Andrew Jackson's Presidency a View to Defining the Good and Bad Term Paper

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Andrew Jackson's Presidency: A View to Defining the Good and Bad

Andrew Jackson is lauded by many as one of the greatest generals and presidents in United States history, and is vilified as one of the most damaging of all time. The fact is that he had some incredible successes in his career that were accompanied by dramatic failures, at least in the minds of some. Jackson himself had so much self-confidence that he would never have acknowledged failure in any endeavor. During his time as a commanding general in the United States military he had the success of the Battle of New Orleans and the critical failure of the Florida campaign. During his presidency he had the historical failures of the "trail of tears" and cronyism, and the successes of the federal banking decision and the solidification of the two party system. Although he was a popular president among the people, Jackson was censured by the Congress (which was eventually repealed)[footnoteRef:1] for acts against the people. He had enemies that actively campaigned for his demise and loyal friends who formed part of his "kitchen cabinet." This paper is a discussion of Andrew Jackson's negative and positive decisions, how they were shaped by his boyhood, and how they have continued to affect the country. [1: James C. Ho, "Misunderstood precedent: Andrew Jackson and the real case against censure," Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 24 (2000).]

His Early Life

Many different biographies of Jackson refer to him as a self-made man who was able to turn his difficult childhood into one of the greatest American stories.[footnoteRef:2] His parents were Scotch-Irish immigrants, as were many of the people who populated the southern states, who settled in South Carolina. Jackson's father died before he was born in a logging accident, but Jackson and his three brothers were raised by their single mother, a very unusual occurrence at the time, until Jackson was ten when they moved in with his aunt.[footnoteRef:3] [2: UTK, Andrew Jackson: A life in brief, http://thepapersofandrewjackson.utk.edu/AJ%20biography.pdf (accessed December 2, 2012).] [3: Robert V. Remini, Andrew Jackson (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2005). p. x.]

He started his long career in the military very young as he worked as a courier for during the Revolutionary War for the Continental Army at thirteen.[footnoteRef:4] Jackson was particularly suited to the military as a young man who had grown up with a strong mother and two older brothers he had been prepared for the deprivations and discipline required from a young age. A character trait that would follow him due to his service was an extreme hatred of the British. He was captured by the British near the end of the War and taken to an infamous prison hulk near Norfolk, VA. A British officer ordered him to clean the officer's boots and he refused. The officer struck him, leaving him with only partial hearing on his left side which gave him a lifelong animosity for anything British.[footnoteRef:5] [4: UTK, Andrew Jackson: A life in brief, http://thepapersofandrewjackson.utk.edu/AJ%20biography.pdf (accessed December 2, 2012).] [5: Robert V. Remini, Andrew Jackson (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2005). p. 1.]

After the War, there was no job for a soldier, so he "read" for the law and became a barrister, but his constant need for adventure saw him moving to the West (which consisted of lands just beyond the Appalachian Mountains) after he became a lawyer. At this time in his life he was described as "the most roaring, rollicking, game-cocking, horse-racing, card-playing, mischievous fellow that ever lived."[footnoteRef:6] A description of Jackson that would stay with him his entire life was one of being a "hard liver"[footnoteRef:7] which would endear him to some and make of him an anathema to others. The stories that grew up around him, mostly events that actually happened but were embellished during and after his life, were legend before he even became president because of the manner in which he lived throughout his life. As can be seen, he was always a person who believed in struggling for what he wanted, and he was going to pursue whatever he thought was right, or to his best advantage, until he accomplished it. This can be said of his early soldiering, his stays in the Congress as a Representative and Senator from Tennessee, and in his marital relations. Even though he knew the fact that he lived with a married woman would haunt him, he did not take the care that someone else with his aspirations might have. His enemies, such as Henry Clay and William H. Crawford (who served as his Secretary of War for a period and as his antagonist in the administration)[footnoteRef:8] used these qualities to try and destroy him, but others, who considered themselves his "cronies," and the public in general, always thought that his antics made him a strong and popular leader.[footnoteRef:9] His early life set the stage for who he was to become and the decisions, good and bad that he was to make as both a popular president and an even more popular war hero. [6: Sean Willentz, Andrew Jackson (New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 2005). p. 18.] [7: UTK, Andrew Jackson: A life in brief, http://thepapersofandrewjackson.utk.edu/AJ%20biography.pdf (accessed December 2, 2012).] [8: Sean Willentz, Andrew Jackson (New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 2005). p. 39.] [9: Lorman A. Ratner, Andrew Jackson and his Tennessee Lieutenants: A Study in Political Culture (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997). p. 75.]

Jackson the Soldier

Andrew Jackson was a senator and representative from Tennessee, one of the colorful early characters such as Davy Crockett who served that state, but he found that the job was dull and distasteful He did not have the power he craved, and he was not able to influence people the way he did when he was in his adopted state. Ratner states that

"Early in his life, he had a taste of politics when he served briefly as a congressman and then as Tennessee's first United States senator, but the political game gave him no more pleasure than he derived from being a lawyer or a judge"[footnoteRef:10] [10: Lorman A. Ratner, Andrew Jackson and his Tennessee Lieutenants: A Study in Political Culture (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997). p. 24. ]

This dissatisfaction with the role he was currently in was also something that plagued him throughout his life. Later, during his presidency, many believed that he was bored with the trappings of the office and that is why he made some of the decisions he did.[footnoteRef:11] It seemed easier, by his own admission, to just relegate decisions to another person than to have to sit through the diplomacy meetings of state and then make the decision himself. Though he had the authority, both as a commanding general and as the president, to make policy, he often allowed policy to be made by other men.[footnoteRef:12] [11: Jeffery L. Mashaw, "Administration and the democracy: Administrative law from Jackson to Lincoln, 1829-1861," The Yale Law Journal 117, no. 8 (2009).] [12: Gerard M. Magliocca, "The Cherokee removal and the fourteenth amendment," Duke Law Journal 53, no.3 (2003).]

Two events framed memories the legacy of Andrew Jackson's life as a soldier; the one which was positive and the other negative. Jackson was famously involved in the last battle of the War of 1812, that clever eponym, which was termed the Battle of New Orleans. After, this war he was involved in many other small skirmishes and wars as a commanding general in the U.S. Army, but he is most infamous for his handling of the land grab that was his unauthorized conquest of Florida. These two frame Jackson as a hero, to his worshippers, and as a villain, to his detractors.

The Battle of New Orleans

It can easily be said that this particular War would have essentially been a footnote in history texts without the unnecessary actions, due to the slow methods of communication in 1814, of Major General Jackson and his riflemen. Jackson was focused on deliberate action with the British because of slight he had suffered 30 years before. His ability to remember and hold grudges was legendary among the people who knew him[footnoteRef:13] and the demeaning order and blow he had received were not forgotten. The General wrote to his wife "I owe to Britain a debt of retaliatory vengeance; should our forces meet I trust I shall pay the debt."[footnoteRef:14] It could be said that he sought a fight against the British to avenge this wrong, but it can also be said that Jackson was loved and trusted by his men. He was an incredible leader in that he could engender the deepest feelings of loyalty in anyone following him, and this trait was another that followed him throughout his life. [13: James C. Ho, "Misunderstood precedent: Andrew Jackson and the real case against censure," Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 24 (2000).] [14: Sean Willentz, Andrew Jackson (New York: Henry Holt and Company,…[continue]

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