Critical Analysis of Andrew Jackson’s Presidency

Andrew Jackson and his supporters have been criticized for upholding the principles of majority rule and the supremacy of the federal government inconsistently and unfairly. The validity of this statement varies in the cases of the recharter of the Bank, the nullification controversy, and the removal of the Native Americans.

In the case of the recharter of the bank, the statement is not valid. He did uphold the principles of the majority rule and not of the supremacy of the government. The bank and its branches received federal funding and they were to be used for public purpose by serving as a cushion for the ups and downs of the economy. Biddle, head of the bank, managed it effectively. But his arrogance led many, including Jackson, to believe that Biddle was abusing his power and was serving the interests of the wealthy. As a result, Jackson declared the bank to be unconstitutional even though it was previously said to be constitutional. In the election of 1832, Clay wanted to challenge Jackson on the issue by trying to persuade Congress to pass a bank recharter-bill. Jackson vetoed it, saying that it was a private monopoly and that it favored the wealthy, and in turn led to the backfire of Clay’s plan. The majority of the voters agreed on his attack on the “hydra of corruption.” And as a result of this issue, Jackson got the majority of the votes and won the election. In his second term Jackson killed the national bank by vetoing its recharter and by removing all of its money. In his veto message Jackson said “But when the laws undertake to add to these natural and just advantages artificial distinctions, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society … who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustices of their government (C)”. He then took the money and put it into so called “pet banks” that were located throughout various state banks. He did this because he did not uphold to the ideas of the federal supremacy.

Jackson is usually for state’s rights, but not if it leads towards disunion. That is exactly what happened in the issue of nullification. Around 1828 the legislation of South Carolina declared that the Tariff of Abominations, which was and increased tariff, was unconstitutional. According to Calhoun, Jackson’s vice-president, and his nullification theory, each state had the right to decide whether or not to obey it or to declare it void (or null). Daniel Webster, of Mass., debated against Hayne and attacked the idea that any state could leave the Union. Jackson believed that the Union should be preserved. South Carolina held a convention to nullify both the tariff of 1828 and the newly formed tariff of 1832 (which decreased the tax). The convention determined that the collection of tariffs within a state is against the constitution. Jackson didn’t like this, so he forced military action by persuading the Congress the pass a so-called Force bill to give him authority to use military action in South Carolina. But the troops did not go. Jackson decided to open up for compromise and to lower the tariff. Jackson did not uphold to the principle of majority to rule in this case because it only dealt with one state, but he did for the supremacy of the federal government.

In the case of the removal of the Native Americans, the statement is valid. Jackson’s view on democracy did not extend to the Native Americans. Like the majority he did sympathize with the land-hungry citizens who desperately wanted to take over lands held by the Indians. Jackson thought that the reasonable answer was to require the Native Americans to leave their homeland and head towards west of the Mississippi. He signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, which forced a resettlement of many thousand Native Americans. In 1831 the Cherokees challenged Georgia in the courts, but the Supreme Court ruled in this case (Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia) that the Cherokee’s were not a foreign nation and couldn’t sue in a federal court. In a second case, Worcester vs. Georgia (1832), the Supreme Court ruled that the laws of Georgia had no force within the boundaries of the Cherokee territory. In a dispute between state’s rights and federal courts, Jackson sided with the states. He said, “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.” In a statement by Edward Everett, he said, “ The Indians, as was natural, looked to the United States for protection. … They came first to the President, deeming, and rightly, that it was his duty to afford them this protection. They knew… he had but one constitutional duty to perform toward the treaties and laws – the duty of executing them. He informed them that he had no power, in his view of the rights of the States; prevent their extending their laws over the Indians. (D) ” This shows that he upheld the principle of the federal supremacy because he abided.

Many presidents that have served in the U. S. have had criticisms against them because of the actions they have performed, Jackson being one of them. The validity of the criticism against Jackson varies with the issues regarding the recharter of the bank, the nullification crisis and the removal of the Native Americans. His presidency changed the way that we look at presidents today.




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