Jackson, Andrew

Born: 1767-03-15 Waxhaws Region

Died: 1845-06-08 Davidson County, Tennessee

Andrew Jackson was born somewhere in the Waxhaws region straddling the border of North and South Carolina. He studied law in Salisbury, North Carolina, became a lawyer in 1787, and moved to modern-day Tennessee. He married Rachel Robards in 1791 but remarried her three years later because her divorce had not been finalized. Jackson maintained his plantation, The Hermitage, in Tennessee for the remainder of his life and died there.

Jackson's military career began during the Revolutionary War, in which he served as a courier. He became commander of the Tennessee Militia in 1801 and commanded the unit, with other American forces, during the War of 1812. Jackson's two major achievements during the war were his defeat of the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend on March 27, 1814, and his victory over British regulars at the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815. In 1818, Jackson led troops in the First Seminole War, pursuing Creeks and Seminoles into Spanish Florida and creating an international incident that eventually resulted in Spain ceding Florida to the United States, of which Jackson became military governor for most of 1821.

As a result of his illustrious military career, Jackson became one of the most popular and influential politicians of his day. Having already served as a Representative and Senator from Tennessee, he ran for president in 1824 against William H. Crawford, John Quincy Adams, and Henry Clay. Although Jackson won more popular and electoral votes than any of the other three candidates, he failed to win a majority and Congress selected Adams as the next president in what became popularly known as the "corrupt bargain." Jackson ran again and soundly defeated Adams in the election of 1828. In the election of 1832, Jackson would win a second term, handily defeating Clay.

Jackson's presidency was exceptionally controversial and reshaped the American political landscape for decades. When John C. Calhoun, vice-president and a former Jackson ally, threatened that South Carolina would "nullify" the objectionable Tariff of 1828, Jackson reacted firmly and threatened military action. Congress lowered the tariff and South Carolina backed down. The other major crisis of Jackson's presidency was the so-called "Bank War" in which Jackson used his executive power to destroy the Second Bank of the United States, which he viewed as corrupt. Jackson also became noteworthy for his introduction of the "spoils system" in which government positions were awarded based on political loyalty rather than pure competency and became the norm thereafter. The perceived arbitrary nature of Jackson's attack on the bank and his inauguration of the spoils system caused many prominent politicians, particularly Clay, to form an opposition that evolved into the Whig Party. Jackson's supporters defined themselves as the Democratic Party.

Jackson's presidency was also noteworthy for his endorsement of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which forcibly removed Native American tribes in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi to modern-day Kansas and Oklahoma. The ensuing Trail of Tears resulted in the deaths of thousands of Native Americans and the displacement of entire communities.

H. W. Brands, Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times (New York: Doubleday, 2005); Robert V. Remini, Andrew Jackson, 3 vols. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998).