Presidency of Andrew Jackson

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Presidency of Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson.jpg
In office
March 4, 1829 – March 4, 1837
Preceded by J. Q. Adams presidency
Succeeded by Van Buren presidency
Seat White House, Washington, D.C.
Political party Democratic

The presidency of Andrew Jackson began on March 4, 1829, when Andrew Jackson was inaugurated as President of the United States, and ended on March 4, 1837. Jackson, the seventh United States president, took office after defeating incumbent President John Quincy Adams in the bitterly-contested 1828 presidential election. During the 1828 presidential campaign, Jackson founded a political force that became the Democratic Party. Jackson won re-election in 1832, easily defeating Henry Clay. He was succeeded by Vice President Martin Van Buren.

Jackson's presidency saw several important developments in domestic policy. A strong supporter of the removal of Native American tribes from U.S. territory east of the Mississippi River, Jackson began the process of forced removal known as the "Trail of Tears." He instituted the spoils system for federal government positions, using his patronage powers to build a powerful and united Democratic Party. In response to the Nullification Crisis, Jackson threatened to send federal soldiers into South Carolina, but the crisis was defused by the passage of the Tariff of 1833. He presided over the disestablishment of the Second Bank of the United States, which he viewed as an anti-democratic bastion of elitism. The destruction of the bank and his hard money policies would contribute to the Panic of 1837.

Jackson was the most influential and controversial political figure of the 1830s. Historian James Sellers has stated, "Andrew Jackson's masterful personality was enough by itself to make him one of the most controversial figures ever to stride across the American stage."[1] Jackson was fearful for the survival of republican values in America, and constantly sought out political enemies he alleged were subverting those values. His actions encouraged his political opponents to coalesce into the Whig Party, which favored the use of federal power to modernize the economy through support for banking, tariffs on manufactured imports, and internal improvements such as canals and harbors.

His two terms as president set the tone for the quarter-century era of American public discourse known as the Jacksonian Era (or Second Party System by political historians), in which the principles of Jacksonian democracy were advanced. Of all presidential reputations, Jackson’s is perhaps the most difficult to summarize or explain. A generation after his presidency, biographer James Parton found his reputation a mass of contradictions: "he was dictator or democrat, ignoramus or genius, Satan or saint." Thirteen polls of historians and political scientists taken between 1948 and 2009 have ranked Jackson always in or near the top ten presidents.[2]

Election of 1828

"Some account of the bloody deeds of General Andrew Jackson," c. 1828

The 1828 election was a rematch between Jackson and John Quincy Adams, who had faced–off against each other four years earlier in the 1824 presidential election. In that election, which was a four–man race, Jackson won a plurality, but not the required majority, of the electoral vote. Adams, Secretary of War William H. Crawford, and Speaker of the House Henry Clay, all of whom were members of the Democratic-Republican Party, also received significant shares of the electoral vote. Under the rules of the Twelfth Amendment, the U.S. House of Representatives held a contingent election. The House elected Adams as president. Jackson denounced the House vote as the result of an alleged "corrupt bargain" between Adams and Clay, who became Adams's Secretary of State after the latter succeeded outgoing President James Monroe in March 1825.[3]

Jackson was nominated for president by the Tennessee legislature in October 1825, more than three years before the 1828 election. It was the earliest such nomination in presidential history, and it attested to the fact that Jackson's supporters began the 1828 campaign almost as soon as the 1824 campaign ended. Adams's presidency floundered, as his ambitious agenda faced defeat in a new era of mass politics. Critics led by Jackson attacked Adams's policies as a dangerous expansion of federal power. Senator Martin Van Buren, who had been a prominent supporter of Crawford in the 1824 election, emerged as one of the strongest opponents of Adams's policies, and he settled on Jackson as his preferred candidate in the 1828 election. Van Buren was joined by Vice President John C. Calhoun, who also opposed much of Adams's agenda on states' rights grounds. Van Buren and other Jackson allies established numerous pro-Jackson newspapers and clubs around the country, while Jackson made himself available to visitors at his Hermitage plantation. In the 1828 election, Jackson won a commanding 56 percent of the popular vote and 68 percent of the electoral vote, carrying most states outside of New England.[4] Concurrent congressional elections also gave Jackson's allies nominal majorities in both houses of Congress, although many of those who campaigned as supporters of Jackson would diverge form Jackson during his presidency.[5] The 1828 election marked the definitive end of the one-party "Era of Good Feelings", as Jackson's supporters coalesced into the Democratic Party and Adams's followers became known as the National Republicans.[4]

1828 election results

The 1828 campaign was very much a personal one. As was the custom at the time, neither candidate personally campaigned, but their political followers organized many campaign events. Both candidates were rhetorically attacked in the press. Jackson was strongly attacked as a slave trader, who bought and sold slaves and moved them about in defiance of higher standards of slaveholder behavior.[6] A series of pamphlets known as the Coffin Handbills were published to attack Jackson, one of which revealed his order to execute soldiers at New Orleans.[7] Another accused him of engaging in cannibalism by eating the bodies of Native Americans killed in battle,[8] while still another labeled his mother a "common prostitute" and stated that Jackson's father was a "mulatto man."[9]

Rachel Jackson was also a frequent target of attacks, and was widely accused of bigamy, a reference to the controversial situation of her marriage with Jackson.[10] Jackson's campaigners fired back by claiming that while serving as Minister to Russia, Adams had procured a young girl to serve as a prostitute for Emperor Alexander I. They also stated that Adams had charged the government to purchase a billiard table for the White House.[11] Rachel began experiencing significant physical stress during the election season. Rachel died of a heart attack on December 22, 1828, three weeks after her husband's victory in the election. A distraught Jackson had to be pulled from her so the undertaker could prepare the body.[12] He felt that the accusations from Adams's supporters had hastened her death and never forgave him. Rachel was buried at the Hermitage on Christmas Eve. "May God Almighty forgive her murderers", Jackson swore at her funeral. "I never can."[13]


Jackson's name has been associated with Jacksonian democracy or the shift and expansion of democracy with the passing of some political power from established elites to ordinary voters based in political parties. "The Age of Jackson" shaped the national agenda and American politics.[14] Jackson's philosophy as president was similar to that of Thomas Jefferson, as he advocated republican values held by the Revolutionary War generation.[15] Jackson feared that monied and business interests would corrupt republican values.[16]

Jackson believed in the ability of the people to "arrive at right conclusions," and he thought that they should have the right not only to elect but also to "instruct their agents & representatives."[17] Office holders should either obey the popular will or resign.[15] He rejected the view of a powerful and independent Supreme Court, arguing that "the Congress, the Executive, and the Court must each or itself be guided by its own opinions of the Constitution."[18] Jackson thought that Supreme Court justices should be made to stand for election, and believed in strict constructionism as the best way to insure democratic rule.[19] He also called for term limits on presidents and the abolition of the Electoral College.[20]

Administration and cabinet

The Jackson Cabinet
Office Name Term
President Andrew Jackson 1829–1837
Vice President John C. Calhoun 1829–1832
None 1832–1833
Martin Van Buren 1833–1837
Secretary of State Martin Van Buren 1829–1831
Edward Livingston 1831–1833
Louis McLane 1833–1834
John Forsyth 1834–1837
Secretary of Treasury Samuel D. Ingham 1829–1831
Louis McLane 1831–1833
William J. Duane 1833
Roger B. Taney 1833–1834
Levi Woodbury 1834–1837
Secretary of War John H. Eaton 1829–1831
Lewis Cass 1831–1836
Attorney General John M. Berrien 1829–1831
Roger B. Taney 1831–1833
Benjamin F. Butler 1833–1837
Postmaster General William T. Barry 1829–1835
Amos Kendall 1835–1837
Secretary of the Navy John Branch 1829–1831
Levi Woodbury 1831–1834
Mahlon Dickerson 1834–1837

Instead of choosing party leaders for his cabinet, Jackson chose "plain businessmen" whom he intended to control. Jackson appointed his friend and close political ally, John Eaton of Tennessee, as Secretary of War.[21] For the key positions of Secretary of State and Secretary of the Treasury, Jackson chose two northerners, Martin Van Buren of New York and Samuel Ingham of Pennsylvania.[22] He appointed John Branch of North Carolina as Secretary of the Navy and John Berrien of Georgia as Attorney General.[23] Recognizing the growing importance of the Post Office, Jackson elevated the position of Postmaster General to the cabinet, and he named William T. Barry of Kentucky as Postmaster General.[24] In addition his official cabinet, Jackson would also come to rely on an informal "Kitchen Cabinet." of advisers.[25] General William Berkeley Lewis and journalist Amos Kendall emerged as important advisers early in Jackson's term. Jackson's nephew, Andrew Jackson Donelson, served as the president's personal secretary, and Donelson's wife, Emily, acted as the White House hostess.[26]

Of the six officials in Jackson's initial cabinet, only Van Buren was a major political figure in his own right. Jackson's cabinet was criticized from various quarters; Calhoun and Van Buren were both disappointed that their respective factions were not more prominent in the cabinet, while leaders from the state of Virginia and the region of New England complained about their exclusion.[23] Jackson's first choice of cabinet proved to be unsuccessful, full of bitter partisanship and gossip, especially between Eaton, Vice President John C. Calhoun, and Van Buren. By the spring of 1831, all except Barry had been forced to resign.[27]

Jackson appointed new cabinet officials in mid-1831, with only Barry staying on as Postmaster General. Governor Lewis Cass of the Michigan Territory became Secretary of War, ambassador and former Congressman Louis McLane of Delaware took the position of Secretary of the Treasury, Senator Edward Livingston of Louisiana became Secretary of State, and Senator Levi Woodbury of New Hampshire became Secretary of the Navy. Roger Taney, who had served as the Attorney General of Maryland, replaced Berrien as the U.S. Attorney General. In contrast to Jackson's initial choices, the cabinet members appointed in 1831 were prominent national leaders, none of whom were aligned with Calhoun.[28] Outside of the cabinet, journalist Francis Preston Blair also emerged as an influential adviser.[29]

At the start of his second term, Jackson transferred McLane to the position of Secretary of State, while William J. Duane replaced McLane as Secretary of the Treasury and Livingston became the ambassador to France.[30] Due to his opposition to Jackson's removal of federal funds from the Second Bank of the United States, Duane was dismissed from the cabinet before the end of 1833. Taney became the new Secretary of the Treasury, while Benjamin F. Butler replaced Taney as Attorney General.[31] Jackson was forced to shake up his cabinet again in 1834 after the Senate rejected Taney's nomination and McLane resigned. John Forsyth of Georgia was appointed Secretary of State, Mahlon Dickerson replaced Woodbury as Secretary of the Navy, and Woodbury became the fourth and final Secretary of the Treasury under Jackson.[32] Jackson dismissed Barry in 1835 after numerous complaints about the latter's effectiveness as Postmaster General, and Jackson chose Amos Kendall as Barry's replacement.[33]

Judicial appointments

Jackson appointed six Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States.[34] Most were undistinguished.[35] His first nominee was John McLean, a close ally of Calhoun's who had been Adams's Postmaster General. Because McLean was reluctant to make full use of his office's powers of patronage, Jackson delicately removed him from office with an appointment to the Supreme Court.[36] McLean "turned Whig and forever schemed to win" the presidency. Jackson's next two appointees–Henry Baldwin and James Moore Wayne–disagreed with Jackson on some points but were poorly regarded even by Jackson's enemies.[37] In reward for his services, Jackson nominated Taney to the Court to fill a vacancy in January 1835, but the nomination failed to win Senate approval.[35] Chief Justice John Marshall died in 1835, leaving two vacancies on the court. Jackson nominated Taney for Chief Justice and Philip Pendleton Barbour for Associate Justice. Both were confirmed by the new Senate.[38] Taney served as Chief Justice until 1864, presiding over a court that upheld many of the precedents set by the Marshall Court.[39] He was generally regarded as a good and respectable judge, but his opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford largely overshadows his career.[40] On the last full day of his presidency, Jackson nominated John Catron, who was confirmed.[41] By the time Jackson left office, he had appointed a majority of the sitting members of the Supreme Court, the only exceptions being Joseph Story and Smith Thompson.[42] Jackson also appointed eighteen judges to the United States district courts.


Jackson's first inauguration, on March 4, 1829, was the first time in which the ceremony was held on the East Portico of the United States Capitol.[43] Due to the acrimonious campaign and mutual antipathy, Adams did not attend Jackson's inauguration.[44] Ten thousand people arrived in town for the ceremony, eliciting this response from Francis Scott Key: "It is beautiful; it is sublime!"[45] Jackson was the first president to invite the public to attend the White House inaugural ball. Many poor people came to the inaugural ball in their homemade clothes and rough-hewn manners. The crowd became so large that the guards could not keep them out of the White House, which became so crowded with people that dishes and decorative pieces inside were broken. 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 outside. Jackson's raucous populism earned him the nickname "King Mob".[46] Though numerous political disagreements had marked Adams's presidency and would continue during his own presidency, Jackson took office at a time when no major economic or foreign policy crisis faced the United States.[44] He announced no clear policy goals in the months before Congress convened in December 1829, save for his desire to pay down the national debt.[47]

Petticoat affair

Secretary of War John H. Eaton

Jackson devoted a considerable amount of his presidential time during his early years in office responding to what came to be known as the "Petticoat affair" or "Eaton affair."[48] Washington gossip circulated among Jackson's cabinet members and their wives, including Vice President Calhoun's wife Floride Calhoun, concerning Secretary of War Eaton and his wife Peggy Eaton. Salacious rumors held that Peggy, as a barmaid in her father's tavern, had been sexually promiscuous or had even been a prostitute.[49] Controversy also ensued because Peggy had married soon after her previous husband's death, and it was alleged that she and her husband had engaged in an adulterous affair while her previous husband was still living.[50] Petticoat politics emerged when the wives of cabinet members, led by Floride Calhoun, refused to socialize with the Eatons. Allowing a prostitute in the official family was unthinkable—but Jackson refused to believe the rumors, telling his cabinet that "She is as chaste as a virgin!"[49] Jackson believed that the dishonorable people were the rumormongers, who in essence questioned and dishonored Jackson himself by, in attempting to drive the Eatons out, daring to tell him who he could and could not have in his cabinet. The affair reminded him of similar attacks that had been made against his wife, and he was determined to defend Eaton, an important political ally.[51] Though he initially blamed Henry Clay for the controversy over Eaton, by the end of 1829 he had come to believe that Calhoun was responsible.[52]

For their part, the cabinet wives insisted that the interests and honor of all American women were at stake. They believed a responsible woman should never accord a man sexual favors without the assurance that went with marriage. A woman who broke that code was dishonorable and unacceptable. Historian Daniel Walker Howe argues that the actions of the cabinet wives reflected the feminist spirit that in the next decade shaped the woman's rights movement.[53] The controversy over Eaton dragged on into 1830 and 1831, as the other cabinet wives continued to ostracize Eaton.[54] Jackson's cabinet and closest advisers became polarized between Vice President Calhoun and Secretary of State Van Buren, a widower who remained on good terms with the Eatons.[55] In early 1831, as the controversy continued unabated, Van Buren proposed that the entire cabinet resign, and the Petticoat Affair finally ended after Eaton stepped down in June 1831.[56] With the sole exception of Postmaster General Barry, the other cabinet officials also left office, marking the first mass resignation of cabinet officials in U.S. history.[57]

Van Buren was rewarded with a nomination the position of ambassador to Great Britain, but the Senate rejected his nomination.[58] Calhoun, who cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate to defeat Van Buren's nomination, believed that the Senate vote would end Van Buren's career, but in fact it strengthened Van Buren's position with Jackson and many other Democrats.[59] By cultivating the support of Jackson, Van Buren emerged from the Petticoat Affair as Jackson's heir apparent. Three decades later, biographer James Parton wrote that "the political history of the United States, for the last thirty years, dates from the moment when the soft hand of Mr. Van Buren touched Mrs. Eaton's knocker."[57] Meanwhile, Jackson and Vice President Calhoun became increasingly alienated from one another.[60] Following the Petticoat Affair, Jackson acquired the Globe newspaper to have a weapon for fighting the rumor mills.[61][62]

Rotation in office and spoils system

Jackson removed an unprecedented number of presidential appointees from office, though Thomas Jefferson had dismissed a smaller but still significant number of Federalists during his own presidency.[63] Jackson believed that a rotation in office (the removal of governmental officials) was actually a democratic reform preventing nepotism, and that it made civil service responsible to the popular will.[64] Reflecting this view, Jackson told Congress in December 1829, "In a country where offices are created solely for the benefit of the people, no one man has any more intrinsic right to official station than another."[65][66] Jackson rotated about 20% of federal office holders during his first term, some for dereliction of duty rather than political purposes.[67][68] The Post Office was most strongly affected by Jackson's rotation policy, but district attorneys, federal marshals, customs collectors, and other federal employees were also removed from office.[69]

Because he believed that most public officials faced few challenges for their positions, Jackson dismissed the need for a meritocratic appointment policy.[70] Many of Jackson's appointees, including Amos Kendall and Isaac Hill, were controversial, and many of those who Jackson removed from office were popular.[71] Jackson's opponents labeled his appointments process a "spoils system," arguing that he was primarily motivated by a desire to use government positions to reward supporters and build his own political strength.[72] Jackson's appointment policy also created political problems within his own coalition, as Calhoun, Van Buren, Eaton, and others clashed over various appointments.[73] His appointments encountered some resistance in the Senate, and by the end of his presidency, Jackson had had more nominees rejected than all previous presidents combined.[74]

In an effort to purge the government from the alleged corruption of previous administrations, Jackson launched presidential investigations into all executive cabinet offices and departments.[75] His administration conducted a high-profile prosecution against Tobias Watkins, an auditor at the Treasury Department during Adams's presidency.[71] Jackson withdrew many candidates he believed were lax in their handling of monies.[75] He also asked Congress to reform embezzlement laws, reduce fraudulent applications for federal pensions, and pass laws to prevent evasion of custom duties and improve government accounting. Postmaster General Barry resigned after a congressional investigation into the postal service revealed mismanagement of mail services, collusion and favoritism in awarding lucrative contracts, failure to audit accounts and supervise contract performances.[76]

Historians believe Jackson's presidency marked the beginning of an era of decline in public ethics.[77] Supervision of bureaus and departments whose operations were outside of Washington, such as the New York Customs House, the Postal Service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs proved to be difficult. However, other practices that later became associated with the spoils system, including the buying of offices, forced political party campaign participation, and collection of assessments, did not take place until after Jackson's presidency.[78] Eventually, in the years after Jackson left office, presidents would remove appointees as a matter of course; while Jackson dismissed 45 percent of those who held office, Abraham Lincoln would dismiss 90 percent of officeholders after the beginning of his presidency.[79]

Indian removal

Jackson's Indian Removal Act and subsequent treaties resulted in the forced removal of several Indian tribes from their traditional territories, including the Trail of Tears.

Indian Removal Act

Jackson had spent much of his career fighting the Native Americans of the Southwest, and he considered Native Americans to be inferior to those who were descended from Europeans.[80] His presidency marked a new era in Indian-Anglo American relations, as he initiated a policy of Indian removal.[81] Previous presidents had at times supported removal or attempts to "civilize" the Indians, but had generally not made Native American affairs a top priority.[82] By the time Jackson took office, approximately 100,000 Native Americans lived East of the Mississippi River within the United States, with most located in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin Territory, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida Territory.[83] Jackson prioritized removing Native Americans from the South, as he believed that the Native Americans of the Northwest could be "pushed back."[84] In his 1829 Annual Message to Congress, Jackson advocated for setting aside land west of the Mississippi River for Indian tribes; while he favored voluntary relocation, he also proposed that any Native Americans who did not relocate would lose their independence and be subject to state laws.[85]

A significant political movement, including many evangelical Christians and others from the North, rejected Indian removal and instead favored continuing efforts to "civilize" Native Americans.[86] Despite the opposition of Senator Theodore Frelinghuysen and others, Jackson's allies won the passage of the Indian Removal Act in May 1830. The bill passed the House by in a 102 to 97 vote, with most Southern congressmen voting for the bill and most Northern congressmen voting against it.[87] The act authorized the president to negotiate treaties to buy tribal lands in the east in exchange for lands farther west, outside of existing state borders.[88] The act specifically pertained to the "Five Civilized Tribes" in the Southern United States, the conditions being that they could either move west or stay and obey state law.[89] The Five Civilized Tribes consisted of the Cherokee, Muscogee (also known as the Creek), Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole Indians, all of whom had adopted aspects of European culture, including some degree of sedentary farming.[90]


White-haired man stands outdoors beside a tree with cane.
Jackson painted by Earl, 1830

With Jackson's support, Georgia and other states sought to extend their sovereignty over tribes within their borders, despite existing U.S. treaty obligations.[91] Georgia's dispute with the Cherokee culminated in the 1832 Supreme Court decision of Worcester v. Georgia. In that decision, Chief Justice John Marshall, writing for the court, ruled that Georgia could not forbid whites from entering tribal lands, as it had attempted to do with two missionaries supposedly stirring up resistance amongst the tribespeople.[92] The Supreme Court's ruling helped establish the doctrine of tribal sovereignty, but Georgia did not release the prisoners.[93] Jackson is frequently attributed the following response: "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it." Remini argues that Jackson did not say it because, while it "certainly sounds like Jackson...[t]here was nothing for him to enforce."[94] The court had held that Georgia must release the prisoners, but it had not compelled the federal government to become involved. In late 1832, Van Buren intervened on behalf of the administration to put an end to the situation, and he convinced the Georgia Governor Wilson Lumpkin to pardon the missionaries.[95]

As the Supreme Court was no longer involved, and the Jackson administration had no interest in interfering with Indian removal, the state of Georgia was free to extend its control over the Cherokee. In 1832, Georgia held a lottery to distribute Cherokee lands to white settlers.[96] Under the leadership of Chief John Ross, most Cherokee refused to leave their home land, but a group led by John Ridge and Elias Boudinot negotiated the Treaty of New Echota. In return for $5 million and land west of the Mississippi River, Ridge and Boudinot agreed to leave a faction of the Cherokee out of Georgia, and a fraction of the Cherokee left in 1836. Many other Cherokee protested the treaty, but, by a narrow margin, the United States Senate consented to the treaty in May 1836.[97] The Treaty of New Echota was enforced by Jackson's successor, Van Buren. Subsequently, as many as 4,000 out of 18,000 Cherokees died on the "Trail of Tears" in 1838.[98]

Other tribes

Jackson, Eaton, and General John Coffee negotiated with the Chickasaw, who quickly agreed to move.[99] Jackson put Eaton and Coffee in charge of negotiating with the Choctaw tribe. Lacking Jackson's skills at negotiation, they frequently bribed the chiefs in order to gain their submission.[100] The Choctaw chiefs agreed to move with the signing of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. The removal of the Choctaw took place in the winter of 1831 and 1832, and was wrought with misery and suffering.[100] Members of the Creek Nation signed the Treaty of Cusseta in 1832, allowing the Creek to either sell or retain their land.[101] Conflict later erupted between the Creek who remained and the white settlers, leading to a second Creek War.[102] The Creek uprising was quickly crushed by the army, and the remaining Creek were escorted across the Mississippi River.[103]

Of all the tribes in the Southeast, the Seminole proved to be the most resistant to mass relocation. The Jackson administration reached a removal treaty with a small group of Seminole, but the treaty was repudiated by the tribe. Jackson nonetheless sent soldiers into Florida to remove the Seminole, marking the start of the Second Seminole War. That Second Seminole War dragged on until 1842, though hundreds of Seminole still remained in Florida.[104] A shorter conflict broke out in the Northwest in 1832 after Chief Black Hawk led a band of Native Americans across the Mississippi River to their ancestral homeland in Illinois. A combination of the U.S. army and the Illinois militia drove out the Native Americans by the end of the year, bringing a close to the Black Hawk War.[105] By the end of Jackson's presidency, nearly 50,000 Native Americans had moved across the Mississippi River, and that movement would continue after he left office.[106]

Nullification crisis and the tariff

First term

In 1828, Congress had approved the so-called "Tariff of Abominations", which set the tariff at an historically high rate.[107] The tariff was popular in the Northeast and, to a lesser extent, the Northwest, since it protected domestic industries from foreign competition.[108] Southern planters strongly opposed high tariff rates, as they resulted in higher prices for imported goods.[107] This opposition to high tariff rates was especially intense in South Carolina, where the dominant planter class faced few checks on extremism.[109] The South Carolina Exposition and Protest of 1828, secretly written by Calhoun, had asserted that their state could "nullify"—declare void—the tariff legislation of 1828.[110] Calhoun argued that, while the Constitution authorized the federal government to impose tariffs for the collection of revenue, it did not sanction tariffs that were designed to protect domestic production.[111] Though Jackson sympathized with states' rights concerns, he rejected the idea of nullification.[112] In his 1829 Annual Message to Congress, Jackson advocated leaving the tariff in place until the national debt was paid off. He also favored a constitutional amendment that would, once the national debt was paid off, distribute surplus revenues from tariffs to the states.[85]

John C. Calhoun of South Carolina

Calhoun was not as extreme as some within South Carolina, and he and his allies kept more radical leaders like Robert James Turnbull in check early in Jackson's presidency. As the Petticoat Affair strained relations between Jackson and Calhoun, South Carolina nullifiers became increasingly strident in their opposition to the Tariff of Abominations.[113] One incident came 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!"[110]

Relations between the Jackson and Calhoun reached a breaking point in May 1830, after Jackson discovered a letter that indicated that then-Secretary of War Calhoun had asked President Monroe to censure Jackson for his invasion of Spanish Florida in 1818.[108] Jackson's adviser, William Lewis, acquired the letter from William Crawford, a former Monroe cabinet official who was eager to help Van Buren at the expense of Calhoun.[114] Jackson and Calhoun began an angry correspondence which lasted until July 1830.[115] By the end of 1831, an open break had emerged not just between Calhoun and Jackson but also between their respective supporters.[116] Writing in the early 1830s, Calhoun claimed that three parties existed. One party (led by Calhoun himself) favored free trade, one party (led by Henry Clay) favored protectionism, and one party (led by Jackson) occupied a middle position.[117]

Believing that Calhoun was leading a conspiracy to undermine his administration, Jackson built a network of informants in South Carolina and prepared for a possible insurrection. He also threw his support behind a tariff reduction bill that he believed would defuse the nullification issue.[118] The Tariff of 1832, written by Treasury Secretary Louis McLane, lowered import duties from 45% to 27%. In May 1832, Representative John Quincy Adams introduced a slightly revised version of the bill, which Jackson accepted, and it was passed into law in July 1832.[119] The bill failed to satisfy many in the South, and a majority of southern Congressmen voted against it,[120] but passage of the Tariff of 1828 prevented tariff rates from becoming a major campaign issue in the 1832 election.[121]


Seeking to compel a further reduction in tariff rates and bolster the ideology of states' rights, South Carolina leaders prepared to follow through on their nullification threats after the 1832 election.[122] In November 1832, South Carolina held a state convention that declared the tariff rates of 1828 and 1832 to be void within the state; the convention also purported that federal collection of import duties would be illegal after January 1833.[118] After the convention, South Carolina elected Calhoun to replace Robert Y. Hayne in the Senate, while Hayne became governor of the state.[123] In his December 1832 Annual Message to Congress, Jackson called for another reduction of the tariff, but he also vowed to suppress any rebellion.[124] Days later, Jackson issued his Proclamation to the People of South Carolina, which strongly denied the right of states to nullify federal laws or secede.[125] Jackson's nationalist stance split the Democratic Party and set off a national debate over nullification. Outside of South Carolina, no Southern states endorsed nullification, but many also expressed opposition to Jackson's threat to use force.[126] Jackson ordered the unionist South Carolina leader, Joel Roberts Poinsett, to organize a posse to suppress any rebellion, and promised Poinsett that 50,000 soldiers would be dispatched if any rebellion did break out.[127] At the same time, Governor Hayne asked for volunteers for the state militia, and 25,000 men volunteered.[128]

Democratic Congressman Gulian C. Verplanck introduced a tariff reduction bill in the House of Representatives that would restore the tariff levels of the Tariff of 1816, and South Carolina leaders decided to delay the onset of nullification while Congress considered a new tariff bill.[129] As the debate over the tariff continued, Jackson asked Congress to pass a "Force Bill" explicitly authorizing the use of military force to enforce the government's power to collect import duties.[130] Though the House effort to write a new tariff bill collapsed, Clay initiated Senate consideration of the topic by introducing his own bill.[131] Clay, the most prominent protectionist in the country, worked with Calhoun's allies rather than Jackson's allies to pass the bill.[132] He won Calhoun's approval for a bill that provided for gradual tariff reductions until 1843, with tariff rates ultimately reaching levels similar to those proposed in the Verplanck bill. Though Southern leaders would have preferred lower rates, they accepted Clay's bill as the best compromise they could achieve at that point in time.[133] The Force Bill, meanwhile, passed both houses of Congress; many Southern congressmen opposed the bill but did not vote against it in an effort to expedite consideration of the tariff bill.[134]

Clay's tariff bill received significant support across partisan and sectional lines, and it passed 149–47 in the House and 29–16 in the Senate.[135] Despite his intense anger over the scrapping of the Verplanck bill and the new alliance between Clay and Calhoun, Jackson saw the tariff bill as an efficient way to end the crisis. He signed both the Tariff of 1833 and the Force Bill into law on March 2.[136] Simultaneous passage of the Force Bill and the tariff allowed both the nullifiers and Jackson to claim that they had emerged victorious from the confrontation.[137] Despite his earlier support for a similar measure, Jackson vetoed a third bill that would have distributed tariff revenue to the states.[138] The South Carolina Convention met and rescinded its nullification ordinance, and, in a final show of defiance, nullified the Force Bill.[139] Though the nullifiers had largely failed in their quest to lower tariff rates, they established firm control over South Carolina in the aftermath of the Nullification Crisis.[140]

Bank War and 1832 re-election

First term

1833 Democratic cartoon shows Jackson destroying the devil's Bank

The Second Bank of the United States ("national bank") had been chartered under President James Madison to restore an economy devastated by the War of 1812, and President Monroe had appointed Nicholas Biddle as the national bank's executive in 1822.[141] The national bank's duties included storing government funds, issuing banknotes, selling Treasury securities, facilitating foreign transactions, and extending credit to businesses and other banks.[142][143] The national bank had approximately $35 million in capital which represented more than twice the annual expenditures of the U.S. government.[142] The national bank also played an important role in regulating the money supply at a time when the only currency issued by the federal government was coins, while privately-issued bank notes were in wide circulation. By presenting private banknotes for redemption (exchange for coins) to these private institutions, the national bank limited the supply of paper money in the country. The national bank operated branches in several states, and granted these branches a large degree of autonomy.[143]

The national bank had not been a major issue in the 1828 election, but some in the country, including Jackson, despised the institution.[144] Jackson believed that the national bank was a fundamentally corrupt monopoly. Its stock was mostly held by foreigners, he insisted, and it exerted an unfair amount of control over the political system.[145] He further accused it of making loans with the intent of influencing elections.[146] Jackson had developed a life-long hatred for banks earlier in his career, and he wanted to remove all banknotes from circulation.[144] In his address to Congress in 1830, Jackson called for the abolition of the national bank.[147] Senator Thomas Hart Benton, a strong supporter of the president despite a brawl years earlier, gave a speech strongly denouncing the Bank and calling for open debate on its recharter, but Senator Daniel Webster led a motion that narrowly defeated the resolution.[148] Seeking to reconcile with the Jackson administration, Biddle appointed Democrats to the boards of national bank branches and worked to speed up the retirement of the national debt.[149]

Though Jackson and many of his allies detested the national bank, others within the Jacksonian coalition supported the national bank, including Eaton and Senator Samuel Smith.[142] Despite some misgivings, Jackson supported a plan proposed in late-1831 by his moderately pro-national bank Treasury Secretary Louis McLane, who was secretly working with Biddle, to recharter a reformed version of the national bank in a way that would free up funds which would in turn be used to strengthen the military or pay off the nation's debt. This would be done, in part, through the sale of government stock in the national bank. Over the objections of Attorney General Taney, an irreconcilable opponent of the national bank, Jackson allowed McLane to publish a Treasury Report which essentially recommended rechartering the national bank.[150]

Hoping to make the national bank a major issue in the 1832 election, Clay and Webster urged Biddle to immediately apply for recharter rather than wait to reach a compromise with the administration.[151] Biddle received advice to the contrary from moderate Democrats such as McLane and William Lewis, who argued that Biddle should wait because Jackson would likely veto the recharter bill. In January 1832, Biddle submitted to Congress a renewal of the national bank's charter without any of the proposed reforms.[152] In May 1832, after months of congressional debate, Biddle assented to a revised bill that would re-charter the national bank but give Congress and the president new powers in controlling the institution, while also limiting the national bank's ability to hold real estate and establish branches.[153] The recharter bill passed the Senate on June 11 and the House on July 3, 1832.[145]

When Van Buren met Jackson on July 4, Jackson declared, "The Bank, Mr. Van Buren, is trying to kill me. But I will kill it."[154] Jackson officially vetoed the bill on July 10. His veto message, crafted primarily by Taney, Kendall, and Andrew Jackson Donelson, attacked the national bank as an agent of inequality that supported only the wealthy.[155] He also noted that, as the national bank's charter would not expire for another four years, the next two Congresses would be able to consider new re-chartering bills.[156] Jackson's political opponents castigated the veto as "the very slang of the leveller and demagogue", claiming Jackson was using class warfare to gain support from the common man.[145]

1832 election

In the years leading up to the 1832 election, it was unclear whether Jackson, frequently in poor health, would seek re-election. Even if he did run again, many leaders believed that the 1832 field of candidates would be as fractured as it had been in the 1824 election.[157] However, Jackson announced his intention to seek re-election in 1831.[158] Various individuals were considered as possible Democratic vice presidential nominees in the 1832 election, including Van Buren, Judge Philip Pendleton Barbour, Treasury Secretary McLane, and Senator William Wilkins, Associate Justice John McLean, and even Calhoun. In order to agree on a national ticket, the Democrats held their first national convention in May 1832.[159] Van Buren emerged as Jackson's preferred running mate after the Eaton affair, and Van Buren won the vice presidential nomination on the first ballot of the 1832 Democratic National Convention.[59]

In the 1832 election, Jackson would face a divided opposition in the form of the Anti-Masonic Party and the National Republicans.[160] Since the disappearance and possible murder of William Morgan in 1827, the Anti-Masonic Party had emerged by capitalizing on opposition to Freemasonry.[161] In 1830, a meeting of Anti-Masons called for the first national nominating convention, and in September 1831 the fledgling party nominated a national ticket led by William Wirt of Maryland.[162] In December 1831, the National Republicans convened and nominated a ticket led by Henry Clay. Clay had rejected overtures from the Anti-Masonic Party, and his attempt to convince Calhoun to serve as his running mate failed, leaving the opposition to Jackson split among different leaders.[160] For vice president, the National Republicans nominated John Sergeant, who had served as an attorney for both the Second Bank of the United States and the Cherokee Nation.[163]

1832 election results

The political struggle over the national bank emerged as the major issue of the 1832 campaign, although the tariff and especially Indian removal were also important issues in several states.[164] National Republicans also focused on the Jackson's alleged executive tyranny; one cartoon described the president as "King Andrew the First."[165] At Biddle's direction, the national bank poured thousands of dollars into the campaign to defeat Jackson, seemingly confirming Jackson's view that it interfered in the political process.[166] On July 21, Clay said privately, "The campaign is over, and I think we have won the victory."[167]

Jackson, however, managed to successfully portray his veto as a defense of the common man against governmental tyranny. Clay proved to be no match for Jackson's popularity and the Democratic Party's skillful campaigning.[168] Jackson won the election by a landslide, receiving 54 percent of the popular vote and 219 electoral votes.[169] Jackson won 88 percent of the popular vote in the states south of Kentucky and Maryland, and Clay did not win any votes in Georgia, Alabama, or Mississippi. Nationwide, Jackson won 54.2 percent of the popular vote, a slight decline from his 1828 popular vote victory.[170] Clay received 37 percent of the popular vote and 49 electoral votes, while Wirt received eight percent of the popular vote and seven electoral votes.[169] The South Carolina legislature awarded the state's electoral votes to states' rights advocate John Floyd.[171] Jackson believed the solid victory was a popular mandate for his veto of the national bank's recharter and his continued warfare on the bank's control over the national economy.[172] Despite Jackson's victory in the presidential election, his allies lost control of the Senate.[173]

Removal of deposits and censure

Jackson's victory in the 1832 election meant that he could veto an extension of the national bank's charter before that charter expired in 1832. Though a congressional override of his veto was unlikely, Jackson still wanted to ensure that the national bank would be abolished. His administration was unable to legally remove federal deposits from the national bank unless the Secretary of the Treasury issued an official finding that the national bank was a fiscally unsound institution, but the national bank was clearly solvent.[174] In January 1833, at the height of the Nullification Crisis, Congressman James K. Polk introduced a bill that would provide for the removal the federal government's deposits from the national bank, but it was quickly defeated.[175] Following the end of the Nullification Crisis in March 1833, Jackson renewed his offensive against the national bank, despite some opposition from within his own cabinet.[176] Throughout mid-1833, Jackson made preparations to remove federal deposits from the national bank, sending Amos Kendall to meet with the leaders of various banks to see whether they would accept federal deposits.[177]

Jackson ordered Secretary of the Treasury William Duane to remove existing federal deposits from the national bank, but Duane refused to issue a finding that the federal government's deposits in the national bank were unsafe. In response, Jackson replaced Duane with Roger Taney, who received an interim appointment. Rather than removing existing deposits from the national bank, Taney and Jackson pursued a new policy in which the government would deposit future revenue elsewhere, while paying all expenses from its deposits with the national bank. This policy ensured that the federal government would eventually no longer have deposits in the national bank.[178] The Jackson administration instead placed government deposits in a variety of state banks which were friendly to the administration's policies; critics labeled these banks as "pet banks."[179] Biddle responded to the withdrawals by stockpiling the national bank's reserves and contracting credit, thus causing interest rates to rise. Intended to force Jackson into a compromise, the move backfired, increasing sentiment against the national bank.[180] The transfer of large amounts of bank deposits, combined with rising interest rates, contributed to the onset of a financial panic in late 1833.[181]

When Congress reconvened in December 1833, it immediately became embroiled in the controversy regarding the withdrawals from the national bank and the subsequent financial panic.[182] Neither the Democrats nor the anti-Jacksonians exercised complete control of either house of Congress, but the Democrats were stronger in the House of Representatives while the anti-Jacksonians were stronger in the Senate.[183] Senator Clay introduced a measures to censure the Jackson for unconstitutionally removing federal deposits from the national bank. In March 1834, the Senate voted to censure Jackson in a 26–20 vote.[184] It also rejected Taney as Treasury Secretary, forcing Jackson to find a different treasury secretary; he eventually nominated Levi Woodbury, who was confirmed by the Senate.[32]

Led by Ways and Means Committee chairman James K. Polk, the House declared on April 4, 1834 that the national bank "out not to be rechartered" and that the depositions "ought not to be restored." It also voted to continue to allow pet banks to be places of deposit and voted even more overwhelmingly to investigate whether the national bank had deliberately instigated the panic.[185] By mid-1834, the relatively mild financial panic had ended, and Jackson's opponents had failed to recharter the national bank or reverse Jackson's removals. The national bank's federal charter expired in 1836, and though Biddle's institution continued to function under a Pennsylvania charter, it never regained the influence it had had at the beginning of Jackson's administration.[186] Following the loss of the national bank's federal charter, New York City supplanted Philadelphia (the national bank's headquarters) as the nation's financial capital.[187] In January 1837, when the Jacksonians had a majority in the Senate, the censure was expunged after years of effort by Jackson supporters.[188]

Rise of the Whig Party

Henry Clay of Kentucky

Clear partisan affiliations had not formed at the start of Jackson's presidency. He had supporters in the Northwest, the Northeast, and the South, all of whom had different positions on different issues.[189] The Nullification Crisis briefly scrambled the partisan divisions that had emerged after 1824, as many within the Jacksonian coalition opposed his threats of force, while some opposition leaders like Daniel Webster supported them.[190] Jackson's removal of the government deposits in late 1833 ended any possibility of a Webster-Jackson alliance and helped to solidify partisan lines.[191] Jackson's threats to use force during the Nullification Crisis and his alliance with Van Buren motivated many Southern leaders to leave the Democratic Party, while opposition to Indian removal and Jackson's actions in the Bank War galvanized spurred opposition from many in the North. Attacking the president's "executive usurpation," those opposed to Jackson coalesced into the Whig Party. The Whig label implicitly compared "King Andrew" to King George III, the King of Great Britain at the time of the American Revolution.[192] Along with the Democrats, the Whigs were one of the two major parties of the Second Party System, which extended into the 1850s.[193] Calhoun's nullifiers did not fit neatly into either party, and they pursued alliances with both major parties at various times.[194]

The National Republicans, including Clay and Webster, formed the core of the Whig Party, but many Anti-Masons like William H. Seward of New York and Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania also joined. Several prominent Democrats defected to the Whigs, including former Attorney General John Berrien, Senator Willie Person Mangum of North Carolina, and John Tyler of Virginia.[192] Even John Eaton, the former Secretary of War, became a member of the Whig Party.[193] Beginning in December 1833, voting behavior in Congress began to be dominated by partisan affiliation.[192] By the time of the 1836 presidential election, Whigs and Democrats had established state parties throughout the country, though party strength varied by state and many of Jackson's opponents in the Deep South eschewed the Whig label.[195] While Democrats openly embraced partisanship and campaigning, many Whigs only reluctantly accepted the new system of party politics, and they lagged behind the Democrats in establishing national organizations and cross-sectional unity.[196]

Panic of 1837

Political cartoon showing people suffering from economic trouble
A New York newspaper blamed the Panic of 1837 on Andrew Jackson, depicted in spectacles and top hat.

The national economy boomed after mid-1834 as state banks liberally extended credit.[197] Due in part to the booming economy, Jackson paid off the entire national debt in January 1835, the only time in U.S. history that that has been accomplished.[198][199] In the aftermath of the Bank War, Jackson asked Congress to pass a bill to regulate the pet banks.[200] Jackson sought to restrict the issuance of paper banknotes under $5, and also to require banks to hold specie (gold or silver coins) equal to one fourth of the value of banknotes they issued. As Congress did not act on this proposal by the end of its session in March 1835, Secretary of the Treasury Woodbury forced the pet banks to accept restrictions similar to those that Jackson had proposed to Congress.[201]

The debate over financial regulation became tied to a debate over the disposition of the federal budget surplus and proposals to increase the number of pet banks. In June 1836, Congress passed a bill that doubled the number of pet banks, distributed surplus federal revenue to the states, and instituted Jackson's proposed bank regulations. Jackson considered vetoing the bill primarily due to his opposition to the distribution of federal revenue, but he ultimately decided to let it pass into law. As the number of pet banks increased from 33 to 81, regulation of the government's deposits became more difficult, and lending increased. The growing number of loans contributed to a boom in land prices and land sales; the General Land Office solid 12.5 million acres of public land in 1835, compared to 2 million acres in 1829.[202] Seeking to curb land speculation, Jackson issued the Specie Circular, an executive order that required buyers of government lands to pay in specie.[203] The Specie Circular undermined the public's trust in the value of paper money and Congress passed a bill to revoke Jackson's policy, but Jackson vetoed that bill on his last day in office.[204]

The period of good economic conditions ended with the onset of the Panic of 1837.[205] Contributing factors included Jackson's veto of the national bank's re-chartering in 1832 and subsequent transfer of federal monies to state banks in 1833 that caused western banks to relax their lending standards. Jackson's Specie Circular, albeit designed to reduce speculation and stabilize the economy, left many investors unable to afford to pay loans in gold and silver. The same year there was a downturn in Great Britain's economy, resulting in decreased foreign investment in the United States. As a result, the U.S. economy went into a depression, banks became insolvent, the national debt increased, business failures rose, cotton prices dropped, and unemployment dramatically increased.[205] The depression that followed lasted until 1841, when the economy began to rebound.[198][206]

Other domestic issues

BEP engraved portrait of Jackson as President
BEP engraved portrait of Jackson as President

Internal improvements

In the years before Jackson had taken office, the idea of the federally-funded internal improvements such as roads and canals had become increasingly popular.[207] Jackson had campaigned against Adams's support for federally-funded infrastructure projects, but unlike some states' rights supporters, Jackson did think that such projects were constitutional so long as they aided the national defense or improved the national economy.[208] The National Road was one of the major infrastructure projects of Jackson's presidency, and his tenure saw the National Road extended from Ohio into Illinois.[209] In May 1830, the House passed a bill to create the Maysville Road, which would link the National Road to the Natchez Trace via Lexington, Kentucky. With the strong support of Van Buren, Jackson vetoed the bill, arguing that the project was too localized for the federal government to become involved. Jackson further warned that government expenditures on infrastructure would be costly and threatened his goal of retiring the national debt. The veto shored up Jackson's support among pro-states' rights "Old Republicans" like John Randolph, but angered some Jacksonians who favored internal improvements.[210]

Despite the Maysville Road Veto, federal funding on infrastructure would increase substantially during Jackson's presidency, reaching a total greater than all previous administrations combined.[208] Because of a booming economy and high levels of federal revenues, the Jackson administration was able to retire the national debt even while spending on infrastructure projects increased.[211]

Slavery controversies

The issue of slavery was not a major theme during Jackson's presidency. He was a slaveowner himself, having approved the expansion of slavery to the territories, while disapproving anti-slavery agitation. Even so, two notable controversies related to the issue of slavery arose while he was in the White house. In 1835, the American Anti-Slavery Society launched a mail campaign against the peculiar institution. Tens of thousands of antislavery pamphlets and tracts were sent to southern destinations through the U.S. mail. Across the South, reaction to the abolition mail campaign bordered on apoplexy.[212] In Congress, Southerners demanded that none of the tracts should be delivered. Jackson, who wanted sectional peace after the turmoil of the Nullification crisis, placated Southerners. His Postmaster General Amos Kendall gave Southern postmasters discretionary powers to discard the tracts. Abolitionists and their supporters then denounced the suppression of free speech.[213]

That same year another conflict unfolded, when abolitionists sent the U.S. House of Representatives petitions to end the slave trade and slavery in Washington, D.C.[214] This infuriated pro-slavery Southerners, who attempted to prevent acknowledgement or discussion of the petitions. On December 18, 1835 South Carolina congressman James H. Hammond strongly denounced abolitionists as "ignorant fanatics". Northern Whigs objected that anti-slavery petitions were constitutional and should not be forbidden.[214] Jackson wanted the issue of these petitions resolved quickly. South Carolina Representative Henry L. Pinckney introduced a resolution that denounced the petitions as "sickly sentimentality", declared that Congress had no right to interfere with slavery, and tabled all further anti-slavery petitions. Southerners in Congress, including many of Jackson's supporters, favored the measure (the 21st Rule, commonly called the "gag rule"), which was passed quickly and without any debate; temporarily suppressing abolitionist activities in Congress.[214]

Two other important slavery-related development occurred while Jackson was in office. In January 1831, William Lloyd Garrison established The Liberator, which emerged as the most influential abolitionist newspaper in the country. Whilemany slavery opponents sought the gradual emancipation of all slaves, Garrison called for the immediate abolition of slavery throughout the country. Garrison also established the American Anti-Slavery Society, which grew to approximately 250,000 members by 1838.[215] In the same year that Garrison founded The Liberator, Nat Turner launched the largest slave rebellion in U.S. history. After killing dozens of whites in southeastern Virginia across two days, Turner's rebels were suppressed by a combination of vigilantes, the state militia, and federal soldiers.[216]

U.S. Exploring Expedition

Sketch of a ship with sails at sea
USS Porpoise, a brig ship laid down in 1835 and launched in May 1836; used in the U.S. Exploring Expedition

Jackson initially opposed any federal exploratory scientific expeditions during his first term in office.[217] The last scientific federally funded expeditions took place from 1817 to 1823, led by Stephen H. Harriman on the Red River of the North. Jackson's predecessor, President Adams, attempted to launch a scientific oceanic exploration in 1828, but Congress was unwilling to fund the effort. When Jackson assumed office in 1829 he pocketed Adams' expedition plans. However, wanting to establish his presidential legacy, similar to Jefferson and the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Jackson finally sponsored scientific exploration during his second term. On May 18, 1836, Jackson signed a law creating and funding the oceanic United States Exploring Expedition. Jackson put Secretary of the Navy Mahlon Dickerson in charge, to assemble suitable ships, officers, and scientific staff for the expedition; with a planned launch before Jackson's term of office expired. Dickerson however proved unfit for the task, preparations stalled and the expedition was not launched until 1838, during the presidency of Van Buren.[217] One brig ship, USS Porpoise, later used in the expedition; having been commissioned by Secretary Dickerson in May 1836, circumnavigated the world and explored and mapped the Southern Ocean, confirming the existence of the Antarctica continent.[218]

Administrative reforms

Jackson presided over several reforms in the executive branch.[219] Postmaster General Amos Kendall reorganized the Post Office and successfully pushed for the Post Office Act of 1836, which made the Post Office a department of the executive branch. Under Commissioner Ethan Allen Brown, the General Land Office was reorganized and expanded to accommodate the growing demand for public land. The Patent Office was also reorganized and expanded under the leadership of Henry Leavitt Ellsworth. After his request to divide the State Department into two departments was rebuffed, Jackson divided the State Department into eight bureaus. Jackson also presided over the establishment of the Office of Indian Affairs, which coordinated Indian removal and other policies related to Native Americans. By signing the Judiciary Act of 1837, Jackson played a role in extending the circuit courts to several western states.[220]

States admitted to the Union

Two new states were admitted into the Union during Jackson's presidency: Arkansas (June 15, 1836)[221] and Michigan (January 26, 1837).[222] Both states increased Democratic power in Congress and helped Van Buren win the presidency in 1836.[223]

Foreign affairs

Jackson's Minister to France William C. Rives successfully negotiated payments that France owed the U.S. for damages caused by Napoleon.

Spoliation and commercial treaties

Foreign affairs under Jackson were generally uneventful prior to 1835.[224][225] His administration's foreign policy focused on expanding trade opportunities for American commerce.[226] The Jackson administration negotiated a trade agreement with Great Britain that opened the British West Indies and Canada to American exports, though the British refused to allow American ships to engage in the West Indian carrying trade.[227] The agreement with Britain, which had been sought by previous presidents, represented a major foreign policy success for Jackson.[228] The State Department also negotiated routine trade agreements with Russia, Spain, the Ottoman Empire, and Siam. American exports (chiefly cotton) increased 75%, while imports increased 250%.[229] Jackson increased funding to the navy and used it to defend American commercial interests in far-flung areas such as the Falkland Islands and Sumatra.[230]

A second major foreign policy emphasis in the Jackson administration was the settlement of spoliation claims.[231] The most serious crisis was a debt that France owed for the damage Napoleon had done two decades earlier. France agreed to pay, but kept postponing payment. Jackson made warlike gestures, while domestic political opponents ridiculed his bellicosity. Jackson's Minister to France William C. Rives finally obtained the ₣ 25,000,000 francs involved (about $5,000,000) in 1836.[232][233] The Department of State also settled smaller spoliation claims with Denmark, Portugal, and Spain.[229]

Recognition of Republic of Texas

Upon taking office, the Jackson administration continued Adams's policy of trying to purchase the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas. Jackson believed that Adams had wrongly bargained away the territory in the Adams–Onís Treaty, and he hoped to expand the United States west. The territory was even more appealing for expansionists because it contained many American settlers. Upon gaining independence, Mexico had invited American settlers to the underdeveloped province, and 35,000 American settlers moved to the state between 1821 and 1835. Most of the settlers came from the Southern United States, and many of these settlers brought slaves with them. In 1830, fearing that the state was becoming a virtual extension of the United States, Mexico banned immigration into Coahuila y Tejas. Mexico also rebuffed offers by the United States to purchase the territory. Chafing under Mexican rule, the American settlers became increasingly dissatisfied.[234]

In 1835, American settlers along with local Tejanos in Texas fought a war for independence. Texan leader Stephen F. Austin sent a letter to Jackson pleading for an American military intervention, but the United States remained neutral in the conflict.[235] By May 1836, the Texans had routed the Mexican military, establishing an independent Republic of Texas. The new Texas government sought recognition from President Jackson and annexation into the United States.[236] Antislavery elements in the U.S. strongly opposed annexation because slavery was flourishing there in the virgian cotton lands.[237][238] Jackson was hesitant with recognizing Texas, unconvinced that the new republic could maintain independence from Mexico, and not wanting to make Texas an anti-slavery issue during the 1836 election. After the election, Jackson formally recognized the Republic of Texas, and nominated Alcée Louis la Branche as chargé d'affaires.[229][239]

Attack and assassination attempt

Several people in a crowd, man aims a gun at Jackson
Richard Lawrence's attempt on Jackson's life, as depicted in an 1835 etching

On January 30, 1835, the first attempt to kill a sitting President occurred just outside the United States Capitol. When Jackson was leaving through the East Portico after a funeral, Richard Lawrence, an unemployed house painter from England, aimed a pistol at Jackson, which misfired. Lawrence then pulled out a second pistol, which also misfired, possibly due to the humid weather.[240] Jackson, infuriated, attacked Lawrence with his cane. Others present, including Davy Crockett, restrained and disarmed Lawrence.[241]

Lawrence said that he was a deposed English king and that Jackson was his clerk.[242] He was deemed insane and was institutionalized.[243] Jackson initially suspected that a number of his political enemies might have orchestrated the attempt on his life, but his suspicions were never proven.[244]

Presidential election of 1836

1836 electoral vote results

Jackson, not running in 1836, was determined to make Van Buren his successor in order to continue the Jackson administration's policies.[245] With Jackson's support, Van Buren won the presidential nomination of the Democratic Convention without opposition.[246] Two names were put forward for the vice-presidential nomination: Representative Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky, and former senator William Cabell Rives of Virginia. Southern Democrats, and Van Buren himself, strongly preferred Rives. Jackson, on the other hand, strongly preferred Johnson. Again, Jackson's considerable influence prevailed, and Johnson received the required two-thirds vote after New York Senator Silas Wright prevailed upon non-delegate Edward Rucker to cast the 15 votes of the absent Tennessee delegation in Johnson's favor.[247][246]

Van Buren's competitors in the election of 1836 were three members of the newly established Whig Party, still a loose coalition bound by mutual opposition to Jackson's Bank War.[247] The Whigs ran several regional candidates in hopes of sending the election to the House of Representatives, where each state delegation would have one vote and the Whigs would stand a better chance of winning.[248] Senator Hugh Lawson White of Tennessee emerged as the main Whig nominee in the South. White ran against the Force Bill, Jackson's actions in the Bank War, and Van Buren's unpopularity in the South. William Henry Harrison, who had gained national fame for his role in the Battle of Tippecanoe, established himself as the main Whig candidate in the North, although Webster also sought the presidency.[249]

Van Buren won the election with 764,198 popular votes, 50.9 percent of the total, and 170 electoral votes. Harrison led the Whigs with 73 electoral votes, White receiving 26, and Webster 14.[250] Willie Person Mangum received the 11 electoral votes of South Carolina, which were awarded by the state legislature.[251] Van Buren's victory resulted from a combination of his own attractive political and personal qualities, Jackson's popularity and endorsement, the organizational power of the Democratic party, and the inability of the Whig Party to muster an effective candidate and campaign.[252]

Historical reputation

Equestrian statue of Gen. Jackson, Jackson County Courthouse, Kansas City, Missouri, commissioned by Judge Harry S. Truman

Jackson remains one of the most studied and controversial figures in American history. Historian Charles Grier Sellers says, "Andrew Jackson's masterful personality was enough by itself to make him one of the most controversial figures ever to stride across the American stage." There has never been universal agreement on Jackson's legacy, for "his opponents have ever been his most bitter enemies, and his friends almost his worshippers."[253] He was always a fierce partisan, with many friends and many enemies. He has been lauded as the champion of the common man, while criticized for his treatment of Indians and for other matters.[254] According to early biographer James Parton:

Andrew Jackson, I am given to understand, was a patriot and a traitor. He was one of the greatest generals, and wholly ignorant of the art of war. A brilliant writer, elegant, eloquent, 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 most profound dissimulation. A most law-defying law-obeying citizen. A stickler for discipline, he never hesitated to disobey his superior. A democratic autocrat. An urbane savage. An atrocious saint.[255]

In the 20th century, Jackson was written about by many admirers. Arthur M. Schlesinger's Age of Jackson (1945) depicts Jackson as a man of the people battling inequality and upper-class tyranny.[256] From the 1970s to the 1980s, Robert Remini published a three-volume biography of Jackson followed by an abridged one-volume study. Remini paints a generally favorable portrait of Jackson.[257] He contends that Jacksonian democracy "stretches the concept of democracy about as far as it can go and still remain workable. ... As such it has inspired much of the dynamic and dramatic events of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in American history—Populism, Progressivism, the New and Fair Deals, and the programs of the New Frontier and Great Society."[258] To Remini, Jackson serves as "the embodiment of the new American...This new man was no longer British. He no longer wore the queue and silk pants. He wore trousers, and he had stopped speaking with a British accent."[257] However, other 20th-century writers such as Richard Hofstadter and Bray Hammond depict Jackson as an advocate of the sort of laissez-faire capitalism that benefits the rich and oppresses the poor.[256]

Jackson's initiatives to deal with the conflicts between Indians and American settlers has been a source of controversy. Starting mainly around 1970, Jackson came under sharp attack from historians on this issue. Howard Zinn called him "the most aggressive enemy of the Indians in early American history"[259] and "exterminator of Indians."[260] In 1969, Francis Paul Prucha argued that Jackson's removal of the "Five Civilized Tribes" from the extremely hostile white environment in the Old South to Oklahoma probably saved their very existence.[261] Similarly, Remini claims that, if not for Jackson's policies, the Southern tribes would have been totally wiped out, just like other tribes-namely, the Yamasee, Mahican, and Narragansett–which did not move.[262]

Brands observes that Jackson's reputation declined after the mid-20th century as his actions towards Indians and African Americans received new attention. After the Civil Rights Movement, Brand writes, "his unrepentant ownership of slaves marked him as one to be censured rather than praised." Further, "By the turn of the present [21st] century, it was scarcely an exaggeration to say that the one thing American schoolchildren learned about Jackson was that he was the author of the Trail of Tears." Jackson was often hailed during his lifetime as the "second George Washington", because, while Washington had fought for independence, Jackson confirmed it at New Orleans and made the United States a great world power. Over time however, while the Revolution has maintained a reasonably strong presence in the public conscience, memory of the War of 1812, including the Battle of New Orleans, has sharply declined. Brands argues that this is because once America had become a military power, "it was easy to think that America had been destined for this role from the beginning."[263]

Still, Jackson's performance in office has generally been ranked in the top half in polls of historians and political scientists. His position in C-SPAN's poll of historians dropped from 13th in 2009 to 18th in 2017. Some associate this decline with the frequent praise Jackson has received from sitting President Donald Trump, who hung Jackson's official portrait in the Oval Office.[264] A 2018 poll of the American Political Science Association’s Presidents and Executive Politics section ranked Jackson as the fifteenth best president.[265]


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  2. ^ Feller, Daniel. "Andrew Jackson's Shifting Legacy". Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Retrieved December 21, 2016. 
  3. ^ Cole 1993, pp. 3–4.
  4. ^ a b Wilentz 2005, pp. 49–54.
  5. ^ Cole 1993, pp. 52–53.
  6. ^ Cheathem, Mark (2014). "Frontiersman or Southern Gentleman? Newspaper Coverage of Andrew Jackson during the 1828 Presidential Campaign". The Readex Report. 9 (3). Archived from the original on January 12, 2015. 
  7. ^ "The Tsunami of Slime Circa 1828". New York News & Politics. New York Media LLC. Archived from the original on March 23, 2016. Retrieved June 1, 2017. 
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  10. ^ First Lady Biography: Rachel Jackson Archived March 11, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. National First Ladies Library. Web. Retrieved February 15, 2016.
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  13. ^ Boller 2004, p. 46.
  14. ^ Latner 2002, p. 101.
  15. ^ a b Latner 2002, p. 104.
  16. ^ Wilentz 2005, pp. 63–65.
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Works cited

  • Bates, Christopher G. (2015). The Early Republic and Antebellum America: An Encyclopedia of Social, Political, Cultural, and Economic History. New York: Routledge. ISBN 9781317457404. 
  • Boller, Paul F. Jr. (2004). Presidential Campaigns: From George Washington to George W. Bush. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19516-716-3. 
  • Brands, H. W. (2005). Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 1-4000-3072-2. 
  • Cole, Donald B. (1993). The Presidency of Andrew Jackson. University Press of Kansas. ISBN 0-7006-0600-9. 
  • Ellis, Richard E. (1974). Woodward, C. Vann, ed. Responses of the Presidents to Charges of Misconduct. New York: Delacorte Press. pp. 61–68. ISBN 0-440-05923-2. 
  • Howe, Daniel Walker (2007). What Hath God Wrought: the Transformation of America, 1815–1848. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press. 
  • Jackson, Andrew (1926). Bassett, John Spencer; Jameson, J. Franklin, eds. The Correspondence of Andrew Jackson. 5. Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institute of Washington.  7 volumes total.
  • Latner, Richard B. (2002). "Andrew Jackson". In Graff, Henry. The Presidents: A Reference History (3 ed.). New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. ISBN 978-0-684-31226-2. OCLC 49029341. 
  • Marszalek, John F. (2000) [1997]. The Petticoat Affair: Manners, Mutiny, and Sex in Andrew Jackson's White House. Baton Rouge, LA: LSU Press. ISBN 0-8071-2634-9. 
  • Meacham, Jon (2008). American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. New York: Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 0-8129-7346-1. 
  • Mills, William J. (2003). Exploring Polar Frontiers: A Historical Encyclopedia. 1. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc. ISBN 1-57607-422-6. 
  • Niven, John (1988). John C. Calhoun and the Price of Union: A Biography. Baton Rouge, LA: LSU Press. ISBN 978-0-8071-1858-0. 
  • Ogg, Frederic Austin (1919). The Reign of Andrew Jackson; Vol. 20, Chronicles of America Series. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 
  • Parton, James (1860a). Life of Andrew Jackson, Volume 1. New York: Mason Brothers. 
  • Prucha, Francis Paul (1969). "Andrew Jackson's Indian policy: a reassessment". Journal of American History. 56 (3): 527–539. doi:10.2307/1904204. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. 
  • Remini, Robert V. (1981). Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Freedom, 1822–1832. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. ISBN 978-0-8018-5913-7. 
  • Remini, Robert V. (1984). Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Democracy, 1833–1845. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0-8018-5913-1. 
  • Remini, Robert V. (1988). The Life of Andrew Jackson. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0-0618-0788-5.  Abridgment of Remini's 3-volume biography.
  • Rorabaugh, W.J.; Critchlow, Donald T.; Baker, Paula C. (2004). America's Promise: A Concise History of the United States. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0-7425-1189-8. 
  • Rutland, Robert Allen (1995). The Democrats: From Jefferson to Clinton. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press. ISBN 0-8262-1034-1. 
  • Sellers, Charles Grier Jr. (1958). "Andrew Jackson versus the Historians". Mississippi Valley Historical Review. 44 (4). 
  • Wilentz, Sean (2005). Andrew Jackson. New York: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-6925-9. 
  • Zinn, Howard (1980). "7: As Long As Grass Grows or Water Runs". A People's History of the United States. Abingdon-on-Thames, UK: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group. 

Further reading

  • Adams, Sean Patrick, ed. A Companion to the Era of Andrew Jackson (2013). table of contents 597pp; topical essays by scholars
  • Cheathem, Mark R. and Terry Corps, eds. Historical Dictionary of the Jacksonian Era and Manifest Destiny (2nd ed. 2016), 544pp
  • Nester, William. The Age of Jackson and the Art of American Power, 1815-1848 (2013).
  • Wilentz, Sean (2006). The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. ISBN 0-393-05820-4. 

Specialized studies

  • Bugg, James L., Jr. (1952). Jacksonian Democracy: Myth or Reality?. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.  Short essays.
  • Campbell, Stephen W. "Funding the Bank War: Nicholas Biddle and the public relations campaign to recharter the second bank of the U.S., 1828–1832" American Nineteenth Century History (2016) 17#3 pp 273-299.
  • Cheathem, Mark R. Andrew Jackson, Southerner (2016).
  • Cheathem, Mark R. Andrew Jackson and the Rise of the Democratic Party (2018).
  • Cole, Donald B. Vindicating Andrew Jackson: The 1828 Election and the Rise of the Two-Party System (2010)
  • Garrison, Tim Allen (2002). The Legal Ideology of Removal: The Southern Judiciary and the Sovereignty of Native American Nations. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press. ISBN 0-8203-3417-0. 
  • Hammond, Bray. "Andrew Jackson's Battle with the 'Money Power'" American Heritage (June 1956) 7#4 online
  • Hofstadter, Richard (1948). The American Political Tradition.  Chapter on AJ.
  • Inskeep, Steve. Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab (2015)
  • Kahan, Paul. The Bank War: Andrew Jackson, Nicholas Biddle, and the Fight for American Finance (2015) ISBN 978-1594162343
  • Opal, J. M. "General Jackson's Passports: Natural Rights and Sovereign Citizens in the Political Thought of Andrew Jackson, 1780s–1820s" Studies in American Political Development (2013) 27#2 pp 69-85.
  • White, Leonard D. The Jacksonians: A Study in Administrative History 1829-1861 (1965) how cabinet & executive agencies were reorganized and operated online free


  • Adams, Sean Patrick, ed. (2013). A Companion to the Era of Andrew Jackson. John Wiley & Sons. 
  • Cave, Alfred A. (1964). Jacksonian Democracy and the Historians. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press. 
    • Cave, Alfred A. "The Jacksonian movement in American historiography" (PhD, U Florida, 1961) online free; 258pp; bibliog pp 240-58
  • Cheathem, Mark R. (2011). "Andrew Jackson, Slavery, and Historians" (PDF). History Compass. 9 (4): 326. doi:10.1111/j.1478-0542.2011.00763.x. 
  • Curtis, James C. (1976). Andrew Jackson and the Search for Vindication. Boston: Little, Brown and Co. 
  • McKnight, Brian D. and James S. Humphreys, eds. The Age of Andrew Jackson (2011) seven essays by scholars on historiographical themes

Primary sources

  • The Papers of Andrew Jackson Edited first by Sam B. Smith and Harriet Chappell Owsley, and now by Dan Feller, Sam B. Smith, Harriet Fason Chappell Owsley, and Harold D. Moser. (10 vols. 1980 to date, U of Tennessee) online, coverage to 1832.
    • Searchable digital edition online
  • Richardson, James D. ed. A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents (1897), reprints his major messages and reports.
  • Library of Congress. "Andrew Jackson Papers", a digital archive that provides direct access to the manuscript images of many of the Jackson documents. online

External links

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