Andrew Jackson: Significant Facts and Brief Biography

Andrew Jackson's forceful personality led to the strengthening of the office of president. It would be fair to say he was the most influential president of the 19th century with the notable exception of Abraham Lincoln.

Andrew Jackson

Engraved portrait of President Andrew Jackson
President Andrew Jackson. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Life span: Born: March 15, 1767, in Waxhaw, South Carolina
Died: June 8, 1845 in Nashville, Tennessee

Andrew Jackson died at the age of 78, a long life in that era, not to mention a long life for someone who had often been in serious physical danger.

Presidential term: March 4, 1829 - March 4, 1837

Accomplishments: As a proponent of the "common man," Jackson's time as president marked a profound change, as it signaled the opening of great economic and political opportunity beyond a small aristocratic class.

The term "Jacksonian Democracy" meant that the political power in the country more closely resembled the growing population of the United States. Jackson did not really invent the wave of populism he rode upon, but as a president who rose from very humble circumstances, he exemplified it.

Political Career

Supported by: Jackson was notable as he was the first president to be considered a man of the people. He rose from humble roots, and many of his supporters were also from the poor or working class.

Jackson's great political powerful was attributable not only to his forceful personality and remarkable background as an Indian fighter and military hero. With the help of New Yorker Martin Van Buren, Jackson presided over a well-organized Democratic Party.

Opposed by: Jackson, thanks to both his personality and his policies, had a large assortment of enemies. His defeat in the election of 1824 enraged him, and made him a passionate enemy of the man who won the election, John Quincy Adams. The bad feeling between the two men was legendary. At the end of his term, Adams refused to attend the inauguration of Jackson.

Jackson was also often opposed by Henry Clay, to the point that the careers of the two men seemed in opposition to each other. Clay became the leader of the Whig Party, which had arisen essentially to oppose the policies of Jackson.

Another notable Jackson enemy was John C. Calhoun, who had actually been Jackson's vice president before things between them turned bitter.

Specific Jackson policies also angered many:

Presidential campaigns: The election of 1824 was highly controversial, with Jackson and John Quincy Adams winding up in a tie. The election was settled in the House of Representatives, but Jackson came to believe he had been cheated. The election became known as "The Corrupt Bargain."

Jackson's anger over the 1824 election persisted, and he ran again in the election of 1828. That campaign was perhaps the dirtiest election season ever, as Jackson and Adams supporters hurled wild charges about. Jackson won the election, defeating his hated rival Adams.

Spouse and Family

Portrait of Rachel Jackson, wife of Andrew Jackson
Rachel Jackson, Andrew Jackson's wife, whose reputation became a campaign issue. Print Collector/Getty Images

Jackson married Rachel Donelson in 1791. She had been married before, and while she and Jackson believed she was divorced, her divorce was not in fact final and she was committing bigamy. Jackson's political enemies discovered the scandal years later and made much of it.

After Jackson's election in 1828, his wife suffered a heart attack and died before he took office. Jackson was devastated, and blamed his political enemies for his wife's death, believing the stress of accusations about her had contributed to her heart condition.

Early Life

Andrew Jackson as a boy being attacked by a British officer
Jackson was attacked by a British officer as a boy. Getty Images

Education: After a raucous and tragic youth, in which he was orphaned, Jackson eventually set about to make something of himself. In his late teens he began to train to be a lawyer (in a time when most lawyers did not attend law school) and began a legal career when he was 20.

A story that was often told about Jackson's childhood helped to explain his belligerent character. As a boy during the Revolution, Jackson had been ordered by a British officer to shine his boots. He refused, and the officer attacked him with a sword, wounding him and instilling a lifelong hatred of the British.

Early career: Jackson worked as a lawyer and a judge, but his role as a militia leader is what marked him for a political career. And he became famous by commanding the winning American side at the Battle of New Orleans, the last major action of the War of 1812.

By the early 1820s Jackson was an obvious choice to run for high political office, and people began taking him seriously as a presidential candidate.

Later Career

Later career: Following his two terms as president, Jackson retired to his plantation, The Hermitage, in Tennessee. He was a revered figure, and was often visited by political figures.

Miscellaneous Facts

Nickname: Old Hickory, one of the most famous nicknames in American history, was bestowed on Jackson for his reputed toughness.

Unusual facts: Perhaps the angriest man to ever serve as president, Jackson wound up in countless fights, many of which turned violent. He participated in duels. In one encounter Jackson's opponent put a bullet in his chest, and as he stood bleeding Jackson fired his pistol and shot the man dead.

Jackson had been shot in an another altercation and carried the bullet in his arm for many years. When pain from it became more intense, a doctor from Philadelphia visited the White House and removed the bullet.

It has often been said that as his time in the White House ended, Jackson was asked if he had any regrets. He reportedly said he was sorry he hadn't been able to "shoot Henry Clay and hang John C. Calhoun."

Death and funeral: Jackson died, probably of tuberculosis, and was buried at The Hermitage, in a tomb next to his wife.

Legacy: Jackson expanded the power of the presidency, and left an enormous mark on 19th century America. And while some of his policies, such as the Indian Removal Act, remain controversial, there is no denying his place as one of the most important presidents.

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McNamara, Robert. "Andrew Jackson: Significant Facts and Brief Biography." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, McNamara, Robert. (2023, April 5). Andrew Jackson: Significant Facts and Brief Biography. Retrieved from McNamara, Robert. "Andrew Jackson: Significant Facts and Brief Biography." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 10, 2023).