Jackson, Andrew

Jackson, Andrew
   An American nationalist and military leader, Andrew Jackson was the seventh president of the United States (1829–1837). Jackson was the last president to have fought in the American Revolution - he was captured by the British at age 13 - and the first to be a product of the frontier. He was born in western South Carolina, but in 1787 moved west of the Appalachian Mountains, becoming a prosperous attorney and political leader. When Tennessee was admitted to the Union in 1796, Jackson became the state’s first congressional representative; he became a senator the next year. By 1801, he was a judge of the state’s supreme court and the leader of the state’s militia. At the outbreak of the War of 1812, Jackson was appointed a general in the U.S. Army, and given command in the southwest, in present-day Alabama and Mississippi. In this role, he led the war against the Creek Indians in 1813. After winning a decisive victory over the hostile Creeks, he imposed a harsh treaty on both the hostile Creeks and the “friendly” Creeks who actually worked with him during the campaign. In 1815, as commander of the American garrison at New Orleans, he won a smashing victory over a British invasion force made up of veterans from the Napoleonic Wars. This victory made Jackson a national hero.
   Two years later, he again commanded a military expedition, this time against the Seminole Indians who had been attacking settlers in southern Alabama and Georgia. In the process of fighting the Seminoles, he also invaded Florida, then a Spanish possession, occupied Pensacola, and executed two English nationals he accused of helping the Indians. The extent to which his actions exceeded his orders from President Monroe is unclear, but he was certainly supported by the president after the fact. Spain was coerced into ceding Florida to the United States. As military leader and governor of Florida, Jackson continued to impose harsh treaties on the Indians in the region, coercing agreements turning over as much as three quarters of what is now Alabama and Florida, as well as parts of neighboring states. Jackson ran unsuccessfully for president in 1824. He accused the winner, John Quincy Adams, of stealing the election through a “corrupt bargain” with a third candidate, Henry Clay, whom Adams appointed secretary of state. In 1828, Jackson overwhelmingly defeated Adams to become president. His presidency saw much the same spirit of confrontation, bullying, authoritarianism, and occasional extralegality as his years as a military commander. During the course of his eight years, he repeatedly ignored congressional legislation and Supreme Court rulings. He threatened to invade South Carolina to enforce an unpopular tariff law. One of the most enduring legacies of his presidency was his policy toward the Indians. Put simply, he did everything in his power to expel them west of the Mississippi. By the late 1820s, the major tribes in the south, the Chickasaw, Creek, Choctaw, Seminole, and, especially, the Cherokee, had largely assimilated the ways of the white Europeans. They controlled distinct territories stretching from the southern Appalachians into what is now Mississippi. They had established farms, towns, organized governments with written constitutions, and, in the case of the Cherokee, a written language. Nevertheless, the whites wanted their land. In 1830, the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which authorized Jackson to negotiate land-exchange treaties with tribes living within the boundaries of existing U.S. states. Later that year, the State of Georgia attempted to enforce its laws in Cherokee territory. The Cherokee fought back in court, eventually winning a U.S. Supreme Court determination that Georgia had no jurisdiction. Jackson and the Georgians ignored the decision and continued to pressure the Indians to leave. By 1836, a small faction of Cherokees, selected by the U.S. government, had signed a treaty ceding the eastern land for land in what is now Oklahoma. In 1838, Jackson’s successor, Martin Van Buren, ordered the army to begin an involuntary removal. Anywhere from 2,000 to 8,000 people died among the approximately 17,000 Cherokees - along with their approximately 2,000 black slaves - during the forced march, known as the “Trail of Tears.” Each of the other civilized tribes were forced into similar exoduses, starting with the Choctaw in 1831. The Seminoles resisted fiercely, fighting against the army from 1835 to 1837, when Osceola was tricked into being captured while negotiating a truce. Most of the Seminoles accepted exile, but some withdrew into the Everglades, where they continued to resist until the 1840s. Approximately 17,000 Creeks in 1835, and the Chickasaw in 1837, were also expelled. Each of the tribes suffered their own “Trail of Tears” during the relocations.
   Jackson’s attitude toward the Indians was paternalistic and patronizing. He probably genuinely believed they were “children” in need of guidance and believed the removal policy was actually beneficial to the Indians. In the 1820s and 1830s, most Americans assumed the nation would never expand much beyond the Mississippi River, so removal to “Indian Territory” would save the Indians from the depredations of whites, allowing them to govern themselves in peace.
   See also <>; <>; <>.
    Heidler, David S., and Jeanne T. Heidler. Old Hickory ’ s War: Andrew Jackson and the Quest for Empire. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2003;
    Remini, Robert V. Andrew Jackson. 3 vols. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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