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One of America’s most important and most controversial presidents, Andrew Jackson is also one of our least understood. Perhaps the biggest controversy Andrew faced was when he signed the Indian Removal Act. This forced five Native American Indian tribes to be moved so that America could use the land. At the time, his actions in the office may be questionable to some, but no one can deny how beneficial he was for our country at that time. Despite him being born into poverty and not receiving quality education did not hinder Andrew Jackson from changing the country. Not only was Andrew Jackson elected to be the 7th president of the United States of America (almost winning 70% of the votes cast in the electoral college), but was also a military hero, and wealthy Tennessee lawyer. These reasons and more are what made Andrew Jackson far different than any other president that America has ever had. Not only was Andrew Jackson the most outrageous, but most important as well. Important because Andrew Jackson completely changed how this country works, and outrageous by the way he fought duels, his personal life, and beliefs. Andrew Jackson was born on March 15th, 1767 in Waxhaws, South Carolina, but people speculate that he was born in Virginia. “But Jackson himself maintained he was from South Carolina.” (History.com)
The son of Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson and Andrew Jackson, two Irish immigrants. Jackson’s family did not have a lot of money and this meant Jackson could not receive formal schooling. Not only was he born into poverty, but also never knew his father, who died the same year Jackson was born. Jackson’s oldest brother, Hugh Jackson also died. Hugh fought in the Battle of Stono Ferry against the British. However, Hugh did not die from a battle related incident, but rather heat exhaustion. Things only got worse when the British invaded the Carolinas in 1780-1781. “Jackson’s mother encouraged him and his brother to serve and support the local military.” (legendsofamerica.com) Jackson and his brother ended up joining the local military and this is where Andrew Jackson began his long and successful military career. At the Battle of Hanging Rock on August 6th, 1781 Andrew and Robert were captured by the British and kept as prisoners of war at the Crawford family home. While at the Crawford home a British officer ordered Andrew Jackson to clean his boots. After Andrew refused the British officer slashed his left hand and head with a saber, leaving him with scars on his left hand and head. During their time as prisoners of war, both contracted smallpox and barely survived. This is because the British would barely feed them enough to live off. Later that year their mother secured the brothers’ release. As they began to walk back to their home, Robert’s conditions got much worse and within two days of arriving home he died, and Andrew was in mortal danger. After Andrew’s mother nursed him back to health, she begins to volunteer on board two British ships in the Charleston harbor.
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On board, these ships there was an outbreak of cholera and in November, the died from the disease and buried in an unmarked grave. This left Andrew as an orphan at only the age of 14. Andrew blamed the British personally for the loss of his brothers and mother. This was the motivation that propelled him to succeed in his life. He drew from his hatred for the British. Being alone at such a young age, this caused Andrew to enter the adult world at such a young age. Jackson received an education in a local Waxhaw school. In 1781 he worked as a saddle-maker and eventually taught school. He found both professions bland and in 1884 left Waxhaws region for Salisbury, North Carolina. Here Jackson would study law under attorney Spruce Macay. With help from other lawyers, Jackson was able to learn enough to qualify for the bar. Jackson was admitted to the North Carolina bar in September 1787. Shortly after he would get appointed to a vacant prosecutor position in the Western District of North Carolina (which would later become the state known as Tennessee). During his travel, west, Jackson bought his first slave and fought his first duel in 1788. In addition to his legal and political career, Jackson was also prospered as a slave owner, planer, and merchant. Jackson also fought for our country. He served as a major general in the War of 1812. Jackson commanded U.S. forces in a five-month campaign against the Creek Indians.
After that Jackson led American forces to Victory the British in the Battle of New Orleans. “Once news of the Victory reached Washington, Jackson was elevated to the status of a national war hero.” (Mecham 239) These reasons are why Andrew Jackson had such a successful political career and achieved many milestones for the American Nation. In the late spring of 1822, Andrew Jackson suffered a physical breakdown. This is due to his body having two bullets lodged in it, and his body was exhausted from the years of military campaigning. It was normal for him to cough up blood and his whole body would shake. After months of rest, he recovered. During this brink of death, his thoughts turned not onto himself, but to national affairs. His thoughts obsessed over the corruption in the Monroe administration and he grew to detest the Second Bank of the United States. Jackson blamed it for causing the Panic of 1819. To quote Andrew Jackson, “I have always been afraid of the banks.” Because of this “The Bank War” started. This name was given to the campaign President Andrew Jackson started in 1833 to destroy the Second Bank of the United States. In 1832, Jackson had vetoed a bill calling for an early renewal of the Second Bank’s charter (supposed to expire in 1811). Even after this renewal was still possible even after it expired.
To prevent that from happening, Jackson set out to reduce the bank’s economic power. On October 1, 1833, Jackson announced that federal funds would no longer be deposited in the Bank of the United States. Instead, he began placing federal funds in different state banks. Nicholas Biddle (the president of the Bank), to anticipate Jackson’s next move, began a countermove in August 1833. He started presenting state bank notes for redemption, calling in loans, and general contracting credit. The president of the Bank, Nicholas Biddle tried to counter Jackson’s actions by the thought that a financial crisis would dramatize the need for a central bank, ensuring support for charter renewal in 1836. Biddle’s attempt appears to have less effect than he predicted. “This led to the Bank War becoming a matter of intense debate in Congress, in the press, and among the public.” (ushistory.org) A large number of businessmen made their way to Washington to complain about business conditions and wanting to end the bank war. Biddle attempt to show how important the central bank was only ended up exposing that it could disrupt the economy and show the true dangers of the central bank. Due to this, the federal deposits were not returned to the Second Bank and its charter ended up expiring in 1836.
President Jackson had won the Bank War. Not all the things Andrew Jackson did for this country are looked at as a benefit. One important thing that Andrew Jackson did that was not so good was to sign the Indian removal act. At the beginning of the 1830s, there were about 125,000 Native Americans living on millions of acres of land in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and Florida. Their ancestors had occupied and cultivated this land for generations. But by the end of the decade, not many natives remained anywhere in the southeastern United States. “White Americans, particularly those who lived on the western frontier, often feared and resented the Native Americans they encountered: To them, American Indians seemed to be an unfamiliar alien people who occupied land that white settlers wanted and believed they deserved.” (Ehle 53) In the early years, the American republic believed the best way to solve the “Indian problem” was to try and civilize them. The reason Americans wanted the land they lived on was due to it being valuable due to it being prime spots for settlers to make their fortunes by growing cotton. State governments joined in this effort to attempt to drive out the Native Americans.
As an Army general, Jackson has spent years leading brutal raids against the Creeks in Georgia and Alabama, as well as the Seminoles in Florida. As president, he continued this crusade. In 1830, he signed the Indian Removal Act. This gave the federal government the power to turn the Native held land into the cotton paradise east of the Mississippi. This new law required the government to negotiate removal treaties fairly, voluntarily and most importantly peacefully. It did not permit the president or anyone else to force the Native nations into giving up their land. President Jackson and his government frequently ignored this law. Jackson forced Native Americans to vacate their lands that they have lived on for generations. In 1831, the Choctaw became the first nation to be kicked off their land and forced to make the journey to their new “Indian territory” (located in present-day Oklahoma) on foot and some even bound in chains.
The Choctaw made this walk without food, supplies, or any help from the government. Thousands died along the journey. The Indian Removal process continued until 1840. By then tens of thousands of Native Americans had been forcefully removed from their land in the southeastern states and forced to move across the Mississippi to Indian territory. The Federal Government promised that their new land would stay Indian country. In 1907, Oklahoma became a state and the land was gone for good. Andrew Jackson’s impact upon the United States of America was so immensely important. Yes, Jackson was the 7th president and very controversial (which is maybe why he was the target for the first presidential assassination) but he also did so much for this country. Jackson was the main founder of the modern Democratic party. Jackson is the reason why you, me, and generations to come get to choose to be a Republican or a Democrat. Jackson also solved the nullification crisis by creating the Compromise Tariff of 1833 which ended the crisis. As much as it was a tragedy because Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, we have the states and land we have today. In my opinion, Andrew Jackson will always be one of Americas most impactful and controversial president that we will ever have. If the United States never elected him, America might have been a completely different place.
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