March 15 - Happy Birthday, Andrew Jackson

Posted on March 15, 2017

Hoo, boy! Is today's presidential birthday boy controversial!

Andrew Jackson was the seventh president. Born on this date in 1767, he is known for being a soldier and military leader, a populist (in other words, not born to the "elite," but instead one of the "common folk"), and the founder of the Democratic Party.

Jackson has been so admired by so many for so long that he has appeared on U.S. more different postage stamps than anyone else other than Washington, Lincoln, and Benjamin Franklin, and he has appeared on several different banknotes, including our current $20 bill! (The plan to feature Harriet Tubman instead is probably not going to happen, I fear, because of the change of the administration.)

Here are some of the things that are admirable about Jackson:

Jackson tried to fix some of the forms of corruption that had been seen in earlier administrations, including mismanagement of money and favoritism in awarding governmental contracts.

He not only tried, but he succeeded in making some positive changes on behalf of veterans.

He tried but failed to end the system of the Electoral College; he believed that the election of the President and Vice President should come directly from the people. I wish he had succeeded in this goal!


Like virtually all white people of his time, Andrew Jackson was racist. He owned slaves. He fought against Indians (Native Americans). He railed against rich people who seemed to assume they were better than others, but he didn't see that he made an equally horrible assumption: that he himself and other white people were better than people of color!

Jackson was more than "just" racist toward Native Americans. He worked to pass the "Indian Removal Act" - and therefore was responsible for the forcible removal of tens of thousands of Native Americans from their ancestral lands. 

He was responsible for the Trail of Tears! The deaths of thousands! The loss of culture and land and traditions and homes for tens of thousands! The extinction of ways of life!

Despite Jackson's attempts to end corruption and favoritism, he himself started another kind of corruption / favoritism. In order to win the election, he'd promised hundreds of supporters positions in the government; after he won, Jackson and his administration removed 919 officials from their positions and awarded the jobs to those supporters!

This is called "the spoils system," from the quote "To the victor belong the spoils" (from Senator Marcy). It is all too common worldwide, but it hadn't been much seen in American politics until Jackson's presidency. (The opposite of "the spoils system" is "the merit system" - which is the system used to fill most non-governmental jobs!)

Also on this date:

J. J. Robert's Birthday in Liberia

Plan ahead:
And here are my Pinterest boards for:

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