Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Jackson Could Not Have Prevented the Civil War

President Andrew Jackson
I could not help but be amused at President Trump's comments on the Civil War. It seems that if Andrew Jackson were alive he would have prevented America's bloodiest war. President Trump also said that Jackson was angry about the war. I am not sure how Jackson could be angry about a war that began about 16 years after he died.
According to Wikipedia, "As president, Jackson sought to advance the rights of the 'common man' against a 'corrupt aristocracy' and to preserve the Union." I wonder how he would have gotten along with the elitists in today's Republican Party.
Jackson was a friend of the common man. He wanted "to purge the government of corruption of previous administrations." Jackson initiated presidential investigations into "all executive Cabinet offices and departments." During Jackson's tenure in office, large amounts of public money were put in the hands of public officials. He believed federal appointees should be hired on merit and withdrew many candidates he believed were lax in handling government funds. Jackson asked Congress to reform embezzlement laws, reduce fraudulent applications for federal pensions, revenue laws to prevent evasion of custom duties, and enact laws to improve government accounting. These measures are in stark contrast with the actions of the current administration to remove government oversight.
Jackson also advocated term limits.
Upon assuming the presidency in 1829 Jackson enforced the Tenure of Office Act, passed earlier into law by President James Monroe in 1820, that limited appointed office tenure and authorized the president to remove and appoint political party associates. Jackson believed that a rotation in office was actually a democratic reform preventing father-to-son succession of office and made civil service responsible to the popular will. Jackson declared that rotation of appointments in political office was "a leading principle in the republican creed."
Jackson noted, "In a country where offices are created solely for the benefit of the people no one man has any more intrinsic right to official station than another."[106] Jackson believed that rotating political appointments would prevent the development of a corrupt bureaucracy." Think how this would go over in Washington.
Some of his activities provide an indication of how he might have responded to the events leading up to the Civil War.
Nullification Crisis
In 1828, Congress approved the "Tariff of Abominations," which set import tariffs at a historically high rate. Southern planters, who sold their cotton on the world market, strongly opposed this tariff, which they believed favored northern industrial interests. The issue came to a head in the Nullification Crisis when South Carolina threatened to secede from the union. Jackson's response seems very similar to Abraham Lincoln's actions. As a Southern planter, Jackson sympathized with the South in the tariff debate, however he also supported a strong union with "effective powers for the central government." Jackson's attitudes were revealed in an incident was at the April 13, 1830, Jefferson Day dinner. During the after-dinner toasts, Robert Hayne began by toasting to "The Union of the States, and the Sovereignty of the States." Jackson then rose, and in a booming voice added "Our federal Union: It must be preserved!" This was clearly Lincoln's goal in calling for troops to put down the "rebellion" of Southern states.
In stark contrast to President Trump's Electoral College victory, Jackson repeatedly called for the abolition of the Electoral College by constitutional amendment in his annual messages to Congress. In his third annual message to Congress, he expressed the view "I have heretofore recommended amendments of the Federal Constitution giving the election of President and Vice-President to the people and limiting the service of the former to a single term. So important do I consider these changes in our fundamental law that I can not [sic], in accordance with my sense of duty, omit to press them upon the consideration of a new Congress."
Some of Jackson's actions as President clearly supported the South.
The Trail of Tears
Jackson might have been a champion of the "common man," but the man he spoke for was a "white common man." He was a slave-owner who defended the institution. Jackson's relocation of Cherokee Indian tribes from Georgia to the Oklahoma Territory resulted in the "Trail of Tears," in which 4,000 Native Americans died. On May 26, 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which Jackson signed into law. The Act authorized the President to negotiate treaties to buy tribal lands in the east in exchange for lands farther west, outside of existing US state borders. The passage of the act was especially popular in the South where population growth and the discovery of gold on Cherokee land had increased pressure on tribal lands.
When Andrew Jackson bought The Hermitage in 1804, he owned nine enslaved African Americans. Just 25 years later that number had swelled to over 100 through purchase and reproduction. At the time of his death in 1845, Jackson owned approximately 150 people who lived and worked on the property.
During the summer of 1835, Northern abolitionists began sending anti-slavery tracts through the US Postal system into the South. Pro-slavery Southerners demanded that the postal service ban distribution of the materials, which were deemed "incendiary." Jackson wanted sectional peace, and desired to placate Southerners while resisting demands from abolitionists. He supported the solution of Postmaster General Amos Kendall, which gave Southern postmasters discretionary powers to either send or detain the anti-slavery tracts."
One trait Trump seems to share with Jackson is his temperament. Jackson's quick temper was notorious. Some historians believe that Jackson was often in control of his rage, and used it and his fearsome reputation as the means to get what he wanted in his public and private affairs. His opponents were terrified of his temper: They compared him to "a volcano, and only the most intrepid or recklessly curious cared to see it erupt. ...His close associates all had stories of his blood-curling oaths, his summoning of the Almighty to loose His wrath upon some miscreant, typically followed by his own vow to hang the villain or blow him to perdition. Given his record—in duels, brawls, mutiny trials, and summary hearings—listeners had to take his vows seriously."

I hope that President Trump will learn more about our history before he makes statements that tarnish his image.

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