Quick Thought – Andrew Jackson: A Deplorable President?

In order to keep this blog going, I have put myself on a schedule. Regular postings, which are researched and cited, will be posted on Tuesdays and Saturdays. What I will call “Quick Thoughts”, however, are not cited and have no regular schedule. I could post anywhere from none to five in a week. These will be no more than three paragraphs and to find the truth in them you’ll have to “trust, but verify”. Through a regular and irregular schedule I embrace both order and chaos in my writing. Quick Thoughts will consist of relatively brief writings that relate to American history, and I present the first one right now!

Andrew Jackson: A Deplorable President?

No other president in recent history has had their record reevaluated more than Andrew Jackson.  Only fifty years ago, he would have easily made most if not all American historian top ten lists for presidents. Presently, some who are social justice minded relegate him to the bottom for the Trail of Tears alone. However, a president ought not be judged solely by one action, even though the Indian Removal Act was a major part of his agenda. I find examining this issue to be important because our current president looks favorably upon Jackson, and there are several reasons why. First, he was a populist in his time. Jackson represented the hopes and aspirations of newly enfranchised poor whites, and they lay westward. Trump likewise represents poor whites, with their hopes and aspirations being getting their jobs back. Second, Jackson fought an entrenched power. In his case, this entrenched power, this dragon he slew, was the Second Bank of the United States. As far as Jackson was concerned, the Bank was corrupt and served the interests of the rich and the rich alone. For Trump, the “deep state” serves the interests of a bloated federal government and its stakeholders, not the people.  Third, Jackson exercised strong leadership in getting his agenda through and facing challenges, and Trump likes to view himself as a man of action.

There are good reasons to reevaluate Jackson, and the Trail of Tears isn’t the only one. His administration also expanded the spoils system to the detriment of the quality and integrity of public service, his veto of the Second Bank of the United States combined with the 1836 Specie Circular executive order, which required payment for government land to be in gold and silver, contributed to the Panic of 1837. The economy afterwards suffered a massive recession that lasted until 1843, for which his successor Martin Van Buren would shoulder the burden of the public blame. However, there is one factor that must absolutely be accounted for in evaluating his legacy: his handling of the Nullification Crisis. South Carolina nullified the Tariffs of 1828 and 1832, and threatened to secede if the federal government tried to enforce it. Jackson sent the Navy to enforce the tariffs while simultaneously getting a tariff law passed more satisfactory to South Carolina. He also in no uncertain terms made clear that secession was illegal and that he would be willing to use the full force of the government in response. The manner in which this conflict was resolved delayed the Civil War for almost thirty years, and gave the North time to industrialize so they would be able to prevail in the conflict.

Was Jackson a “deplorable” president? If we are to define a nationalistic agenda tailored to working class and poor whites as “deplorable”, then yes he was! Our first “deplorable” president, if you wish to think of him as that, didn’t destroy the country…he saved it and enabled its growth through his promotion of Manifest Destiny but with numerous costs, short and long run.

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