He might’ve saved New Orleans but Old Hickory was not a nice guy. Of course, we didn’t know that when we were kids, singing about the Battle of New Orleans. I can still hear the snare drum and Johnny Horton twang. Doug Kershaw did a version, too, but his sucked.
In 1814 we took a little trip
Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip
We took a little bacon and we took a little beans
And we caught the bloody British in the town of New Orleans
We fired our guns and the British kept a-comin’
There wasn’t nigh as many as there was a while ago
We fired once more and they began to runnin’
On down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico
(The Battle Of New Orleans, written by James Morris)
Regardless, as an adult, the myth of his greatness was destroyed for me after reading of his role in the Trail Of Tears, the Indian Removal Act, and his time as a slave trader. He confiscated Indian lands, with and without the permission of the US government, and what he didn’t keep for himself he sold to friends and business associates.
He did his best to cleanse the entire Southeastern United States of Native Americans and he seemed to care little of how many died during his efforts. Men, women, and children…. It made no difference to him. Under his direction, massacres were common. He really, really didn’t like brown people.
As a general, he illegally invaded Spanish Florida to chase fugitive slaves, setting off the first Seminole War. In fighting the Seminoles, historian Bertram Wyatt-Brown said Jackson, “violated nearly every standard of justice.” The man was simply devoid of empathy. He wanted the Native Americans dead or gone.
He was a populist and an authoritarian with utter contempt for the constitution. When Native Americans in Georgia sued to maintain their land rights (Worcester v. Georgia), they won. The Supreme Court at that time was led by Justice John Marshall. But that didn’t stop Jackson. He reportedly responded to the ruling by saying, “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!” And he continued on his merry way.
During the British-American war, Jackson ruled New Orleans under martial law. That was understandable. But even after the war ended and the danger was past, he refused to end it. When a Louisiana state senator complained, Jackson locked him up. When a judge ruled the senator must be charged or released, Jackson ran him out of town.
So you have to admit, it is interesting. Of all the choices, of all the truly great American leaders for President Donald Trump to choose from, it’s Andrew Jackson’s portrait that’s just been hung in the oval office. It was not a random choice.