Andrew Jackson for President, Act I
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Andrew Jackson would grow up to be a President of the United States of America and the founder of the Democratic Party. Along the way he would murder many of his fellow men and live a life of depravity unmatched, so far as we know, by any other American President.
Continued from Andrew Jackson, Governor of Florida
Andrew Jackson, having found the office of Governor of Florida wanting , returned to his Hermitage in Nashville, Tennessee again in late 1821. The economy was still bad. Jackson's slave-grown cotton was worth 11 cents a pound, at best. Yet he was prosperous enough to continue building at the Hermitage and his Alabama property, and was looking to buy more slaves. In January of 1822 the Philadelphia Aurora mentioned Jackson as a possible candidate for President of the United States. Tennessee newspapers followed suit. Jackson kept quiet, but told friends he was not a candidate [James, p. 336-337].
Rachel, Mrs. Andrew Jackson, wrote in a letter, "They talk of his being President. Major Eaton, General Carroll, Mr. [George] Campbell [former Secretary of the Treasury], the Doctor and even the Parson." [James, p. 338] Sam Houston also became a member of the Nashville cabal.
Debtors had gained political ascendancy in neighboring Kentucky. Jackson did not like that; he believed in no mercy for debtors, being a creditor himself. William Carroll ran for governor of Tennessee, leading the state's debtors, but then kept them under control once elected. Perhaps that was the genesis of Jackson's, and the soon to be formed Democratic Party's, strategy.
The Jackson cabal, if not the General himself, had marked out a plan by April of 1822. They would market Jackson as the opposite of his (prior) political opinions and actions. "They meant to sweep aside precedent, ignore party machinery which they knew they could not control, and plant the flag of their man amid the restless masses, groping for leadership." [James, p. 345]
A modern reader should know that the selection of Presidential candidates has changed greatly since that era. Then factions or parties in Congress would choose the candidates to put before individual State electors (men chosen to be in the Electoral College) in the states, who were often not chosen by popular vote. However, the Federalist Party had shrunk to the point that it had run no Presidential candidate in 1820. All the candidates in 1824 would be in the reigning Democratic-Republican Party. 1824 would also be the first election in which the popular vote for President would be recorded in addition to the electoral college vote.
To make Jackson the candidate of the people, in opposition to William H. Crawford, the candidate of the party caucus in Congress, was the goal of his promoters. They sent out feelers to other states, but arranged for the legislature of Tennessee to put his name forward.
Meanwhile Jackson himself, rested, rode to his Melton's Bluff Plantation in Alabama to take care of an important matter. "Gilbert, a negro man, about 35 or 40 years of age," had escaped, according to a $50 reward poster. Jackson owned about 100 slaves concentrated at the Hermitage and another 60 concentrated at Melton's Bluff. By the time Jackson got there another 3 slaves had escaped. But the General showed his ability by recapturing all 4 pieces of his property.
While he was away his junto was active. Andrew had not answered letters from across the nation asking to allow his name to be put forward for the presidency. But newspapers hinted at his candidacy. In a letter Jackson relented. He would not seek office, "But when the people call, the Citizen is bound to render the service required". On July 20, 1822, the Tennessee legislature unanimously resolved that "the name of major-general Andrew Jackson be submitted to the consideration of the people of the United States." [James p. 352]
James Madison attempted to divert Andrew Jackson from the race by appointing him Ambassador to Mexico. The Senate confirmed the appointment. Henry Clay prepared to fill the vacuum Jackson's departure would create, and was endorsed by the Kentucky legislature, then by Ohio. Professionals were already counting electoral votes, giving Crawford 114, John Quincy Adams 48, Clay 41, Calhoun 39, and Jackson just 19. Fearing Crawford, the other candidates wanted Jackson in the race at least for a time. Calhoun, writing to Jackson, claimed "I am the only man from the slave holding states that can be elected."
Jackson refused the nomination as Ambassador on February 19, 1823, citing the despotic nature of the Mexican government and Mrs. Jackson's refusal to go to Mexico. Jackson's cabal insinuated that meant he was indeed running to become President. The race was on.
Main source: The Life of Andrew Jackson by Marquis James, Bobbs-Merrill company, 1938.
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