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The Presidential Policies of Andrew Jackson

Instructor: Anthony Galouzis

Anthony has taught middle and high school History/Social Studies and holds two master's degrees in History and Education, focusing on U.S. History and online studies.

Old Hickory, as President Andrew Jackson was known, had a reputation for being a no nonsense, rough around the edges individual. As President, Andrew Jackson was no different when applying his policies to the nation. Jackson would make many political enemies, but his promises to the American people would win him two terms and forever change the nation.

A Man of Action: Presidential Policies of Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson would serve two terms as President of the United States between 1829 and 1837. While he was known for a variety of policies, there were four in particular that defined his presidency. His desire to flush the corruption out of the federal government, his determination to resolve Indian affairs within the states, his dealings with the Nullification crisis, and his desire to eliminate the Second Bank of the United States.

President Andrew Jackson in 1837
President Andrew Jackson 1837

A President of the People

When Andrew Jackson won the Presidency in 1828, he had little experience as a politician. As a successful military leader, Jackson was able to higlight his military achievements for his credentials. With the aid and skill of Martin Van Buren, he was able to use his charisma as a means to rally a sense of nationalism from every region of the country. Jackson became known as a candidate for the 'common man,' and while he was able to use this public image to win the White House, it did not require him to learn how to develop or employ policy, or to compromise with those he did not agree with.

Jackson was not unfamiliar with the process of policy making or the art of politics in general, as he served as both a representative and a senator. It was his belief, as stated in a letter to the Senate in 1834, that the President was a direct representative of the American people, and that he was wholly responsive to them. Due to this belief, Jackson's policies would be developed from his own personal experiences and what he believed was in the best interest of the American people.

A System of Reform

Upon entering office in 1829, Jackson began his investigation into the corruption of the federal government. He ordered a presidential investigation of each office and department, asked Congress to reform accountability laws such as embezzlement and duty evasion. He also enforced the Tenure of Office Act, established by President Monroe in 1820, which limited the amount of time an appointed official could remain in office. Jackson believed this would help prevent the corruption of those in power.

Despite purging those attempting to use their positions for personal gain, Jackson would replace many of those removed with those loyal to himself and the Democratic party. The habit of giving government positions based on patronage rather than merit became known as the spoils system. The term was taken from a quote by New York Senator William L. Marcy in 1828 when he said, 'to the victor belongs the spoils.'

The Indian Removal Act

Map of Indian Removals and Relocations
Map of Indian Removals

At the start of his presidency, Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama were in a debate with local tribes regarding their sovereignty against the states claim of jurisdiction. Jackson supported the states' position, claiming that the federal government has no right to protect the tribes from expansion into their territories and that they could either assimilate or move further west, away from the states' jurisdiction. To help his position, Jackson pushed for Congress to pass the Indian Removal Act. The bill exchanged lands west of the Mississippi River for their current lands, as well as financial aid in the cost and establishment of their move.

The Nullification Crisis

In 1832, Congress passed a new tariff which reduced some rates but continued to protect native business. South Carolina was against the 'Tariff of Abominations' and held a convention in 1833 to debate the ability of the federal government to enforce laws on the state level. South Carolina declared that if a state does not agree with a federal law, then that state had the right to nullify, or disregard, the law for themselves. South Carolina declared the tariff to be 'null, void, and no law.' Furthermore, they threatened to leave the Union if the federal government attempted to enforce it.

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