History

Lionizing Old Hickory

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Writing in The New York Times, Janet Maslin gives the thumbs up to Jon Meacham's new American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, noting that Meacham "dispenses with the usual view of Jackson as a Tennessee hothead and instead sees a cannily ambitious figure determined to reshape the power of the presidency during his time in office." As Maslin notes:

In its cogent fashion this book illustrates how Jackson's more polished political rivals, like Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun, were unable to look past Jackson's confrontational style to see the president's true agenda. At the time of the Compromise of 1833, when Jackson found ways to satisfy the conflicting interests of both nationalists and states' rights advocates while asserting the power of the presidency, he displayed the fine political art of projecting while looking for a way out.

John Yoo, the former Justice Department attorney and author of the Bush administration's notorious "torture memo," recently made a similar argument, claiming that Jackson's successes as president all stemmed from his "vigorous exercise of his executive powers." That's true as far as it goes, but as I argued in my article on Yoo's Jacksonian conservatism, Old Hickory offers a truly terrible model of presidential behavior. His bullying politics see-sawed from decentralist to nationalist, held together only by his own considerable sense of self-righteousness and, as Maslin points out, his calculated efforts to expand the powers of the presidency. Meacham, it appears from Maslin's review, is on Yoo's side, arguing that Jackson's aggressive behavior held the country together and "kept the possibility of progress alive." Ah, progress. Tell that to the Cherokee.

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  1. I wonder if the GOP is going to get over its worship of Executive authority now that Obama is in office. I doubt it. If only we had the right people in charge!

  2. John Yoo, the former Justice Department attorney and author of the Bush administration’s notorious “torture memo,”…

    Boy, you write one little memo, and nobody ever lets you forget.

  3. What Cherokee?

    Exactly.

  4. Andrew Jackson – Trail of Tears.
    Fuck him. I don’t even like using twenties due that asshole being pictured on them.

    I case anyone is uncertain about my feelings about Jackson, FUCK HIM!

  5. So the Bushies were Jacksonians. Color me surprised.

  6. Andrew Jackson,
    If there’s a hell, I hope it sucks as much as they say it does.

  7. Don’t get me started. Really, just don’t.

  8. “I don’t even like using twenties due that asshole being pictured on them.”

    You should get a chuckle out of it. Jackson was famous for his opposition to a national bank – unwise and unconstitutional, he said. Look who prints the twenties – a national bank! (Federal Reserve). Basically, by putting Jackson’s picture on the 20, the Fed is acting like those barbarian kings who made drinking cups out of the skulls of their defeated enemies.

    In a lot of ways, Jackson was a bad, bad boy – backing Georgia during the Trail of Tears, etc. These abuses, and the populist way he went about them, warrant much of the criticism Jackson gets. I don’t want to deny the Jackson-haters their due. Jackson set the stage for the modern populist Presidency – close to being a plebiscitary dictatorship, if the John Yoos of the world have their way.

    But let us also give Jackson credit where it is due. As I said, he opposed a national bank as unconstitutional and unwise.

    In addition, his veto message on the National Bank bill rebuked the political heresy that the U.S. Supreme Court is a secular Magisterium which gets to tell us what the Constitution means or doesn’t mean:

    “It is maintained by the advocates of the bank that its constitutionality in all its features ought to be considered as settled by precedent and by the decision of the Supreme Court. To this conclusion I can not assent. . . .
    “If the opinion of the Supreme Court covered the whole ground of this act, it ought not to control the coordinate authorities of this Government. The Congress, the Executive, and the Court must each for itself be guided by its own opinion of the Constitution. Each public officer who takes an oath to support the Constitution swears that he will support it as he understands it, and not as it is understood by others. It is as much the duty of the House of Representatives, of the Senate, and of the President to decide upon the constitutionality of any bill or resolution which may be presented to them for passage or approval as it is of the supreme judges when it may be brought before them for judicial decision. The opinion of the judges has no more authority over Congress than the opinion of Congress has over the judges, and on that point the President is independent of both. The authority of the Supreme Court must not, therefore, be permitted to control the Congress or the Executive when acting in their legislative capacities, but to have only such influence as the force of their reasoning may deserve.”

    It is too bad that President Bush did not follow this particular Jacksonian precedent, instead choosing to defer to the Supreme Court instead of using his own independent judgment on constitutional questions, as his oath to preserve, protect and defend that Constitution required.

    Perhaps President Obama will be more “Jacksonian” in this specific area? One can hope.

  9. Old Hickory offers a truly terrible model of presidential behavior.

    He’s not even close to last on the list, though. He was the last president to pay off the national debt in its entirety, and he also abolished the Bank of the United States.

    If we could a get a modern day president to abolish the Fed and pay off the national debt, we would consider him a libertarian hero.

  10. Craig,
    I have my own reasons for really hating Jackson.

  11. If we could get a modern day president to abolish the Fed and pay off the national debt, at what price would we want that if you get a Jacksonian populist who uses his power in other, less savory ways?

    I’m not sure how I’d answer that, as economic and civil rights are two sides of the same coin to me.

  12. I’m lucky my ancestors were good insurgents during their day.

    My cherokee ancestors evaded the government agents sent to march them down the trail of tears…their distrust of government kept them safe in the foothills of the appalachians for another 50 years before they came down out of the mountains and started mixing with city folk in chattanooga TN.

  13. and you think the government wouldn’t commit terrorism?

    All you folks who claim the government is just a bungling group of incompetents incapable of purposely hurting anyone should try thinking of the cherokees they did manage to kill.

  14. and seriously…doesn’t this make any of the unquestioning believers in the government sanctioned terrorist conspiracies the least bit curious?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIzauRB6DVk

  15. Trail of Tears, bitches!

  16. The real hero here was Davy Crockett, who opposed the Indian policy of Andy Jackson — his President, his former commanding officer, and the leader of his party. And for that he became a one-term Congressman. God bless him!

  17. Man, you all are a bunch of wet blankets.

  18. Regarding Maslin’s point that he could “reshape the power of the presidency”:

    I can’t even imagine a shape for the president these days. Umbrella?

  19. the Fed is acting like those barbarian kings who made drinking cups out of the skulls of their defeated enemies.

    Actually, it’s the treasury department, not the Fed, that decides on the design of the currency.

    -jcr

  20. I agree with Mad Max.

    Ending the Second Bank of the US was a major libertarian victory. Without it, we libs wouldn’t have much to talk about after Jefferson.

    Sure, Jackson was a mixed bag. But his Treasury Sec William Legget was a locofoco, the New York Radicals who were thoroughly classical liberal.

    His successor, Martin van Buren, was the American Gladstone. He continued the work of the ending the central bank, while establishing the classical liberal policies of peace and prosperity that lasted until 1862, and later in Grover Cleveland’s two terms.

    Libertarians should criticize Jackson where he was wrong, but stand up and applaud him when he was right.

    Let’s not play the race card like left liberals, OK?

  21. I didn’t mean to give the wrong impression I think Old Hickory was great for his defense of the country from the bankers.

    “You are a nest of vipers and thieves, and by the grace of the almighty God, I will root you out! ”
    Said of the Second Bank of the United States;

    “There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses. If it would confine itself to equal protection, and, as Heaven does its rains, shower its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor, it would be an unqualified blessing. ”

    Unfortunately the bankers have finally completely conquered our country as tehy now openly steal trillions at a time with no recourse. There control of the education system and media is so complete that most of the country doesn’t even understand they are being robbed.

  22. The real hero here was Davy Crockett, who opposed the Indian policy of Andy Jackson — his President, his former commanding officer, and the leader of his party. And for that he became a one-term Congressman. God bless him!

    Whereupon he left for Texas, to fight for the Republic of, and died fighting Santa Ana at the Alamo. They don’t make ’em like that any more.

    /Wipes tear./

  23. gabe sez There control of the education system

    Yep, case closed.

  24. libertree,
    Maybe you’re right. But I always like to think that someone can be a libertarian in some areas without being a complete shit in others.

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