Andrew Jackson was a soldier, U.S. Senator, and President of the United States. Jackson was born in the Waxhaw area of Lancaster County on March 15, 1767, he was the son of Andrew Jackson and Elizabeth Hutchinson. He is the only South Carolinian to serve as president of the United States. Fatherless at birth, Jackson was raised by his mother in the home of relatives and attended schools in the Waxhaw area. He lost his mother and older brothers during the Revolution due to illnesses.
Jackson served during the American Revolution and was captured by the British in April 1781. While being held prisoner, an officer demanded that young Jackson clean his boots. Jackson refused and was punished with a sword slash which left scars on his head and hand.
In 1784 Jackson moved to Salisbury, North Carolina where he studied law, after passing the bar in 1787, Jackson moved west into what would become Tennessee. Remaining in Nashville, Jackson rapidly built up a reputation as an excellent prosecutor and attorney. It was in Nashville where Jackson met and married Rachel Donelson Robards on January 18, 1794, his marriage to Rachel would bring Jackson many headaches years later.
His wife’s prominent family and his own political associations energized Jackson’s rise in politics. He served at Tennessee’s constitutional convention in 1796 and as the state’s first U.S. Representative. He served one year in the U.S. Senate before winning election to the Tennessee Superior Court. In 1802 he won a bitter election for the prominent position of major general in the militia.
During the War of 1812, Jackson defeated the Creek Indians at Horseshoe Bend in 1814, which led to a commission as major general in the U.S. Army. Ordered to New Orleans, he gathered a mixed force of irregulars to block a British attempt to seize the city. His stunning victory over British regulars made him a national symbol. His popularity increased when he invaded Spanish Florida in 1818 and hanged two British subjects accused of agitating Indians along the Alabama-Georgia border.
His tremendous popularity made Jackson a presidential contender. Following a short term as territorial governor of Florida, he returned to Tennessee. Nominated for president in 1822 with little initial support, Jackson reluctantly accepted his election by the Tennessee legislature to the U.S. Senate in 1823. Once in Washington, Jackson spoke out against the rampant corruption and intrigue he found there. In the 1824 presidential election, he received the most popular votes, but failed to gather an Electoral College majority. The U.S. House of Representatives, with the support of Speaker Henry Clay, awarded the presidency to John Quincy Adams, who subsequently appointed Clay as Secretary of State. Jackson fumed at this “corrupt bargain” and considered it a deliberate repudiation of the will of the people.
After Jackson resigned his Senate seat and returned to Tennessee in 1825, an early and tense alliance was made with Calhoun, and Jackson agreed to finance a newspaper run by a Calhoun supporter, Duff Green. Soon, New York’s Martin Van Buren and other prominent politicians added their organizational support to Jackson’s candidacy for President, forming the basis of the modern Democratic Party.
A vicious campaign ensued in 1828 fueled by rumors regarding his marriage to Rachel, there were troubled circumstances over Rachel’s past divorce, with accusations of adultery, but Jackson with Calhoun as his vice presidential candidate swept to an overwhelming victory. Jackson advocated limited government, payment of the national debt, removal of the Indians beyond the Mississippi, and rotation of public officials; he opposed the monopolistic power of the Second Bank of the United States.
The Jackson administration had a troubled start when Peggy O’Neal Eaton, the wife of his secretary of war, was ostracized by Washington society under the lead of Calhoun’s wife, Floride. As, Calhoun’s “Exposition and Protest” against the Tariffs of 1824 and 1828 was announced, advocating the right of nullification. Even though a supporter of states’ rights, Jackson was a passionate nationalist and viewed nullification as the first step towards disunion and a repudiation of majority rule.
Jackson soon discovered that Calhoun, as secretary of war, had advocated Jackson’s arrest and punishment over his invasion of Florida, furthering the split between the two men. Many saw the intrigue of Van Buren behind the schism as a bid to supplant Calhoun as Jackson’s successor. The final break occurred when Jackson arranged for a new newspaper to advocate the administration’s policies. An attempted reconciliation imploded when Calhoun published his correspondence over the Florida affair. Jackson subsequently purged his cabinet, an action never previously taken. Van Buren assumed Calhoun’s spot on the 1832 ticket, cementing his role as Jackson’s successor.
Jackson’s popularity among the masses, his strong personality and leadership, and his underappreciated political skills redefined and strengthened the presidency during his two terms. His stand against nullification forced southerners to seek other, more drastic means of redress when slavery became the main sectional issue. Jackson’s political opponents coalesced into the Whig Party and firmly established the two-party political system. His command of the Democratic Party led to Van Buren’s election as president in 1836. Leaving office in 1837, Jackson retired to his home, the Hermitage, outside of Nashville. He died on June 8, 1845, and was buried in his garden.