Andrew Jackson was elected in 1829 to serve at the 7th President of the United States. He gained fame before the presidency from his work as a general in the U.S. Army. Jackson also served in both houses of Congress before he was eventually elected President. His two goals while in office were to support the rights of the “common” man while fighting against a “corrupt” oligarchy.
Jackson believed that his actions would help to preserve the Union that had formed up until that point.
He was born to a Scotch-Irish family in the colonial Carolinas. He also served as a justice on the Tennessee Supreme Court, then purchased a plantation and became a slave owner. His work during the Battle of 1812, the Creek War, and the formation of the Treaty of Fort Jackson are often touted as some of his greatest accomplishments.
These are the pros and cons of Andrew Jackson as President that are worth examining in closer detail.
List of the Pros of the Andrew Jackson Administration
1. Andrew Jackson helped to expand the powers of the Presidency.
In May 1830, Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act into law. This legislation expanded the powers of the Presidency to speed the removal of Indian communities in the eastern United States and territories that were west of the Mississippi River. He also issued the Nullification Proclamation, which affirmed his belief that municipalities and states were not allowed to nullify federal laws. If Jackson didn’t like a law or court ruling, he simply found a different way to get the job done.
2. His work during nullification prevented war from breaking out.
In 1832, the Nullification Proclamation was formally issued. He immediately threatened to enforce the proclamation with military arms if required. Compromises in Congress helped to diffuse the situation eventually, but his administration firmly believed that the U.S. government was the supreme power in the land. Jackson promised that he would do anything it took to enforce that supremacy. Although nullification is often seen as an issue related to slavery, it was first brought up in 1828 because of tariffs placed on foreign manufactured goods.
3. He was the first self-made wealthy individual to serve in office.
Andrew Jackson was born into poverty in 1767. He worked hard for everything he had. He fought in the Revolutionary War at the age of 13, served as a major general in the U.S. militias, and studied law and politics to carve out a lucrative career for himself in Tennessee. During this era of U.S. politics, you either had to come from money, have a family name, or be wealthy on your own merit to achieve any type of success. Jackson is often recognized as the first man to achieve the latter option.
4. Jackson helped to eliminate the Bank of the United States.
The Second Bank of the United States was authorized on a 20-year charter in 1816. Although Jackson is often credited with eliminating the bank, the charter actually expired, and his administration didn’t renew another one. What his administration did do was weaken the influence that the bank had on the economy. Jackson rejected the findings of Congress that the bank was legal, deciding instead to veto the re-charter bill and then issued an executive order to divert funds into his own select private banks. The Second Bank of the U.S. was liquidated in 1841 after going private after its charter expired.
5. He expanded voting rights in the United States.
Before the Jackson Administration, the right to vote was extremely limited. Even if you were a white man, there was a property qualification written into the law. If you didn’t own property (some states required a specific type of property), then you could not vote. The fight for the “common” man to vote became the foundation of what would become known as Jacksonian Democracy. It would become a coalition of laborers, farmers, and Irish Catholics that would eventually call themselves the Democratic Party.
6. Jackson supported the independence of Texas.
On March 2, 1836, Texas declared that it was formally independent of Mexico. The document focused on the rights of Texans to pursue life and liberty, while also emphasizing property rights within the document. Jackson helped to support that movement, then helped to provide resources when war broke out in the new nation in the years afterward. In 1837, he officially recognized their independence, but didn’t address the idea of annexation since Mexico was threatening the U.S. government over such an action.
7. The Jackson Administration terminated the national debt.
If there was one thing that Andrew Jackson hated more than anything else, it was debt. By January 1835, his administration gathered everyone in Washington to celebrate a momentous occasion. The United States had completely paid off its debt. It was the only time in U.S. history where the country was debt-free, and it lasted for exactly one year. To clear the debt, Jackson sold off a lot of the land owned in the West. He blocked every spending bill that was possible. In 6 years, his administration paid off $58 million.
8. Andrew Jackson helped to form the first Eastern treaties for the government.
Before the Jackson Administration, all of the international treaties for trade and commerce were with Europe. Even when trade was conducted in Africa or in Central and South America, it was usually performed through a European advocate. In 1833, Jackson commissioned Edmund Roberts to serve as a special agent for the government. The efforts of Roberts would result in the first treaties with several Asian governments, including an important agreement with the government of Siam, which is now known as Thailand.
List of the Cons of the Andrew Jackson Administration
1. He showed a disregard for the Constitution and its restraints.
One of the most famous encounters that Andrew Jackson had with the rest of the U.S. Government came when Georgia expelled the local Cherokee Indians from their land. The lawsuit from that action reached the Supreme Court, where it was ruled that the actions of the state were unconstitutional. Andrew Jackson decided that he was going to ignore the order from the court. When asked about it, Jackson reportedly said, “John Marshall has made his decision, so now let him come enforce it.”
2. Jackson seized millions of acres of tribal land for the United States.
If you look at the major accomplishments of the Jackson Administration, many of them involve his supportive actions in taking land away from Indian tribes. His perspective was likely shaded by his own bias, built around the assignments he was given while serving in the military. Jackson was the commander of military forces during the Creek War, which is seen as an extension of the War of 1812, since the Red Sticks Creek tribe were supported by the British. Jackson violated treaties, refused court orders, and drove people out of their homes. Even Davy Crockett refused to support many of these actions.
3. The closure of the Bank of the United States results in a weaker currency.
Andrew Jackson served as President of the United States from 1829 to 1837. His “war” on the banking industry was mostly bark instead of bite, as he withdrew funds from the national bank to deposit them in state and local banks. For the poor and debtors who had the Bank of the United States as a listed creditor, this created more issues for them instead of less. That eventually led to the value of U.S. currency dropping, which would eventually bring about the Panic of 1837. That year is still considered one of the largest economic setbacks in the history of the United States.
4. His voting rights expansion was an effort to win a second election.
When Andrew Jackson served as President, the United States was going through a turbulent period of politics. The formation of the two-party system changed how Republican and Federalist campaigns were held. Conventions were held to nominate political candidates for the first time. Because the wealthy and elite would never vote for Jackson after his anti-bank platform, the expansion of voting rights to the “common” white man was as much a political ploy than anything else. Most of the votes he gathered for his re-election bid wouldn’t have been cast in the election before.
5. Congress authorized military force for resolving conflicts during his administration.
Because of the issue of nullification, Jackson needed authorization to deploy the military on U.S. soil to back up his threats. The Force Bill was signed into law on March 1st, 1833, which authorized Presidential use of the military to enforce federal law at the state level. Even Jackson’s former Vice President at the time, John Calhoun, objected to the law. Calhoun supported the state’s right to nullify tariff legislation, so he would move to the Senate to serve instead. In 1844, he would become the Secretary of State for John Tyler, where Calhoun continued the support of an annexation of Texas to support the “right” of slavery.
The pros and cons of Andrew Jackson as President are debatable in retrospect. History tends to shine a light more on the accomplishments than the negatives. He may have cleared out the national debt, but he also required gold and silver sales for government land, which helped to crash the economy. Jackson helped to define the powers of the modern President, but he did so at the expense of many people. How you see these actions will likely dictate whether or not you see Andrew Jackson as a good President.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.