Even today, Andrew Jackson is still awash in a storm of controversy. His life is full of contradiction, much like the country he helped build. One of his earliest biographers called him “a democratic autocrat” and “an atrocious saint.”
Without fail, every generation of historians has reshaped and revised our understanding of Jackson and will no doubt continue to do so. The reason is simple; Andrew Jackson is inextricably woven into the fabric of America.
The Age of Jackson
America during the Age of Jackson was a nation brimming with possibility and growing into a golden, young adulthood. Though born far from the wealth of the northern elite, Jackson was able to expand the powers of the President beyond any before him. The result was indelible changes in the government.
Though Jackson also fought hard to restore a nation of “We the People” and give voice to all those he represented as President, this expansion of democracy did not include everyone. Slavery remained a pervasive part of American society as did the continuing displacement of Native Americans. Opportunities for women and free blacks were still largely nonexistent under Jackson’s presidency.
Nevertheless, Jackson helped to inspire a uniquely American sense of promise and hope; the idea that anyone can succeed through hard work and natural ability, rather than through unearned power and privilege.
I thank God that my life has been spent in a land of liberty and that He has given me a heart to love my country with the affection of a son.
Andrew Jackson, Farewell Address, March 4, 1837
Andrew Jackson Firsts, Lasts & Onlys
- First president to be a resident of a state other than Massachusetts or Virginia
- First Tennessee representative to the U.S. House
- First president to ride a train
- First president to be assaulted while in office
- First president to be the target of an assassination attempt
- First president born to immigrant parents
- Last president to serve in the Revolutionary War (he participated at age 13!)
- Only president to have been held as a prisoner of war
- Only president to raise a Native American child—Lyncoya, who was found orphaned after the Battle of Tallushatchee (1813)
- Only president to serve in both the American Revolution and the War of 1812
- Only president to pay off the national debt
At the White House
- First president to add running water to the White House
- First president to install indoor toilets at the White House
- Jackson was largely self-taught. He read widely from the Bible and the classics to dozens of daily and weekly newspapers.
- Jackson did not free any of his slaves.
- Jackson was only the second president to be photographed.
- While he was in office, some farmers gave Jackson a 1,400-pound wheel of cheese. He invited all comers to help themselves and, for weeks after, the White House reeked of cheese.
- Jackson’s pet parrot, Poll, attended his funeral service, but had to be removed after he started cursing at the mourners.