★★Andrew Jackson was eight years old when the British marched to Lexington and Concord. “On the 18th of April in 75, hardly a man is now alive” as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow put it. Young Jackson acted as a courier for Washington’s Continental Army and was captured and mistreated by his British captors; he was just 13.
He later became a lawyer and was elected, first, to the U.S. House of Representatives and then to the U.S. Senate. In 1801 Jackson was appointed Colonel in the Tennessee militia, which became his political as well as military base. He owned hundreds of slaves who worked on the Hermitage plantation, which he acquired in 1804. In 1806 he killed a man in a duel over a matter of honor regarding his wife Rachel. He gained national fame through his role in the War of 1812, most famously where he won a decisive victory over the main British invasion army at the Battle of New Orleans.
Jackson’s service in the War of 1812 against the United Kingdom was conspicuous for bravery and success. When British forces threatened New Orleans, Jackson took command of the defenses, including militia from several western states and territories. He was a strict officer but was popular with his troops. They said he was “tough as old hickory” wood on the battlefield, and he acquired the nickname of “Old Hickory”. In the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815, Jackson’s 5,000 soldiers won a decisive victory over 7,500 British. At the end of the battle, the British had 2,037 casualties: 291 dead (including three senior generals), 1,262 wounded, and 484 captured or missing. The Americans had 71 casualties: 13 dead, 39 wounded, and 19 missing.
After winning election to the Senate, Jackson decided to run for president in 1824. He narrowly lost to John Quincy Adams, supposedly by a “corrupt bargain” between Adams and Speaker of the House Henry Clay, who was also a candidate. Jackson’s supporters then founded what became the Democratic Party. He ran again in 1828 against Adams. Building on his base in the West and with new support from Virginia and New York, he won by a landslide. He blamed the death of his wife, Rachel, which occurred just after the election, on the Adams campaigners who called her a “bigamist”. That was back when candidates acted presidential.
As president, Jackson faced a threat of secession from South Carolina over the “Tariff of Abominations” which Congress had enacted under Adams. In contrast to several of his immediate successors, he denied the right of a state to secede from the union or to nullify federal law. In anticipation of the 1832 election, Congress, led by Clay, attempted to reauthorize the Second Bank of the United States four years before the expiration of its charter. In keeping with his platform of economic decentralization, Jackson vetoed the renewal of its charter, thereby seemingly putting his chances for reelection in jeopardy. However, by portraying himself as the defender of the common person against wealthy bankers, he was able to defeat Clay in the election that year. He thoroughly dismantled the bank by the time its charter expired in 1836. These days not many candidates have the guts to take on big banks like Goldman Sacs when they receive funding from them. Jackson is also known for having signed the Indian Removal Act, which relocated a number of native tribes in the South to Indian Territory.
Oddly enough, the Democrats seem to dislike the founder of the Democratic Party enough to kick him off the $20 bill. The touchy-feely bleeding heart Democratic Party of today would not be recognizable to Old Hickory Jackson or Give em Hell Harry Truman. In the interest of equal time, the back biting Republican Party of today would not be recognizable to Old Abe Lincoln or Ronnie Reagan. Lincoln and Reagan couldn’t win 1,237 Delegates today; they would have dropped out before Lindsey Graham and Jeb Bush.
If we can stall the decision on President Jackson until Ted Cruz is inaugurated, maybe Carly Fiorina will grace the $20 bill?