Describe the historical significance of Andrew Jackson.
Andrew Jackson was one of the most influential American presidents of all time. He completely changed the political landscape, and his message of populism still resonates today.
Jackson was seen as representative of the common man. In 1800, only white, male property owners could vote in a majority of states. As the westward push continued and new states entered the Union, suffrage expanded. This increase in voters would enable people like Andrew Jackson to have a legitimate chance to become president.
The political process was changing in America. New organizations at the state level increased political participation and were a direct factor in Jackson being elected president in 1828. Jackson participated in the political process through campaign events that featured buttons, free drinks, and divisive rhetoric against his opponents.
Jackson was seen as a self-made man of the frontier and symbolized the opportunities offered by the west. He was able to carve a national identity during a time when regional identities were the norm.
As his presidency progressed, Jackson vetoed more frequently than all of his predecessors combined. He was not afraid to take divisive stands. For instance, the crisis over nullification almost led to the outbreak of civil war some 30 years before the actual event. Without Jackson and his Force Bill, which authorized him to use the US Army to enforce federal laws in South Carolina, disunion of the nation would have occurred in 1833 instead of the 1860s.
Some of Jackson's legacy is tragic. He destroyed the lives of the Native American population in the southeast. He forcibly relocated the 125,000 natives that resided east of the Mississippi River with the Indian Removal Act, which forced the migration to Oklahoma all of the Native Americans in the southeast. Despite the Supreme Court upholding the right of the Cherokee to own land in Worcester v. Georgia, Jackson defied that order. He was quoted as saying, "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it."
In 1838, around 17,000 Cherokees were marched 800 miles to Indian Territory on what would become known as the "Trail of Tears."
President Jackson also took on the Bank of the United States. He vetoed the bill that sought to recharter the bank, stating the bank was nothing more than a vehicle used by "the rich and powerful to bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes." After his reelection in 1832, Jackson removed federal deposits and placed them in "pet" banks. He claimed that as a direct representative of the people, he was entitled to act regardless of Congressional opinion.
The spirit of populism characterized Andrew Jackson's presidency. For the first time it became apparent that a common man could rise to the office of president. Politicians that challenge the rich and powerful and the status quo are still able to garner a tremendous amount of support in modern elections. The election of Donald J. Trump and the more conservative elements of the Republican Party are where one can find the echos of "Jacksonian Democracy" today.
The main historical significance of Andrew Jackson is that he was the first president to come from a common background and to embody a populist vision of politics. He is well-known for having been suspicious of elites and for having pursued policies that, to him, weakened the elites and strengthened the common people.
Perhaps the best example of one of these policies was Jackson's "Bank War." He felt that the Bank of the United States was a tool of the rich elites. He felt that it let them keep control of the country's economy and let them act in their own interests and against the interests of the common people. Because of this he fought to kill the Bank.
After Jackson, this sort of populism became more common. It continues to this day and can be seen quite clearly in "Tea Party" attitudes towards such things as the Federal Reserve.