Andrew Jackson (March 15, 1767 – June 8, 1845) was an American lawyer, planter, general, and statesman who served as the seventh president of the United States from 1829 to 1837. Before his presidency, he gained fame as a general in the U.S. Army and served in both houses of the U.S. Congress. Often praised as an advocate for ordinary Americans and for his work in preserving the union of states, Jackson has also been criticized for his racial policies, particularly his treatment of Native Americans.

Andrew Jackson
A portrait of Andrew Jackson, serious in posture and expression, with a grey-and-white haired widow's peak, wearing a red-collared black cape.
Portrait c. 1835
7th President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1829 – March 4, 1837
Vice President
Preceded byJohn Quincy Adams
Succeeded byMartin Van Buren
United States Senator
from Tennessee
In office
March 4, 1823 – October 14, 1825
Preceded byJohn Williams
Succeeded byHugh Lawson White
In office
September 26, 1797 – April 1, 1798
Preceded byWilliam Cocke
Succeeded byDaniel Smith
Federal Military Commissioner of Florida
In office
March 10, 1821 – December 31, 1821
Appointed byJames Monroe
Preceded by
Succeeded byWilliam Pope Duval (as Territorial Governor)
Justice of the Tennessee Superior Court
In office
June 1798 – June 1804
Preceded byHowell Tatum
Succeeded byJohn Overton
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's at-large district
In office
December 4, 1796 – September 26, 1797
Preceded byJames White (Delegate from the Southwest Territory)
Succeeded byWilliam C. C. Claiborne
Personal details
Born(1767-03-15)March 15, 1767
Waxhaw Settlement between North Carolina and South Carolina, British America
DiedJune 8, 1845(1845-06-08) (aged 78)
Nashville, Tennessee, United States
Resting placeThe Hermitage
Political partyDemocratic (1828–1845)
Other political
(m. 1794; died 1828)
Children2, including Lyncoya
  • Politician
  • lawyer
  • general
SignatureCursive signature in ink
Military service
Branch/serviceUnited States Army
UnitSouth Carolina Militia (1780–81)
Tennessee Militia (1792–1821)
United States Army (1814-1821)
See list

Jackson was born in the colonial Carolinas before the American Revolutionary War. He became a frontier lawyer and married Rachel Donelson Robards. He briefly served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, representing Tennessee. After resigning, he served as a justice on the Tennessee Superior Court from 1798 until 1804. Jackson purchased a property later known as the Hermitage, becoming a wealthy planter who owned hundreds of African-American slaves during his lifetime. In 1801, he was appointed colonel of the Tennessee militia and was elected its commander. He led troops during the Creek War of 1813–1814, winning the Battle of Horseshoe Bend and negotiating the Treaty of Fort Jackson that required the indigenous Creek population to surrender vast tracts of present-day Alabama and Georgia. In the concurrent war against the British, Jackson's victory at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 made him a national hero. He later commanded U.S. forces in the First Seminole War, which led to the annexation of Florida from Spain. Jackson briefly served as Florida's first territorial governor before returning to the Senate. He ran for president in 1824. He won a plurality of the popular and electoral vote, but no candidate won the electoral majority. With the help of Henry Clay, the House of Representatives elected John Quincy Adams in a contingent election. Jackson's supporters alleged that there was a "corrupt bargain" between Adams and Clay and began creating their own political organization that would eventually become the Democratic Party.

Jackson ran again in 1828, defeating Adams in a landslide. In 1830, he signed the Indian Removal Act. This act, which has been described as ethnic cleansing, displaced tens of thousands of Native Americans from their ancestral homelands east of the Mississippi and resulted in thousands of deaths. Jackson faced a challenge to the integrity of the federal union when South Carolina threatened to nullify a high protective tariff set by the federal government. He threatened the use of military force to enforce the tariff, but the crisis was defused when it was amended. In 1832, he vetoed a bill by Congress to reauthorize the Second Bank of the United States, arguing that it was a corrupt institution. After a lengthy struggle, the Bank was dismantled. In 1835, Jackson became the only president to pay off the national debt. He survived the first assassination attempt on a sitting president. In one of his final presidential acts, he recognized the Republic of Texas.

After leaving office, Jackson supported the presidencies of Martin Van Buren and James K. Polk, as well as the annexation of Texas. Jackson's legacy remains controversial, and opinions on his legacy are frequently polarized. Supporters characterize him as a defender of democracy and the Constitution, while critics point to his reputation as a demagogue who ignored the law when it suited him. Scholars and historians have consistently ranked Jackson's presidency as above average, although his reputation declined in the late 20th century.

Early life and education

Andrew Jackson was born on March 15, 1767, in the Waxhaws region of the Carolinas. His parents were Scots-Irish colonists Andrew Jackson and Elizabeth Hutchinson, Presbyterians who had emigrated from Ulster, Ireland, in 1765.[1] Jackson's father was born in Carrickfergus, County Antrim, around 1738,[2] and his ancestors had crossed into Northern Ireland from Scotland after the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.[3] Jackson had two older brothers who came with his parents from Ireland, Hugh (born 1763) and Robert (born 1764).[4][3] Elizabeth had a strong hatred of the British that she passed on to her sons.[5]

Jackson's exact birthplace is unclear. Jackson's father died at the age of 29 in a logging accident while clearing land in February 1767, three weeks before his son Andrew was born.[4] Afterwards, Elizabeth and her three sons moved in with her sister and brother-in-law, Jane and James Crawford.[6] Jackson later stated that he was born on the Crawford plantation,[7] which is in Lancaster County, South Carolina, but second-hand evidence suggests that he might have been born at another uncle's home in North Carolina.[6]

When Jackson was young, Elizabeth thought he might become a minister and paid to have him schooled by a local clergyman.[8] He learned to read, write, work with numbers, and was exposed to Greek and Latin,[9] but he was too strong-willed and hot-tempered for the ministry.[6]

Revolutionary War

The Brave Boy of the Waxhaws, an 1876 Currier and Ives lithograph depicting a young Andrew Jackson defending himself against a British officer during the American Revolutionary War

Jackson and his older brothers, Hugh and Robert, served on the Patriot side against British forces during the American Revolutionary War. Hugh served under Colonel William Richardson Davie, dying from heat exhaustion after the Battle of Stono Ferry in June 1779.[10] After anti-British sentiment intensified in the Southern Colonies following the Battle of Waxhaws in May 1780, Elizabeth encouraged Andrew and Robert to participate in militia drills.[11] They served as couriers,[12] and were present at the Battle of Hanging Rock in August 1780.[13]

Andrew and Robert were captured in April 1781 when the British occupied the home of a Crawford relative. A British officer demanded to have his boots polished. Andrew refused, and the officer slashed him with a sword, leaving him with scars on his left hand and head. Robert also refused and was struck a blow on the head.[14] The brothers were taken to a prisoner-of-war camp in Camden, South Carolina, where they became malnourished and contracted smallpox.[15] In late spring, the brothers were released to their mother in a prisoner exchange.[16] Robert died two days after arriving home, but Elizabeth was able to nurse Andrew back to health.[17] Once he recovered, Elizabeth volunteered to nurse American prisoners of war housed in British prison ships in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina.[18] She contracted cholera and died soon afterwards.[19] The war made Jackson an orphan at age 14[20] and increased his hatred for the values he associated with Britain, in particular aristocracy and political privilege.[21]

Early career

Portrait of Jackson's wife Rachel, 1823 by Ralph Eleaser Whiteside Earl now housed at The Hermitage in Nashville

After the American Revolutionary War, Jackson worked as a saddler,[22] briefly returned to school, and taught reading and writing to children.[23] In 1784, he left the Waxhaws region for Salisbury, North Carolina, where he studied law under attorney Spruce Macay.[24] He completed his training under John Stokes,[25] and was admitted to the North Carolina bar in September 1787.[26] Shortly thereafter, his friend John McNairy helped him get appointed as a prosecuting attorney in the Western District of North Carolina,[27] which would later become the state of Tennessee. While traveling to assume his new position, Jackson stopped in Jonesborough. While there, he bought his first slave, a woman who was around his age.[28] He also fought his first duel, accusing another lawyer, Waightstill Avery, of impugning his character. The duel ended with both men firing in the air.[29]

Jackson began his new career in the frontier town of Nashville in 1788 and quickly moved up in social status.[30] He became a protégé of William Blount, one of the most powerful men in the territory.[31] Jackson was appointed attorney general of the Mero District in 1791 and judge-advocate for the militia the following year.[32] He also got involved in land speculation,[33] eventually forming a partnership with fellow lawyer John Overton.[34] Their partnership mainly dealt with claims made under a "land grab" act of 1783 that opened Cherokee and Chickasaw territory to North Carolina's white residents.[35]

While boarding at the home of Rachel Stockly Donelson, the widow of John Donelson, Jackson became acquainted with their daughter, Rachel Donelson Robards. The younger Rachel was in an unhappy marriage with Captain Lewis Robards, and the two were separated by 1789.[36] After the separation, Jackson and Rachel became romantically involved,[37] living together as husband and wife.[38] Robards petitioned for divorce, which was granted on the basis of Rachel's infidelity.[39] The couple legally married in January 1794.[40] In 1796, they acquired their first plantation, Hunter's Hill,[41] on 640 acres (260 ha) of land near Nashville.[42]

Early public career

Jackson became a member of the Democratic-Republican Party, the dominant party in Tennessee.[31] He was elected as a delegate to the Tennessee constitutional convention in 1796.[43] When Tennessee achieved statehood that year, he was elected to be its U.S. representative. In Congress, Jackson argued against the Jay Treaty, criticized George Washington for allegedly removing Democratic-Republicans from public office, and joined several other Democratic-Republican congressmen in voting against a resolution of thanks for Washington.[44] He advocated for the right of Tennesseans to militarily oppose Native American interests.[45] The state legislature elected him to be a U.S. senator in 1797, but he resigned after serving only six months.[46]

In the spring of 1798, Governor John Sevier appointed Jackson to be a judge of the Tennessee Superior Court.[47] In 1802, he also became major general, or commander, of the Tennessee militia, a position that was determined by a vote of the militia's officers. The vote was tied between Jackson and Sevier, a popular Revolutionary War veteran and former governor, but the governor, Archibald Roane, broke the tie in Jackson's favor. Jackson later accused Sevier of fraud and bribery.[48] Sevier responded by impugning Rachel's honor, resulting in a shootout on a public street.[49] Soon afterwards, they met to duel, but parted without having fired at each other.[50]

Planting career and slavery

Aaron and Hannah Jackson, two slaves owned by Jackson, photographed by Theodore Schleier in 1865, now housed at The Hermitage in Nashville

Jackson resigned his judgeship in 1804.[51] He had almost gone bankrupt when the land and mercantile speculations he had made on the basis of promissory notes fell apart in the wake of an earlier financial panic.[52] He had to sell Hunter's Hill, as well as 25,000 acres (10,000 ha) of land he bought for speculation and bought a smaller 420-acre (170 ha) plantation near Nashville that he would call the Hermitage.[53] He focused on recovering from his losses by becoming a successful planter and merchant.[53] The Hermitage would grow to 1,000 acres (400 ha),[54] making it one of the largest cotton-growing plantations in the state.[51]

Like most planters in the Southern United States, Jackson used slave labor. In 1804, Jackson had nine African-American slaves; by 1820, he had over 100; and by his death in 1845, he had over 150.[55] Over his lifetime, he owned a total of 300 slaves.[56] Jackson subscribed to the paternalistic idea of slavery, which claimed that slave ownership was morally acceptable as long as slaves were treated with humanity and their basic needs were cared for.[57] In practice, slaves were treated as a form of wealth whose productivity needed to be protected.[58] Jackson directed harsh punishment for slaves who disobeyed or ran away.[59] For example, in an 1804 advertisement to recover a runaway slave, he offered "ten dollars extra, for every hundred lashes any person will give him" up to three hundred lashes—a number that would likely have been deadly.[59][60] Jackson also participated in the local slave trade.[61] Over time, his accumulation of wealth in both slaves and land placed him among the elite families of Tennessee.[62]

Duel with Dickinson and adventure with Burr

In May 1806, Jackson fought a duel with Charles Dickinson. They had gotten into an argument over a horse race, and Dickinson allegedly uttered a slur against Rachel.[49] During the duel, Dickinson fired first, and the bullet hit Jackson in the chest. The wound was not life-threatening because the bullet had shattered against his breastbone.[63] Jackson returned fire and killed Dickinson. The killing tarnished Jackson's reputation.[64]

Later that year, Jackson became involved in former vice president Aaron Burr's plan to conquer Spanish Florida and drive the Spanish from Texas. Burr, who was touring what was then the Western United States after mortally wounding Alexander Hamilton in a duel, stayed with the Jacksons at the Hermitage in 1805.[65] He eventually persuaded Jackson to join his adventure. In October 1806, Jackson wrote James Winchester that the United States "can conquer not only [Florida], but all Spanish North America".[66] He informed the Tennessee militia that it should be ready to march at a moment's notice "when the government and constituted authority of our country require it",[67] and agreed to provide boats and provisions for the expedition.[65] Jackson sent a letter to President Thomas Jefferson telling him that Tennessee was ready to defend the nation's honor.[68]

Jackson also expressed uncertainty about the enterprise. He warned the Governor of Louisiana William Claiborne and Tennessee Senator Daniel Smith that some of the people involved in the adventure might be intending to break away from the United States.[69] In December, Jefferson ordered Burr to be arrested for treason.[65] Jackson, safe from arrest because of his extensive paper trail, organized the militia to capture the conspirators.[70] He testified before a grand jury in 1807, implying that it was Burr's associate James Wilkinson who was guilty of treason, not Burr. Burr was acquitted of the charges.[71]

Military career

Military campaigns
of Andrew Jackson
General Andrew Jackson, an 1819 portrait by John Wesley Jarvis now housed at Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City
Ft. Barrancas
St. Marks
Horseshoe Bend
Emuckfaw and
Enotachopo Creek

War of 1812

Creek War

On June 18, 1812, the United States declared war on the United Kingdom, launching the War of 1812.[72] Though the war was primarily caused by maritime issues,[73] it provided white American settlers on the southern frontier the opportunity to overcome Native American resistance to settlement, undermine British support of the Native American tribes,[74] and pry Florida from the Spanish Empire.[75]

Jackson immediately offered to raise volunteers for the war, but he was not called to duty until after the United States military was repeatedly defeated in the American Northwest. After these defeats, in January 1813, Jackson enlisted over 2,000 volunteers,[76] who were ordered to head to New Orleans to defend against a British attack.[77][78][79][80] When his forces arrived at Natchez, they were ordered to halt by General Wilkinson, the commander at New Orleans and the man Jackson accused of treason after the Burr adventure. A little later, Jackson received a letter from the Secretary of War, John Armstrong, stating that his volunteers were not needed,[81] and that they were to hand over any supplies to Wilkinson and disband.[82] Jackson refused to disband his troops; instead, he led them on the difficult march back to Nashville, earning the nickname "Hickory" (later "Old Hickory") for his toughness.[83]

After returning to Nashville, Jackson and one of his colonels, John Coffee, got into a street brawl over honor with the brothers Jesse and Thomas Hart Benton. Nobody was killed, but Jackson received a gunshot in the shoulder that nearly killed him.[84]

Jackson had not fully recovered from his wounds when Governor Willie Blount called out the militia in September 1813 following the August Fort Mims Massacre.[85] The Red Sticks, a confederate faction that had allied with Tecumseh, a Shawnee chief who was fighting with the British against the United States, killed about 250 militia men and civilians at Fort Mims in retaliation for an ambush by American militia at Burnt Corn Creek.[86]

Jackson's objective was to destroy the Red Sticks.[87] He headed south from Fayetteville, Tennessee, in October with 2,500 militia, establishing Fort Strother as his supply base.[88] He sent his cavalry under General Coffee ahead of the main force, destroying Red Stick villages and capturing supplies.[89][90] Coffee defeated a band of Red Sticks at the Battle of Tallushatchee on November 3, and Jackson defeated another band later that month at the Battle of Talladega.[91]

By January 1814, the expiration of enlistments and desertion had reduced Jackson's force by about 1,000 volunteers,[92] but he continued the offensive.[93] The Red Sticks counterattacked at the Battles of Emuckfaw and Enotachopo Creek. Jackson repelled them but was forced to withdraw to Fort Strother.[94] Jackson's army was reinforced by further recruitment and the addition of a regular army unit, the 39th U.S. Infantry Regiment. The combined force of 3,000 men—including Cherokee, Choctaw, and Creek allies—attacked a Red Stick fort at Horseshoe Bend on the Tallapoosa River, which was manned by about 1,000 men.[95] The Red Sticks were overwhelmed and massacred.[96] Almost all their warriors were killed, and nearly 300 women and children were taken prisoner and distributed to Jackson's Native American allies.[96] The victory broke the power of the Red Sticks.[97] Jackson continued his scorched-earth campaign of burning villages, destroying supplies,[97] and starving Red Stick women and children.[98] The campaign ended when William Weatherford, the Red Stick leader, surrendered,[99] although some Red Sticks fled to East Florida.[100]

On June 8, Jackson was appointed a brigadier general in the United States Army, and 10 days later was made a brevet major general with command of the Seventh Military District, which included Tennessee, Louisiana, the Mississippi Territory, and the Muscogee Creek Confederacy.[101] With President James Madison's approval, Jackson imposed the Treaty of Fort Jackson. The treaty required all Creek, including those who had remained allies, to surrender 23,000,000 acres (9,300,000 ha) of land to the United States.[102]

Jackson then turned his attention to the British and Spanish. He moved his forces to Mobile, Alabama, in August, accused the Spanish governor of West Florida, Mateo González Manrique, of arming the Red Sticks, and threatened to attack. The governor responded by inviting the British to land at Pensacola to defend it, which violated Spanish neutrality.[103] The British attempted to capture Mobile, but their invasion fleet was repulsed at Fort Bowyer.[104] Jackson then invaded Florida, defeating the Spanish and British forces at the Battle of Pensacola on November 7.[105] Afterwards, the Spanish surrendered, and the British withdrew. Weeks later, Jackson learned that the British were planning an attack on New Orleans, which was the gateway to the Lower Mississippi River and control of the American West.[106] He evacuated Pensacola, strengthened the garrison at Mobile,[107] and led his troops to New Orleans.[108]

Battle of New Orleans

Battle of New Orleans, an 1858 painting by Dennis Malone Carter now housed at The Historic New Orleans Collection

Jackson arrived in New Orleans on December 1, 1814.[109] There he instituted martial law because he worried about the loyalty of the city's Creole and Spanish inhabitants. He augmented his force by forming an alliance with Jean Lafitte's smugglers and raising units of free African Americans and Creek,[110] paying non-white volunteers the same salary as whites.[111] This gave Jackson a force of about 5,000 men when the British arrived.[112]

The British arrived in New Orleans in mid-December.[113] Admiral Alexander Cochrane was the overall commander of the operation;[114] General Edward Pakenham commanded the army of 10,000 soldiers, many of whom had served in the Napoleonic Wars.[115] As the British advanced up the east bank of the Mississippi River, Jackson constructed a fortified position to block them.[116] The climactic battle took place on January 8 when the British launched a frontal assault. Their troops made easy targets for the Americans protected by their parapets, and the attack ended in disaster.[117] The British suffered over 2,000 casualties (including Pakenham) to the Americans' 60.[118]

The British decamped from New Orleans at the end of January, but they still remained a threat.[119] Jackson refused to lift martial law and kept the militia under arms. He approved the execution of six militiamen for desertion.[120] Some Creoles registered as French citizens with the French consul and demanded to be discharged from the militia due to their foreign nationality. Jackson then ordered all French citizens to leave the city within three days,[121] and had a member of the Louisiana legislature, Louis Louaillier, arrested when he wrote a newspaper article criticizing Jackson's continuation of martial law. U.S. District Court Judge Dominic A. Hall signed a writ of habeas corpus for Louaillier's release. Jackson had Hall arrested too. A military court ordered Louaillier's release, but Jackson kept him in prison and evicted Hall from the city.[122] Although Jackson lifted martial law when he received official word that the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the war with the British, had been signed,[123] his previous behavior tainted his reputation in New Orleans.[124]

Jackson's victory made him a national hero,[125] and on February 27, 1815, he was given the Thanks of Congress and awarded a Congressional Gold Medal.[126] Though the Treaty of Ghent had been signed in December 1814 before the Battle of New Orleans was fought,[127] Jackson's victory assured that the United States control of the region between Mobile and New Orleans would not be effectively contested by European powers. This control allowed the American government to ignore one of the articles in the treaty, which would have returned the Creek lands taken in the Treaty of Fort Jackson.[128]

First Seminole War

A c. 1846 engraving of the trial of Robert Ambrister by William Croome in Pictorial Life of Andrew Jackson by John Frost

Following the war, Jackson remained in command of troops in the southern half of the United States and was permitted to make his headquarters at the Hermitage.[129] Jackson continued to displace the Native Americans in areas under his command. Despite resistance from Secretary of the Treasury William Crawford, he signed five treaties between 1816 and 1820 in which the Creek, Choctaw, Cherokee and Chickasaw ceded tens of millions of acres of land to the United States. These included the Treaty of Tuscaloosa and the Treaty of Doak's Stand.[130][131]

Jackson soon became embroiled in conflict in Florida. The former British post at Prospect Bluff, which became known to Americans as "the Negro fort", remained occupied by more than a thousand former soldiers of the British Royal and Colonial Marines, escaped slaves, and various indigenous peoples.[132] It had become a magnet for escapees[132] and was seen as a threat to the property rights of American enslavers,[133] even a potential source of insurrection by enslaved people.[134] Jackson ordered Colonel Duncan Clinch to capture the fort in July 1816. He destroyed it and killed many of the garrison. Some survivors were enslaved while others fled into the wilderness of Florida.[135]

White American settlers were in constant conflict with Native American people collectively known as the Seminoles, who straddled the border between the U.S. and Florida.[136] In December 1817, Secretary of War John C. Calhoun initiated the First Seminole War by ordering Jackson to lead a campaign "with full power to conduct the war as he may think best".[137] Jackson believed the best way to do this was to seize Florida from Spain once and for all. Before departing, Jackson wrote to President James Monroe, "Let it be signified to me through any channel ... that the possession of the Floridas would be desirable to the United States, and in sixty days it will be accomplished."[138]

Jackson invaded Florida, captured the Spanish fort of St. Marks, and occupied Pensacola. Seminole and Spanish resistance was effectively ended by May 1818. He also captured two British subjects, Robert Ambrister and Alexander Arbuthnot, who had been working with the Seminoles. After a brief trial, Jackson executed both of them, causing an international incident with the British. Jackson's actions polarized Monroe's cabinet. The occupied territories were returned to Spain.[139] Calhoun wanted him censured for violating the Constitution, since the United States had not declared war on Spain. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams defended him as he thought Jackson's occupation of Pensacola would lead Spain to sell Florida, which Spain did in the Adams–Onís Treaty of 1819.[140] In February 1819, a congressional investigation exonerated Jackson,[141] and his victory was instrumental in convincing the Seminoles to sign the Treaty of Moultrie Creek in 1823, which surrendered much of their land in Florida.[142]

Presidential aspirations

Election of 1824

Painting of Jackson based on an 1824 portrait, c. 1857 attributed to Thomas Sully now housed at the U. S. Senate Collection[143]
The 1824 U.S. presidential election results in which Jackson received a plurality of Electoral College votes. Subsequently, John Quincy Adams was elected the sixth president of the United States in a contingent election.

The Panic of 1819, the United States' first prolonged financial depression, caused Congress to reduce the military's size and abolish Jackson's generalship.[144] In compensation, Monroe made him the first territorial governor of Florida in 1821.[145] He served as the governor for two months, returning to the Hermitage in ill health.[146] During his convalescence, Jackson, who had been a Freemason since at least 1798, became the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee for 1822–1823.[147] Around this time, he also completed negotiations for Tennessee to purchase Chickasaw lands. This became known as the Jackson Purchase. Jackson, Overton, and another colleague had speculated in some of the land and used their portion to form the town of Memphis.[148]

In 1822, Jackson agreed to run in the 1824 presidential election, and he was nominated by the Tennessee legislature in July.[149] At the time, the Federalist Party had collapsed, and there were four major contenders for the Democratic-Republican Party nomination: William Crawford, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun. Jackson was intended to be a stalking horse candidate to prevent Tennessee's electoral votes from going to Crawford, who was seen as a Washington insider. Jackson unexpectedly garnered popular support outside of Tennessee and became a serious candidate.[144] He benefited from the expansion of suffrage among white males that followed the conclusion of the War of 1812.[150][151] He was a popular war hero whose reputation suggested he had the decisiveness and independence to bring reform to Washington.[152] He also was promoted as an outsider who stood for all the people, blaming banks for the country's depression.[153]

During his presidential candidacy, Jackson reluctantly ran for one of Tennessee's U.S. Senate seats. Jackson's political managers William Berkeley Lewis and John Eaton convinced him that he needed to defeat incumbent John Williams, who opposed him. The legislature elected Jackson in October 1823.[154][155] He was attentive to his senatorial duties. He was appointed chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs but avoided debate or initiating legislation.[156] He used his time in the Senate to form alliances and make peace with old adversaries.[157] Eaton continued to campaign for Jackson's presidency, updating his biography and writing a series of widely circulated pseudonymous letters that portrayed Jackson as a champion of republican liberty.[158]

Democratic-Republican presidential nominees had historically been chosen by informal congressional nominating caucuses. In 1824, most of the Democratic-Republicans in Congress boycotted the caucus,[159] and the power to choose nominees was shifting to state nominating committees and legislatures.[160] Jackson was nominated by a Pennsylvania convention, making him not merely a regional candidate but the leading national contender.[161] When Jackson won the Pennsylvania nomination, Calhoun dropped out of the presidential race.[162] Afterwards, Jackson won the nomination in six other states and had a strong second-place finish in three others.[163]

In the presidential election, Jackson won a 42-percent plurality of the popular vote. More importantly, he won a plurality of electoral votes, receiving 99 votes from states in the South, West, and Mid-Atlantic. He was the only candidate to win states outside of his regional base: Adams dominated New England, Crawford won Virginia and Georgia, and Clay took three western states. Because no candidate had a majority of 131 electoral votes, the House of Representatives held a contingent election under the terms of the Twelfth Amendment. The amendment specifies that only the top three electoral vote-winners are eligible to be elected by the House, so Clay was eliminated from contention.[164] Clay, who was also Speaker of the House and presided over the election's resolution, saw a Jackson presidency as a disaster for the country.[165] Clay threw his support behind Adams, who won the contingent election on the first ballot. Adams appointed Clay as his Secretary of State, leading supporters of Jackson to accuse Clay and Adams of having struck a "corrupt bargain".[166] After the Congressional session concluded, Jackson resigned his Senate seat and returned to Tennessee.[167]

Election of 1828 and death of Rachel Jackson

The 1828 United States presidential election results

After the election, Jackson's supporters formed a new party to undermine Adams and ensure he served only one term. Adams's presidency went poorly, and Adams's behavior undermined it. He was perceived as an intellectual elite who ignored the needs of the populace. He was unable to accomplish anything because Congress blocked his proposals.[168] In his First Annual Message to Congress, Adams stated that "we are palsied by the will of our constituents", which was interpreted as his being against representative democracy.[169] Jackson responded by championing the needs of ordinary citizens and declaring that "the voice of the people ... must be heard".[170]

Jackson was nominated for president by the Tennessee legislature in October 1825, more than three years before the 1828 election.[171] He gained powerful supporters in both the South and North, including Calhoun, who became Jackson's vice-presidential running mate, and New York Senator Martin Van Buren.[172] Meanwhile, Adams's support from the Southern states was eroded when he signed a tax on European imports, the Tariff of 1828, which was called the "Tariff of Abominations" by opponents, into law.[170] Jackson's victory in the presidential race was overwhelming. He won 56 percent of the popular vote and 68 percent of the electoral vote. The election ended the one-party system that had formed during the Era of Good Feelings as Jackson's supporters coalesced into the Democratic Party and the various groups who did not support him eventually formed the Whig Party.[173]

The political campaign was dominated by the personal abuse that partisans flung at both candidates.[174] Jackson was accused of being the son of an English prostitute and a mulatto,[175][176] and he was labeled a slave trader who trafficked in human flesh.[177] A series of pamphlets known as the Coffin Handbills[178] accused him of having murdered 18 white men, including the soldiers he had executed for desertion and alleging that he stabbed a man in the back with his cane.[179][180] They stated that he had intentionally massacred Native American women and children at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, ate the bodies of Native Americans he killed in battle,[181][182] and threatened to cut off the ears of congressmen who questioned his behavior during the First Seminole War.[183]

Jackson and Rachel were accused of adultery for living together before her divorce was finalized,[184] and Rachel heard about the accusation.[185] She had been under stress throughout the election, and just as Jackson was preparing to head to Washington for his inauguration, she fell ill.[186] She did not live to see her husband become president, dying of a stroke or heart attack a few days later.[185] Jackson believed that the abuse from Adams' supporters had hastened her death, stating at her funeral: "May God Almighty forgive her murderers, as I know she forgave them. I never can."[187]

Presidency (1829–1837)


Engraving of President Jackson by A. H. Ritchie based on Dennis Malone Carter's portrait, c. 1860

Jackson arrived in Washington, D.C., on February 11, and began forming his cabinet.[188] He chose Van Buren as Secretary of State, John Eaton as Secretary of War, Samuel D. Ingham as Secretary of Treasury, John Branch as Secretary of Navy, John M. Berrien as Attorney General, and William T. Barry as Postmaster General.[189] Jackson was inaugurated on March 4, 1829; Adams, who was embittered by his defeat, refused to attend.[190] Jackson become the first president-elect to take the oath of office on the East Portico of the U.S. Capitol.[191] In his inaugural address, he promised to protect the sovereignty of the states, respect the limits of the presidency, reform the government by removing disloyal or incompetent appointees, and observe a fair policy toward Native Americans.[192] Jackson invited the public to the White House, which was promptly overrun by well-wishers who caused minor damage to its furnishings. The spectacle earned him the nickname "King Mob".[193]

Reforms and rotation in office

Jackson believed that Adams's administration had been corrupt and he initiated investigations into all executive departments.[194] These investigations revealed that $280,000 (equivalent to $8,000,000 in 2023) was stolen from the Treasury. They also resulted in a reduction in costs to the Department of the Navy, saving $1 million (equivalent to $28,600,000 in 2023).[195] Jackson asked Congress to tighten laws on embezzlement and tax evasion, and he pushed for an improved government accounting system.[196]

Jackson implemented a principle he called "rotation in office". The previous custom had been for the president to leave the existing appointees in office, replacing them through attrition. Jackson enforced the Tenure of Office Act, an 1820 law that limited office tenure, authorized the president to remove current office holders, and appoint new ones.[197] During his first year in office, he removed about 10% of all federal employees[197] and replaced them with loyal Democrats.[198] Jackson argued that rotation in office reduced corruption[199] by making officeholders responsible to the popular will,[200] but it functioned as political patronage and became known as the spoils system.[201][199]

Petticoat affair

A lithograph cartoon, The Celeste-al Cabinet, by Albert A. Hoffay, published by Henry R. Robinson in 1836, depicting Jackson's cabinet during the Petticoat Affair; "Celeste" is Margaret Eaton.

Jackson spent much of his time during his first two and a half years in office dealing with what came to be known as the "Petticoat Affair" or "Eaton Affair".[202][203] The affair focused on Secretary of War Eaton's wife, Margaret. She had a reputation for being promiscuous, and like Rachel Jackson, she was accused of adultery. She and Eaton had been close before her first husband John Timberlake died, and they married nine months after his death.[204] With the exception of Barry's wife Catherine,[205] the cabinet members' wives followed the lead of Vice-president Calhoun's wife Floride and refused to socialize with the Eatons.[206] Though Jackson defended Margaret, her presence split the cabinet, which had been so ineffective that he rarely called it into session,[189] and the ongoing disagreement led to its dissolution.[207]

In the spring of 1831, Jackson demanded the resignations of all the cabinet members except Barry,[208] who would resign in 1835 when a Congressional investigation revealed his mismanagement of the Post Office.[209] Jackson tried to compensate Van Buren by appointing him the Minister to Great Britain, but Calhoun blocked the nomination with a tie-breaking vote against it.[208] Van Buren—along with newspaper editors Amos Kendall[210] and Francis Preston Blair[211]—would become regular participants in Jackson's Kitchen Cabinet, an unofficial, varying group of advisors that Jackson turned to for decision making even after he had formed a new official cabinet.[212]

Indian Removal Act

The Indian Removal Act and treaties involving Jackson before his presidency displaced most of the major tribes of the Southeast from their traditional territories east of the Mississippi River.
Portrait of President Andrew Jackson, c. 1830–1832 by Ralph Eleaser Whiteside Earl now housed at the North Carolina Museum of Art

Jackson's presidency marked the beginning of a national policy of Native American removal.[208] Before Jackson took office, the relationship between the southern states and the Native American tribes who lived within their boundaries was strained. The states felt that they had full jurisdiction over their territories; the native tribes saw themselves as autonomous nations that had a right to the land they lived on.[214] Significant portions of the five major tribes in the area then known as the Southwest—the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminoles— began to adopt white culture, including education, agricultural techniques, a road system, and rudimentary manufacturing.[215] In the case of the tensions between the state of Georgia and the Cherokee, Adams had tried to address the issue encouraging Cherokee emigration west of the Mississippi through financial incentives, but most refused.[216]

In the first days of Jackson's presidency, some southern states passed legislation extending state jurisdiction to Native American lands.[217] Jackson supported the states' right to do so.[218][219] His position was later made clear in the 1832 Supreme Court test case of this legislation, Worcester v. Georgia. Georgia had arrested a group of missionaries for entering Cherokee territory without a permit; the Cherokee declared these arrests illegal. The court under Chief Justice John Marshall decided in favor of the Cherokee: imposition of Georgia law on the Cherokee was unconstitutional.[220] Horace Greeley alleges that when Jackson heard the ruling, he said, "Well, John Marshall has made his decision, but now let him enforce it."[221] Although the quote may be apocryphal, Jackson made it clear he would not use the federal government to enforce the ruling.[222][223][224]

Jackson used the power of the federal government to enforce the separation of Indigenous tribes and whites.[225] In May 1830, Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, which Congress had narrowly passed.[226] It gave the president the right to negotiate treaties to buy tribal lands in the eastern part of the United States in exchange for lands set aside for Native Americans west of the Mississippi,[227] as well as broad discretion on how to use the federal funds allocated to the negotiations.[228] The law was supposed to be a voluntary relocation program, but it was not implemented as one. Jackson's administration often achieved agreement to relocate through bribes, fraud and intimidation,[229] and the leaders who signed the treaties often did not represent the entire tribe.[230] The relocations could be a source of misery too: the Choctaw relocation was rife with corruption, theft, and mismanagement that brought great suffering to that people.[231]

In 1830, Jackson personally negotiated with the Chickasaw, who quickly agreed to move.[232] In the same year, Choctaw leaders signed the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek; the majority did not want the treaty but complied with its terms.[233] In 1832, Seminole leaders signed the Treaty of Payne's Landing, which stipulated that the Seminoles would move west and become part of the Muscogee Creek Confederacy if they found the new land suitable.[234] Most Seminoles refused to move, leading to the Second Seminole War in 1835 that lasted six years.[230] Members of the Muscogee Creek Confederacy ceded their land to the state of Alabama in the Treaty of Cusseta of 1832. Their private ownership of the land was to be protected, but the federal government did not enforce this. The government did encourage voluntary removal until the Creek War of 1836, after which almost all Creek were removed to Oklahoma territory.[235] In 1836, Cherokee leaders ceded their land to the government by the Treaty of New Echota.[236] Their removal, known as the Trail of Tears, was enforced by Jackson's successor, Van Buren.[237]

Jackson also applied the removal policy in the Northwest. He was not successful in removing the Iroquois Confederacy in New York, but when some members of the Meskwaki (Fox) and the Sauk triggered the Black Hawk War by trying to cross back to the east side of the Mississippi, the peace treaties ratified after their defeat reduced their lands further.[238]

During his administration, he made about 70 treaties with American Indian tribes. He had removed almost all the Native Americans east of the Mississippi and south of Lake Michigan, about 70,000 people, from the United States;[239] though it was done at the cost of thousands of Native American lives lost because of the unsanitary conditions and epidemics arising from their dislocation, as well as their resistance to expulsion.[240] Jackson's implementation of the Indian Removal Act contributed to his popularity with his constituency. He added over 170,000 square miles of land to the public domain, which primarily benefited the United States' agricultural interests. The act also benefited small farmers, as Jackson allowed them to purchase moderate plots at low prices and offered squatters on land formerly belonging to Native Americans the option to purchase it before it was offered for sale to others.[241]

Nullification crisis

A Civil War-era lithograph cartoon of Calhoun bowing before Jackson during the nullification crisis by Pendleton's Lithography and published by L. Prang & Co. in 1864

Jackson had to confront another challenge that had been building up since the beginning of his first term. The Tariff of 1828, which had been passed in the last year of Adams' administration, set a protective tariff at a very high rate to prevent the manufacturing industries in the Northern states from having to compete with lower-priced imports from Britain.[242] The tariff reduced the income of southern cotton planters: it propped up consumer prices, but not the price of cotton which had severely declined in the previous decade.[243] Immediately after the tariff's passage, the South Carolina Exposition and Protest was sent to the U.S. Senate.[244] This document, which had been anonymously written by John C. Calhoun, asserted that the constitution was a compact of individual states[245] and when the federal government went beyond its delegated duties, such as enacting a protective tariff, a state had a right to declare this action unconstitutional and make the act null and void within the borders of that state.[246]

Jackson suspected Calhoun of writing the Exposition and Protest and opposed his interpretation. Jackson argued that Congress had full authority to enact tariffs and that a dissenting state was denying the will of the majority.[247] He also needed the tariff, which generated 90% of the federal revenue,[248] to achieve another of his presidential goals, eliminating the national debt.[249] The issue developed into a personal rivalry between the two men. For example, during a celebration of Thomas Jefferson's birthday on April 13, 1830, the attendees gave after-dinner toasts. Jackson toasted: "Our federal Union: It must be preserved!" – a clear challenge to nullification. Calhoun, whose toast immediately followed, rebutted: "The Union: Next to our Liberty, the most dear!"[250]

As a compromise, Jackson supported the Tariff of 1832, which reduced the duties from the Tariff of 1828 by almost half. The bill was signed on July 9, but failed to satisfy extremists on either side.[251] On November 24, South Carolina had passed the Ordinance of Nullification,[252] declaring both tariffs null and void and threatening to secede from the United States if the federal government tried to use force to collect the duties.[253][254] In response, Jackson sent warships to Charleston harbor, and threatened to hang any man who worked to support nullification or secession.[255] On December 10, he issued a proclamation against the "nullifiers",[256] condemning nullification as contrary to the Constitution's letter and spirit, rejecting the right of secession, and declaring that South Carolina stood on "the brink of insurrection and treason".[257] On December 28, Calhoun, who had been elected to the U.S. Senate, resigned as vice president.[258]

Jackson asked Congress to pass a "Force Bill" authorizing the military to enforce the tariff. It was attacked by Calhoun as despotism.[259] Meanwhile, Calhoun and Clay began to work on a new compromise tariff. Jackson saw it as an effective way to end the confrontation but insisted on the passage of the Force Bill before he signed.[260] On March 2, he signed into law the Force Bill and the Tariff of 1833. The South Carolina Convention then met and rescinded its nullification ordinance but nullified the Force Bill in a final act of defiance.[261] Two months later, Jackson reflected on South Carolina's nullification: "the tariff was only the pretext, and disunion and southern confederacy the real object. The next pretext will be the negro, or slavery question".[262]

Bank War and Election of 1832

Bank Veto

An 1833 lithograph cartoon of Jackson destroying the Second Bank of the United States with his "Removal Notice" by Zachariah Downing, published by Henry R. Robinson; Nicholas Biddle is portrayed as the devil.

A few weeks after his inauguration, Jackson started looking into how he could replace the Second Bank of the United States.[263] The Bank had been chartered by President Madison in 1816 to restore the United States economy after the War of 1812. Monroe had appointed Nicholas Biddle as the Bank's executive.[264] The Bank was a repository for the country's public monies which also serviced the national debt; it was formed as a for-profit entity that looked after the concerns of its shareholders.[265] In 1828, the country was prosperous [266] and the currency was stable,[267] but Jackson saw the Bank as a fourth branch of government run by an elite,[263] what he called the "money power" that sought to control the labor and earnings of the "real people", who depend on their own efforts to succeed: the planters, farmers, mechanics, and laborers.[268] Additionally, Jackson's own near bankruptcy in 1804 due to credit-fuelled land speculation had biased him against paper money and toward a policy favorable to hard money.[269]

In his First Annual Address in December 1829, Jackson openly challenged the Bank by questioning its constitutionality and the soundness of its money.[270] Jackson's supporters further alleged that it gave preferential loans to speculators and merchants over artisans and farmers, that it used its money to bribe congressmen and the press, and that it had ties with foreign creditors. Biddle responded to Jackson's challenge in early 1830 by using the Bank's vast financial holding to ensure the Bank's reputation, and his supporters argued that the Bank was the key to prosperity and stable commerce. By the time of the 1832 election, Biddle had spent over $250,000 (equivalent to $7,630,000 in 2023) in printing pamphlets, lobbying for pro-Bank legislation, hiring agents and giving loans to editors and congressmen.[271]

On the surface, Jackson's and Biddle's positions did not appear irreconcilable. Jackson seemed open to keeping the Bank if it could include some degree of Federal oversight, limit its real estate holdings, and have its property subject to taxation by the states.[272] Many of Jackson's cabinet members thought a compromise was possible. In 1831, Treasury Secretary Louis McLane told Biddle that Jackson was open to chartering a modified version of the Bank, but Biddle did not consult Jackson directly. Privately, Jackson expressed opposition to the Bank;[273] publicly, he announced that he would leave the decision concerning the Bank in the hands of the people.[274] Biddle was finally convinced to take open action by Henry Clay, who had decided to run for president against Jackson in the 1832 election. Biddle would agree to seek renewal of the charter two years earlier than scheduled. Clay argued that Jackson was in a bind. If he vetoed the charter, he would lose the votes of his pro-Bank constituents in Pennsylvania; but if he signed the charter, he would lose his anti-Bank constituents. After the recharter bill was passed, Jackson vetoed it on July 10, 1832, arguing that the country should not surrender the will of the majority to the desires of the wealthy.[275]

Election of 1832

1832 presidential election results

The 1832 presidential election demonstrated the rapid development of political parties during Jackson's presidency. The Democratic Party's first national convention, held in Baltimore, nominated Jackson's choice for vice president, Martin Van Buren. The National Republican Party, which had held its first convention in Baltimore earlier in December 1831, nominated Clay, now a senator from Kentucky, and John Sergeant of Pennsylvania.[276] An Anti-Masonic Party, with a platform built around opposition to Freemasonry,[277] supported neither Jackson nor Clay, who both were Masons. The party nominated William Wirt of Maryland and Amos Ellmaker of Pennsylvania.[278]

In addition to the votes Jackson would lose because of the bank veto, Clay hoped that Jackson's Indian Removal Act would alienate voters in the East; but Jackson's losses were offset by the Act's popularity in the West and Southwest. Clay had also expected that Jackson would lose votes because of his stand on internal improvements.[279] Jackson had vetoed the Maysville Road bill, which funded an upgrade of a section of the National Road in Clay's state of Kentucky; Jackson had argued it was unconstitutional to fund internal improvements using national funds for local projects.[280]

Clay's strategy failed. Jackson was able to mobilize the Democratic Party's strong political networks.[281] The Northeast supported Jackson because he was in favor of maintaining a stiff tariff; the West supported him because the Indian Removal Act reduced the number of Native Americans in the region and made available more public land.[282] Except for South Carolina, which passed the Ordinance of Nullification during the election month and refused to support any party by giving its votes to the future Governor of Virginia John B. Floyd,[283] the South supported Jackson for implementing the Indian Removal Act, as well as for his willingness to compromise by signing the Tariff of 1832.[284] Jackson won the election by a landslide, receiving 55 percent of the popular vote and 219 electoral votes.[281]

Removal of deposits and censure

An 1832 lithograph cartoon, "King Andrew the First" by an anonymous artist, depicting Jackson

Jackson saw his victory as a mandate to continue his war on the Bank's control over the national economy.[285] In 1833, Jackson signed an executive order ending the deposit of Treasury receipts in the bank.[286] When Secretary of the Treasury McLane refused to execute the order, Jackson replaced him with William J. Duane, who also refused. Jackson then appointed Roger B. Taney as acting secretary, who implemented Jackson's policy.[287] With the loss of federal deposits, the Bank had to contract its credit.[288] Biddle used this contraction to create an economic downturn in an attempt to get Jackson to compromise. Biddle wrote, "Nothing but the evidence of suffering abroad will produce any effect in Congress."[289] The attempt did not succeed: the economy recovered and Biddle was blamed for the recession.[290]

Jackson's actions led those who disagreed with him to form the Whig Party. They claimed to oppose Jackson's expansion of executive power, calling him "King Andrew the First", and naming their party after the English Whigs who opposed the British monarchy in the 17th century.[291] In March 1834, the Senate censured Jackson for inappropriately taking authority for the Treasury Department when it was the responsibility of Congress and refused to confirm Taney's appointment as secretary of the treasury.[292] In April, however, the House declared that the bank should not be rechartered. By July 1836, the Bank no longer held any federal deposits.[293]

Jackson had Federal funds deposited into state banks friendly to the administration's policies, which critics called pet banks.[294] The number of these state banks more than doubled during Jackson's administration,[287] and investment patterns changed. The Bank, which had been the federal government's fiscal agent, invested heavily in trade and financed interregional and international trade. State banks were more responsive to state governments and invested heavily in land development, land speculation, and state public works projects.[295] In spite of the efforts of Taney's successor, Levi Woodbury, to control them, the pet banks expanded their loans, helping to create a speculative boom in the final years of Jackson's administration.[296]

In January 1835, Jackson paid off the national debt, the only time in U.S. history that it had been accomplished.[297][298] It was paid down through tariff revenues,[281] carefully managing federal funding of internal improvements like roads and canals,[299] and the sale of public lands.[300] Between 1834 and 1836, the government had an unprecedented spike in land sales:[301] At its peak in 1836, the profits from land sales were eight to twelve times higher than a typical year.[302] During Jackson's presidency, 63 million acres of public land—about the size of the state of Oklahoma—was sold.[303] After Jackson's term expired in 1837, a Democrat-majority Senate expunged Jackson's censure.[304][305]

Panic of 1837

A lithograph cartoon of the Panic of 1837 published by Henry R. Robinson in 1837; Jackson is symbolized by "glory" in the sky with top hat, spectacles, and pipe.

Despite the economic boom following Jackson's victory in the Bank War, land speculation in the west caused the Panic of 1837.[306] Jackson's transfer of federal monies to state banks in 1833 caused western banks to relax their lending standards;[307] the Indian Removal Act made large amounts of former Native American lands available for purchase and speculation.[308] Two of Jackson's acts in 1836 contributed to the Panic of 1837. One was the Specie Circular, which mandated western lands only be purchased by money backed by specie. The act was intended to stabilize the economy by reducing speculation on credit, but it caused a drain of gold and silver from the Eastern banks to the Western banks to address the needs of financing land transactions.[309] The other was the Deposit and Distribution Act, which transferred federal monies from eastern to western state banks. Together, they left Eastern banks unable to pay specie to the British when they recalled their loans to address their economic problems in international trade.[310] The panic drove the U.S. economy into a depression that lasted until 1841.[306]

Physical assault and assassination attempt

An 1835 lithograph of the attempted assassination of Andrew Jackson, published by Endicott & Co.

Jackson was the first president to be subjected to both a physical assault and an assassination attempt.[311] On May 6, 1833, Robert B. Randolph struck Jackson in the face with his hand because Jackson had ordered Randolph's dismissal from the navy for embezzlement. Jackson declined to press charges.[312] While Jackson was leaving the United States Capitol on January 30, 1835, Richard Lawrence, an unemployed house painter from England, aimed a pistol at him, which misfired. Lawrence pulled out a second pistol, which also misfired. Jackson attacked Lawrence with his cane until others intervened to restrain Lawrence, who was later found not guilty by reason of insanity and institutionalized.[313][314]


During Jackson's presidency, slavery remained a minor political issue.[315] Though federal troops were used to crush Nat Turner's slave rebellion in 1831,[316] Jackson ordered them withdrawn immediately afterwards despite the petition of local citizens for them to remain for protection.[317] Jackson considered the issue too divisive to the nation and to the delicate alliances of the Democratic Party.[318]

Jackson's view was challenged when the American Anti-Slavery Society agitated for abolition[319] by sending anti-slavery tracts through the postal system into the South in 1835.[318] Jackson condemned these agitators as "monsters"[320] who should atone with their lives[321] because they were attempting to destroy the Union by encouraging sectionalism.[322] The act provoked riots in Charleston, and pro-slavery Southerners demanded that the postal service ban distribution of the materials. To address the issue, Jackson authorized that the tracts could be sent only to subscribers, whose names could be made publicly accountable.[323] That December, Jackson called on Congress to prohibit the circulation through the South of "incendiary publications intended to instigate the slaves to insurrection".[324]

Foreign affairs

Engraved portrait of Jackson as president by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. This portrait has appeared on the $20 bill since 1929.[325]

The Jackson administration successfully negotiated a trade agreement with Siam, the first East Asian country to form a trade agreement with the U.S. The administration also made trade agreements with Great Britain, Spain, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire.[326]

In his First Annual Message to Congress, Jackson addressed the issues of spoliation claims, demands of compensation for the capture of American ships and sailors by foreign nations during the Napoleonic Wars.[327] Using a combination of bluster and tact, he successfully settled these claims with Denmark, Portugal, and Spain,[326] but he had difficulty collecting spoliation claims from France, which was unwilling to pay an indemnity agreed to in an earlier treaty. Jackson asked Congress in 1834 to authorize reprisals against French property if the country failed to make payment, as well as to arm for defense.[327] In response, France put its Caribbean fleet on a wartime footing.[328] Both sides wanted to avoid a conflict, but the French wanted an apology for Jackson's belligerence. In his 1835 Annual Message to the Congress, Jackson asserted that he refused to apologize, but stated that he did not intend to "menace or insult the Government of France".[329] The French were assuaged and agreed to pay $5,000,000 (equivalent to $147,677,400 in 2023) to settle the claims.[330]

Since the early 1820s, large numbers of Americans had been immigrating into Texas, a territory of the newly independent nation of Mexico.[331] As early as 1824, Jackson had supported acquiring the region for the United States.[332] In 1829, he attempted to purchase it, but Mexico did not want to sell. By 1830, there were twice as many settlers from the United States as from Mexico, leading to tensions with the Mexican government that started the Texas Revolution. During the conflict, Jackson covertly allowed the settlers to obtain weapons and money from the United States.[333] They defeated the Mexican military in April 1836 and declared the region an independent country, the Republic of Texas. The new Republic asked Jackson to recognize and annex it. Although Jackson wanted to do so, he was hesitant because he was unsure it could maintain independence from Mexico.[326] He also was concerned because Texas had legalized slavery, which was an issue that could divide the Democrats during the 1836 election. Jackson recognized the Republic of Texas on the last full day of his presidency, March 3, 1837.[334]


Jackson appointed six justices to the Supreme Court.[335] Most were undistinguished. Jackson nominated Roger B. Taney in January 1835 to the Court in reward for his services, but the nomination failed to win Senate approval.[336]

When Chief Justice Marshall died in 1835, Jackson again nominated Taney for Chief Justice; he was confirmed by the new Senate,[337] serving as Chief Justice until 1864.[338] He was regarded with respect during his career on the bench, but he is most remembered for his widely condemned decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford.[339] On the last day of his presidency, Jackson signed the Judiciary Act of 1837,[340] which created two new Supreme Court seats and reorganized the federal circuit courts.[341]

States admitted to the Union

Two new states were admitted into the Union during Jackson's presidency: Arkansas (June 15, 1836) and Michigan (January 26, 1837). Both states increased Democratic power in Congress and helped Van Buren win the presidency in 1836, as new states tended to support the party that had done the most to admit them.[342]

Later life and death (1837–1845)

A mezzotint of Jackson in 1845

Jackson's presidency ended on March 4, 1837. Jackson left Washington, D.C., three days later, retiring to the Hermitage in Nashville, where he remained influential in national and state politics.[343] To reduce the inflation caused by the Panic of 1837, Jackson supported an Independent Treasury system that would restrict the government from printing paper money and require it to hold its money in silver and gold.[344]

During the 1840 presidential election,[345] Jackson campaigned for Van Buren in Tennessee, but Van Buren had become unpopular during the continuing depression. The Whig Party nominee, William Henry Harrison, won the election using a campaign style similar to that of the Democrats: Van Buren was depicted as an uncaring aristocrat, while Harrison's war record was glorified, and he was portrayed as a man of the people.[346] Harrison won the 1840 election and the Whigs captured majorities in both houses of Congress,[347] but Harrison died a month into his term, and was replaced by his vice president, former Democrat John Tyler. Jackson was encouraged because Tyler was not bound to party loyalties and praised him when he vetoed two Whig-sponsored bills to establish a new national bank in 1841.[348]

Jackson lobbied for the annexation of Texas. He was concerned that the British could use it as a base to threaten the United States[349] and insisted that it was part of the Louisiana Purchase.[350] Tyler signed a treaty of annexation in April 1844, but it became associated with the expansion of slavery and was not ratified. Van Buren, who had been Jackson's preferred candidate for the Democratic Party in the 1844 presidential election, had opposed annexation. Disappointed by Van Buren, Jackson convinced fellow Tennessean James K. Polk, who was then set to be Van Buren's running mate, to run as the Democratic Party's presidential nominee instead. Polk defeated Van Buren for the nomination and won the general election against Jackson's old enemy, Henry Clay. Meanwhile, the Senate passed a bill to annex Texas, and it was signed on March 1, 1845.[351]

Jackson died of dropsy, tuberculosis, and heart failure[352] at 78 years of age on June 8, 1845. He was surrounded by family, enslaved persons, and friends at his deathbed, and he was recorded to have said, "Do not cry; I hope to meet you all in Heaven—yes, all in Heaven, white and black." [353] He was buried in the same tomb as his wife Rachel.[354]

Personal life


Jackson depicted in 1831 as a Tennessee Gentleman by Ralph Eleaser Whiteside Earl, now housed at Hermitage in Nashville

Jackson and Rachel had no children together but adopted Andrew Jackson Jr., the son of Rachel's deceased brother Severn Donelson. The Jacksons acted as guardians for Donelson's other children: John Samuel, Daniel Smith, and Andrew Jackson. They were also guardians for Andrew Jackson Hutchings, Rachel's orphaned grand nephew, and the orphaned children of a friend, Edward Butler – Caroline, Eliza, Edward, and Anthony – who lived with the Jacksons after their father died.[355] Jackson also had three Creek children living with them: Lyncoya, a Creek orphan Jackson had adopted after the Battle of Tallushatchee,[356] and two boys they called Theodore[357] and Charley.[358]

For the only time in U.S. history, two women acted simultaneously as unofficial first lady for the widower Jackson. Rachel's niece Emily Donelson was married to Andrew Jackson Donelson (who acted as Jackson's private secretary) and served as hostess at the White House. The president and Emily became estranged for over a year during the Petticoat affair, but they eventually reconciled and she resumed her duties as White House hostess. Sarah Yorke Jackson, the wife of Andrew Jackson Jr., became co-hostess of the White House in 1834, and took over all hostess duties after Emily died from tuberculosis in 1836.[359]


Jackson had a reputation for being short-tempered and violent,[360] which terrified his opponents.[361] He was able to use his temper strategically to accomplish what he wanted.[362] He could keep it in check when necessary: his behavior was friendly and urbane when he went to Washington as senator during the campaign leading up to the 1824 election. According to Van Buren, he remained calm in times of difficulty and made his decisions deliberatively.[363]

He had the tendency to take things personally. If someone crossed him, he would often become obsessed with crushing them.[364] For example, on the last day of his presidency, Jackson declared he had only two regrets: that he had not hanged Henry Clay or shot John C. Calhoun.[365] He also had a strong sense of loyalty. He considered threats to his friends as threats to himself, but he demanded unquestioning loyalty in return.[366]

Jackson was self-confident,[367] without projecting a sense of self-importance.[368] This self-confidence gave him the ability to persevere in the face of adversity.[369] Once he decided on a plan of action, he would adhere to it.[370] His reputation for being both quick-tempered and confident worked to his advantage;[371] it misled opponents to see him as simple and direct, leading them to often understimate his political shrewdness.[372]

Religious faith

In 1838, Jackson became an official member of the First Presbyterian Church in Nashville.[373] Both his mother and his wife had been devout Presbyterians all their lives, but Jackson stated that he had postponed officially entering the church until after his retirement to avoid accusations that he had done so for political reasons.[374]


The equestrian statue of Jackson commissioned by Judge Harry S. Truman and developed by Charles Keck in 1934 on display in front of the Jackson County Courthouse in Kansas City, Missouri

Jackson's legacy is controversial and polarizing.[375][376][377] His contemporary, Alexis de Tocqueville, depicted him as the spokesperson of the majority and their passions.[378] He has been variously described as a frontiersman personifying the independence of the American West,[379] a slave-owning member of the Southern gentry,[380] and a populist who promoted faith in the wisdom of the ordinary citizen.[381] He has been represented as a statesman who substantially advanced the spirit of democracy[382] and upheld the foundations of American constitutionalism,[383] as well as an autocratic demagogue who crushed political opposition and trampled the law.[384]

In the 1920s, Jackson's rise to power became associated with the idea of the "common man".[385] This idea defined the age as a populist rejection of social elites and a vindication of every person's value independent of class and status.[386] Jackson was seen as its personification,[387] an individual free of societal constraints who can achieve great things.[388] In 1945, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.'s influential Age of Jackson redefined Jackson's legacy through the lens of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal,[389] describing the common man as a member of the working class struggling against exploitation by business concerns.[390]

In the twenty-first century, Jackson's Indian Removal Act has been described as ethnic cleansing:[391] the use of force, terror and violence to make an area ethnically homogeneous.[392] To achieve the goal of separating Native Americans from the whites,[393] coercive force such as threats and bribes were used to effect removal[394] and unauthorized military force was used when there was resistance,[229] as in the case of the Second Seminole War.[395] The act has been discussed in the context of genocide,[396] and its role in the long-term destruction of Native American societies and their cultures continues to be debated.[397]

Jackson's legacy has been variously used by later presidents. Abraham Lincoln referenced Jackson's ideas when negotiating the challenges to the Union that he faced during 1861, including Jackson's understanding of the constitution during the nullification crisis and the president's right to interpret the constitution.[398] Franklin D. Roosevelt used Jackson to redefine the Democratic Party, describing him as a defender of the exploited and downtrodden and as a fighter for social justice and human rights.[399][400] The members of the Progressive Party of 1948 to 1955 saw themselves as the heirs to Jackson.[401] Donald Trump used Jackson's legacy to present himself as the president of the common man,[402] praising Jackson for saving the country from a rising aristocracy and protecting American workers with a tariff.[403] In 2016, President Barack Obama's administration announced it was removing Jackson's portrait from the $20 bill and replacing it with one of Harriet Tubman.[404] Though the plan was put on hold during Trump's presidency, President Joe Biden's administration resumed it in 2021.[405]

Jackson is usually rated highly as a president, but his reputation began to decline in the 1960s.[406][407] His contradictory legacy is shown in opinion polls. A 2014 survey of political scientists rated Jackson as the ninth-highest rated president but the third-most polarizing. He was also ranked the third-most overrated president.[408] In a C-SPAN poll of historians, Jackson was ranked the 13th in 2009, 18th in 2017, and 22nd in 2021.[409]


  • Feller, Daniel; Coens, Thomas; Moss, Laura-Eve; Moser, Harold D.; Alexander, Erik B.; Smith, Sam B.; Owsley, Harriet C.; Hoth, David R; Hoemann, George H.; McPherson, Sharon; Clift, J. Clint; Wells, Wyatt C., eds. (1980–2019). The Papers of Andrew Jackson. University of Tennessee. (11 volumes to date; 17 volumes projected). Ongoing project to print all of Jackson's papers.
  • Bassett, John S., ed. (1926–1935). Correspondence of Andrew Jackson. Carnegie Institution. (7 volumes; 2 available online).
  • Richardson, James D., ed. (1897). "Andrew Jackson". Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents. Vol. III. Bureau of National Literature and Art. pp. 996–1359. Reprints Jackson's major messages and reports.


  1. ^ Vice President Calhoun resigned from office. As this was prior to the adoption of the Twenty-fifth Amendment in 1967, a vacancy in the office of vice president was not filled until the next ensuing election and inauguration.


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Primary sources