Jr., except for specifically enumerated items that were left to various other friends and family members. Andrew Jackson was a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Nashville.