Knowing the Presidents: Andrew Jackson

Seventh President, 1829-1837

Jackson was born in the Waxhaws region of the Carolinas, in 1767. His parents were Scots-Irish immigrants.

In 1802 Jackson became major general of the Tennessee militia and led troops in the War of 1812.

He led his soldiers to victory against the British in the Battle of New Orleans in January of 1815, despite being outnumbered nearly two-to-one.


Jackson was lost his campaign for presidency in 1824 to John Quincy Adams. The election came down to the vote of speaker of the House, Henry Clay, who supported John Quincy Adams in the “Corrupt Bargain.”

During the 1828 election, Jackson was nicknamed “jackass” by his opponents. He liked the name so much that he used a symbol of a donkey in his campaign for a short time. The donkey would later become a symbol of the new Democratic Party.

Jackson was elected. The American public voted for him because he stood for the “common man.” He gave the vote to all white male citizens, instead of only to white landowners.


Jackson had many opponents in Congress. Due to their strength, Jackson exercised his veto power more than all his predecessors combined.

In 1836 the United States had a budget surplus of approximately 20 million dollars. Jackson signed a bill distributing the money among the states. In an election year, this was considered good politics.

Jackson used a “principle of rotation” to remove government officials whom he saw as corrupt or generally unqualified.

One of Jackson’s goals was to stabilize government finances. He managed to pay off the national debt by 1835. This would be the only time in U.S. history that the federal government was debt free.

Major Acts

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 led to the forced displacement of Native Americans from their tribal lands. Members of the Cherokee Nation were rounded up and forced westward by military force.

The Compromise of 1833 brought an end to conflict over tariffs until it arose again in the 1840s.

Jackson issued the Specie Circular in July 1836, requiring payment in gold or silver for public lands. The banks could not meet the demand and began to fail, leading to the Panic of 1837 during Martin Van Buren’s presidency.


Andrew Jackson was both a military hero and an authoritative leader.

Cartoonists satirized Jackson’s political agenda, including his promise to cleanse the government of corruption, his fight to kill the National Bank, his Indian Removal Bill, his “Kitchen Cabinet” of advisors, and the grooming of his successor, Martin Van Buren.

Source: Knowing the Presidents: Andrew Jackson
Copyright Smithsonian Institute

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