10 Things to Know About Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson, nicknamed "Old Hickory," was the first president truly elected due to popular sentiment. He was born in either North or South Carolina on March 15, 1767. He later moved to Tennessee where he owned a famous estate called "The Hermitage," which is still standing and open to the public as a history museum. He was a lawyer, a member of the legislature, and a fierce warrior, rising to the rank of Major General during the War of 1812. Following are ten key facts that are important to understanding the life and presidency of Andrew Jackson.

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Battle of New Orleans

Battle of New Orleans, 1856, by Dennis Malone Carter
The Historic New Orleans Collection

In May 1814, during the War of 1812, Andrew Jackson was named a Major General in the U.S. Army. On January 8, 1815, he defeated the British at the Battle of New Orleans and was lauded as a hero. His forces met the invading British troops as they were attempting to take the city of New Orleans. The battlefield, outside of the city, is today just a large swampy field. The battle is considered to be one of the greatest land victories in the war.

Interestingly, the Treaty of Ghent ending the War of 1812 had been signed on December 24, 1814, two weeks before the Battle of New Orleans. However, it was not ratified until February 16, 1815, and the information did not reach the military in Louisiana until later that month.

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The "Corrupt Bargain" and the Election of 1824

Photograph of President John Quincy Adams, 1840
President John Quincy Adams. Library of Congress

Jackson decided to run for the presidency in 1824 against John Quincy Adams. Even though he won the popular vote, because there was not an electoral majority the result of the election was left to the House of Representatives to determine. The House named John Quincy Adams as President, in exchange for Henry Clay becoming Secretary of State, a decision which became known to the public and historians as "The Corrupt Bargain."  The backlash from this result would lead to Jackson's win in 1828. The scandal also resulted in the Democratic-Republican Party splitting in two.

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Election of 1828 and the Common Man

Illustration of the inauguration of President Andrew Jackson
The inauguration of President Andrew Jackson.

Robert Cruikshank / Library of Congress

As a result of the fallout from the election of 1824, Jackson was renominated to run in 1825, a full three years before the next election to be held in 1828. At this point, his party became known as the Democrats. The campaign against the President John Quincy Adams became less about issues and more about the candidates themselves. Jackson became the seventh president with 54 percent of the popular vote and 178 out of 261 electoral votes. His election was seen as a triumph for the common man.

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Sectional Strife and Nullification

Jackson's presidency was a time of rising sectional strife with many southerners fighting against an increasingly powerful national government. In 1832, when Jackson signed a moderate tariff into law, South Carolina decided that through "nullification" (the belief that a state could rule something unconstitutional), they could ignore the law. Jackson let it be known that he would use the military to enforce the tariff. As a means of compromise, a new tariff was enacted in 1833 to help smooth out sectional issues.

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Andrew Jackson's Marriage Scandal

Before he became president, Jackson married a woman named Rachel Donelson in 1791. Rachel believed that she had been legally divorced after a failed first marriage. However, this turned out to be not accurate and after the wedding, her first husband charged Rachel with adultery. Jackson then had to wait until 1794 before he could finally legally marry Rachel. This event was dragged into the election of 1828 causing the pair much distress.

Rachel passed away two months before he took office and Jackson blamed her death on these personal attacks.

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Use of Vetoes

As the first president to truly embrace the power of the presidency, President Jackson vetoed more bills than all previous presidents. He used the veto twelve times in his two terms in office. In 1832, he used a veto to stop the rechartering of the Second Bank of the United States.

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Kitchen Cabinet

Jackson was the first president to truly rely on an informal group of advisers to set policy instead of his "real cabinet." A shadow structure such as this is not supported by congressional nomination and approval processes for its members and is known as a "Kitchen Cabinet."  Many of these advisers were friends from Tennessee or newspaper editors.

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Spoils System

Political cartoon depicting President Andrew Jackson as King Andrew I

 Public Domain

When Jackson ran for a second term in 1832, his opponents called him "King Andrew I" due to his use of the veto and his implementation of what they called the "spoils system." Jackson believed in rewarding those who had supported him and more than any president before him, he removed political opponents from federal office to replace them with cronies and loyal followers.

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Bank War

Jackson did not believe that the Second Bank of the United States was constitutional and further that it favored the wealthy over the common people. When its charter came up for renewal in 1832, Jackson vetoed it. He further removed government money from the bank and put it into state banks. However, these state banks did not follow stringent lending practices. Their freely made loans led to inflation. To combat this, Jackson ordered that all land purchases be made in gold or silver, a decision which would have consequences leading to the Panic of 1837.

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Indian Removal Act

Jackson supported the state of Georgia's right to force Indians from their land to reservations in the West. He signed into law the Indian Removal Act which had passed in the Senate in 1830 and used it to force Native Americans out of their lands.

Jackson did this in spite of the fact that the Supreme Court had ruled in Worcester v. Georgia (1832) that Native Americans could not be forced to move. This led directly to the Trail of Tears when from 1838–1839, U.S. troops led over 15,000 Cherokees from Georgia to reservations in Oklahoma. It is estimated that about 4,000 Native Americans died during this march.