Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) was the seventh president of the United States. He was born on March 15, 1767, in the Waxhaws region on the border of North and South Carolina. No one knows for sure the exact location of his birth, so both states have claimed him as one of their own. Jackson, however, saw South Carolina as his home.
As the son of poor Irish immigrants, Jackson received little schooling. During the invasion of western Carolina by the British in 1780-1781, his mother and two brothers died, leaving him with a lifelong dislike and hostility towards Great Britain. The young future president was also captured by British soldiers. When they ordered him to shine one of the officer’s boots, he refused and received a swat across the face with a saber that left scars.
As a teen, Jackson read law and achieved the bar in 1787, later moving to what would become Tennessee to work as a prosecuting attorney in what later became Nashville. He married Rachel (Donelson) Robards, the daughter of a local colonel, and built a mansion, the Hermitage, near Nashville. His wealth had grown enough to also allow him to buy slaves.
Jackson was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1796, and then the U.S. Senate the following year. After he resigned a year later, he was elected judge of Tennessee’s superior court. Later, he became head of the state militia.
Andrew Jackson the Soldier
During the war of 1812, he served as a major general and commanded forces in a five-month campaign against the Creek Indians, who were allies of the British. After winning that war, he led another victory over the British in the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815, giving him the status of a national hero. Jackson ordered an invasion of Florida and was instrumental in the acquisition of that state in 1821.
The Jackson Presidency
In 1824, Jackson ran for president and although he won the popular vote, for the first time in history no candidate had received a majority of electoral votes. The House of Representatives had to make a decision between the three leading candidates: Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and Secretary of the Treasury William H. Crawford. Speaker of the House Henry Clay supported Adams, who later made Clay his secretary of state. This caused a huge uproar among Jackson’s supporters about what they called the “corrupt bargain” between Adams and Clay. As a result, Jackson resigned from the Senate.
Four years later, he won the presidency and his wife died shortly after that. Jackson, who came to be called “Old Hickory,” and his supporters formed the Democrats (formerly part of the Democrat-Republicans), while those against the new president were known as the Whig Party. Jackson was a strong leader and not afraid to use his presidential veto power whenever it suited him, which earned him the new nickname, “King Andrew I.”
Ironically, while Jackson’s image is on the U.S. twenty-dollar bill, he actually vehemently opposed the Bank of the United States, saying it constituted the “prostration of our Government to the advancement of the few at the expense of the many.”
On January 30, 1835, Jackson survived an assassination attempt. When his would-be assassin, Richard Lawrence, assaulted him, the president beat the attacker with his cane.
When it came to Native Americans, Jackson seemed to look the other way. He ignored it when Georgia claimed millions of acres of land that had been guaranteed to the Cherokee Indians. The Cherokees ended up signing a treaty that gave up their land in exchange for territory west of Arkansas. In 1838, about 15,000 Native Americans struck out on foot to go to their new homes in what is known as the “Trail of Tears.”
Jackson opposed any laws that would outlaw slavery. When abolitionists tried to send anti-slavery tracts to the south, he banned their delivery, calling the advocates monsters who should “atone for this wicked attempt with their lives.”
Jackson died at his home from congestive heart valve failure on June 8, 1845, at the age of 78.