That was a small period of time in the 30's and 40's where a bunch of radical leftist historians like Charles Beard (A big FDR fan) used this Presidency to bash the GOP. No one believes that Johnson had any good qualities anymore and his bungling of Reconstruction was a disgrace. It set us up for decades of racial BS in this country. He is at least in the top 10 worst presidents.
His racial attitudes are deplorable but were very widespread at the time--so there was a limit to what could be accomplished. Grant was more in tune with the Radicals--but that didn't mean that everything became fine once Johnson left the White House.
Racism was very prevalent in the North--in 1865 the majority of Northern states restricted voting to white men, and most Northerners seem to have gotten tired of trying to help the freedmen pretty soon. Reconstruction failed (not totally but in many respects) not only because of resistance from Southern whites, but also because of indifference on the part of Northern whites.
One of the problems of the Radical Republicans was their arrogance--they wanted the Southerners not only to submit to federal authority but to admit that they had been wrong to support Southern independence, and Confederate veterans or their surviving kinfolk were not going to give them that satisfaction. The Radical Republicans were the forerunners of modern liberals who know what's best for everyone else.
Allow me to clear some things up about Andrew Jackson. First, many in our society blame Andrew Jackson for the Trail of Tears, otherwise known simply as Cherokee Removal from Georgia. It is innacurate to blame Jackson for this for one major reason; it occured in 1839, Jackson was no longer president. His hand-picked successor, Martin Van Buren, was president at the time. What Jackson was responsible for was the 1830 Indian Removal Act, which did make something like the Trail of Tears a possibility. This act was not something Jackson conjured up just because of a fear of Indians being pawns of European powers, it was the fulfilment of a promise made to the state of Georgia by President Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson could not bring himself to do it, and neither could Madison, Monroe, or Adams. And after 30 years of waiting, people in north Georgia were tired of waiting. People are quick to judge Jackson, but they can’t even state the year Cherokee Removal occurred, and they certainly don’t think that the actual residents of north Georgia might have actually had something to do with it all. Jackson also had the Nullification issue in South Carolina to be concerned with. By not following through on this 30 year promise, that state might have been encourgaed to go along with the nullifiers in SC.
Something else I’ve noticed here I want to address: Jackson would HATE our government today. He would most definatley not like big government, and let me explain why. Big government means big spending. As president Jackson vetoed almost every bill that we would consider today as a works progress act. For example, the same year he signed the Indian Removal Act into law, he vetoed a bill called the Maysville Road bill. It was to be an extension of the national road through Kentucky (which happened to be the home state of one of his greatest poltical rivals, Henry Clay), but only through that state. Jackson vetoed the bill on the basis that federal money should not be spent on something benefitting one state. Other examples that Jackson is not a proponent of big government: He is the only president to pay off the national debt. He destroyed the national bank. In many ways Jackson was a decentralist.
While he would not have been a proponent of big government, he was certainly the first president to expand the power of the executive branch. He vetoed more laws than all presidents before him combined. He was not afraid as president, to express his views on goverment and the constitution. Strong Presidents after Jackson admired him. Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, JFK, all admirers of Jackson’s use of executive office.
I think most people realize the Democratic Party Jackson created was not the same as the one FDR created, or the one in existance today. However, Democrats do still hold an annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner. This tradition goes all the way back to Jackson’s time when it was only known as the Jefferson Day Dinner. As a matter of fact, it was at this dinner in 1830, that Jackson and another political opponent of his, John C. Calhoun, had an interesting moment which most historians include when discussing the Nullification Crisis.
Which leads me to my final say on Jackson. It has been stated that Jackson did not care for the constitution. This could not be farther from the truth. As I said, most people know Jackson erronously for the Trail of Tears. Some people might know about the bank, or the Battle of New Orleans. What most people don’t know about, is Jackson’s most important role, and that was President during the Nullification Crisis of 1830-1832. South Carolina in Nov 1832 nullified a federal tariff. A conflict was brewing between the federal government and that state. It very well could have come to civil war 30 years before 1860.
Jackson was masterful in not only avoiding conflict, but winning the philosophical debate against a very smart politician, John C. Calhoun, the author of nullification. Most people would have expected Jackson during this moment to act brash and reactionary. Most people living at the time thought this as well. Few people living today or then, give him credit for the shrewdness he displayed here. Jackson did not strike out; he methodically built up the defenses in the harbor around Charleston (where most thought the issue of not paying the tariff would come to blows), and through Joel R. Poinsett, had militias created in the state. And had he tried tariff reform? Yes, he had, and the Palmetto state would not budge.
Jackson’s answer to the doctrine of Nullification was his Nullification Proclamation of December 10, 1832. In this document, Jackson becomes the first President to publicly state secession and nullification are treason. With that, not only does he win the majority of Americans to his side, he aptly defends the constitution and accomplishes something most don’t give him credit for....and that is he had a better understanding of the constitution than anyone at the time, save Daniel Webster and Joel Poinsett. Moreover, Jackson refused during this crisis to strike the first blow at South Carolina...its all in his papers.
Jackson had personal flaws, and his role in the removal of native americans is a stain on his record. However, he was not the first, or the last President to remove Indians, and thus should be seen that way. He was not a mass murderer; he like many Americans, wanted their land, even if they had become farmers. Being racist or greedy doesn’t make one a murderer. Jackson’s crowning achievement is his belief in an inseperable Union. Lincoln even stated this in his first inagural address.
Lastly, Jackson was the people’s President. He was the first man to be elected from the west. Every other president had been from Virginia or Massachussets. He was not formerly educated, yet he was a shrewd operator with a keen intellect, but a bad speller. People loved him because they could identify with him, and Jackson connected with them. It’s not unlike Reagan’s connection, or FDR’s to folks living in the Depression. Jackson wasn’t someone who seemed untouchable or unnaproachable. People trusted him for this. The love the nation had for him combined with his past is what caused many of his contemporaries to fear him as president. Yet, for all the trust he was given, Jackson never abused his power.