It’s really Jackson’s behavior as president – disregarding the Supreme Court and authorizing one of our nation’s worst crimes – and his generally reckless, selfish attitude that make hims a villain. He was frankly a dangerous person to have in power.
As an aside to Matt, Jackson’s victory at New Orleans really was stunning – he must have been an incredibly effective leader to unite the various forces that he did, as well as a great strategist to beat such an overwhelming force. I think genius is often a trait that’s deemed heroic, particularly when it leads to victory and saves a threatened city.
I guess Jackson is a textbook example of the “Feet-of-Clay” Syndrome. Heroes, like anyone else, are neither perfect nor consistent. In fact, hero and villain can co-exist in one body. Which does make for interesting fictional characters, but can be problematic in real life.
Excellent and informative. A long time ago I came across a biography of Jackson and read of his loving wife, who died tragically before his inauguration. If that man he killed in a duel was besmirching her honor, he’s a hero to me.
U.S. Presidents are rarely judged on how heroic they were in their executive decisions they made as President. They’re often judged on how “popular” they were. BUT, admittedly this logic can change because even a President like Harry Truman polled at around 23% toward the end of his Presidency, which he left office in 1953. And now he’s remembered as a popular President, because of something he’d done in 1945, dropping the bomb on Japan, thus effectively ending the War. But the heroism people find in something so villainous was based more on a consequential or utilitarian perspective.
Andrew Jackson was not only thought of as an American hero when it came to poltics.
He also was esteemed for being a determined, caring individual.
These traits make him known as a great American hero not only for his political success, but for his upstanding personal life
(Fun story: According to local New Orleans legend Jackson was then immediately jailed because he (wisely) wanted to put the city on curfew and forestall partying to make sure the British wouldn’t try a second landing. In the morning, the night of drinking safely over, he was released and paraded as a hero.)
I don’t view dueling as showing any personal fault on Jackson’s part. It was an accepted practice of the time and involved two consenting parties. Calling that unheroic would be like a future age criticizing one of our heroes because they used small claims court to resolve disputes, or because they wrote heated editorials against political opponents. These are acceptable practices in our culture.
Mr. Schultz, thank you for this reasonable essay. Yes, he was a hero because he’s the only American citizen to have an historical age named for him. You are correct though as the legend he became is indeed too good to be true. Almost everything accepted today as proven history should have an asterik/explanation since it was from Public Relations and political propaganda from those times. No, Emma,
Charles Dickinson didn’t besmirch Rachael, they SAID it was over a horserace but the story perpetuated within opposing families say he killed him because he WANTED to. They also said he padded his coat with newspapers, and that’s just the start of it. The real story of Jackson has been lying around for 200 years and no one will publish it because he yet remains powerful and people are scared of him. I’m a Democrat and I’m scared of him too.
So was Andrew Jackson a hero for his leadership during his Presidency? A villain for his actions? Both? Neither? This is why the notion of what is a “hero” is so nebulous. Public and historic consensus focused on his actions in the War of 1812, or his handling of the Nullification Crisis, or simply his stellar political career. The darker aspects of his persona are ignored or excused. Jackson certainly wouldn’t be a hero to Native Americans, or the British, or the Spanish. To this day we face these questions when declaring heroes. Do the person’s admirable qualities outweigh the frailty of the human condition? Who decides?
Andrew Jackson sure was a crazy guy. He was even known for throwing a massive party at the white house with a giant wheel of cheese and bathtubs full of booze. Perhaps his craziness is what makes him the perfect anti-hero.