Jackson, Andrew (1767–1845), 7th president of the United States. Jackson, the first person from west of the Appalachians to be elected president, transformed the presidency with his rugged frontier virtues and devotion to “the common man.” His 2 terms in office coincided with a great period of democratic reforms known as “Jacksonian Democracy.”
At age 13, Jackson joined the South Carolina militia, took part in battle, and was captured by the British. He was later released. Jackson studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1787. In 1788, he moved to Nashville—then part of North Carolina—to practice law. In 1791, he married Rachel Robards, a widow.
Politics and war
In 1796, Jackson helped draft a constitution for the new state of Tennessee, then served briefly in the U.S. Congress. Jackson's service in the War of 1812 made him a national hero. He defeated the Creek Indians in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (1814) and the British in the Battle of New Orleans (1815). For his toughness, Jackson's men dubbed him “Old Hickory.” His military successes, flamboyance, and aggressive patriotism made him an appealing candidate for high office. In 1824, he ran for the presidency and won the most votes, but not a majority. The decision went to the House of Representatives, which elected John Quincy Adams. In 1828, Jackson again ran against Adams in a long, bitter, vituperative campaign. Jackson won the presidency; John C. Calhoun became vice president.
To eliminate the closed political-caucus system and the rule of wealth and privilege, Jackson introduced a system of “rotation in office.” The procedure, meant to shake up the bureaucracy and reward his friends, became known as “the spoils system.”
Jackson believed in the slogan “Let the people rule,” but also strengthened his power as president. His enemies organized into an opposition party called the Whigs—and the United States once more had a two-party system. Discord within Jackson's administration deepened when Vice President Calhoun opposed the high tariff acts of 1828 and 1832. Calhoun's native state, South Carolina, claimed that states had the right to nullify any federal laws they considered oppressive, and threatened to secede from the Union. To enforce the law and preserve the Union, Jackson ordered troops to Charleston. Calhoun resigned and South Carolina backed down, but this dispute over states' rights remained unsettled until the Civil War. One of the biggest conflicts of Jackson's presidency was his “Bank War.” The Bank of the United States, said Jackson, was an unconstitutional and privileged monopoly that would soon control the government. He turned the 1832 presidential campaign into a vendetta against the Bank and easily defeated opponent Henry Clay. In Jackson's second term, he supported the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which authorized forced removal of thousands of Indians from traditional homelands, pushed France to pay for damages to U.S. shipping during the Napoleonic Wars, and established diplomatic relations with the new Republic of Texas.
Jackson left office in 1837 and spent the last 8 years of his life at the Hermitage, his estate near Nashville.