Was Andrew Jackson a “president of the people”?
The question has so many layers that it cannot be answered with a simple yes or no and this is why answer. Jackson truly felt that he was a president of the people, and many Americans at that time would have considered him a president of the people. But both assumptions would not make a case for its truthfulness and one ultimately has to come to terms with a real definition of “president of the people”.
What factors would result this label? In both the minds of Jackson and many of the citizens of America the fact that he was not born of aristocracy and would be the first president who was not born of this “Eastern Aristocracy” would be the main factor in branding him a “common man” to the American people.
He was orphaned at an early age and was a “self-made man” also portrayed him as a common man just like the rest of America. Americans at that time, especially with the opening of the Louisiana Territory, could identify with this type of man.
His role as a war hero at the Battle of New Orleans made him real and tangible to the average American. Everyone knew who Major General Andrew Jackson was and what he had done for this country in ending the War of 1812.
Jackson as president would have a desire to see the common man take part in the government. He did this, and sometimes with disastrous effects, but he nonetheless felt that aristocracy was not equivalent to a pass into leadership.
Early on as a judge he made it a point to preserve the dignity of both the accused and the accuser, a good trait for a judge as well as one that would endear him to the people.
And his first inaugural address strung the strings of patriotism of the common man.
But Jackson also was self ambitious, promoted slavery, would be harsh in the treatment of the Indians, and really did little to improve the lives of the everyday person. Jackson was an enigma, James Parton wrote of Jackson some years after Jackson’s presidency and said,
“Andrew Jackson, I am given to understand, was a patriot and a traitor. He was one of the greatest of generals, and wholly ignorant of the art of war. A writer brilliant, elegant, eloquent, and without being able to compose a correct sentence, or spell words of four syllables. The first of statesmen, he never devised, he never framed a measure. He was the most candid of men, and was capable of the profoundest dissimulation. A most law-defying, law-obeying citizen. A stickler for discipline, he never hesitated to disobey his superior. A democratic aristocrat. An urbane savage. An atrocious saint.”
In other words, he could do great deeds, but had flaws, just like every other citizen.
So, the question ultimately boils down to the definition of president of the people and how we perceive that label now. Sitting in the shoes of a citizen back then one would say that he was indeed a president of the people. His actions spoke volumes to the common man and he made sure that he focused his political aspirations as such. Today, most would see him as nothing more than a politician doing what needs to be done to address the issue at the moment and to further his personal belief system. Andrew Jackson followed his gut instinct. Sometimes it worked for him, other times it got him in deep trouble.
Was Andrew Jackson a “president of the people”? That all depends on who and when you ask.