Throughout the history of the United States there have been men who have had a significant influence on the events and people around them. No other American, however, has had a greater degree of influence over a single time period more than our seventh president, Andrew Jackson. He rose from humble beginnings and became a lawyer, war hero, and eventually president of the United States. Whether or not Jackson’s overall legacy is that of a hero or a monster is often debated by historians. No matter whom you are, either the proverbial Democrat or Whig, it is clear that whenever Jackson took on a task he gave it his all and did not stop until it was finished.
Even in his teens Jackson had a certain presence about him. During the American Revolution, when he was just thirteen,”…Jackson and his brothers joined the patriotic cause and volunteered to fight the British.” (Early Life) One day Jackson and his brother were captured and taken into British custody. One of the British officers ordered Jackson to polish the officer’s boots, but Jackson refused. The officer responded by striking Jackson’s face with a saber, leaving him with a scar.
While held as prisoners, Jackson and his brother contracted smallpox. Their mother eventually secured their release, but Jackson’s brother died from the disease shortly thereafter. (Early Life) These experiences left Jackson with a deep hatred for the British. This hatred would later drive him to fight again in the War of 1812. After the war, Jackson began to study law at the age of seventeen. When he was twenty he received his license “and began working as a prosecuting attorney in the settlement that became Nashville.
” He “started his own private practice” married the daughter of a colonel, and did well enough in law to build his own mansion near Nashville. After serving two brief terms as a senator and a member of the House, he “was elected judge of Tennessee’s superior court.” (Andrew Jackson) Jackson would get his chance at revenge on the British during the War of 1812. When war again broke out between the US and Britain in 1812, Jackson was chosen as the head of the Tennessee state militia. He later served as a major general during the war and lead American troops in a campaign against the Creek Indians who were allied with the British.
Jackson achieved a decisive victory over the Creek at the Battle of Tohopeka in 1814. When the British launched an invasion aimed at taking New Orleans, Jackson was put in charge of the defense of the city. Jackson’s army was around 4,000 men; the incoming British army was an estimated 8,000 men. When a garrison of about 1,800 British soldiers began to make camp at the Villere Plantation, Jackson made plans for a surprise attack. That evening Jackson launched a three way assault on the camp.
The Americans suffered 213 casualties while British forces lost 277. Afterwards, Jackson fell back to a location near the Rodriguez Canal and ordered his men to begin building fortifications. By the time the British could recover from Jackson’s surprise attack, the Americans were in a strongly fortified position. In the ensuing battles Jackson’s men were able to hold their positions against the advancing British. The British commanders also made serious communication errors when directing their assault, allowing Jackson’s troops to rain down heavy rifle and artillery fire on the confused enemy troops. The end result was a decisive American victory, at the cost of 101 American casualties.
“The British reported their losses as…a total of 2,037.” (Hickman) This overwhelming victory forced the British to adhere to the terms of the Treaty of Ghent, which had actually ended the war before most of the battle occurred, and made Jackson a war hero. This victory would later pave the road for Jackson to become president. Following the War of 1812, Jackson continued to grow in popularity. He was hailed as a champion of the common man.
This popularity propelled him to the presidency in 1828. Once in office, Jackson had a very clear list of priorities. He set out to destroy the Bank of the United States, which he and his supporters felt had an unfair advantage over smaller banks, was unconstitutional, and had too much influence over the politicians. Jackson said that “I have been opposed always to the Bank of the U.S.
as well as all state Banks of paper issues, upon constitutional ground,” He also said to one of his advisors,” Oh! My friend, I am pledged against the bank.” (Andrew Jackson-The bank of the united states) He vetoed the Banks’s re-charter and the Bank fell apart. Jackson also sought to bring the government’s purse strings in order and pay off the national debt. By the end of his presidency he had done just that, and he remains to this day the only president to do so. Whatever Jackson set out to do as president, he did.
One of the most controversial episodes of his presidency was the passage of the Indian Removal Act. The act “…gave the president power to negotiate removal treaties with Indian tribes living east of the Mississippi.” (Indian removal) Under these terms the Indians were to give up all of their land east of the Mississippi and move west. When several southeastern Native American groups resisted the law, Jackson used military force to make them leave. The most infamous example of Indian removal was the eviction of the Cherokee.
In 1838 the government sent 7,000 soldiers to force the Cherokee out of their land. On this Trail of Tears 4,000 Cherokee died due to disease, hunger, and cold. In total “…the Jackson administration had removed 46,000 Native American people from their land east of the Mississippi, and had secured treaties which led to the removal of a slightly larger number.” (Indian removal) Jackson’s actions opened 25 million acres of land for American settlement. Most Americans supported the removal of the Indians. The memory of several massacres of American settlers by tribes loyal to the British during the War of 1812 was still fresh in the people’s minds.
When Andrew Jackson decided to do something, he did not stop until it was finished. Although his legacy is often debated today, there is no denying Jackson’s impact on the nation. Jackson took charge of whatever situation he was in and, through sheer determination and the conviction that his way was the correct way, molded the outcome into whatever he wanted it to be. Few Americans before or since then have had that kind of lasting impact on the course of this country. For better or worse, Jackson’s life shows that anyone with the right amount of determination can leave a footprint on the road of history. Works Cited Andrew Jackson.
1 9 2011 <http://www.history.com>. Andrew Jackson-The bank of the united states. 1 9 2011 <http://presidentprofiles.com>. Early Life. 1 9 2011 <http://www.thehermitage.com>. Hickman, Kennedy.
War of 1812: Battle of New Orleans. 1 9 2011 <http://militaryhistory.about.com>. Indian removal.
1 9 2011 <www.pbs.org>.