Is Andrew Jackson’s presidency best characterized as a success or failure and why?

Expert Answers
lhc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are plenty of things to criticize about Andrew Jackson, particularly if one wishes to take a close look at his policies and actions in regard to Native Americans, but in the late 1820's and early 1830's, he was able to stave off a fairly serious sectional disagreement that arose in conjunction with the "Tariff of Abominations" as Southerners called it.  This tariff, argued Southerners, favored the industrialized North, because it made it more expensive for Southerners to import items from Europe, particularly Britain, with whom the South had a close trade relationship.  Wealthy Southern planters, whose resources were directed increasingly at the production of "King Cotton" had to import almost everything, while the North was becoming more and more self-sufficient.  South Carolina was particularly outspoken with its claim that each state had a right to nullify this tariff, or any federal law it chose to; it had a sympathetic ear in Vice President John Calhoun, but Jackson strongly disagreed, creating tension between the two executives.  Once Jackson made it clear he would send federal troops to South Carolina to enforce federal law, South Carolina dropped the issue. 

This crisis was intertwined with sectional disagreements related not to tariffs, but to slavery, and Jackson knew it.  As the nation had begun to expand, so had the disagreements over whether or not slavery would be permitted in the newly acquired territories.  Compromises in 1820 and 1850 had temporarily assuaged the problem. Although Jackson was a native of Tennessee and had strong ties to the South (including his vice president) he stated in no uncertain terms his position that no state in the United States could nullify federal law or there was essentially no united nation at all, and he also commented, correctly that even though the Nullification Crisis had passed, the true source of the problem, the slavery issue, had not been resolved, and would surface again.  So in considering the question of his presidency's success or failure, it can be argued that he was able to postpone the bloodshed that was probably inevitable once there were no more compromises to be had between the North and South. 

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question