What Number President was He?
Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States, served from 1829 to 1837 and positioned himself as a direct representative of the common people.
More than any of his predecessors, Andrew Jackson achieved his presidency through a direct mandate of popular vote. His objective as President was to embody the direct voice of the common citizen.
Born in a backwoods settlement in the Carolinas in 1767, he received an intermittent education. However, during his late teens, he dedicated about two years to studying law, emerging as an exceptional young lawyer in Tennessee. Known for his fierce sense of honor, he engaged in confrontations, including a fatal duel in defense of his wife Rachel's honor.
Jackson's prosperity allowed him to acquire slaves and construct a mansion called the Hermitage near Nashville. He became the first Tennessean elected to the House of Representatives and served briefly in the Senate. Rising to the rank of major general during the War of 1812, Jackson became a national hero due to his triumph over the British at New Orleans.
By 1824, various state political factions had rallied around Jackson. By 1828, enough support had coalesced behind "Old Hickory" to secure victories in numerous state elections and establish control over the Federal administration in Washington.
In his initial Annual Message to Congress, Jackson proposed the elimination of the Electoral College. He also endeavored to democratize federal office appointments. As state machines grew around patronage, a New York Senator unabashedly declared, "To the victors belong the spoils..."
While Jackson held a more moderate stance. He criticized officeholders who appeared to enjoy tenure for life, arguing that government responsibilities should be "so plain and simple" that offices could rotate among qualified applicants.
The landscape of national politics evolved into polarization centered around Jackson and his opposition. This transformation led to the emergence of two parties from the old Republican Party: the Democratic Republicans, or Democrats, aligned with Jackson; and the National Republicans, or Whigs, in opposition.
Prominent Whig figures like Henry Clay and Daniel Webster portrayed themselves as defenders of popular liberties against Jackson's perceived power accumulation. Critiques were conveyed through hostile caricatures, labeling Jackson as King Andrew I.
Underlying these criticisms was the fact that Jackson, unlike his predecessors, did not defer to Congress for policy-making, leveraging his veto power and party leadership to assert dominance.
A pivotal political clash revolved around the Second Bank of the United States, a privately held institution with de facto government support. When Jackson expressed hostility toward the Bank, it marshaled its influence against him.
Clay and Webster, who acted as Bank attorneys, led the fight for its recharter in Congress. Jackson, vetoing the recharter bill, accused the Bank of unjust economic privilege.
Jackson's views resonated with the American electorate, resulting in his securing over 56 percent of the popular vote and almost five times the electoral votes of Clay in the 1832 election.
Jackson confronted John C. Calhoun's challenge, as Calhoun sought to abolish a high protective tariff. When South Carolina attempted to nullify the tariff, Jackson dispatched armed forces to Charleston and privately threatened Calhoun with execution. A violent confrontation was averted when Clay brokered a compromise that lowered tariffs and led South Carolina to rescind nullification.
In January 1832, while dining with friends at the White House, news reached Jackson that the Senate had rejected Martin Van Buren's nomination as Minister to England. In response, Jackson declared, "By the Eternal! I’ll smash them!" And indeed, he did. Van Buren, his preferred choice, became Vice President and subsequently succeeded Jackson as President upon his retirement to the Hermitage, where Jackson passed away in June 1845.
Desperate courage makes One a majority. I was born for the storm, and a calm does not suit me. There is no pleasure in having nothing to do; the fun is having lots to do and not doing it. One man with courage makes a majority.