What were Andrew Jackson's strengths and weaknesses as president?

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jameadows's profile pic

jameadows | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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Andrew Jackson is known as a President who supported the "common man," as he was elected in part because of an expansion in the electorate through less restrictive voting laws. He was the first self-made President, and in that sense, he brought a degree of populist sentiment to the White House. His other strength was that he defended the union and was willing to enforce laws, such as the unpopular Tariff of 1828 (known as the "Tariff of Abominations"), when South Carolina threatened not to pay the tariff during the Nullification Crisis of 1832. In the end, Jackson, though a southerner, was willing to use the force of the federal government through the Force Bill to make sure South Carolina paid the tariff and to ensure that states did not think it was valid for them to nullify, or declare void, federal laws.

Jackson's weakness as a President included his disregard for Supreme Court decisions. In Worcester v. Georgia (1832), the Supreme Court ruled that only the federal government, not the states, could remove Native American tribes. However, Jackson allowed states such as Georgia to continue Indian Removal. His remark that Marshall (the Supreme Court justice) "has made his decision; now let him enforce it" is likely apocryphal, but it shows Jackson's disregard for the Supreme Court. Jackson's Indian Removal policies led to injustice and suffering, including the Trail of Tears, in which the Cherokees were forced to move west from their ancestral lands in the southeast. In addition, Jackson opposed the rechartering of the Second Bank of the U.S. in favor of state banks, and he let the bank charter lapse in 1836, causing an economic contraction in 1833 and 1834. 

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I would argue that Jackson's greatest strength was his passion for defending the "common man."  His greatest weakness was that he was too passionate and too prone to thinking that he was being attacked.

Jackson's strengths and weaknesses can be seen together in the "war" over the Bank of the United States.  Because Jackson believed that the Bank was a means for the elites to control the common people, he fought passionately against it.  However, because he was so passionate about it, he (you could argue) went too far.  He did things like taking federal money out of the Bank and putting it into his "pet banks."  He also took steps that (you could argue) led to an economic panic.  All of this happened because he was not inclined to compromise or to go slowly.

So I would argue that Jackson's greatness and his weakness both stemmed from his passionate devotion to the idea of protecting the common people.

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