Jon Meacham, editor of Newsweek, portrays Andrew Jackson as one of America’s transformational presidents, including him in the company of Lincoln and the two Roosevelts. He highlights the crucial events that took place during the 17th president’s two terms in office (1829-37), maintaining that three of those incidents effectively define him. The first (and foremost) was Jackson’s repudiation of an attempt by South Carolina to nullify the federal tariff, which the state’s leaders believed to be detrimental to the South.
Jackson saw the move as an attack on the Union. His Unionist commitment was summed up in a retort to John C. Calhoun’s toast at the Democratic Jefferson Day Banquet in 1830. Calhoun offered the sentiment, “The Union, next to our liberties, the most dear.” Jackson raised his glass to the words, “Our Federal Union; it must be preserved.”
The second incident was Jackson’s veto of a bill that renewed the charter for the Second Bank of the United States. This was the first time a president used the veto for political purposes, rather than because he deemed a bill unconstitutional. The third key event was his signing of the Indian Removal Act (1830), by which Jackson brutally forced the removal of the southern Indian tribes west of the Mississippi.
Andrew Jackson was a lone surviving orphan; he had no children; and...