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Jackson as a President: Yesterday and Today

The Andrew Jackson Administration, from 1829 to 1837, was very important in American history. A self-made man, Jackson exemplified republican virtues by restraining a centralized government and promoting the powers of the people. His administration left a lasting impact on American politics. With his extreme usage of the presidential veto, Jackson strengthened the executive branch and rendered it equal in power to the legislative branch. These Jacksonian ideals of decentralized government can still be seen in politics to this day.

Jackson was the first American president to have come from the frontier society of the American West. He was a one-generation aristocrat (Hoftstedder, 58) whose ambitions were to be wealthy and receive military glory rather than have political power (although military glory is a good way to gain popular support and political power). Jackson gained national hero status after his military victory at the Battle of New Orleans. This victory, along with wounds from his participation in the Revolutionary War, gave him the popular support he needed for a strong presidency.

Although Jackson lost in his first attempt at the Presidency, he quickly learned from his mistakes and won the election of 1828 by 95 electoral votes (Norton, 359). During his administration Jackson was faced with many key issues, of which the Nullification crisis is an example. This was a crisis over the doctrine of nullification, which was being strongly pushed by South Carolina. According to this doctrine, the state had the right to nullify government legislature that was inconsistent with its own.

This doctrine was not used until 1832 when a new tariff was imposed that would reduce some duties but retain high taxes on many imports. The south felt this tariff would make them pay for northern industrialism, and they did not want to succumb to the will of the North. Jackson was against this theory of Nullification because he was a strong supporter of the Union. He took action against this by publicly nullifying nullification and by moving troops into South Carolina to help the federal marshals collect the unpaid duties.

Finally a compromise tariff was passed in 1833 which increased the number of duty free items and reduced other duties. Jacksons decisive actions in the Nullification crisis helped define the powers of the central government more clearly, they made it clear to the states that he would not suffer their tyranny, which might break up the Republic, just as the States would not tolerate a tyrannical central government. A second very important issue was the recharter of the Second Bank of the United States. In his actions in this case, Jackson showed his distaste for the rich and powerful. He did this for many reasons.

The Bank of the United States could easily run a state chartered bank out of business by presenting a state banks notes for redemption all at one time. As a result state chartered banks had less money so they were unable to compete with the Bank of the United States. The bank of the United States although acting as a centralized bank, was in fact privately owned, and many of its policies were due to the owners self-interest, and not that of the nation. Jackson vetoed the recharter for the Second bank because he was against a government-run monopoly, especially one with special economic privileges as a result.

On his veto to the recharter of the Second Bank Jackson wrote It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their self-fish purposes. Jackson was truly a man suspicious of the ruling elite and one who worked for the average working American: the immigrants, the farmers and the laborers. Jackson exercised the full extent of presidential power with his extensive use of the veto during his presidency–more than all his predecessors put together–which turned out to be a decisive tool in controlling congressional power (Norton, 363).

The effects of Jacksons administration can still be seen in American politics today. His common use of the presidential veto created the more balanced central government that we see today, and set a standard for presidential procedure. If Andrew Jackson were still alive today, he would have many of the same things to offer us as he did back in the 19th century. His humble upbringing and later military success would still give him much respect, and modern Americans would look up to him for living the American dream; growing up in less than the best circumstances and achieving much wealth and success regardless.

This made him all the more likely to gain the popular vote in the 19th century and it might well do the same today. His belief in a balanced central government would also make him appealing to modern society. Another very appealing thing to modern society would be Jacksons view of monopolies. As seen in the case of the Second Bank of the United States, he was strongly against any type of monopoly; in todays environment, this might have special relevance to such national issues as the Microsoft antitrust case. Jackson offers many things to the modern American people.

He offers vision, and his understanding of the needs and rights of common man. Jackson is the kind of man with the leadership skills to act to protect the rights of the common man against the vested interests of business, and monopolies as seen by his earlier actions. Although a landed aristocrat and a member of the Southern gentry, Jackson stood for the common man. His actions as President changed the nature of a government, which had been founded by property owners and created the foundation of the vibrant democracy we know today.

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