Andrew Jackson's Presidency

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Was Andrew Jackson similar to Thomas Jefferson or Alexander Hamilton?

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Jackson was far more similar to Thomas Jefferson (who actually disliked and distrusted him) than Alexander Hamilton. Like Jefferson, Jackson had a vision for the United States that emphasized white landowners, or, as it is often portrayed in textbooks, the "common man." Jackson, like Jefferson, promoted widespread suffrage, and many states removed property restrictions for voting during his time. He promoted expansion, and made the removal of Native peoples central to his presidency. He championed the cause of the "common man" in his so-called "bank war," vetoing and "killing" the Second Bank of the United States out of a belief that it benefitted the wealthy at the expense of ordinary Americans.

He also opposed the program of public works funded by the national government. Jefferson favored what he described as "small" government, encouraged western expansion, and was most popular among the small landholders who benefited from the relaxation of voting requirements. Hamilton, on the other hand, openly favored eastern cities. As Secretary of the Treasury, he instituted many policies that Jackson sought to undo. Chief among these was the Bank of the United States, which he championed over Jefferson's objections. Hamilton also promoted manufacturing as the heart of the new American economy, and favored high tariffs to encourage domestic industry. In Jackson's day, Hamilton's ideas were best represented by Henry Clay, the founder of the Whig Party and promoter of an American System that featured many ideas that dated back to Hamilton's time. He was opposed at almost every turn by Jackson. So, Jackson had far more in common with Jefferson than Hamilton.

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While Andrew Jackson was significantly different from both of these men, he was more similar to Thomas Jefferson than to Alexander Hamilton.  This is because Jefferson’s ideals were more oriented toward the common man. 

Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton were ideological rivals during the early days of the United States.  Hamilton believed in a more hierarchical economic and political system that would be centered around industry.  Jefferson, by contrast, believed in a more egalitarian system that would be dominated by small yeoman farmers.  Jefferson wanted a country in which the vast majority of people would be small farmers.  These people would all be equal to one another and there would not be hierarchy in the country. 

Andrew Jackson came to the presidency some two decades after Jefferson had been president.  By this time, the country had come to resemble Hamilton’s vision in some ways and Jefferson’s in others.  The country was more democratic than it had been, with more white men being able to vote.  However, it was also more industrialized.  During his time as president, Jackson generally tried to take actions that would, in his mind, help the small farmers more than the elite industrialists.

This is best seen in Jackson’s war against the Second Bank of the United States.  Jackson felt that the bank was a tool of the elites that was used to dominate the common people.  For this reason, he did everything in his power to destroy the bank. 

Jackson’s desire to take actions that helped the common people show that he was more similar, in terms of policy, to Jefferson than to Hamilton even though his personal background was much more similar to Hamilton’s.

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