Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Andrew Jackson, Self-Ordained Interpreter of the Constitution

 

In today’s President-a-Day pick, let’s take a look at Andrew Jackson.  Jackson’s faith in democracy and his efforts to open up the franchise and the political process remain his greatest achievements, but he has fallen somewhat in the presidential rankings to 10th on the list of greatest presidents.  Nevertheless, political scientists consider his influence to be on a par with Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and FDR in the way he changed the political system — his was, as they say, a “realigning” election that signaled a fundamental change in American politics.

Today, I fear most people know Jackson solely as the figure who appears on the $20 bill.  As those who remember Jackson will recall, this would have driven him into a rage (though many things set off his wild temper).  Jackson hated banks, and succeeded in destroying the Second Bank of the United States.  While recent biographers have been fascinated with Jackson’s personal story — his enlistment as a boy in the Revolutionary Army, his terrible Indian policy, his dueling, and his temper — I think he is perhaps the most independent of presidents in his attitude toward the Constitution.  He unforgettably vetoed legislation renewing the Second Bank on the ground that it was unconstitutional, even though the Supreme Court had held the Bank to be constitutional — in essence, claiming a right to interpret the Constitution independently of the Justices.

Here’s a link to a paper that examines Andrew Jackson’s role in establishing the foundations of the American presidency. He is generally considered by historians to have been one of the nation’s most vigorous and powerful chief executives. He advanced a new vision of the president as the direct representative of the people. Jackson put theory into practice with the vigorous exercise of his executive powers: interpreting the Constitution and enforcing the law independently, wielding the veto power for policy as well as constitutional reasons, and re-establishing control over the executive branch. In the first of two great political conflicts of his time, the Bank War, Jackson vetoed a law that the Supreme Court and Congress both thought constitutional, removed federal deposits from the Bank, and fired cabinet secretaries who would not carry out his orders. In the second, the Nullification Crisis, Jackson again interpreted the nature of the Constitution and the Union on behalf of the people, and made clear his authority to carry out federal law, even against resisting states.

Although he was a staunch defender of limited government, Jackson would confront head-on the forces seeking a weaker union and/or a weaker executive. His achievement would be to restore and expand the presidency, within the context of a permanent Union. He would also spark resistance so strong that it would coalesce into a new political party, the Whig party, devoted to opposing concentrated executive power.

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See Also:

George Washington, Greatest American President

The Overrated Thomas Jefferson

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  1. Snow Bird Inactive

    Sorry. Wrong thread. Weird html issues.

    • #1
    • June 30, 2011, at 4:35 AM PDT
    • Like
  2. River Inactive

    Jackson is a hard nut to crack. I’m ambivalent about him. His overruling of both Congress and the Supreme Court should trouble us, as well as his murderous Indian policies. On the other hand, his love for his wife Rachel is an inspiration. He showed great chivalry toward all women.

    Granted, he was the first real populist, and is responsible for the formation of the Democratic Party, the voice of pro-slavery forces.

    Jackson had incredible will power, stamina, and courage. He fought a duel early in life – killing his opponent – but carried that man’s bullet next to his heart until the day he died; and had another in his shoulder, received in a tavern brawl. He hung on for years, as if he were too ornery to die.

    • #2
    • June 30, 2011, at 4:39 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  3. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph Stanko Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    John Yoo

    He unforgettably vetoed legislation renewing the Second Bank on the ground that it was unconstitutional, even though the Supreme Court had held the Bank to be constitutional — in essence, claiming a right to interpret the Constitution independently of the Justices.

    So who was right, Jackson or the Supreme Court? Was the 2nd Bank constitutional?

    • #3
    • June 30, 2011, at 4:46 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  4. Kervinlee Member
    Kervinlee Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    River: Jackson is a hard nut to crack. I’m ambivalent about him. His overruling of both Congress and the Supreme Court should trouble us, as well as his murderous Indian policies. On the other hand, his love for his wife Rachel is an inspiration. He showed great chivalry toward all women.

    Granted, he was the first real populist, and is responsible for the formation of the Democratic Party, the voice of pro-slavery forces.

    Jackson had incredible will power, stamina, and courage. He fought a duel early in life – killing his opponent – but carried that man’s bullet next to his heart until the day he died; and had another in his shoulder, received in a tavern brawl. He hung on for years, as if he were too ornery to die. · Jun 29 at 4:39pm

    Edited on Jun 29 at 04:41 pm

    Is it true that in that tavern where Jackson was shot an infant John C. Fremont lay in his cradle and missed being hit by one of the bullets by only a little?

    • #4
    • June 30, 2011, at 4:54 AM PDT
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  5. Michael Tee Inactive

    Jackson continued the policies of his predecessors regarding the Indian Question. For those of you who accept liberal dogma premises, look up the Fort Mims Massacre.

    I read that Mr. Yoo writes as if the executive interpreting the Constitution separate from the other branches of government is some sort of error. Perhaps his view of many of his former boss’s stances may be colored by this view?

    Oh, he’s the only President to retire the national debt.

    • #5
    • June 30, 2011, at 5:33 AM PDT
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  6. wilber forge Member
    wilber forge Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Even as there is an effort to sort out historical details to apply today, Jackson was a man representing the time and events. A much harder life requiring more abrupt methods in the experiment of an emerging political system. In a way, success or failure meant swift actions. Far afield from the sluggish mechanism of today. As current memory has it, not many of the elites or Presidents carry a true duelling wound as a measure of accomplishment.

    As it plays out, Old Andy is a blood relative of mine. Any attempt to disgrace his memory will be met with an invitation to meet at dawn and settle the argument in traditional fashion.

    • #6
    • June 30, 2011, at 6:25 AM PDT
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  7. Todd Inactive

    “He unforgettably vetoed legislation renewing the Second Bank on the ground that it was unconstitutional, even though the Supreme Court had held the Bank to be constitutional — in essence, claiming a right to interpret the Constitution independently of the Justices.”

    That’s like the opposite of W. Bush, who signed McCain/Feingold even though he believed that it was unconstitutional (or at least that is my memory of what happened).

    • #7
    • June 30, 2011, at 6:50 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  8. Roy Lofquist Inactive

    Dear Mr. Yoo,

    I speak as a layman with no formal legal education.

    The Constitution was written to establish and safeguard the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence. These principles were succinctly stated in the first few paragraphs. The rest of it set forth specific reasons that Great Britain had violated these principles as a justification for the Declaration.

    The Constitution was written to establish a system of government that specifically limited the ability of factions to lead the country astray. Stare decisis is a very important, nay vital, bulwark to ensure a government of laws, not men. However, precedent itself can incrementally subvert that purpose. Decisions of The Court based solely on prior decisions take no note of the subversion of basic principles.. When that happens to the point where it offends the sensibilities of the people then it is their duty to correct the course of the Ship of State. They have a number of options available – amendments, election of different legislators and the executive, etc. They are, by design, tedious and difficult.

    At certain times it compels the President to attend his fundamental duty to preserve and protect The Constitution.

    • #8
    • June 30, 2011, at 7:46 AM PDT
    • Like
  9. River Inactive
    Kervinlee

    River: Jackson is a hard nut to crack. I’m ambivalent about him. His overruling of both Congress and the Supreme Court should trouble us, as well as his murderous Indian policies. On the other hand, his love for his wife Rachel is an inspiration. He showed great chivalry toward all women.

    Granted, he was the first real populist, and is responsible for the formation of the Democratic Party, the voice of pro-slavery forces.

    Jackson had incredible will power, stamina, and courage. He fought a duel early in life – killing his opponent – but carried that man’s bullet next to his heart until the day he died; and had another in his shoulder, received in a tavern brawl. He hung on for years, as if he were too ornery to die. · Jun 29 at 4:39pm

    Edited on Jun 29 at 04:41 pm

    Is it true that in that tavern where Jackson was shot an infant John C. Fremont lay in his cradle and missed being hit by one of the bullets by only a little? · Jun 29 at 4:54pm

    Edited on Jun 29 at 07:03 pm

    I haven’t heard that story before.

    • #9
    • June 30, 2011, at 8:05 AM PDT
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  10. Give Me Liberty Inactive

    As a military man Jackson was a real American action hero. His presidency is more of a mixed bag. Probably my biggest complaint is that ever since the Jackson’s presidency this canard about Democrats being for the little guy has been perpetuated. I think his presidency was too often a populist leading a mobocracy.

    • #10
    • June 30, 2011, at 8:12 AM PDT
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  11. Robert E. Lee Member
    Robert E. Lee Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jackson only cared about the Constitution when it suited his purposes. He is infamous in my Cherokee decended household for the Indian Removal Act of 1830 which led to the Trail of Tears. I could say lots more but not without violating the code of conduct. Suffice it to say that an examination of his character, as illustrated above, describes a person who only had respect for his own opinion and would stop at nothing to get his way, legal or not.

    • #11
    • June 30, 2011, at 8:39 AM PDT
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  12. wilber forge Member
    wilber forge Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Robert E. Lee: Jackson only cared about the Constitution when it suited his purposes. He is infamous in my Cherokee decended household for the Indian Removal Act of 1830 which led to the Trail of Tears. I could say lots more but not without violating the code of conduct. Suffice it to say that an examination of his character, as illustrated above, describes a person who only had respect for his own opinion and would stop at nothing to get his way, legal or not. · Jun 29 at 8:39pm

    Interesting, consider the legacy of Texas in context when Perry stands with pride of his state. Texans and resident Mexicans exterminated every Indian in sight. All of them. With all due respect, something to consider.

    • #12
    • June 30, 2011, at 9:01 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  13. Southern Pessimist Member
    Todd: “He unforgettably vetoed legislation renewing the Second Bank on the ground that it was unconstitutional, even though the Supreme Court had held the Bank to be constitutional — in essence, claiming a right to interpret the Constitution independently of the Justices.”

    That’s like the opposite of W. Bush, who signed McCain/Feingold even though he believed that it was unconstitutional (or at least that is my memory of what happened). · Jun 30 at 6:50am

    Edited on Jun 30 at 06:53 am

    That is my recollection also and I thought at the time that it was a dereliction of duty. I think Bush’s greatest mistake was letting Congress roll all over him. Truly baffling behavior.

    • #13
    • June 30, 2011, at 9:44 AM PDT
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