Presidential Administration

Andrew Jackson was not known for his tact or his willingness to back down. In fact, during his presidential administration, he vetoed more bills than all previous presidents combined. He believed in using the full force of his position to set policy and to reward loyalty. Instead of relying on his official cabinet, as previous presidents had, he gathered together an informal group of advisers that was called the “kitchen cabinet.”

An example of Jackson's willingness to fight for his beliefs came with his veto of the second Bank of the United States. He felt that the federal government had no right to create such a bank that did not have any safeguards in place to provide oversight. He saw that the bank had the potential to wield great political power by using its financial influence. This veto was unpopular with many, including many of the members of his formal cabinet. However, he did not back down and despite final efforts by the bank to retain power, it was ultimately finished.

SCANDALS & GOSSIP

Peggy Eaton was the wife of Jackson's secretary of war, John Eaton. Because of rumors that Peggy's first husband had committed suicide due to her infidelities, she was shunned by Washington society. Jackson abhorred this conduct, possibly because he blamed the death of his own wife on the treatment she endured during his campaign. His cabinet spent more time dealing with this scandal than doing the work of the nation.

Sectional Strife

As time progressed, divisions between the Northern and Southern states were growing worse. Part of this was due to the different ways that the North and the South viewed the powers of the national government. Many of the Southern states fought hard to preserve states's rights and saw actions that they perceived as impeding these rights as unconstitutional.

Many southerners did not believe that the national government had the right to impose direct taxes or tariffs on them. When Jackson signed a tariff into law in 1832, South Carolina felt that it had the right to ignore it on the premise of nullification — the belief that a state could rule a federal act unconstitutional. Jackson, a southerner himself, took a strong stance and showed that he was ready to use the military to make sure that South Carolina paid the tariff. In 1833, a compromise was reached to help mollify the South for a time, but tempers continued to rise until the United States reached a breaking point and the Civil War broke out.

Trail of Tears

The state of Georgia appealed to Andrew Jackson about removing Cherokees from the state to reservations in the West. The Supreme Court had decided in Worcester v. Georgia (1832) that the state had no right to expel the Cherokees. However, Jackson ignored the ruling and, using the Indian Removal Act of 1830, had his commissioner create a treaty with the Cherokees in which they agreed to exchange their lands for those out West. The treaty was ratified in 1836 and the Cherokees had two years to leave Georgia. President Martin Van Buren, Jackson's successor, ended up having to forcibly remove more than 15,000 Cherokees from Georgia to the West along the Trail of Tears. The journey was so poorly planned and managed that nearly 4,000 Cherokees died on the trip.

PRESIDENTIAL TRIVIA

Jackson survived an assassination attempt in 1835. Richard Lawrence blamed Jackson for keeping him out of work. He fired a derringer at the president but it misfired. A second gun was tried and also didn't fire. The guns were later tested and shown to work correctly. Lawrence was the first person to attempt to assassinate a president. He was arrested and found not guilty by reason of insanity.

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