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Life Of Andrew Jackson Essay, Research Paper
Andrew Jackson, in the author?s words, was “mild, polite, polished, benevolent, and democratic.” It would not be in anyone?s favor to question the validity of the his words, but to understand them with unrestrained faith in those words will help to insure complete insight into the book. Moreover, this book stresses the immortal fact that Jackson?s private life had as much irony and agony as his political/outside life did. With those factors understood, Jackson?s life and the times he lived in, will become clear to all.
The important point to understand about most things in this world is the nature of their origins, Andrew Jackson is no different. Born with no idea as to what his father looks like, Andrew Jackson Jr., third son from Elizabeth and Andrew Jackson Sr., will be raised at the home of Elizabeth?s sister and brother-in-law, the Crawfords in the state of South Carolina. Andrew Jackson Sr. descended from a long line Ulster families that were thrown out of Ireland, seeking refuge in the United States, made their home in South Carolina. Jackson Sr., dying suddenly before his son?s birth, left Andrew to grow up without a male parental figure.
Living in the Crawfords gave young Andrew little rewards; he was given very little schooling of basic reading, writing, and figuring. So, how, in fact, does a man that receives less education than the average American at that time, not to mention the likes of John Adams or Thomas Jefferson, be, in the many historians minds, greater than Adams or Jefferson? The long answer to that question will start when “Andy” as the young, and slim Jackson is called, attains to the age of 13.
The year was 1780, British troops had taken South Carolina, Andy?s oldest brother had joined the American regiment fighting in their home town, but died due to heat exhaustion in battle. At the sight of his deceased brother Hugh, Jackson joins the army as a mounted messenger. After the fighting halted, both Andrew Jackson and his brother Robert (who had also joined the American army by now) went back home to the Crawfords. Even though official battles had been temporarily stopped, the “civil war” raged on as Patriots fought Tories in the towns of South Carolina, catching young Andrew Jackson in the midst of the fight. In one bloody encounter, Jackson and his brother were taken prisoner by British dragoons. A British officer ordered Andrew to clean his boots. The boy refused, claiming his right as a prisoner of war not to be treated like a servant. The furious officer whipped out his sword and slashed at the boy?s head. Luckily for Jackson, his stealth saved him from certain death, but leaving him with scars on his left hand and head which he carried with him his whole life, along with a hatred for the British.
Thrown into prison camp, Elizabeth Jackson would not let her sons rot in British cells, and making deals for exchange of prisoners, got her sons in the trade. Alas, Robert died during the trip home, and Elizabeth was barely able to save Andrew. Being the courageous woman that she was, Elizabeth Jackson made a journey to Charlestown Harbor, where she intended to help American soldiers sick in British prison ships, but while nursing the plague-ridden men, she caught cholera herself and died. Andrew Jackson?s response, “I felt utterly alone”, was all that needed to conclude his feelings about events at that time.
The following years after that, until he ventured into politics, included going from city to city in South Carolina seeking the horse-race and drinking his heart out. Uncontrolled and unrestrained by anyone or anything besides money, Andrew would come to see and do almost everything imaginable at that time in the United States. He had also gone into various professions, from teaching to law. It was at law where he began his rise to politics.
On the road to becoming a lawyer, Jackson?s first stop was be apprentice to Spruce MaCay, in North Carolina. But simply being apprentice wasn?t enough, Jackson left MaCay after two years, and when he finally got admitted to the state bar, he began drifting about the local courts, taking a case here and there. It wasn?t until an old friend made him the public prosecutor of the new Western District of North Carolina that he got his first major break as a lawyer. Now in his twenties, Jackson finally gains wealth and becomes a indispensable lawyer to the speculators in Nashville, N. Carolina.
It was also during this time, that Andrew Jackson takes a wife. He had an intimate relationship with the landlady?s daughter Rachel that he lived with during his time in Nashville but could not move in on her because she was married. Her husband left her, and by the fall of 1790, rumor had spread that he was ready for divorce. Andrew and Rachel then got married, but this event became an issue because of the fact that Rachel?s husband?s divorce was only a rumor, where, in later years, in the great game of politics, the issue would be brought up over and over again that Andrew Jackson committed ungentlemen-like bigamy.
Marriage had brought Jackson a few miles ahead in the road through politics. Being the very influential family that Rachel Donelson was from, she helped provide Jackson with enough political and economic boost to become one of the richest men on the Western Frontier. Due to his vast holdings, and his leadership on this new state called “Tennessee”, Andrew Jackson landed a seat in the U.S. Senate. Showing very little political ambition, and not accomplishing a whole lot, Jackson soon resigns his seat.
It was after his senate resigning that Jackson would become major general of the militia of Tennessee and where his great accomplishments in the battle field start. During the War of 1812, General Jackson, with his troop of 2,500 men, was to march to Natchez, at the tip of the Mississippi, to prepare strikes on either Pensacola, Mobile, or New Orleans. But unfortunately the War Department in Congress recalled his troops, and along the hardship-filled way back (through Indian territory, without pay, transportation, or medicine) to Nashville, Jackson received the nickname that would cling to him forever-Old Hickory-because of his willingness to walk alongside his troops in support, comforted the sick, encouraged the weary, and doled out rations.
Shortly after he had received the Old Hickory name came Jackson?s greatest victory courtesy of the battle of New Orleans which ended the War of 1812. The time was following Napoleon Bonaparte?s defeat in France, Great Britain had now assembled a troop of 14,000 men to attack the U.S. in three directions: top from Lake Champlain, Chesapeake Bay in the middle, and New Orleans in the south. The Lake Champlain and Chesapeake Bay campaigns were easy victories for Britain, but the most important battle rested in New Orleans, even with their victories, the tide can turn with a win by General Jackson in New Orleans against the British. Recruiting two regiments of African Americans, dastardly employing pirates, it is still known as a miracle today that he pulls off this great win considering that the odds of 7:3 against the Americans which make this battle even more memorable.
“New Year?s Day, 1815, General Edward Pakenham of Great Britain commands his (7,000) troops to begin a heavy bombardment of the American positions. In two hours of steady fire, the British were outgunned; they failed to breach the American line. Pakenham then came up with an unworkable plan. He would hurl all his power straight ahead through the Americans? well-prepared fortifications. It meant committing thousands of his redcoats to a frontal assault in the hop that their superior numbers would shatter the American resistance. Fighting starts at dawn on the eighth of January, the files of soldiers made two direct attacks in the face of deadly rifle and artillery fire. All the Americans had to do was shoot them down as them came. ?The British broke completely and fled the field.”
Some years after that great victory in Orleans, once he regains his health in his Hermitage, Jackson enters politics in the form of assuming the newest state (Florida) to enter the Union?s governorship. And after a few years of that, at the age of 55, but, “?looking 65″, he is once again elected into the U.S. Senate. The interesting event that occurs during his third stint on the Senate is that now, the idea of Andrew Jackson as the next president of the United States has suddenly crept into everyone?s mind. The stage was now set for the greatest election the world has known in that time.
Jackson?s candidacy had come from state legislatures due to the collapse of the party caucus system. Backed by one of the best politician in the U.S. at that time (William B. Lewis) and one of the wealthiest men (John Overton), his campaign was destined to be a success. His opponents were John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts, who was the Secretary of State; Henry Clay of Kentucky, majority leader of the House of Representatives; Secretary of War from South Carolina, John C. Calhoun, and William Crawford of Georgia, the Secretary of the Treasury. Due to lack of support for himself, and the apparent overwhelming support for Jackson, Calhoun withdrew from the race and joined Andrew Jackson?s forces as the vice-presidential candidate.
As the campaign went on, Jackson?s men had to sway voters by saying one thing in one state, while his men in another state would contradict that same statement, making him seem like a vote-monger in the eyes of many people and to which his opponents used as a weapon against him. But, alas, Jackson was not to be denied votes since he stood so firmly on the issue of slavery. Defending slavery caused him to finish with the most popular votes overall, but did not get enough votes to win the electoral college. Upon which case, the irony of this election started. It so happened that Henry Clay wound up as the last of the candidates to have a chance at the presidency, and since Jackson, Adams, and Crawford now needed to win by vote in the House of Representatives, Clay, being Speaker of the House, struck a deal with his least hated person out of the three, which was Adams. So therefore, Adams getting the support of the leader of the House, wins the election of 1824, much to the dismay of Jackson.
At this point in time, angry Old Hickory makes plans to usurp and defeat Adams in 1828 following the possible “corrupt bargain” that was struck between Clay and Adams. Andrew Jackson and his followers now formed the Democratic Party. With men such as Martin Van Buren and John C. Calhoun campaigning and propagandizing on his behalf, he found Campaign ?28 to be an easy victory, despite vast accusations about his personal life from opponents that led to the saddest day in Andrew Jackson?s life when Rachel, reacting to pamphlets about her alleged affair with Andrew, and other assorted gossip, grows ill and dies. This event shocked and made Jackson utter the words, “I feel utterly alone” once again in his life: but he strives on, being the Old Hickory that he is, and inaugurates as the 7th President of the United States of America.
One of the most memorable items during Jackson?s terms was his “Kitchen Cabinet”, which consisted of Francis P. Blair, Amos Kendall, Isaac Hill and William Lewis; all of whom are newspaper editors with the exception of Lewis. The four men would assist in close matters with Jackson, who does not really trust the competence of his Congressional Cabinet. These men?s ideas helped shape Jackson?s administrative policy, but in no way did they dictate what Jackson said or did, because he was “master in his own White House”. That label would soon come to bestow upon him the honor of being one of the most “king-like” presidents in history, due to his over-excessive use of the veto power.
Andrew Jackson?s greatest battle in the political ground also resulted in his re-election when he started his War against the Bank (of the United States). The Bank?s story begins with Alexander Hamilton, who made Congress pass the Bank?s charter in 1791, it was meant to stabilize the government?s finances and establish its credit. Partly private, partly government-financed and -controlled, it became the cornerstone of the American economy by providing a safe place to deposit the government?s funds, lend the government money when needed, regulate state banks? lending, issue bank notes, and collect taxes.
The Bank?s charter had ended in 1811, but in 1816, President Madison rechartered the Bank for twenty years. By the Panic of 1819, when (land) speculative fever pushed people to the brink of bankruptcy and failure, state and local banks also arrived at that point because they made loans that they did not have equal amounts in gold or silver to back up. Distrust everywhere, by mostly everyone in the system of the Bank had arrived at an all time high. But a resurgence by the bank in the 1820?s, led by its young, handsome, and energetic president, Nicholas Biddle, allowed it to survive.
Biddle continues to do well until the early 1830?s, when he tries to recharter the bank. He tried to appeal to Jackson for recharter. It is interesting to see that what fueled Jackson?s anger towards the Bank of the United States was his own misfortune at the hands of it: during a time where he had planned to open a merchandise store, but a land-speculating deal gone awry, mainly because of Bank of the United State bank notes, forced him to forfeit his plans on the merchandise store, and left him in poverty for a time.
And so with that hatred, Jackson makes this great fight against the bank, charging that the bank was the beneficiary of special privilege, granted a monopoly of the government?s business by charter. That monopoly worked for the aristocrats, and hurt the common man. Not only was the bank evil, but it was also unconstitutional. With that said, President Jackson rallied the people behind him in the stand on the Bank of the U.S. So in the election of 1832, Henry Clay, the opponent of Jackson, supports the Bank?s recharter, and therefore loses the election. With his last breadth at a time of his greatest power, Clay gathers enough votes in Congress to pass a recharter of the Bank; but Jackson vetoes it, and that ended the life of the first Bank of the United States.
With that beening his greatest use of the veto power, President Andrew Jackson becomes “King Andrew I” that so many people portrayed him to be. In the totally contradicting statement, he cannot be that because him and his followers started the democratic party, which was essentially the party for the people! Ending, it is interesting to see how his early childhood and wife shaped him, from being juvenile teenager, to the Old Hickory millions have come to praise.
The new knowledge that I?ve gained from this book complements the ones I?ve received reading Hofstadter. Where Hofstadter tells me mainly of the political side into the life of Jackson, this book gave me feelings and emotions towards Jackson?s life. In a sense, Hofstadter has a touch of “coldness” about his works, whereas the author of this book gives Andrew Jackson a heart. Also, I see the great detail implemented in this book, or lack thereof from our text books which causes me to wonder about the quality of our textbooks, and that maybe I should always read a biography of a character in American History every time someone famous is mentioned in the textbooks.
My insight into this book is that as most biographies go, this one is truly exemplary. Not only does it tell of one of the most interesting men that ever graced this earth, it tells it in a melodramatic way, from the unparalleled reactions of Jackson?s shooting of Charles Dickinson to Jackson hopeless mourning over the corpse of his dead wife, as he “(hopes) vainly for signs of returning life(in her)”. Jackson?s pure energy, raw emotion, as shown in the Battle of new Orleans, where even sick, he can give orders to win the battle, is truly mind-boggling. Also, being the first ever “self-made” man and president, he is truly a character that seems almost fictional in the way he can transcend from one thing to another. His survival at the hands of several duels, and to live to the incredible age of 78 with several bullets lodged in his chest from duels, truly shows how incredible a man Jackson had been. The statement that he was “born poor and died rich” fits Andrew Jackson perfectly.
My most important insight into this book is that if you take away the politics and egotistical displays of power, and make the Battle of New Orleans the focus, Jackson would make a great hero for young kids. Also, if you strip away his machinations with battle and fighting, you could make Jackson to be the true self-made man that Abraham Lincoln is, in the rise to politics.
Relationship Between Book & 19th Century American History
This book?s intricate relation to developments of the 19th century include the rights and questions of slavery, the American Frontier and its ideals of the “self-made” man, and questions about the rights of Indians to their lands.
Regarding the slavery issue, the book tells clearly of Andrew Jackson?s dealings as a “average” slave holding. By “average”, I mean that he would probably not do anymore or less to hurt or command his slaves around than anyone else would in other plantations. To that end, what he cannot possibly condone was runaways; he would pay extra for slave catchers to have the runaways lashed in the effort to teach obedience. Andrew Jackson is a very commanding and forceful person by nature, and when slaves step out of line, he had the right to punish them, so he feels no sorrow for either peoples-black or red-only contempt. In one time, during a raid on a Negro Fort before Florida had joined the Union, Jackson and his soldier massacred free blacks, just because of the “slave-holders? desire to enslave or kill blacks enjoying their lives in freedom.”
Slave trading contributed to those ideas that regarded him as the first “self-made” man/president. Abraham Lincoln might?ve been the best example of a “self-made” man, but Andrew Jackson was the forefather of that ideology. Having born into poverty, and struggled most of his life through poverty, he climbed the first step in the ladder of success by knowing that the step was in the practice of law. After some years of practice, it paid off, eventually leading to his marriage into aristocracy to Rachel Donelson.
Out of all three of these relationships into 19th century American History, Andrew Jackson?s thoughts and acts towards the Native Americans is the most intensified subject. In this field, Jackson typified the “white man that would cheat the Indian out of land he did not own in the first place!” President Jackson?s greatest action towards Indian removal came in the form of the Trail of Tears. This started in the state of Georgia, where the Cherokee nation was “catching” up to the white man, and as a measure of defense or out of fear, as Calhoun states, “The whole trouble with the Cherokees, ?, was precisely their progress in civilization.” Jackson, whom sometime ago made treaties and talked of peace with the “5 civilized tribes” of the Southeast, is now driving the Cherokees out of land that the “white, middle-classed” man wants. And so, with the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Cherokee Indian population was forced to move from Georgia into what is now Oklahoma, losing about 1/4th of the total population along the way.
Merits and Assessment
My assessment as to the merit of this book is that it is one of great moral and intellectual integrity. It cannot stress more on the moral side as it unbiasly tells the reader the whole truth about Andrew Jackson?s love life, family life, war life, and political life. This book is intellectually stimulating, making you feel the urge to somehow, some way, relive the life of Jackson, but you know that is not possible, so you go and reread the book again. Andrew Jackson and His America clearly depicts emotions, and even though there is no open dialogue, you get a sense of what the characters feel during trying times.
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