The Andrew Jackson Presidential Dollar honors the seventh President of the United States, who served from 1829 to 1837. In Part One of this article, we learned about Jackson's early life and pre-presidential career, and how he lost the love of his life on the eve of his greatest triumph. In Part Two, we'll examine Andrew Jackson's presidency, one of the greatest of them all.
Andrew Jackson's Presidential Years
Andrew Jackson's presidency was very controversial in its day. Jackson took on some divisive issues with courage and determination, doing what he thought was best for the popular good. He had been elected on a platform of frontier democracy, the idea that happiness and success was there for taking; all a man had to do was work hard and seek his fortune. Jackson's handlers portrayed him as "Everyman," the self-made son of poor immigrants who had risen through hard work and persistence. At Jackson's inaugural party, he threw open the doors of the White House and let the common people in. The result was a drunken, destructive mob that very nearly got completely out of hand, but the common people loved Jackson for making this gesture.
During Jackson's presidency, he dealt with several major issues which are summarized below.
The Second Bank of the United States - President Jackson was vehemently opposed to the Second Bank, whose federal charter was due to expire in 1836. Jackson felt that the Bank didn't serve the needs of the average American, that its policies and practices favored the rich and elite. He didn't think it was good for the nation to have all of its monetary assets concentrated in one institution, plus Jackson discovered that the Bank engaged in fraudulent practices. The Bank's president, Nicholas Biddle, challenged President Jackson head-on, applying for an early renewal of the Bank's charter in 1832. Although the charter renewal bill passed in congress, Jackson vetoed it. He withdrew the government's funds in 1833 and distributed them widely among other banks. The Second Bank's charter expired in 1836, but by then the Bank was well on its way to bankruptcy.
The Specie Circular - Once the Second Bank's hegemony was broken, local and state banks sprang up everywhere, issuing paper currency that had no precious metal backing. The resulting inflation forced President Jackson to issue the Specie Circular in 1836, which was a demand that all sales of government land be paid for in specie (gold and silver coins.) Demand for specie quickly increased, but banks which had issued banknotes without gold and silver backing didn't have the funds to make good on their notes, and therefore collapsed. The large number of failing banks was a primary cause of the Panic of 1837, a deep economic depression that lasted for years.
The Indian Removal Act - Andrew Jackson had a long history of cruel suppression of the Native American tribes he encountered during his military campaigns. Although he legally adopted and raised a young Creek boy who was orphaned, Jackson was a heartless advocate of the "Indian Removal" practices which were formalized into law by the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Indian Removal was the practice of forcing Native American nations to sell their land to the government in exchange for lands farther west. The military then "escorted" the nations to their new home by force. The Cherokee Trail of Tears is the best-known of these horrendous actions.
The Nullification Crisis - South Carolina was opposed to certain high tariffs being imposed on European imports. It passed legislation that nullified the federal tariffs, in effect attempting to assert that a state had the right to overturn federal laws it disapproved of. President Jackson fought back, asserting that as a Union, no state had the right to overturn federal laws or to secede from the Union, and that the Union had the right to use force to ensure a state's compliance. Fortunately, a compromise was reached, averting military intervention.
Andrew Jackson's Political Legacy
One of the side effects of Jackson's three presidential campaigns was the formation of the Democratic Party. Although presidential campaigns were conducted very differently in Jackson's day, (for instance, the candidate never made any campaign appearances,) the party Jackson represented was the working man's party. Jackson's detractors called him a "jackass" during the 1828 presidential campaign, an appellation that the contrarian Jackson warmed to. He even adopted the jackass as a campaign symbol, and it eventually became the Democratic Party's central icon.
Following his second term in office, Jackson returned to the Hermitage. He kept up an active correspondence and remained influential in politics, keeping abreast of events by subscribing to more than 20 newspapers! Jackson was a major player in establishing congressional support for the annexation of Texas, and advised 11th president James Polk during his successful bid for the White House.
President Jackson - A Remarkable Life
Few would argue that President Andrew Jackson led a remarkable life. He overcame the adversity of being born poor to a newly-widowed mother, only to become an orphan himself at 14. Jackson faced near bankruptcy twice during his life, and lost his beloved wife, Rachel, on the eve of his greatest moment. He fought more than a dozen duels because his hot temper got the best of him, and he carried an assortment of bullets and slugs in his body throughout his life from these encounters. Jackson was often in pain from these wounds, sometimes coughing up blood and suffering vicious headaches and abdominal distress. Through all these challenges, Andrew Jackson gritted his teeth and fought onward and upward, becoming one of America's most influential presidents.
Today, President Andrew Jackson is best-known to the average American because his portrait appears on the $20 bill. Jackson would find this ironic, since he detested paper money, especially that which had no precious metal backing it up (like ours.) I wonder if Jackson would have approved of his Presidential Dollar.