Andrew Jackson was born in 1767 near the border between North and South Carolina. His parents were poor; his father died before the Revolution and his mother (and two brothers) during it. Jackson’s education was sporadic, but that did not prevent him from becoming a lawyer, judge, merchant, land speculator, military officer, planter and politician.
Jackson married Rachel Robards (1767-1828) in 1791 and again in 1794 upon her official divorce from her first husband. The couple produced no offspring but adopted two boys, the son of Rachel’s brother and a Creek Indian orphan. Jackson dueled courageously on several occasions and developed a reputation for bravery that helped him to lead large military units during the War of 1812, most famously in the Battle of New Orleans.
Politically, Jackson was a Democrat. As the first Westerner and the first self-made man to serve as President, Jackson tried to increase the economic and political power of the common man through a series of policies ranging from vetoing the re-charter of the Second Bank of the United States to the Specie Circular, both of which sought to reduce the influence of bankers, to advocating the elimination of the elitist Electoral College in presidential elections.
Critics of his administration, however, cast Jackson in a more sinister light. In addition to blaming him for the Panic of 1837 and subsequent recession, they attacked him for creating the “spoils system” whereby friends of the administration, rather than the most qualified individuals (typically, incumbents), were given federal government posts like local postmaster. In addition, Jackson’s frequent use of his veto power brought down on his head the metaphorical crown of “King Andrew I.”
Although he had health issues from his dueling and Army days, Jackson lived until 1845. He is buried at his Hermitage plantation near Nashville, Tennessee.
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