10 Things to Know About Andrew Jackson

Interesting and Important Facts 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 became a lawyer and owned an estate called "The Hermitage." He served in the House of Representatives and the Senate. He was also known as a fierce warrior, rising to be a Major General in the War of 1812. Following are ten key facts that are important to understand when studying the life and presidency of Andrew Jackson.

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Battle of New Orleans

Here is the official White House portrait of Andrew Jackson.
Here is the official White House portrait of Andrew Jackson. Source: White House. President of the United States.

In May, 1814, during the War of 1812, Andrew Jackson was named a Major General in the US 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 basically just a large swampy field. The battle is considered to be the greatest land victories in the war. Interestingly, the Treaty of Ghent had been signed on December 24, 1814. 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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Corrupt Bargain and the Election of 1824

John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams, Sixth President of the United States, Painted by T. Sully. Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-7574 DLC

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 House of Representatives determined the result of the election. Historians believe that what is known as the "Corrupt Bargain" was made which gave the office to John Quincy Adams in exchange for Henry Clay becoming Secretary of State. 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

Due to the fallout from the election of 1824, Jackson was renominated to run in 1828 a full three years before the next election. At this point, his party became known as the Democrats. Running against John Quincy Adams who had been named president in 1824, the campaign was less about issues and more about the candidates themselves. Jackson became the seventh president with 54% 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 increased 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

Rachel Donelson - Wife of Andrew Jackson
Rachel Donelson - Wife of Andrew Jackson. Public Domain

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 was not accurate and after the wedding, her first husband charged Rachel with adultery. Jackson then had to wait until 1794 when he could finally, legally marry Rachel. This event was dragged into the election of 1828 causing the pair much distress. In fact, 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 called the "Kitchen Cabinet" to set policy instead of his real cabinet. Many of these advisers were friends from Tennessee or newspaper editors.

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Spoils System

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." He believed in rewarding those who supported him and more than any president before him, he removed political opponents from federal office to replace them with 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 which would have consequences in the Panic of 1837.

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Indian Removal Act

Jackson supported the state of Georgia being allowed to force Indians from their land to reservations in the West. He used the Indian Removal Act that had been passed in 1830 and signed into law by Jackson to force them to move. He even did this despite 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 where from 1838-39, US troops led over 15,000 Cherokees from Georgia to reservations in Oklahoma. It is estimated that about 4,000 Native Americans died due to this march.