When Andrew Jackson was elected president in 1828, he was the first to reach that office as a self-made man. He was born into a poor family in South Carolina. During the American Revolution, Jackson lost his mother and two brothers and was wounded by a British officer.
Family tragedy seemed to follow Jackson throughout his life. As he ran for president, his detractors claimed that Jackson had lived with his wife before their marriage. Actually, they were married for two years before they realized that Rachel’s divorce from her previous husband had not been finalized. Rachel Jackson died from an illness before her husband’s inauguration. Jackson blamed her death on the nasty comments made during the campaign.
Historians have dubbed Jackson’s presidency the “age of the common man.” He was certainly unlike any other president the country had elected.
After his inauguration Jackson invited members of the public to attend a reception at the White House. To the dismay of the staff, so many people tried to cram into the White House that items were broken. Shortly after becoming president, Jackson indulged his fondness for chewing tobacco by installing twenty spittoons in the East Room.
Despite his dislike of formalities, Jackson’s terms as president had little impact on the common man. It’s true that more people (at least white, taxpaying males) got to vote in the election that sent Jackson to the White House. Through the Indian Removal Act he gave more white men the opportunity to acquire Native American land.
He did not, however, believe that social or economic equality was desirable. He stated, “Distinctions in society will always exist under every just government. Equality of talents, or education, or of wealth cannot be produced by human institutions.”
Jackson established the office of president as the chief power in American government for the first time. He made it obvious that he was not going to allow others to tell him what to do. He used the presidential veto more often than any previous president. For example, he vetoed the re-charter of the National Bank and federal support for internal improvements.
His ignorance of financial matters led to an economic crisis which harmed his successor, Martin Van Buren.