Abraham Lincoln's Presidency

Start Free Trial

What are the similarities between Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Jackson?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln both came from frontier origins. Lincoln grew up in Illinois, while Jackson, born in the Carolina backcountry, moved to Tennessee as a young man. Both stressed their humble origins in their political careers as a means of appealing to ordinary Americans. While Lincoln began his political career as a Whig (a party conceived in opposition to Jackson), he had a natural affinity for the style of Jacksonian Democrats, especially those in the North. Jackson and Lincoln were both nationalists who denied the power of states to leave the Union or nullify its laws. Jackson stood against South Carolina in the nullification crisis of 1832, and Lincoln did the same thing again when South Carolina seceded, in 1860.

Both men also had a very expansive view of the powers of the presidency. In Lincoln's case, this largely stemmed from the circumstances of the Civil War, which required decisive action. He suspended the writ of habeas corpus, took a very active role in appointing and firing Union generals (and setting strategy more generally), and took the bold move of issuing the Emancipation Proclamation in the midst of the war. Jackson viewed the president as directly beholden to the men who elected him and cited a public mandate as the reason for many of his actions, including ridding public offices of his political rivals and vetoing the charter bill for the Bank of the United States. Both presidents famously directly defied a Supreme Court decision: Lincoln repeatedly suspended habeas corpus in defiance of the Court's decision in Ex parte Merryman, and Jackson ignored John Marshall's ruling in Worcester v. Georgia.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

At first glance, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln appear to have few similarities. Lincoln is most famous for liberating the slaves, whereas Jackson was a supporter of slaveholders' rights. However, if we look closer at how the two presidents treated their role as president, some similarities do emerge.

Lincoln and Jackson both faced crises in which a state or states threatened to secede. With Lincoln, it was the Civil War in which nearly the entire South rebelled. Lincoln refused to allow this and the bloodiest American war was fought to preserve the Union. Jackson also went to great lengths to maintain the Union, although his situation was not as extreme. In 1832, South Carolina declared several federal tariffs to be unconstitutional and threatened to secede over the issue. Thankfully Jackson did not have to resort to military conflict to prevent this, although both sides were prepared to fight.

Both President Jackson and President Lincoln expanded the role of executive power. This even occurred in relation to issues that violated individuals' constitutional rights. During the Civil War Lincoln authorized an act that allowed him to suspend habeas corpus. For Jackson's example, we can look at his refusal to recognize the Supreme Court's 1832 ruling recognizing the Cherokee as a sovereign nation. As a result, Jackson ordered the removal of the Cherokee to the West in what is known as the Trail of Tears.

Less relevant to their presidencies, but still noteworthy is the similar humble backgrounds of the two presidents. Andrew Jackson's parents were poor immigrants who had settled in a remote area on the North Carolina and South Carolina border. Lincoln was born in a one-room log cabin in Kentucky. Both were able to shed their humble origins.

Perhaps irrelevant, but still an interesting similarity is that there were assassination attempts on both presidents. Of course, Lincoln did not survive his and became the first president to be murdered. Jackson survived the first ever assassination attempt on a US president. Luckily for him, the would-be assassin's guns misfired.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Lincoln and Jackson are similar in that they both strengthened the power of the American President. Lincoln guided the Union to a difficult victory in the Civil War and, in the process, expanded the power of the executive branch. For example, he instituted the first income tax to pay for the war, and he suspended habeas corpus rights in border states to allow suspects to be tried in military courts. In addition, he instituted a draft and issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which freed slaves in the Confederate states. Jackson expanded the power of the President in part through the spoils system, by which he rewarded loyal followers with patronage. In addition, Jackson took an active role in issues such as Indian Removal and the dismantling of the Second U.S. Bank. He also passed the Force Bill to compel South Carolina to pay the tariff (see the paragraph below for more information). 

Both Presidents were also defenders of the Union. Lincoln fought the Civil War to preserve the Union, and he did not believe the Confederate states had the right to secede, or leave the nation. Jackson defended the Union when South Carolina threatened to secede during the Nullification Crisis of 1832. The state refused to pay the Tariff of 1828 (and the Tariff of 1832), referring to it as the Tariff of Abominations. When South Carolina nullified the federal law and threatened to secede, Jackson supported Congress in passing the Force Bill, which stated that the President could use military force to compel South Carolina to follow the law and pay the tariff. 

Lincoln and Jackson were also the fathers of the modern political parties still in existence today. Lincoln was the first Republican president, and Jackson was the first Democratic president. Though the parties have changed throughout the years, Jackson is considered the founder of the Democratic Party, and Lincoln was, while not the founder of the Republican Party, the person who first represented Republicans in the executive office.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are at least two important similarities between these two presidents.

First, both of these men were born in very humble circumstances and were self-made men.  Jackson was born in the backwoods of South Carolina and his father died soon after Jackson was born.  Lincoln was not from a poor family, but his father was a farmer and carpenter, not a member of any elite.

Second, both men were strongly in favor of keeping the Union together.  Jackson faced threats of secession from South Carolina in the crisis over the "Tariff of Abominations."  He acted strongly to prevent secession.  Lincoln, of course, was willing to go to war to prevent the South from seceding.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team