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Old 02-01-2020, 07:26 PM
 
Location: New York Area
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I just finished reading American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham.

The book well highlights Jackson's obvious and positive role in crafting a powerful presidency. He honed the power of the Presidential veto. Most famously, he broke the back of nullification, for the time being. And its logical successor, "disunion" or secession. Many of the issues of his day broadly foreshadowed the Civil War. He was, if not the first a powerful example of a leader who could and would go over the heads of the quasi-elected legislature to the people (the Senate at that time was chosen by state governments). In short, he led the country.

His chaotic management of his White House family rivals that of the current British royals and the Prince Harry ship-show. Andrew Jackson was decidedly a flawed man and an imperfect president. Some of the black marks are well-known; his blind, unquestioning approval of Negro slavery and his mistreatment of Native Americans. While those who know me know that I am far from an unquestioning progressive, even in his era the dehumanization of downtrodden groups was already an issue. Andrew Jackson had no curiosity or interest. His mad crusade against the Bank of the United States was a large part of the cause of the Panic of 1837. His role rates barely a footnote.

Jackson is not quite the hero we in the 1960's learned about in grade school. Contemporary thinkers such as Alexis de Tocqueville were most unimpressed. Nevertheless, he was an essential building block of a now-great country.
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Old 02-01-2020, 07:45 PM
 
9,765 posts, read 9,742,398 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbgusa View Post
I just finished reading American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham.

The book well highlights Jackson's obvious and positive role in crafting a powerful presidency. He honed the power of the Presidential veto. Most famously, he broke the back of nullification, for the time being. And its logical successor, "disunion" or secession. Many of the issues of his day broadly foreshadowed the Civil War. He was, if not the first a powerful example of a leader who could and would go over the heads of the quasi-elected legislature to the people (the Senate at that time was chosen by state governments). In short, he led the country.

His chaotic management of his White House family rivals that of the current British royals and the Prince Harry ship-show. Andrew Jackson was decidedly a flawed man and an imperfect president. Some of the black marks are well-known; his blind, unquestioning approval of Negro slavery and his mistreatment of Native Americans. While those who know me know that I am far from an unquestioning progressive, even in his era the dehumanization of downtrodden groups was already an issue. Andrew Jackson had no curiosity or interest. His mad crusade against the Bank of the United States was a large part of the cause of the Panic of 1837. His role rates barely a footnote.

Jackson is not quite the hero we in the 1960's learned about in grade school. Contemporary thinkers such as Alexis de Tocqueville were most unimpressed. Nevertheless, he was an essential building block of a now-great country.
Andy Jackson is one of those presidents I've always felt was vastly overrated.

When I ask people what he accomplished in office, I'll usually get some some answer like: "He stood up for the common man?" I've never understood exactly what that is supposed to mean.

He had many faults as President.

1. He disdained a real role for the federal government in his administration. For example, he vetoed something called the "Maysville Road Bill". This bill was designed to make it easier for people to move westward and settle western territories.

2. He ignored the U.S. Supreme Court and forcibly moved the Cherokee Indians from lands they owned and forced them to the move the Indian Territory in present day Oklahoma.

3. As you point out, he abolished the Bank of the United States and helped the lay the foundation for the Panic of 1837 which was a major economic depression.

4. He issued the Specie Circular just before he left office in 1837 and placed more pressure on the economy. Again, this was an act that helped lead to the Panic of 1837.

5. He was censored by Congress for his high-handed and unconstitutional actions.

IMO, he was not admirable. I'd support replacing him on the twenty dollar bill with someone else.

Last edited by markg91359; 02-01-2020 at 08:02 PM..
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Old 02-01-2020, 07:53 PM
 
Location: New York Area
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Standing up to nullification was big. Other than that I feel he is somewhat overrated. I'll have to think more about the points you raised.
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Old 02-01-2020, 11:08 PM
 
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I'm about halfway through American Lion myself. I picked up "1776" and can't get myself back to American Lion at the moment. I agree with the OPs post that Jackson had some flaws, which were shared by most people during his time, but was a massive figure in American History.

Conflict between whites and Native Americans was something Jackson grew up with. Native Americans largely did not consider themselves citizens of the U.S., nor did the whites. There was a fair amount of brutality on both ends. Jackson fiercely defended tribes who were allied to him, but was ruthless against enemies. He showed this same ruthlessness to white people when they were his enemies.

Jackson believed that the conflict and death of both natives and whites could be ended through the Indian Removal Act. I'm not saying Jackson was purely altruistic, he never thought of himself as champion of all people, but only of his people. All who got in his way, white or not, were to feel his wrath. Campaign ads at the time Jackson was running for President ask what qualifications Jackson had for the presidency besides slaughtering 2000 British soldiers during the Battle of New Orleans.

I agree that standing up to nullification was a big move in American history. Jackson set the precedence that a state could not ignore federal law or leave the Union once they joined. In addition, he laid it out clear that military action would be taken if a state purposely violated federal law. These were all things that were being figured out at the time. By the time Lincoln became President, Jackson had already set the tone that no state would be allowed to leave the Union, or ignore federal law, and that military action would be taken if needed.

If you look at preservation of the Union, Jackson was a major figure.

The 1824 election was the first one where popular votes mattered. Jackson won more votes (popular and electoral) than John Quincy Adams, but the House gave Adams the presidency. 1828 was a rematch and Jackson won enough votes that it wasn't deferred to the House. He was really the first president where people had a real say in who they wanted to be president instead of being elected by fellow Congressmen. The way presidential elections had been run in the past, the people had little to no say in who became president. Jackson was the first "people's" President.

Once you read many of the writings of people during his time, Jackson is put into context. Yes, he was somewhat like the Trump of his day. Trying to paint him as especially racist or bigoted for his time is not entirely honest. There are many things Lincoln said that would be considered extremely racist for our day and age. I don't see anyone trying to replace Lincoln's face on the $5 bill despite the fact that he said white people, he in particular, were superior both physically and mentally to black people.

The idea of the Bank of the United States was opposed by many, including Thomas Jefferson. George Washington was very hesitant to sign the bill to create such a bank. When the charter for the bank came to an end in 1811 and the Senate had to vote whether to continue the Bank of the United States, it ended in a tie and the Vice President voted to end the bank. The bank started up again in 1816, so when the charter for the bank was nearing the end, Jackson was in favor of letting it end. This was not just an Andrew Jackson thing.

People who study history generally rank Jackson as a good president and he was seen as such up until the 1970s. There is a modern movement to vilify him, by trying to compare him in a modern context, along with every founding father. I wouldn't buy into this as it's a very simplistic, uneducated way to view people from the past. It also puts you into a very hypocritical position, fawning over Abraham Lincoln who, in modern eyes, would definitely be considered a racist, and hating others who don't meet the modern standard of someone who is "woke", such as Jackson.
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Old 02-02-2020, 09:51 AM
 
5,517 posts, read 6,830,950 times
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Originally Posted by TXRunner View Post
I'm about halfway through American Lion myself. I picked up "1776" and can't get myself back to American Lion at the moment. I agree with the OPs post that Jackson had some flaws, which were shared by most people during his time, but was a massive figure in American History.

Conflict between whites and Native Americans was something Jackson grew up with. Native Americans largely did not consider themselves citizens of the U.S., nor did the whites. There was a fair amount of brutality on both ends. Jackson fiercely defended tribes who were allied to him, but was ruthless against enemies. He showed this same ruthlessness to white people when they were his enemies.

Jackson believed that the conflict and death of both natives and whites could be ended through the Indian Removal Act. I'm not saying Jackson was purely altruistic, he never thought of himself as champion of all people, but only of his people. All who got in his way, white or not, were to feel his wrath. Campaign ads at the time Jackson was running for President ask what qualifications Jackson had for the presidency besides slaughtering 2000 British soldiers during the Battle of New Orleans.

I agree that standing up to nullification was a big move in American history. Jackson set the precedence that a state could not ignore federal law or leave the Union once they joined. In addition, he laid it out clear that military action would be taken if a state purposely violated federal law. These were all things that were being figured out at the time. By the time Lincoln became President, Jackson had already set the tone that no state would be allowed to leave the Union, or ignore federal law, and that military action would be taken if needed.

If you look at preservation of the Union, Jackson was a major figure.

The 1824 election was the first one where popular votes mattered. Jackson won more votes (popular and electoral) than John Quincy Adams, but the House gave Adams the presidency. 1828 was a rematch and Jackson won enough votes that it wasn't deferred to the House. He was really the first president where people had a real say in who they wanted to be president instead of being elected by fellow Congressmen. The way presidential elections had been run in the past, the people had little to no say in who became president. Jackson was the first "people's" President.

Once you read many of the writings of people during his time, Jackson is put into context. Yes, he was somewhat like the Trump of his day. Trying to paint him as especially racist or bigoted for his time is not entirely honest. There are many things Lincoln said that would be considered extremely racist for our day and age. I don't see anyone trying to replace Lincoln's face on the $5 bill despite the fact that he said white people, he in particular, were superior both physically and mentally to black people.

The idea of the Bank of the United States was opposed by many, including Thomas Jefferson. George Washington was very hesitant to sign the bill to create such a bank. When the charter for the bank came to an end in 1811 and the Senate had to vote whether to continue the Bank of the United States, it ended in a tie and the Vice President voted to end the bank. The bank started up again in 1816, so when the charter for the bank was nearing the end, Jackson was in favor of letting it end. This was not just an Andrew Jackson thing.

People who study history generally rank Jackson as a good president and he was seen as such up until the 1970s. There is a modern movement to vilify him, by trying to compare him in a modern context, along with every founding father. I wouldn't buy into this as it's a very simplistic, uneducated way to view people from the past. It also puts you into a very hypocritical position, fawning over Abraham Lincoln who, in modern eyes, would definitely be considered a racist, and hating others who don't meet the modern standard of someone who is "woke", such as Jackson.
needs to be said again and again. history must be view in the context of the times not through our current lens to be really understood. otherwise it isn't a study of history it is jabber jaw or maybe alternative history

People who study history generally rank Jackson as a good president and he was seen as such up until the 1970s. There is a modern movement to vilify him, by trying to compare him in a modern context, along with every founding father. I wouldn't buy into this as it's a very simplistic, uneducated way to view people from the past. It also puts you into a very hypocritical position, fawning over Abraham Lincoln who, in modern eyes, would definitely be considered a racist, and hating others who don't meet the modern standard of someone who is "woke", such as Jackson.

Last edited by mensaguy; 02-02-2020 at 11:41 AM.. Reason: Removed extra quote tag
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Old 02-02-2020, 10:02 AM
 
9,765 posts, read 9,742,398 times
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Originally Posted by theoldnorthstate View Post
needs to be said again and again. history must be view in the context of the times not through our current lens to be really understood. otherwise it isn't a study of history it is jabber jaw or maybe alternative history

People who study history generally rank Jackson as a good president and he was seen as such up until the 1970s. There is a modern movement to vilify him, by trying to compare him in a modern context, along with every founding father. I wouldn't buy into this as it's a very simplistic, uneducated way to view people from the past. It also puts you into a very hypocritical position, fawning over Abraham Lincoln who, in modern eyes, would definitely be considered a racist, and hating others who don't meet the modern standard of someone who is "woke", such as Jackson.
You see, I don't care for Jackson, but the last thing I would do would be to villify most of our founding fathers.

For example, Hamilton is on our ten dollar bill and after reading about him, I hope he stays there. Hamilton has a series of worthy accomplishments. He created the first Bank of the United States. He reasoned that assuming the debts of the original thirteen states and paying them off would create good credit for the United States of America and he was right. As Secretary of the Treasury he created a trade and tariff policy that allowed the United States to build native industries. He created the Coast Guard with the idea that the shipping industry would benefit overwhelmingly from a network of lighthouses, accurate charts, and men who could rescue those on foundering ships.

On the other hand, the only real accomplishment that I can credit Jackson with is standing up to the secessionists in South Carolina during the struggle over the Tariff of Abominations. What other accomplishment(s) can be credited for?

The negative is a president who illegally ignored Supreme Court decisions, ran Indians who had legal title to lands in Georgia off their lands, and took multiple actions that precipitated one of the worst depressions in American history, the Panic of 1837.

Whether you evaluate him through an 1830's lense or through a modern one, he comes up wanting.

Last edited by mensaguy; 02-02-2020 at 11:42 AM.. Reason: Removed extra quote tag
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Old 02-02-2020, 09:15 PM
 
Location: New York Area
18,145 posts, read 7,119,563 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TXRunner View Post
I'm about halfway through American Lion myself. I picked up "1776" and can't get myself back to American Lion at the moment. I agree with the OPs post that Jackson had some flaws, which were shared by most people during his time, but was a massive figure in American History.

********
People who study history generally rank Jackson as a good president and he was seen as such up until the 1970s. There is a modern movement to vilify him, by trying to compare him in a modern context, along with every founding father. I wouldn't buy into this as it's a very simplistic, uneducated way to view people from the past. It also puts you into a very hypocritical position, fawning over Abraham Lincoln who, in modern eyes, would definitely be considered a racist, and hating others who don't meet the modern standard of someone who is "woke", such as Jackson.
Very good and thoughtful analysis.
Quote:
Originally Posted by TXRunner View Post
Conflict between whites and Native Americans was something Jackson grew up with. Native Americans largely did not consider themselves citizens of the U.S., nor did the whites. There was a fair amount of brutality on both ends. Jackson fiercely defended tribes who were allied to him, but was ruthless against enemies. He showed this same ruthlessness to white people when they were his enemies.

Jackson believed that the conflict and death of both natives and whites could be ended through the Indian Removal Act.
The American Indian story is quite complex. There were no angels on either side. Pre-Columbian America was no Garden of Eden. There was plenty of struggle among Indian tribes for territory. For more, read War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage by Lawrence H. Keeley.

The Creek Indians and others made incursions into white settlements, raping in some cases. It goes without saying that is beyond toleration if you are building a First World country. In modern times, there has developed discomfort among Westerners with combating guerilla war tactics, in modern times called terrorism. Daily the headlines blare about terror attacks by modern tribal warriors, i.e. Arabs migrating to Western societies. The fact is we are more comfortable with candlelight vigils than really fighting back. It's real easy to criticize what Jackson did but what alternative would have worked other than leaving a large part of the continent fallow to accommodate a population that was already decimated by smallpox and other ailments by 95%?

Quote:
Originally Posted by TXRunner View Post
I agree that standing up to nullification was a big move in American history. Jackson set the precedence that a state could not ignore federal law or leave the Union once they joined. In addition, he laid it out clear that military action would be taken if a state purposely violated federal law. These were all things that were being figured out at the time. By the time Lincoln became President, Jackson had already set the tone that no state would be allowed to leave the Union, or ignore federal law, and that military action would be taken if needed.

If you look at preservation of the Union, Jackson was a major figure.
That absolutely cast the die for the Union's position in the Civil War.
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Originally Posted by markg91359 View Post
The negative is a president who illegally ignored Supreme Court decisions, ran Indians who had legal title to lands in Georgia off their lands, and took multiple actions that precipitated one of the worst depressions in American history, the Panic of 1837.

Whether you evaluate him through an 1830's lense or through a modern one, he comes up wanting.
He actually didn't ignore the SCOTUS; he correctly predicted that the State of Georgia would. Seen through an 1830's lens his competitors were Calhoun, who was one step above a traitor, John Quincy Adams, who had his turn and didn't do a stellar job, Tippecanoe (William Henry Harrison) and Tyler. He is a few steps above those.
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Old 02-03-2020, 08:14 AM
 
Location: Roaring '20s
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Originally Posted by theoldnorthstate View Post
needs to be said again and again. history must be view in the context of the times not through our current lens to be really understood. otherwise it isn't a study of history it is jabber jaw or maybe alternative history

People who study history generally rank Jackson as a good president and he was seen as such up until the 1970s. There is a modern movement to vilify him, by trying to compare him in a modern context, along with every founding father. I wouldn't buy into this as it's a very simplistic, uneducated way to view people from the past. It also puts you into a very hypocritical position, fawning over Abraham Lincoln who, in modern eyes, would definitely be considered a racist, and hating others who don't meet the modern standard of someone who is "woke", such as Jackson.
I'll try to parse the history out of your post, which largely consists of airing your modern political grievances.

You don't mention either Jackson's rejection of the Supreme Court as a check on the executive branch nor of his culpability in economic problems. I'm having a hard time understanding how disregarding one of the three co-equal pillars of American government is somehow mitigated because of the context of the times. I also fail to see how a botched fiscal policy that causes a contemporary crisis must be viewed in the context of the times.

While it is certainly necessary to judge actions to some extent by historical standards, it is also clear that a lot of people just use this as a handy excuse to reject criticism of historical figures they like.

Anyway, from your gripes it seems that what particularly riles you is criticism of Jackson's racism. You drag Lincoln into the conversation, as though there is some widespread historical understanding of the 16th President as a paragon of egalitarianism. There's not. He was a racist by modern standards (he wasn't considered as such during his lifetime as the term/concept didn't then exist). What's the problem in that? See, the flip side of the notion that every historical figure must be held to the standards of the 21st century is this aversion to any critical assessment of national heroes that is unflattering. This reactionary take is every bit as politically correct as those it seeks to counter.

However, more to the point is the difference between Lincoln and Jackson relative to their times. Lincoln, on the issue of race, was progressive. He sought change. Yes, I understand that he prioritized union over emancipation (this is another one of those Did you know? 'facts' often held up as though it's some sort of unearthed revelation that is going to blow the minds of people, when most of the time they are perfectly aware of it). But he sought change to the end of bettering the situations of blacks in the United States, and when he had the political opportunity to make that change he seized it. However, with the Indian Removal Act Jackson revealed a very different position. He was not at the fore nor even particularly in the middle of public sentiment when it came to Indians. The Indian Removal Act passed Congress, but not overwhelmingly. It cleared the Senate comfortably, but not be a veto-proof margin; in other words, there was a significant albeit minority opposition to it there. In the more representative House it passed by the slim margin of 101-97. While the Act had majority support, there was nonetheless strong opposition to it. This came from Indians, obviously. It also came from whites from a Christian point of view. And there was secular opposition. It was held as akin to the British expansionism at the expense of locals that the pre-independence colonists had suffered. It was argued against on legal grounds. It is also worth noting that Jackson refused to regard the Indian tribes as sovereigns worthy of negotiation. In this he retreated from the position held by Washington forty years earlier.

So this notion of Jackson holding the positions that he did because, hey, everybody held those positions back then is simply false. While a minority position, the opposition to the Act and the upholding of the recognition of Indians as human beings not as obstacles to be shunted off to land nobody wanted was significant and vibrant. Jackson, like Lincoln, made a choice.

Note:
Do I admire Lincoln? Very much so. He is a giant in American history. His racism is indeed an artifact of his times, yet Abraham Lincoln was obviously looking past it to the future. Jackson, conversely, was obviously looking to the past. Whereas Lincoln lamented the mistreatment of an ethnic minority and sought to improve its status, Jackson lamented the growing impulse to improve the status of another ethnic minority and sought to make their status worse. The difference between the two is stark.

Finally, I'd like to comment a bit more on the notion in general that we cannot judge those from the past by modern standards. I've noticed that this idea is almost always is offered in a selective fashion. For example, I have lost track of the times I've encountered this idea offered to mitigate the Confederate stance over slavery by those individuals who will, in the next breath, cite Lincoln as an unreconstructed racist. In other words, they believe in that notion so long as it applies to historical figures they like. But historical figures they dislike? Suddenly it becomes entirely appropriate to judge them by modern mores.

They almost invariably refuse to apply their idea across the board. To German antisemitism in the early 20th century? To Soviet indifference to the individual? (not only an element of Marxism itself but little different than the disregard shown to the common Russian by one Tsar after another) To virulent Japanese racism before and during the Second World War? Nope. Nope. Nope. So it becomes clear that this isn't so much a principle held as a convenient way of excusing historical blemishes - but only on those they don't want blemished.

I've also noticed that veneration of historical figures tends to be times-contextual. Why are Washington and Jefferson and Hamilton revered? For their notions liberty that were so at the fore of contemporary thought. We admire them precisely because they were not mindlessly shackled to then-common ideas of governance and the relationship between the rulers and the ruled. Figures of the Enlightenment are exalted by their new ideas that broke with the past. Newton, Darwin, Einstein - these and many others are rightly regarded as giants of history precisely because of the innovation of their thought. Our admiration of them is entirely in the context of their times. Yet heaven forbid we ever criticize them for something by the same standard.
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Old 02-03-2020, 08:57 AM
 
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Originally Posted by theoldnorthstate View Post
needs to be said again and again. history must be view in the context of the times not through our current lens to be really understood. otherwise it isn't a study of history it is jabber jaw or maybe alternative history

'People who study history generally rank Jackson as a good president and he was seen as such up until the 1970s. There is a modern movement to vilify him, by trying to compare him in a modern context, along with every founding father. I wouldn't buy into this as it's a very simplistic, uneducated way to view people from the past. It also puts you into a very hypocritical position, fawning over Abraham Lincoln who, in modern eyes, would definitely be considered a racist, and hating others who don't meet the modern standard of someone who is "woke", such as Jackson.'
To all who responded to my post in order to get you back on track: the second paragraph was a quote from the previous poster. I put quote marks around the second paragraph and do not know why they are missing.


My comment and I could put that comment in any history post is that historical events, persons, and events must be viewed in the context of the times to be understood. You get two historians in a room and they will argue but it will be coming at the event from different sides of the event at that point in time. or they will discuss consequences of an event.

And no, I don't cared for alternative history as entertaining as it may be. Pres Jackson was rated as an important president based upon objective study. He was impactful and a change agent. The aristocratic presidents of the founding fathers' ilk gave way to something more universal under Pres Jackson, the modern presidency. That much is true.

Now you don't like removal of the Cherokee and Creek, why or why not? what consequences did it have? You don't like his stand on nullification, why or why not and what are/were the consequences? etc
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Old 02-03-2020, 11:38 AM
 
Location: western East Roman Empire
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Originally Posted by jbgusa View Post
... he was an essential building block of a now-great country.
Even before he came president, Andrew Jackson set up the Gulf Coast states of the United States, from Louisiana to Florida.

In my view, the purpose of history is to set out facts in chronological order. Period.

That is often difficult enough without throwing in distortive contemporary retrojections and half-baked opinions, which are other than history.


I realize that the book you read focuses on his time as president, but I wonder how much space did the author dedicate to his earlier life and career.
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