Biography of Andrew Jackson, 7th President of the United States

Andrew Jackson Statue
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Andrew Jackson (March 15, 1767–June 8, 1845 and known as "Old Hickory"), was the son of Irish immigrants and a soldier, a lawyer, and a legislator who became the seventh president of the United States. Known as the first "citizen-president," Jackson was the first non-elite man to hold the office.

Fast Facts: Andrew Jackson

  • Known For: 7th U.S. President (1829–1837)
  • Born: March 15, 1767 near Twelve Mile Creek on the border between North and South Carolina
  • Parents: Irish immigrants Andrew Jackson and his wife Elizabeth Hutchinson 
  • Died: June 8, 1845 in The Hermitage, Nashville, Tennessee
  • Spouse: Rachel Donelson
  • Adopted Children: Andrew Jackson, Jr., Lyncoya, and Andrew Jackson Hutchings

Early Life

Andrew Jackson was born on March 15, 1767, in the Waxhaw community on Twelve Mile Creek on the border of North and South Carolina. He was the third child, and the first one born in the Americas, of his Irish immigrant parents, linen weavers Andrew and Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson. His father died unexpectedly before he was born—some stories say he was crushed by a falling tree—and his mother raised he and his two brothers by herself.

The Waxhaw community was made up of Scots-Irish settlers and five of Elizabeth's married sisters lived nearby, so Elizabeth and her sons moved in with her sister Jane's husband James Crawford, and she helped raise Jane's eight children. All three of the Jackson boys took part in the American Revolution. Andrew's older brother Hugh died of exposure after the Battle of Stono Ferry in 1779. Robert and Andrew witnessed the Battle of Hanging Rock and were captured by the British, catching smallpox while in Camden jail.

Learning of their capture, Elizabeth made the trip to Camden and arranged for their release in exchange for some captured British soldiers. Robert died and while Andrew laid in a delirium, Elizabeth went to visit quarantined Waxhaw community members on board a ship in Charleston harbor. She contracted cholera and died. Andrew returned to Waxhaw but no longer got along with his relatives. He was a bit wild, burned through an inheritance, and then left Waxhaw for Salisbury, North Carolina in 1784. There, he studied law with other attorneys and qualified for the bar in 1787. He was appointed public prosecutor in middle Tennessee in 1788, and on the way there, fought his first duel and bought his first slave, a woman not much older than himself.

Marriage and Family

Jackson became a leading citizen in Nashville and married Rachel Donelson in 1791, who had previously been married. In 1793, the couple learned that her divorce was not yet final, so they repeated their vows again. The charge of bigamy would come to haunt them while Jackson was campaigning for president, and he blamed his opponents for causing the stress leading to her death in 1828.

Together the Jacksons had no children, but they adopted three: Andrew Jackson Jr. (the son of Rachel's brother Severn Donelson), Lyncoya (1811–1828), a Creek Indian orphan adopted by Jackson after the Battle of Tallushatchee, and Andrew Jackson Hutchings (1812–1841), the grandson of Rachel's sister. The couple also took guardianship of several other related and unrelated children, some of whom only lived with them a short while.

Legal and Military Career

Andrew Jackson was a lawyer in North Carolina and then Tennessee. In 1796, he served at the convention that created the Tennessee Constitution. He was elected in 1796 as Tennessee's first U.S. representative and then as a U.S. senator in 1797, from which he resigned after eight months. From 1798–1804, he was a justice on the Tennessee Supreme Court. During his period as a justice, he managed his credit, bought slaves and a new parcel of land, and built The Hermitage, where he would live for most of his life.

During the War of 1812, Jackson served as the major general of the Tennessee Volunteers. He led his troops to victory in March 1814 against the Creek Indians at Horseshoe Bend. In May 1814 he was made major general of the Army, and on January 8, 1815, he defeated the British in New Orleans for which he was lauded as a war hero. Jackson also served in the 1st Seminole War (1817–1819), during which he overthrew the Spanish governor in Florida. After serving in the military and being the military governor of Florida in 1821, Jackson served in the Senate again from 1823–1825.

Running for President

In 1824, Jackson ran for president against John Quincy Adams. He won the popular vote but the lack of an electoral majority resulted in the election for Adams being decided in the House. The choice of Adams was popularly known as the "corrupt bargain," an undercover deal giving the office to Adams in exchange for Henry Clay becoming secretary of state. The backlash from this election split the Democratic-Republican Party in two.

The new Democratic party renominated Jackson to run for president in 1825, three years before the next election, with John C. Calhoun as his running mate. Jackson and Calhoun ran against incumbent John Quincy Adams of the new National Republican Party, a campaign that was less about issues and more about the candidates themselves: the election was characterized as the triumph of the common man over the elites. Jackson became the seventh U.S. president with 54 percent of the popular vote and 178 out of 261 electoral votes.

The 1832 presidential election was the first to use National Party Conventions. Jackson ran again as the incumbent with Martin Van Buren as his running mate. His opponent was Henry Clay, whose ticket included vice presidential nominee John Sergeant. The main campaign issue was the Bank of the United States, Jackson's use of the spoils system, and his use of the veto. Jackson was called "King Andrew I" by his opposition, but he still won 55 percent of the popular vote and 219 out of 286 electoral votes.

Events and Accomplishments

Jackson was an active executive who vetoed more bills than all previous presidents. He believed in rewarding loyalty and appealing to the masses. He relied on an informal group of advisors called the "Kitchen Cabinet" to set policy instead of his real cabinet.

During Jackson's presidency, sectional issues began to arise. Many southern states, upset over tariffs, wished to preserve states' rights to overrule the federal government and when Jackson signed a moderate tariff in 1932, South Carolina felt it had the right through "nullification" (the belief that a state could rule something unconstitutional) to ignore it. Jackson stood strong against South Carolina, ready to use the military if necessary to enforce the tariff. In 1833, a compromise tariff was enacted that helped mollify the sectional differences for a time.

In 1832, Jackson vetoed the Second Bank of the United States' charter. He believed the government could not constitutionally create such a bank and that it favored the wealthy over the common people. This action led to federal money being put into state banks, which then loaned it out freely, leading to inflation. Jackson stopped the easy credit by requiring all land purchases to be made in gold or silver—a decision that would have consequences in 1837.

Jackson supported Georgia's expulsion of the Indians from their land to reservations in the west. He used the Indian Removal Act of 1830 to force them to move, even discounting the Supreme Court ruling in Worcester v. Georgia (1832) that said they could not be forced to move. From 1838–1839, troops led over 15,000 Cherokees from Georgia in a devastating march called the Trail of Tears.

Jackson survived an assassination attempt in 1835 when the two derringers pointed at him didn't fire. The gunman, Richard Lawrence, was found not guilty of the attempt by reason of insanity.

Death and Legacy

Andrew Jackson returned to his home, the Hermitage, near Nashville, Tennessee. He stayed active politically until his death there on June 8, 1845.

Andrew Jackson is considered by some as one of the United States' greatest presidents. He was the first "citizen-president" representing the common man who believed strongly in preserving the union and in keeping too much power out of the hands of the wealthy. He was also the first president to truly embrace the powers of the presidency.

Sources

  • Cheathem, Mark. "Andrew Jackson, Southerner." Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press (2013).
  • Remini, Robert V. "Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Empire, 1767–1821." New York: Harper & Row (1979).
  • "Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Freedom, 1822–1832." New York: Harper & Row (1981).
  • "Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Democracy, 1833–1845." New York: Harper & Row (1984).
  • Wilentz, Sean. Andrew Jackson: The Seventh President, 1829–1837. New York: Henry Holt (2005).