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Ruthless History of Andrew Jackson: Descriptive Essay

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One of the original leaders of democracy, Andrew Jackson, was one of the most influential people of his time. His strong-willed attitude and cruel ambition toward perfecting the American government, in his presidency from 1829 to 1837, created a powerful stance for Jackson and the opinions about him. Jackson was a war veteran from the War of 1812, where he won the Battle of New Orleans, and brought upon the ‘Era of Good Feelings’. Jackson had the best interest of agrarian Southern ideas, where a strong central government was looked down upon. Andrew Jackson was, to say the least, an incredibly controversial topic during the early 1800s in America. Jackson was often described as a ‘jackass’, and Jackson’s angry attitude encouraged his many enemies to hate him viciously. Jackson faced much hate and criticism from many people because of his political actions, his blatant racism, and his ‘monstrous’, vindictive nature. His rivals represent some of the minds of the American people and by understanding Jackson’s relationships, the insight of how American citizens viewed their president reveals itself. The history of President Jackson’s relationships with his enemies and actions toward them accurately represent why he was viewed as ‘monstrous’ and ‘evil’ by parts of the American people from the early 1800’s to now.

John Quincy Adams, son of the second president of the United States (John Adams), was affiliated with Andrew Jackson until the end of the election of 1828. Born in Braintree, Massachusetts, John Quincy Adams represented parts of the northern regions of the United States as a Democratic-Republican. Adams was often described as socially awkward with a lack of charm, but he made up for his stiff personality by his incredible work ethic and ambition. He was also labeled as an abolitionist, where Jackson was an agrarian slave trader. Adams believed that slavery had problematic moral structure and knew that his personal philosophy of humility stated that every human born in America deserved equal rights, unlike Andrew Jackson who trusted that slavery was essential to the upholding of the American government. Jackson’s personal views of black enslaved Americans differed from Adams because Jackson was a bigot, often viewed slaves as nothing more than a piece of property for profit, while they were humans to Adams. After Jackson’s launch of the invasion in Florida, a Spanish-owned residence, in 1816 and 1818, President James Monroe’s cabinet called for Jackson’s resignation because of his inappropriate behavior in dealing with the citizens in Florida. Secretary of State at the time, John Q. Adams defended Jackson’s behavior in the First Seminole War and deemed it to be beneficial to the American people. The sense of mutualism between these two characters ultimately vanishes during the campaigning of the election of 1824, though. Henry Clay, John Q. Adams, Andrew Jackson, and William Crawford competed against one another as Democratic-Republicans in the election of 1824. Andrew Jackson had won the popular vote amongst the people, but there was no majority winner in the electoral college, leaving the House of Representatives to vote on the future president due to the Twelfth Amendment of the Constitution. Out of the three possible candidates (Crawford was booted out, and had a stroke), Henry Clay and Adams had a similar fantasy about the perfect American government. Clay voted for Adams to become president, despite what the Kentucky legislature had appointed him to do, if he could be the Secretary of State in Adams’ cabinet. This agreement was later referred to as the ‘corrupt bargain’. Jackson was content with his loss of the presidency in 1824 and it wasn’t until Clay was appointed Secretary of State that Jackson had become bitterly enraged. Jackson felt ‘cheated’ out of the election of 1824, which fueled the flames of Andrew Jackson’s rage against John Quincy Adams. After Adams' presidency reached its end in 1828, one of the most gruesomely muddy presidential elections in American history had begun. Supporters of Adams slandered Rachel Jackson, Andrew’s wife, because her divorce to her previous husband had not been complete when she had married Jackson. His wife, depicted as America’s ‘#1 whore’, led to Jackson’s original mudslinging into something more murderous. This suspiciously dirty election ended Adams presidency and started the Jacksonian era.

Almost hand in hand with John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay was another dear enemy of Andrew Jackson’s. Henry Clay, known as the ‘Great Compromiser’, was the Speaker of the House, Secretary of State for John Quincy Adams, a lawyer, and the leader of the Whig Party. The two men already had a conflicting past before the aforementioned election of 1824 due to Jackson’s unauthorized attacks in Florida. Henry Clay was the Speaker of the House of Representatives and was frustrated with the ‘tyranny’ of Jackson’s actions. Jackson’s response to Clay’s lack of approval by stating that, “I hope… you will see him [Clay] skinned here [in Washington]”. Noticeably so, we can notice how Jackson becomes quickly vicious at any sight of conflict, which tends to be his political ‘Achilles heel’. After Clay’s participation in the ‘corrupt bargain’ that led to Adams winning the majority vote in the House of Representatives, tensions between Jackson and Clay worsened. The ‘corrupt bargain’ created much angst and hatred for Jackson against Henry Clay, so much so that Jackson ran again for president in 1828 to beat John Quincy Adams, who also took part in the bargain. After Jackson became president in 1828, many changes came that differed from the political philosophies that Clay and Adams favored. For example, Jackson did not authorize the Second Bank of the United States, which helped support the financing of American infrastructure. Clay had a Hamiltonian perspective of the national bank; he imagined the bank to be the primary pillar of the American system. Clay gave Jackson two options: 1) he could put his support behind the Second Bank of the United States and give supporters of the bank a bad reputation, or 2) veto the rechartering of the national bank and depict himself as an autocratic leader. Jackson chose to not renew the charter and by doing so led many American citizens to believe that he was no better than King George the third because of his ‘abuse of power’. Congress then overran the veto, but Jackson withdrew the money from the national bank and put it into ‘pet banks’, which started issuing their own paper money. This meant one thing: inflation. The ‘Bank War’ described led to the Panic of 1837, which lasted for seven years. Another example of Jacksonian reign differentiating from Clay’s views was his perspective on protective tariffs. Considering that Jackson was from the South and understood the ‘hardships’ that southern farmers faced, he was not in favor of John Q. Adams Tariff of 1828, and had to deal with the repercussions of it. This led to the South Carolina Nullification Crisis, which was basically a pamphlet reading: “South Carolina will secede from the United States because these tariffs are unconstitutional”. Jackson was livid about this situation and threatened to bring in the military, but Clay, being the ‘Great Compromiser’, created the Compromise Tariff of 1833, which stated that the Tariff of 1828 would slowly become less expensive over the course of ten years. Jacksonian Democracy was looking more autocratic than ever with the ‘Bank War’, which motivated the Whig Party to be established in 1834. The Whigs, led by Clay, had enough of ‘King Andrew’ and his climb to ultimate power and created their own political party to oppose him. These two men had a very intense hatred toward one another that didn’t end till both of them died.

Andrew had perfected the art of making enemies so much so that his existing vice president couldn’t stand him. John C. Calhoun was Jackson’s first vice president and was very heavily involved with politics throughout his entire life. An extreme advocate for states’ rights, Calhoun was a Democratic-Republican, soon to be Whig, from South Carolina and would do anything to protect his state. Calhoun was a major advocate for slavery, which aligned with President Jackson’s views of the matter. Their personal conflict didn’t begin because of either of these men, though. Flordie Calhoun, John’s wife, had a problem with Peggy Eaton, John Eaton’s wife. Eaton was the Secretary of War for Jackson and his wife was viewed as a ‘whore’, because her previous husband died and she married Eaton soon after his death. Jackson, because of his deceased wife Rachel Jackson had the same type of situation, empathized with the Eaton’s and cast away those who shamed Peggy. Calhoun had also served as President John Q. Adams vice president, whom Jackson had a violent hatred for. Furthermore, Calhoun tried to convince Jackson that states’ rights were more important than national interests. At Thomas Jefferson’s birthday celebration in April 1832, many people were speaking about states’ rights and nullification, where Jackson infamously stated, “Our federal union- it must be preserved!”. After publicly humiliating Calhoun with his approval of nullification, Calhoun was furious. To add, Jackson’s participation in the First Seminole War was privately viewed as illegitimate by Calhoun because he lacked approval from Calhoun, the Secretary of War, which set Jackson off of the edge. Calhoun resigned as vice president and took on the role of being in the Senate, where he vouched for states’ rights and his nullification ideas. As the South Carolina’s Nullification Ordinance to the Tariff of 1832 became known, Jackson threatened to use military force to end it. This led to the Compromise Tariff of 1833, which lowered the rate of the tariff over the course of ten years. As represented from this relationship, Jackson was willing to argue with anyone, no matter their powerful position.

One of Jackson’s most disputed arguments was over the Second Bank of the United States, which led to another fiery foe: Nicholas Biddle. Nicholas Biddle was born in Philadelphia and had a very elaborate education, leading him to be the secretary of James Munroe and a minister in England. After his brief political past, Biddle became the third President of the Second Bank of the United States: a position that contributed to Jackson’s loathing for Biddle. Andrew Jackson believed that the American system was unconstitutional, meaning that government funding shouldn't finance infrastructure. In his eyes, the bank was controlled by the elite, where the public held no power whatsoever. Biddle had the intent of keeping the bank alive, but his goal wouldn’t be reached without a fight. Jackson urged the Treasury department to send the federal deposits into smaller ‘pet banks’. With this, pet banks began to print more money than necessary (inflation), leading to the ‘Panic of 1833-34’. Biddle called for the support of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, who ultimately helped fight for the survival of the bank. The Whigs (Henry Clay), the political party that Biddle took part of, called for the censure of Andrew Jackson for the removal of federal funds, considering the occasion had never happened in American history. In April 1834, Jackson’s House of Representatives felt that since they had not come up with a solution to the bank crisis, it needed to perish. The bank’s charter ended in 1836, withering away from the Second Bank of America. Biddle kept a state charter from Pennsylvania to keep his bank operating, but it too slowly died. Jackson had proved that he could take Biddle’s entire career and end it with his political power, a move that only Andrew Jackson could perfect.

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Andrew Jackson was often called a ‘jackass’ because of his ability to be an asshole. Daniel Webster was another victim of this behavior. Daniel Webster was originally a lawyer, who later served as a New Hampshire (his home state) congressman, Secretary of State, and was one of the main leaders of the Whig party along with Henry Clay. In Congress, Webster heavily opposed the War of 1812, the war that made Andrew Jackson famous. Webster opposing the War of 1812 depicts the differences between him and Jackson’s perception of the war and its triumph. Webster also encouraged protective tariffs, such as the Tariff of 1832 that led to the ‘Nullification Crisis’ in South Carolina, whereas Jackson wanted to stay away from the problem as a whole. Webster also trusted the Second Bank of America, which Jackson had sought to distinguish. Webster couldn't keep the bank alive, though, leaving Jackson the winner of that battle. With the help of Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun, otherwise known as the ‘Great Triumvirate’, the three continued to rebuttal Andrew Jackson as the leaders of the Whig Party. Webster, being a very influential and powerful speaker, gave a speech before a group in 1829 where he slandered the ideas of Jacksonian Democracy. Jackson, obviously, didn’t appreciate the slandering of his politics, so the two remained enemies until they died.

Since Jackson was already horrible to regular white men, one can only imagine how viewed and treated slaves as a whole. Jackson’s obvious Southern racism was refuted by William Lloyd Garrison, a very influential, radical abolitionist in the 1800s. Garrison, originally from Massachusetts, was appointed to a seven-year apprenticeship as a writer and editor of a newspaper. His early writing fueled and inspired what would become his own newspaper. Garrison used his power of influence as an abolitionist through his newspaper ‘The Liberator’. During the end of Jackson’s presidency, the slavery issue was brought into the picture of American politics since the Missouri Compromise of 1820. Jacksonian Democracy, on the issue of slavery, resembled the Southern idea of pro-slavery, which Garrison did not agree with. Jackson was completely against the idea of secession, but Garrison felt that slave states and free states should be completely separate. Garrison fought against Jackson with the Whig party, since it opposed Jackson and his extreme power over American politics. When Andrew Jackson died, Garrison stated in The Liberator that, “[Jackson] has been an awful curse and scourge to the country, and his death, therefore, will be anything but public calamity”. Obviously so, Garrison hated Jackson so much that he blatantly disrespected Jackson in his deathbed, which truly identifies their relationship as rivals.

As noticed, Andrew Jackson was a problematic man with an alarming amount of foes. Another foe of Jackson’s was none other than fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Marshall. Marshall was born in Virginia, fought in the Revolutionary War, represented Henrico County in the Virginia House of Delegates, took part in the Constitutional Convention, and was Secretary of State of John Adams. Marshall played an incredibly large role in the evaluations of judicial review court cases, such as the case of Marbury v. Madison. Marshall was one of the only Federalists of his time, being that the entire party had basically depleted after the election of 1800. Nonetheless, Marshall guided the Supreme Court into being looked upon as an equal factor in the branches of government. Jackson was the last president that Marshall swore into presidency, which almost hinted at peace between the two. There was a case in the Supreme Court that really created resentment between Jackson and Marshall, though. Worcester v. Georgia was a reaction of missionaries who were attempting to refute the action of imposing state laws to the Georgia Cherokee nation, believing that it was unconstitutional. The Court ruled that the states didn’t have the authority to enforce certain laws and restrictions to the Cherokee nation because it was its own nation. John Marshall stated, “The Cherokee nation, then, is a distinct community occupying its own territory in which the laws of Georgia can have no force”. By stating this, Marshall seemingly did the morally correct thing, but there was a slight hitch. Andrew Jackson did not enforce the ruling of the Supreme Court and stated that because John Marshall made the decision in the court, he needed to implement it in the real world. Jackson’s ideas about Native Americans, as seen from his acts in the First Seminole War, were very racist and unhealthy for Native Americans. Marshall had stood up to Jackson’s views of Native American rights in his court ruling, which created resentment toward these two men. A repetitive theme of Jackson’s life is that if anybody stands up against the actions of Jackson, they become an immediate traitor to him.

Jackson is very well known for his participation in the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which led to the Trail of Tears, where Native Americans were abused and forced to move westward so they wouldn’t occupy ‘relevant America’. Besides that, Jackson went further to abuse the Seminole Indians in Florida. The Seminoles, considering that they were their own nation, were not affiliated with a certain political party, but they disliked Jackson. The First Seminole War was started when U.S. troops, led by Jackson, had the intention of taking back slaves that had fled from America. The Seminoles provided refuge for slaves and Andrew Jackson, in favor of slavery, did not like this specific idea, so he decided to retaliate without the approval of the Secretary of War in Monroe’s cabinet. Jackson started the war officially when he led soldiers to the Seminole village of Fowltown and began his massacre. Telling his soldiers to kill the Seminole women and children in order to complete the extermination of the Seminoles, the oncoming war tore apart the Seminole nation. This was not the first time that he had brutalized this group of Native Americans. In the battle of Horseshoe Bend during the War of 1812, Jackson fought the Red Stick Creeks, basically Seminoles that hadn’t moved to Florida yet, and after they won the battle, they made necklaces out of the remains of the Seminoles, cut off their noses to count dead bodies, and sent those noses away to the ‘ladies of Tennessee’ as personal souvenirs of the war. Jackson, during this time, brutally murdered any Seminole person he could lay his hands on, which normalized the dehumanization of Native Americans in the 1800s.

Andrew Jackson was a unique man, who should probably not be looked upon so much by existing modern presidents that his portrait stayed in the Oval Office from 2016-2020. Despite the accomplishments he had during his presidency, he oppressed Native Americans with the Indian Removal Acts of 1830, persecuted slaves and believed that slavery was right, and treated his political peers with unjust anger. Jackson was full of controversy, trauma fueled hatred, and venom. Any person who opposed Jackson became an immediate enemy Jackson treated with violence (physical or mental). By having a thorough understanding of his relationships and his everyday behavior towards humans depicts why he was viewed as one of the most merciless presidents America has ever seen.

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Ruthless History of Andrew Jackson: Descriptive Essay. (2023, January 31). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 3, 2024, from
“Ruthless History of Andrew Jackson: Descriptive Essay.” Edubirdie, 31 Jan. 2023,
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