Old Hickory

Here I go talking about another U.S. President. I have already discussed Madison, Arthur, Hoover and Roosevelt, and Reagan. Today the focus of my post is our seventh president, Andrew Jackson.  Jackson can be a rather polarizing figure, although he generally ranks comfortably in the top half of the pantheon of chief executives.  He certainly had a rather twofaced pair of terms as president. Here I will weigh its pros and cons and give it a grade.

There are a handful of negatives, one of which is certainly despicable: his handling of the Supreme Court after the case Worcester vs. Georgia. Instead of respecting the decision of Chief Justice John Marshall and the judicial branch, Jackson forced the Cherokee Nation out of their area, sending them on their Trail of Tears. This was most certainly the low point in Andrew Jackson’s term. A second point of weakness is, oddly enough, the result of a rather strong piece of work on Jackson’s record. It will be more convenient to cover this weakness after his strengths.

The first positive of Jackson’s term was his handling of the Nullification Crisis, when he essentially called a bluff on the part of the state of South Carolina.  This is likely the earliest point in the country’s history where a civil war seemed possible, but Jackson handled it well and prevented a catastrophe, in probably his strongest act as President. His second success was the dismantling of the Second Bank of the United States. Originally a good idea, the bank had become a corrupt entity, and in his adamant decision-making Jackson became the single largest cause of its demise, if not the only one.

However, his actions in this matter were not without fault. Namely, he had no adequate alternative to the bank.  The drastic shift of money to the state banks, and more importantly, the Specie Circular, were unsuccessful replacements and led in part to the economic downturn of 1837. Correct in his convictions, Jackson was faulty in his execution, at least after his main goal had been accomplished.

So what is the overall analysis of his term? It might have the widest gap between highs and lows of any administration in U.S. history (with perhaps the exception of Lyndon Johnson).  However, I believe it stands in the C to C+ range, as a decent term but with its faults. While such a grade is poor for many people, in my analysis of the presidents this places him somewhere around 10-12 in the pantheon.

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