Andrew Jackson Born to Irish immigrants on March 15, 1767, Andrew Jackson was to become the first “rags to riches” President the country had ever seen. He grew up in South Carolina and fought in the Revolutionary War at only thirteen. His entire immediate family, parents and siblings, died as a cause of the war, whether it was being killed in battle or death from disease. He went on to serve two terms as the seventh President of the U.S., leaving behind a legacy of administrative policy and even his own democratic philosophy. The Second Bank of the United States was founded in Philadelphia in 1816.
It was mainly a Republican project and a response to the expiration of the First U.S. Bank’s charter. It was created as a safe place for federal funds, and because state banks were seen as insufficient for handling financial needs. Currency differed by state, counterfeit money was everywhere, and state banks often issued notes without any gold or silver, the only trusted currency, to back them up. The bank was not met everywhere on friendly terms. Maryland, in an effort to destroy the Baltimore branch, passed laws to heavily tax it, but the Supreme Court removed those laws, strengthening the central federal power.
The Second Bank’s charter expired during Jackson’s administration in 1836. Most people were distrustful of the bank, as it had enormous power to ruin state banks and was basically unresponsive to the people’s needs. It had powerful political influence also, and was completely controlled by one man, the President Nicholas Biddle. The rechartering was scheduled by the bank-influenced Congress to coincide with the 1832 Presidential campaign and election, in which Jackson would be running for a second term. The purpose was to gather up public pressure to have him pass the charter in order to gain reelection. However, Jackson was a bit more principled than that, and vetoed the bill.
Congress was unable to override his veto. The rechartering then became Jackson’s most important issue in running for President. He said it went further than just allowing a bank – it symbolized special privileges and economic power. The plan to give the bank influence over the entire country’s government completely backfired as Jackson was reelected. He took proper steps to make sure the bank would never have the same powers or influence again.
He took federal money out of the bank to distribute it in trustworthy state chartered banks. With no money to hold it up, the Second U.S. Bank collapsed and disappeared. With Jackson shutting down the bank, he showed his tolerance for the supreme power of the constitution and financially restricted government. One could go so far as to say that human rights were involved because Biddle gave the common people a hard time about loans and interest rates.
Jackson was pushing for the people of this country! Indian Removal was Jackson’s policy for making room for white settlers between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. The Indian culture was told to either assimilate or move west. Any formalized rituals became illegal, as did tribal councils or any Indian attempt to set laws for themselves, as they had in the past. They were now forced to abide by white laws and culture. Jackson was looking to expand commerce, population, and agriculture.
He saw it in the west, a vast supply of land and economic improvement. His attitude towards the Indians can consistently enough be seen back in the War of 1812, as not only did he slaughter them in battle but stole the land of those who had fought with him. But he could tolerate the Indians, if they were civilized enough, so by giving the Indians individual rights to property he also gave them the basis for Western capitalism. His ideas on Indian Removal did become a legacy of administrative policy, at least for some time, after he left office. His successor, President Martin van Buren, removed thousands of Indians and pushed them westward.
Those allowed to stay in their original homes were small, select groups such as the Iroquois Confederation in New York or those who agreed to abide by white law. Any of those who willfully went out west were promised land and financial support from the federal government. It is doubtful that they ever received either, except for land of poor quality that no respectable white farmers would take. Arguably, white expansion was not to blame. Reputedly white frontiersmen and Indian tribes lived amongst each other, not in competition, but in friendship. Rather, Indian Removal was caused by “industrialization and commerce, the growth of population, of railroads and cities, the rise in value of land, and the greed of businessmen.” In other words, western capitalism. This would make some degree of sense, considering that white frontiersmen heading west and Indian tribes were basically looking for the same things to survive on. Jackson and the federal government clearly showed no compassion for human rights, and it shows a sharp contrast to what Jackson fought for earlier, in terms of the Second U.S.
Bank. In a way, he contradicts himself by feeding land to the very same rich businessmen he had previously been wary of. He indirectly not only goes against his said ideology, but his actions that corresponded with that ideology as well. Today, we identify him with this ideology, called Jacksonian Democracy. Jacksonian Democracy takes its roots from Jeffersonian Democracy – President Thomas Jefferson’s idea of an agrarian society with a small, central government designed with the people’s benefits in mind. Jacksonian Democracy is basically the belief in the independence and responsibility of man.
They definitely feared large government, and powerful government, and went so far as to say that compulsory education was an infringement on the parent’s independent right to educate their children. The Jacksonians, as the outsiders called them, and as they probably called themselves, feared government involvement in the economy, declaring that it gave way to special interests and monopolies. Mainly, they were in some ways much like the Republicans of today – pushing for the return of traditional values and responsibility of the productive man. In some ways, Andrew Jackson’s philosophy was successful, and some ways it wasn’t. It was a bit too late to suddenly shift the United States into an agricultural society of productive white Christian men (let’s face it, we can’t ALL be good Christians), but he did succeed in terms of dwindling corporate influence and reducing federal government, two problems that still remain with us today. His idealistic approach to the Presidency proved to be both helpful and harmful, but that’s what happens when you have strong ideology.
The Bibliography Part Meltzer, Milton. Andrew Jackson and his America. New York: Franklin Watts, 1993. pg. 123-133. Norton, Mary Beth; Kaztman, David; Escott, Paul; Chudacoff, Howard; Paterson, Thomas; Tuttle, William.
A People and A Nation: A History of the United States. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1994. pg. 379-386. Zinn, Howard.
A People’s History of the United States. Publication company, year and city of publication unknown. pg. 124-146.