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Andrew Jackson: Our First Populist President

In Defense of Andrew Jackson, Bradley J. Birzer, Regnery History, 209 pages [1]

I grew up with an affinity for our seventh president. It came naturally—partly from patriotic interest in U.S. history but also from family history. In 1814, my great-great-great-great-grandfather, Barzilla Taylor, fought Creek Red Sticks at the Battles of Emuckfaw and Enotachopco Creek, in what is now central Alabama, as a Tennessee volunteer under General Andrew Jackson. One year later, three of Barzilla’s brothers were with Jackson at the more famous Battle of New Orleans.

My long-ago personal connection to Jackson parallels the underlying theme of BradleyBirzer’s book. Birzer, a historian at Hillsdale College, and a scholar-at-large at TAC, posits that Jackson was, in some ways, “the first truly American president.” His experiences and attitudes were deeply rooted in our young nation’s soil, his military leadership during our “Second War of Independence” echoed that of General Washington, and he became an exemplar of democracy.

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Andrew Jackson’s story is one of unlikely success. His Scotch-Irish immigrant parents settled in the Carolina border area. Deprived of his father a few weeks before birth, when Andrew Sr. died in a farm accident, the red-haired boy had a hardscrabble upbringing. His mother and two brothers all died of illness during the Revolutionary War, leaving him an orphan at 14 years of age.

We need not buy into the exceptionalism myth of “only in America” to recognize something quintessentially American in Jackson’s gradual rise to success. By the time he took the reins of executive power, the youthful Carolinian was an elderly planter in Tennessee on the eve of his 62nd birthday.

Jackson was a slaveholder on his Hermitage farm outside of Nashville, but, in his day, he was viewed as more of a westerner than a southerner. In comparison to the Atlantic-bordering Eastern Seaboard—North and South—the frontier West was considered wild and not quite civilized in the 1820s. Unlike our nation’s first six presidents, Jackson was not classically educated. Nonetheless, he eventually became a lawyer, served briefly in both the U.S. House and Senate, and spent time as a state judge.

Although Jackson was not really a professional politician or statesman, having a preference for agriculture and the military instead, he was territorial governor of Florida in 1821, and returned to the Senate a couple of years after that. His second stint in Washington brought him a little more respectability among the political class.

One ironic aspect of Jackson’s life, as noted by Birzer, was his once-positive relations with John Quincy Adams. Adams was the only Monroe cabinet member to support General Jackson’s actions in Spanish Florida, and Jackson admired the secretary of state when both were first touted for president. Adams and Jackson were White House rivals in 1824 and 1828. The former won the first contest through a controversial U.S. House disconnect with popular and electoral voting, and the latter won a rematch four years later.

Lacking elite status and a liberal arts education, Jackson instead “knew the Bible, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and his own experiences on the frontier and in war.” Birzer concludes that this was “more than enough to make him an American, a republican, and a great president.”

He was a polarizing figure in his day, but Jackson’s ranking by historians as a near-great president and inclusion on U.S. currency betoken a lasting legacy of personal charisma, bravery, and honesty, mixed with respect for the common people. If his historical stock is on a downturn today, that says less about Jackson and more about current progressive pieties.

I approached In Defense of Andrew Jackson with some trepidation, partly because of the title and partly because of the publisher. Yes, I’ve been an admirer of “Old Hickory” since childhood, but as a mature scholar, I find historical whitewashes and political agenda pushers to be unhelpful and annoying. Even actual facts, in such a context, are suspicious.

I feared this might be a lightweight pro-Jackson tract, with a trendy Donald Trump tie-in. I was wrong. Birzer is a bona fide historian and he writes like it. He acknowledges up front that Jackson had “many” faults. There is a lopsidedness to his handling of the more controversial aspects of Jackson’s legacy, but in presenting his side of the argument—even if it sometimes falls into special pleading—Birzer is balancing out other recent books that lean disproportionately toward the other side of the debate.

The tone is not defensive. Important information is brought to our attention, including extensive primary sources such as letters and newspapers contemporaneous with Jackson. This is not a superficial rehash of other biographies packaged for a conservative audience. This is a well-written book based on valuable historical spadework.

It is a short book, perfect as an introduction to Jackson for those who have a couple of days to spare. It’s not going to replace in-depth treatments. The gold standard, for those wishing detailed information about Jackson’s life, remains historian Robert V. Remini’s three-volume biography from the 1970s and 1980s.

Birzer spends too much time detailing John C. Calhoun’s political theory in connection with tariff nullification. This could have been summarized in a paragraph instead of seven pages of a brief book. More interesting is a tantalizing reference to Jackson’s letter to ex-senator Nathaniel Macon, in which “Jackson admitted that while he still believed” in the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of Jefferson and Madison, “he also believed in the Union.” Some of the space devoted to the Calhoun summary could have been more profitably devoted to the letters of these two Jeffersonians, as they wrestled with the tension between states’ rights and union preservation.

The inclusion of President Jackson’s farewell address (March 1837) is one of the highlights of the book. Unfortunately, the circumstances of the address are not noted. Was it spoken to an audience or only written? Was it composed entirely by Jackson or was he assisted?

It is not one of the more controversial aspects of Jackson’s life or presidency, but I find his perspective on the military establishment to be especially interesting. Birzer makes mention of it several times in the book. Even more might have been made of it, considering the knee-jerk tendency of American conservatives to conflate militarism with patriotism (thereby giving big government, when marketed as “defense,” a pass).

When writing his Independence Day toasts in 1805, “Jackson, tellingly, toasted the militias before the army,” and prior to the War of 1812, he contrasted the liberty-preservation quality of a well-organized militia with the obvious “corruption” in “our regular army.” At his first inauguration, Jackson “welcomed militias but wanted no national military participation.” In his address as incoming president, Jackson reiterated his view of standing armies as being “dangerous to free government in time of peace,” said that he would “not seek to enlarge our present [military] establishment,” and called the volunteer militia “the bulwark of our defense.”

Using Jackson’s “preference for militias over a standing army” as an example, Birzer comments, “He wanted to keep authority and its exercise at the most immediate and local level, trusting that free men would sacrifice themselves for the greatest duties of hearth and home when called upon.”

Despite his own military background, Jackson did not unnecessarily glorify war or disparage peace. In his farewell address, he wrote, “It is unquestionably our true interest to cultivate the most friendly understanding with every nation and to avoid by every honorable means the calamities of war.” Calling the navy “our natural means of defense,” the outgoing president coupled naval strength with the traditional militia as the two bulwarks of U.S. protection while omitting any reference to a standing army.

As a plantation proprietor, Jackson owned hundreds of slaves over the course of his life. While Jefferson owned slaves and was ambivalent on race, our third president publicly condemned slavery as a moral evil and called for gradual abolition of the institution. Jackson did not denounce slavery and apparently did not have scruples about it.

Instead, in his farewell address, Jackson denounced the anti-slavery movement: “The citizens of every State should studiously avoid everything calculated to wound the sensibility or offend the just pride of the people of other States, and they should frown upon any proceedings within their own borders likely to disturb the tranquillity of their political brethren in other portions of the Union.” Without identifying them by name, Jackson declared that abolitionists deserved “strongest reprobation” for a false humanitarianism that was making “mischief” and imperiling the union.

We can all agree that Jackson’s pro-slavery stance was a real weakness, but Birzer eschews the temptation to judge him without context or mercy by the standards of our day. In other words, he does not sacrifice to the god of political correctness. Undoubtedly, Andrew Jackson was no John Woolman. But then few early 19th century Americans were Woolman, or anyone akin to him, in standing up for kindness, justice, and peace.

An even bigger stain on Jackson’s reputation comes from his signing of the Indian Removal Act in 1830, which forced the Cherokee and other southern tribes to abandon their land and migrate west to what later became Indian Territory (Oklahoma). He promised at his first inauguration to pursue a “just and liberal policy” toward American Indians, but most of us view the subsequent Trail of Tears as a horrific crime.

Birzer argues that Jackson had a nuanced interpretation of Indians, believing that they were “natural republicans with republican instincts and human rights guaranteed by God” but also believing that they were “well behind white Americans in terms of culture and civilization, a constant threat to the lives of settlers and their families, and a direct military threat likely to ally with America’s European enemies.” Birzer points out that one of Jackson’s adopted sons was an orphaned Indian boy.

Spending six pages on President Jackson’s removal policy, the author acknowledges that the law was controversial at the time and that it was “a humanitarian disaster” as implemented, using Tocqueville’s observation as evidence. Even so, Birzer is hesitant to call Jackson a hypocrite and quotes Remini’s defense of Jackson’s policy—asserting that it was designed to protect the southeastern tribes from the extinction that had befallen most of the northeastern tribes.

In his farewell address, Jackson defended his policy: “While the safety and comfort of our own citizens have been greatly promoted by their removal, the philanthropist will rejoice that the remnant of that ill-fated race has been at length placed beyond the reach of injury or oppression, and that the paternal care of the General Government will hereafter watch over them and protect them.”

Is it fair to judge a person, primarily, on the basis of his biggest failings? Yes, they must be part of the evaluation. But most of the evaluation? Who among us can stand up to that kind of scrutiny, especially historical figures possessing blind spots, errors, and sins that were typical of their time and place? This is even more true when we think about the complexity of the situation in the 1830s. What was the ideal solution to frontier conflict?

The most important historical role played by Jackson is party founder—or re-founder, to be more accurate. Jackson was “an ardent Jeffersonian” but the feeling was not reciprocal.

Viewing the general as “most unfit” and “dangerous,” Jefferson supported William Crawford for president in 1824, not Jackson. Despite similarities in ideology, Jefferson and Jackson were very different in temperament. One was a bookish, cultured introvert with a rational, deistic take on religion. Although possessing definite principles, he disliked personal conflict. The other was a brawling extrovert who relished the rough-and-tumble of personal conflict and was content with the evangelical faith of his Presbyterian youth.

While it is true that the name Democratic-Republican used for Jefferson’s party is anachronistic, and that Republican was the most common designation, Birzer is wrong in stating that Jefferson wasn’t the leader of a “recognizable” political party. Jefferson founded an opposition party to the Federalists as early as 1798 and, contrary to Birzer’s assertion, it was not “pre-ideological.”

While most of our Founding Fathers were hostile to democracy, Jefferson was an exception. In 1816, he wrote, “The full experiment of a government democratical but representative was and is still reserved for us.” Jefferson objected to the Era of Good Feelings because it masked genuine ideological differences. Andrew Jackson the popular hero and Martin Van Buren the party manager worked together to construct the modern Democratic Party.

Following Jefferson, Jackson believed in states’ rights and the Tenth Amendment, but he was also committed to keeping the union together. He tried to strike a balance between being decentralist but also opposed to Calhoun’s use of nullification. Acknowledging the “honorable feeling of state pride and local attachment” and resisting “consolidated government,” Jackson nonetheless did not want the nation splintered by sectional differences.

Jackson’s populism, including his opposition to the privately owned Bank of the United States, is a recurring theme throughout the book. Jackson was billed as the “People’s Candidate” for good reason. His words were populist in nature—opposing special privileges for “powerful interests,” “corporations and wealthy individuals,” “large manufacturing establishments,” “monopoly,” “moneyed power”—and his actions followed suit.

This book draws a connection between Andrew Jackson and Donald Trump. In some ways, Jackson was the Trump of his day—not a real estate tycoon but a media celebrity by the primitive standards of the early 1800s. Like Trump, Jackson was viewed as a political outsider and disrupter of established norms.

Both are known for their populist rhetoric and anti-establishment appeal. In speaking about the seamy side of political life, both have spoken with frankness, at times to a fault. Both can be rightly criticized for excesses of temperament, including self-righteousness and anger, and both have faced unprecedented vitriolic opposition. Hatred directed at each has made their admirers even more loyal because they detect the right enemies. Finally, we can see parallels in the sheer force of will that has driven the careers of both men.

Trump placed a painting of Jackson in the Oval Office upon moving in and he publicly identifies with him. But the 2010s are not the 1810s, and we should not be so fixated on the present that we interpret what’s gone before in its light. Instead, better to allow history to provide context for today.

Despite our family heritage, my daughter acted as prosecutor against Andrew Jackson in an eighth grade mock trial. He was charged with crimes against humanity. The drama ended in a mistrial—which seems about right. For society, as a whole, Jackson remains an important and controversial figure. Hero or villain, depending on perspective—and, more objectively, on which aspect of his life is under consideration. Like America itself, Jackson was exceptional but imperfect.”

Jeff Taylor is professor of political science at Dordt College in Iowa. He has authored three books, including Where Did the Party Go? about the history and thought of the Democratic Party.

38 Comments (Open | Close)

38 Comments To "Andrew Jackson: Our First Populist President"

#1 Comment By Bill Kurtz On February 7, 2019 @ 11:08 pm

Speaking as a liberal, I would agree with most of the author’s apparent consideration of the context of Jackson. The Trail of Tears was different from most of Jackson’s contemporaries view of Indians only in degree. He was a slaveholder, yes, as was every president through Grant except Lincoln and the Adamses. Like Woodrow Wilson, Jackson seems headed out of the liberal pantheon of presidents, somewhat unjustly in Jackson’s case. He stood firm against Calhoun’s proto-secessionism. And perhaps his biggest contribution to the sweep of American history is how he and his followers fought for (white) manhood suffrage. Whether or not they realized it, they laid the groundwork for the 15th Amendment and LBJ’s Voting Rights Law.

#2 Comment By Bob K. On February 8, 2019 @ 12:00 am

I ask Mr. Jeff Taylor: What good is accomplished when the children of authors writing for this journal are proudly engaged in grade school mock trials of “crimes against humanity” against the founders of our nation who gave their “lives, fortunes and sacred honor”in its formation?

Was this a Political Science article or a Historical note?

Historian John Lukacs has noted that “The principal task of historical thinking is to reduce untruths.”

#3 Comment By Wayne Lusvardi On February 8, 2019 @ 12:11 am

Despite the physical similarity of the shock of blond hair between Jackson and Trump, the similarity ends there. If anything Trump is the antithesis of Jackson. Trump is a close throwback to the Whig Party, whose platform was based on nativism, tariffs, Anti-Masonism (against anti-Catholicism), rule of law, anti-slavery, “Manifest Destiny”, the “American System” of economic growth by “internal improvement” (infrastructure), establishment of public and private schools, modernization of agriculture (and industry). Whigs opposed Andrew Jackson’s “spoils system” (“deep state”), and promoted business as the business of America. Abraham Lincoln was a Whig before the Whigs morphed into the Republican Party.

Historians such as Walter Russell Mead believe Trump is a reincarnation of Andrew Jackson, and Trump identifies with Jackson himself. But Jackson was a slaver, an Indian genocider who stole Indian lands, a lawyer, a military leader, always poor, although a Populist.

The Whigs in Congress once passed a motion to denounce Jackson’s arrogant use of executive power. The Whigs came into power as a reaction against Jackson’s arrogant rule.

Trump’s policies are most assuredly not Jacksonian in that Trump is not for importing more cheap labor (immigration reform and a wall) which is the modern equivalent of slavery, is for renewal of inner cities, is not anti-Catholic, is a businessman not a lawyer and military leader like Jackson, is not anti-tariff and is opposed to politically correct modern spoils system.

Historians of all people seem blind to Trump’s “Whiggism”.

#4 Comment By Patrick Constantine On February 8, 2019 @ 12:31 am

But the disaster which befell this republic in 1861-1865 has to make us re think the purported greatness of those executives who were slave holders or in the pocket of the slave power. Removing Indians at bayonet so new territory for slavery could be carved out. And all the while playing victim saying oh this curse we inherited from Britain, as if slavery in Alabama Mississippi Tennessee Missouri Arkansas Florida Texas Kansas (they tried!) California (they tried!) Oregon (they tried!) etc had anything to do with the 13 colonies.

Gosh, General Jackson may be a great man but his home life had to be a freak show. He committed several hundred felonies every day of his life in holding people down in slavery, working them without pay, tearing apart families, having slaves whipped or sold away, etc. not to mention an undeniable interest in concubinage. I’ll stick with revering Abraham Lincoln, who cleaned up the mess left by the previous slavery-obsessed leaders like Jackson, Washington, Monroe, Jefferson etc.

#5 Comment By Fran Macadam On February 8, 2019 @ 2:26 am

I’m emphatically not a progressive, and I’m a populist, but can’t muster any positive view of the genocidal Jackson’s leadership. He may have known Christianity, but either didn’t understand it or didn’t follow it if he did.

#6 Comment By DCLaw On February 8, 2019 @ 8:19 am

The Battle of New Orleans should be mentioned in understanding the man. Jackson detested the English (who killed his brother) and knew the Royal Navy would utilize Treaties with sovereign Indian Territories to stage future invasions. Remini suggests he viewed independent Indian Nations within southeastern US state borders to be a vital national security risk for this fledgling republic.

#7 Comment By Alan Vanneman On February 8, 2019 @ 10:00 am

“Unlike our nation’s first six presidents, Jackson was not classically educated.”

Washington was not classically educated. He never studied Latin, much less Greek. He played the gentleman so well that he “passed”. Of course, one could say the same about Winston Churchill, who was such a poor student that he never took any advanced courses.

In addition, this article never mentions Jackson’s well known fondness for executing people. The “coffin handbill” was not mere propaganda. All in all, a pretty bland offering.

#8 Comment By SteveM On February 8, 2019 @ 11:21 am

We can all agree that Jackson’s pro-slavery stance was a real weakness, but Birzer eschews the temptation to judge him without context or mercy by the standards of our day. In other words, he does not sacrifice to the god of political correctness.

Wait a second. By that logic, the acceptance of slavery should have been immutable. But someone had to step up and resist the “context” of the time for the eradication of slavery to eventually occur.

And that someone obviously was not Andrew Jackson. Agree with Fran Macadam above. Jackson was an early, amoral, militarist political hack. (He’d fit right in with the rancid Washington war-monger cabal today.)

Bradley Birzer’s apologetics for deeply flawed American figures are more often flaccid than not.

#9 Comment By Patrick Constantine On February 8, 2019 @ 11:23 am

Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan were not slaveholders, re bill Kurtz comment. They were in a long line of northern state democrat (N Hampshire & Penn) politicians who did whatever the slave power wanted them to do. Stephen Douglas used the same playbook.

#10 Comment By Rick Steven D. On February 8, 2019 @ 11:33 am

“…the first truly American president.”

Translation: the first truly White Trash president.

Not to take anything away from white trash. The great Joe Bob Briggs:

[2]

Old Hickory played John the Baptist for The Coming of Trump. Sorry, Bradley.

#11 Comment By John Gruskos On February 8, 2019 @ 12:07 pm

Ambrister and Arbuthnot got what they deserved.

#12 Comment By Chris Mallory On February 8, 2019 @ 12:18 pm

Jackson put the American people first.

Removing a hostile alien nation from among the American people was a good thing.
Andrew Jackson was our second greatest president, behind only William Henry Harrison. Would that more politicians followed WHH’s example.

Patrick,
The “disaster of 1861-1865” was caused by the war monger Lincoln. His attempted invasion of Charleston Harbor ranks with GWB’s invasion of Iraq as folly.

#13 Comment By Liam On February 8, 2019 @ 12:40 pm

Andrew Jackson would cane Donald Trump in the twinkling of an eye.

Oh, re an upthread comments: Presidents Fillmore, Pierce and Buchanan did not own slaves, though they were a great hindrance in ridding this country of slavery.

#14 Comment By sglover On February 8, 2019 @ 2:01 pm

What commenters here are forgetting is that Jackson only exterminated or enslaved brown people, and this is TAC, where the “editors” are always willing to muse along the lines of Are brown people even human, really?

It’s not like the Trail of Tears inconvenienced any real Americans, right? So how could that possibly count as an “atrocity”? That’s the kind of baseless smear that cultural Marxists rely on!

So where does an inflated essay from the Regnery propaganda mill count as “serious history”, worthy of a “book” review? Why, at TAC, of course. Circling the drain….

#15 Comment By CLW On February 8, 2019 @ 2:42 pm

Jackson remains a popular figure because he is the perfect talisman for those who embrace the view that non-elitist men of the people can and should do whatever it takes to advance America’s interests, and should never apologize for it.

Of course, this is a highly idealized viewpoint disconnected from the complex reality of actual history, but so what? Simple minds like Donald Trump’s can easily embrace cartoonish versions of American history, while pesky elites get bogged down in trivial details, ambiguities, and nuances.

#16 Comment By Youknowho On February 8, 2019 @ 2:43 pm

Jackson’s populism shows the soft underbelly of populism. It applies only to those recognized as the ‘in’ group, and not to those “out”

In fact, it might well that the situation of the “out” groups is worse among those who espouse egalitarian values withing the “in’ group. Rome and Greece, for example had much more extensive slavery than either Egypt or Persian.

In the Americas, the Spanish colonies, with their hereditary nobility and feudal system, a black man or woman, when in court, was assumed to be free unless you could prove that her or she was a slave. In the USA, it was the opposite.

It is one of the paradoxes of history and if you have no appreciation for irony nor paradox, you will never enjoy learning history.

#17 Comment By mrscracker On February 8, 2019 @ 3:14 pm

“Birzer points out that one of Jackson’s adopted sons was an orphaned Indian boy. ”
***************

Yes, that’s an interesting story.
You know, Jefferson Davis & his wife had an adopted black son whom Mrs. Davis had rescued from a beating in Richmond. I don’t think VA’s laws concerning adoption had been formalized back then so we’ll never know the full details but it also goes to show that people & history can be complicated.

#18 Comment By Locksley On February 8, 2019 @ 3:39 pm

Jackson didn’t mind ‘marrying’ a divorced woman whose real husband was still alive. This is a connexion with Trump which is seldom mentioned. I’m all in favour of removing his portrait from the $20-bill and replacing it with that of John C. Calhoun.

#19 Comment By Liam On February 8, 2019 @ 4:02 pm

Nah, Harriet Tubman is the perfect replacement. She was also Republican, when that meant something better.

#20 Comment By Todd E. Pierce On February 8, 2019 @ 6:08 pm

Talk about a “lightweight pro-Jackson tract,” this article take the cakes for that. A comment above quotes John Lukacs that “The principal task of historical thinking is to reduce untruths.” By that standard, this article fails two ways: not only does it not reduce ‘untruths,” but, in fact, actually, increases their number, as this revisionist article does. An article in TAC’s early days lamented the “dumbing down of Conservatism.” This article is Exhibit A as evidence for that proposition.

How Jackson should be seen, I would argue, is the opposite of how William (Bill) Kristol sees him, using Kristol as a “negative indicator,” which is what he has proven best suited for. Kristol famously compared Sarah Palin to Jackson, favorably speaking of each, as he “suggested that she has a shrewdness and toughness — “like Andrew Jackson.” Kristol doesn’t speak of historical figures favorably like that unless they serve his purpose of advancing the neoconservative, American Militarist cause, and Jackson epitomized that with his foreign interventions into Spanish Florida, resulting in regime changes, and what can safely be assumed, in my opinion, as encouraging U.S. migration into the Texan region of Mexico for the purpose of inciting revolution by the American “settlers” who had been welcomed there by the Mexican government until it became apparent what the Americans were up to in instigating regime change.

Jackson was the original Neoconservative, it can be said, which is why he is a favorite of Bill Kristol’s. As a U.S. Army JAG Officer serving as defense counsel at Guantanamo in 2008 – 2012, I had to do extensive research into Jackson’s wars, militarism, and extra-legal military commissions, with two of them being followed by his arbitrary murder of two British citizens when he thought their sentences were not harsh enough. This almost led to war with Britain, which is what the dispute with John Quincy Adams was about, and one would have thought Taylor might have mentioned if this wasn’t just an ideological piece. One would think a historical book reviewer would have some background knowledge sufficient to provide context to the book being reviewed, but today at TAC, articles seem more to follow an ideological purpose similar to its neoconservative market competitors, like The Weekly Standard and National Review, though not unexpected considering the neoconservative origins of some of TAC’s newest editors.

It is little wonder that the ethnic-cleansing, genocidal practices taken to the highest level under Jackson would actually serve as inspiration for Hitler’s policies (as right-winger Dinesh D’Souza like to charge Democrats with), as they did for Benjamin Netanyahu’s father and others in the Israeli Right as they see the Palestinians as Hitler did, as “redskins” to be annihilated.

Two weeks after taking the oath of office, Jackson sent a letter to the Creek Nation, appealing to them to move west “in order that my white and red children may live in peace.”

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“Beyond the great river Mississippi, where a part of your nation has gone, your father has provided a country large enough for all of you, and he advises you to remove to it,” he wrote. “There your white brothers will not trouble you; they will have no claim to the land, and you can live upon it, you and all your children, as long as the grass grows or the water runs, in peace and plenty.” Hypocritical because Jackson himself had been so responsible for the ethnic cleansing in the East so that part of the Creek nation had to go beyond “the great river Missippi, due to Jackson’s ethnic cleansing which had already taken place under his direction.
Daniel Feller, a history professor at the University of Tennessee and director of The Papers of Andrew Jackson says of the letter that it “set the tone for Jackson’s two terms in office, from 1829 to 1837.”

According to Prof. Feller, “With the economy, tariffs, the Bank of the United States, Jackson either did not have settled views or if he did, those changed . . .Indian removal was the thing that he came in to the White House knowing that he wanted to do.” Before that time, while an Army General (and put aside the nonsense in the TAC article about Jackson favoring the “militia,” as if he was a non-militarist, he was the first true Militaristic General in U.S. history, as he showed as Military Governor in New Orleans and later in Florida after he created the conditions forcing Spain to give it up to the U.S. He exercised martial law harshly, and relentlessly, and loved the unconstitutional “military commissions” that he used arbitrarily as he did in executing more than the British citizens after a “military trial.” Indians did not even get that much “due process” as they were summarily executed. Any opinions he expressed in favor of “militias” over the national Army has to be seen as they were under his direct command with no “constitutional interference” getting in the way, just like Ernst Rohm preferred the SA militia to the Wehrmacht: less legalism to get in the way.

Taylor, the author of this review, shows how out of touch with TAC’s founding ideas he is with his statement that “Jackson’s ranking by historians as a near-great president . . . betoken a lasting legacy of personal charisma, bravery, and honesty, mixed with respect for the common people. Anyone who is paying attention knows that mainstream American historian’s rank President’s by a standard of who was most imperialistic and militaristic, and by that standard, Jackson will always at or near the top, along with Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Taylor’s invocation of “current progressive pieties” shows how bankrupt his thought is, in my opinion, with this shallow appeal to “conservatives,” who share with pro-war progressives a love of war and American imperialism.

#21 Comment By Conewago On February 8, 2019 @ 8:13 pm

Do you know why we, the common people of America, still love Jackson?

It’s very simple:

HE! FOUGHT! THE! BANK!

And he won!

#22 Comment By Conewago On February 8, 2019 @ 8:14 pm

Good for you, Locksley. May the same rope that should have hanged Calhoun grace the necks of those who wish to remove the face of the great General Jackson from the $20 bill.

#23 Comment By JonF On February 8, 2019 @ 8:49 pm

Chris Mallory, you apparently live in an alternate reality. In this one the Federal fort (and LEGAL PROPERTY of the US government) was fired on by hot headed fools without the least provocation. And yes, the US government may send its ships and troops to any place in the US it pleases. Fort Sumter was there to protect Chaleston from attack by sea. The fort was no threat to the city at all.

#24 Comment By DrivingBy On February 9, 2019 @ 2:35 am

When the GINOs (Generals in name only) of the day refused to fight the Spanish occupation of North America, Old Hickory took his small detachment and booted it clear out of Florida. Considering the kind and gentle nature of the Spanish visits to Dominica, Cuba and Puerto Rico, Jackson did both us and the previous arrivals a great favor.

Who would I rather have as President: A virtue-signaling saboteur who elevates Bergdahl, Manning and the Castro criminal clan, or a fighter who is part wrong, part right but always bringing the team to victory.

The lack of a ? character is intended.

#25 Comment By WorkingClass On February 9, 2019 @ 6:06 am

Jackson, like Washington, fought the central bank. And won. Wilson resurrected the bank giving us the FED, the IRS and world war one. Populist vs. Globalist is not something new.

#26 Comment By Selvar On February 9, 2019 @ 12:08 pm

@Chris Mallory

So, in your world, committing ethnic cleansing and genocide against mostly innocent civilians (including forcing women and children on a death march) is putting “America First”, but fighting a war to end slavery and preserve the territorial integrity of the U.S is illegitimate war mongering?

I would say that if anything, it was Lincoln, Grant, and Sherman that put America First by refusing to cede U.S territory to a bunch of backward, degenerate slavers.

#27 Comment By Fran Macadam On February 9, 2019 @ 2:40 pm

“Removing a hostile alien nation from among the American people was a good thing.”

What a statement. People born here whose ancestors lived here from antiquity can be deported from their own country and called “alien”?

Who made them hostile – when they weren’t. The victims of the Trail of Tears were peaceful farmers who had adopted the way of life favored by the alien invaders and even published their own town newspapers, were mostly Christians and took their case to the United States Supreme Court, where Justice Marshall presided, and ruled neither stealing their property nor removing them was legal. Infamously, the genocidally racist Jackson refused, saying that the Supreme Court could enforce their decision, for he would ignore it, and did. The white folks who had supported the Indians were lynched in the Indians’ vacated houses.

I nominate Chief Seattle or Chief Joseph for the twenty dollar bill, in place of the unreconstructed reprobate and unworthy Jackson.

#28 Comment By Mark Krvavica On February 9, 2019 @ 7:29 pm

Given the atrocious state of the Democratic Party today, Andrew Jackson by himself is The Great American. He put himself on the line for Freedom and won, one day I would love to see someone like him run as a Independent candidate for U.S. President, Amen.

#29 Comment By Arnold On February 9, 2019 @ 9:20 pm

Jon Meacham’s book “American Lion”, is a good read on Andrew Jackson. He certainly has a positive bent but does give enough information to get a good picture of the person. In terms of the Trump comparison, as he portrays Jackson, you see the non-politician becoming president aspect as a similarity.

#30 Comment By Ken T On February 10, 2019 @ 1:10 am

When I read this paean to Jackson’s “popularity” I can only wonder, “Popular with whom?” Ok, I guess he is popular with people who excuse slavery and genocidal treatment of Native
Americans, and I suppose he might be somwhat popular with people whose knowledge of the history of that era begins and ends with the Johnny Horton song about the Battle of New Orleans, but other than that? The popularity of $20 bills is certainly not because of his picture on them, and there have been numerous proposals to replace him with someone more worthy of the honor. So I’d say this entire essay begins with a false premise.

#31 Comment By Contra1789 On February 10, 2019 @ 2:18 am

The Indians were deadly enemies of the United States of the time. Its a sign of our that victory over enemies is something to be a ashamed of. It’s all well and good to feel sorry for them looking back from today, but when you’re fighting against an enemy that doesn’t respect the rules of civilized warfare and has no compunction against slaughtering women, children and elderly without mercy – as Thomas Jefferson recognized in our own Declaration of Independence – you tend to have different priorities.

#32 Comment By redfish On February 10, 2019 @ 8:18 pm

Wayne,

Despite the physical similarity of the shock of blond hair between Jackson and Trump, the similarity ends there. If anything Trump is the antithesis of Jackson. Trump is a close throwback to the Whig Party, whose platform was based on nativism, tariffs, Anti-Masonism (against anti-Catholicism), rule of law, anti-slavery, “Manifest Destiny”, the “American System” of economic growth by “internal improvement” (infrastructure), establishment of public and private schools, modernization of agriculture (and industry). Whigs opposed Andrew Jackson’s “spoils system” (“deep state”), and promoted business as the business of America. Abraham Lincoln was a Whig before the Whigs morphed into the Republican Party.

Well, there are several parallels.

One is that, in that the positions of business and labor on many points of economic policy were reversed.. The most relevant case is that back in that time, tariff policies were seen as pro-business and anti-labor, while today free trade is seen as pro-business and anti-labor. Even Theodore Roosevelt, who became critical of trusts was still seen as pro-business in his support of tariffs, as was McKinley. Another relevant area is Jackson’s fight against banking interests.

In any case, this Trump is taking the Whiggish position on tariffs, while being Jacksonian in the sense of resisting big business interests and supporting labor interests.

Also, its hard to say whether the Whigs would have approved of Trump’s position in the budget shutdowns. They opposed Jackson because they felt that the government should be ruled through the legislative bodies, it wasn’t just extreme “abuses” of executive power. For instance, they despised Jackson’s use of the veto, because their belief was that legislation should only be vetoed if it violated the Constitution, and the National Bank had already been determined Constitutional.

The most obvious interpretation of this to current events is letting Congress have its way on the budget. Of course, there might be arguments against this even from a Whiggish perspective (since this started with a filibuster against a project they already voted for), but its not easy to judge what the Whigs from a historical perspective would have said on the matter.

The closest President that Trump can be compared to IMO is still Theodore Roosevelt, although there are big differences there as well.

In general, I don’t think historically speaking its really easy to make exact comparisons.

#33 Comment By Brian Shapiro On February 10, 2019 @ 8:19 pm

Wayne,

Despite the physical similarity of the shock of blond hair between Jackson and Trump, the similarity ends there. If anything Trump is the antithesis of Jackson. Trump is a close throwback to the Whig Party, whose platform was based on nativism, tariffs, Anti-Masonism (against anti-Catholicism), rule of law, anti-slavery, “Manifest Destiny”, the “American System” of economic growth by “internal improvement” (infrastructure), establishment of public and private schools, modernization of agriculture (and industry). Whigs opposed Andrew Jackson’s “spoils system” (“deep state”), and promoted business as the business of America. Abraham Lincoln was a Whig before the Whigs morphed into the Republican Party.

Well, there are several parallels.

One is that, in that the positions of business and labor on many points of economic policy were reversed.. The most relevant case is that back in that time, tariff policies were seen as pro-business and anti-labor, while today free trade is seen as pro-business and anti-labor. Even Theodore Roosevelt, who became critical of trusts was still seen as pro-business in his support of tariffs, as was McKinley. Another relevant area is Jackson’s fight against banking interests.

In any case, this Trump is taking the Whiggish position on tariffs, while being Jacksonian in the sense of resisting big business interests and supporting labor interests.

Also, its hard to say whether the Whigs would have approved of Trump’s position in the budget shutdowns. They opposed Jackson because they felt that the government should be ruled through the legislative bodies, it wasn’t just extreme “abuses” of executive power. For instance, they despised Jackson’s use of the veto, because their belief was that legislation should only be vetoed if it violated the Constitution, and the National Bank had already been determined Constitutional.

The most obvious interpretation of this to current events is letting Congress have its way on the budget. Of course, there might be arguments against this even from a Whiggish perspective (since this started with a filibuster against a project they already voted for), but its not easy to judge what the Whigs from a historical perspective would have said on the matter.

The closest President that Trump can be compared to IMO is still Theodore Roosevelt, although there are big differences there as well.

In general, I don’t think historically speaking its really easy to make exact comparisons.

#34 Comment By redfish On February 10, 2019 @ 8:19 pm

Wayne,

Despite the physical similarity of the shock of blond hair between Jackson and Trump, the similarity ends there. If anything Trump is the antithesis of Jackson. Trump is a close throwback to the Whig Party, whose platform was based on nativism, tariffs, Anti-Masonism (against anti-Catholicism), rule of law, anti-slavery, “Manifest Destiny”, the “American System” of economic growth by “internal improvement” (infrastructure), establishment of public and private schools, modernization of agriculture (and industry). Whigs opposed Andrew Jackson’s “spoils system” (“deep state”), and promoted business as the business of America. Abraham Lincoln was a Whig before the Whigs morphed into the Republican Party.

Well, there are several parallels.

One is that, in that the positions of business and labor on many points of economic policy were reversed.. The most relevant case is that back in that time, tariff policies were seen as pro-business and anti-labor, while today free trade is seen as pro-business and anti-labor. Even Theodore Roosevelt, who became critical of trusts was still seen as pro-business in his support of tariffs, as was McKinley. Another relevant area is Jackson’s fight against banking interests.

In any case, this Trump is taking the Whiggish position on tariffs, while being Jacksonian in the sense of resisting big business interests and supporting labor interests.

Also, its hard to say whether the Whigs would have approved of Trump’s position in the budget shutdowns. They opposed Jackson because they felt that the government should be ruled through the legislative bodies, it wasn’t just extreme “abuses” of executive power. For instance, they despised Jackson’s use of the veto, because their belief was that legislation should only be vetoed if it violated the Constitution, and the National Bank had already been determined Constitutional.

The most obvious interpretation of this to current events is letting Congress have its way on the budget. Of course, there might be arguments against this even from a Whiggish perspective (since this started with a filibuster against a project they already voted for), but its not easy to judge what the Whigs from a historical perspective would have said on the matter.

The closest President that Trump can be compared to IMO is still Theodore Roosevelt, although there are big differences there as well.

In general, I don’t think historically speaking its really easy to make exact comparisons..

#35 Comment By david On February 11, 2019 @ 6:46 am

We forget that the pirates in Louisiana played a major role in the victory over the British. Without them Jackson probably would have lost but today they are forgotten and he gets the sole credit for the victory. Rewriting history at its very best.

We also forget that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the native Americans. Jackson’s response? They have made their ruling now let them enforce it. Today actions like that would have people talking about impeachment. Also not everyone agreed with the removal. David Crocket who served in congress supported the Fifth Amendment rights of the Cherokees. By 1830 more than 50 years after the ratification of the Constitution taking their rights away was inexcusable. The Trail of Tears was our domestic version of the Bataan Death March. So very noble of us and so very exceptional.

It’s long past time to take his picture off the 20 dollar bill and replace it with Harriet Tubman. Also his statue in front of the White House needs to be removed too. It sends the wrong message.

#36 Comment By mrscracker On February 11, 2019 @ 3:16 pm

david says:

“We forget that the pirates in Louisiana played a major role in the victory over the British. Without them Jackson probably would have lost but today they are forgotten…”

*****************

They’re not forgotten in Louisiana.
🙂

#37 Comment By madmarc On February 11, 2019 @ 3:32 pm

I like the story that he beat a would be assassin to death with his cane. He’s alright in my books. Should be a national law.

#38 Comment By M. Orban On February 11, 2019 @ 6:05 pm

There was a window of opportunity after the war of 1812… for about thirty years or so, to unwind slavery. These presidents – and Jackson is one of them – chose to ignore the problem. Three quarter of a million people paid with their lives to correct the problem.
So in my judgement: bad president.