Andrew Jackson's Presidency

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Why might President Jackson be labeled as "King Andrew?"

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The use of caricatures and drawings has always been used to interpret political actions by leaders and remains popular to date. The press has been known to satirize presidential actions, and cartoons have always featured in the dailies and weekly magazines. The drawings simplify issues that would be deemed complex...

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when presented in writing. Thus, cartoons are more accessible to members of the public who might not readily understand the complex issues presented in a different format.

In the case of President Andrew Jackson, an unknown artist created a caricature of the president portraying him as a king in full royal regalia. The picture shows Jackson trampling the Constitution while holding a veto, which he was known to use as a matter of policy. The drawing communicated the fear that Jackson was abusing the presidential powers by vetoing internal improvements of the national bank. Generally, President Andrew Jackson was viewed as a forceful president, especially by supporters of the Whig Party.

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There were some people who referred to Andrew Jackson as King Andrew. They did this because they believed he acted like a king. There were several instances where this could be seen.

Andrew Jackson didn’t like the National Bank. He vetoed a bill that would have extended the bank’s charter beyond 1836. However, since its charter was good until 1836, the National Bank would continue to exist. As a result, Andrew Jackson tried to weaken the National Bank because he didn’t want to wait until the end of his presidency to see it end. He took the government’s money from the National Bank and deposited it into state banks. This action eventually triggered a major economic downturn after Jackson had left the presidency.

Andrew Jackson also wanted the Native Americans to be moved west of the Mississippi River. When the Supreme Court ruled that Cherokee couldn’t be forced to move, Andrew Jackson said the Supreme Court would have to enforce its own decision. Andrew Jackson continued with his plans to remove the Native Americans despite what the Supreme Court said. The Cherokee tribe, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, was relocated to lands west of the Mississippi River.

To some people, Andrew Jackson’s actions made him appear to be acting like a king.

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There is a widely published cartoon from President Andrew Jackson’s time in office in which he is portrayed as a king and is labeled as “King Andrew the First.”  The implication here is that he is acting more like a king than a president in a democracy.  Let us examine why someone might characterize Jackson in this way.  The cartoon can be seen in this link.

The major reason why someone might see President Jackson in this way is because of his liberal use of the veto power.  In his two terms in office, Jackson vetoed 12 bills.  By contrast, all of the previous presidents together had vetoed a total of ten bills.  It took them a combined nine terms in office to issue their ten vetoes while Jackson vetoed 12 bills in just two terms.  Jackson’s opponents felt that using the veto so much was an action more consistent with an autocratic ruler than with a president in a democratic system.  They particularly felt this way when Jackson used the veto and other presidential powers to destroy the Second Bank of the United States.  Because they felt that Jackson was taking more power for himself than was appropriate in a democratic system, they labeled him as “King Andrew.”

Of course, this is not to say that Jackson really was autocratic.  As we know from recent and current history, the partisan opponents of a president can exaggerate what they see as his faults.  Not all Americans would have agreed with this cartoonist and the cartoonist’s portrayal of Jackson is not necessarily a fair one.

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