From his early childhood to his days in presidency, Andrew Jackson’s fueled a revolution in politics and the search for vindication of the American people. In this psychoanalytical biography of Andrew Jackson, James C. Curtis explores Jackson’s tenacious personality and lifelong quest for power, which was deeply rooted in his troubled past.
Beginning in the backwoods of the Carolina’s, young Andrew Jackson was born to a couple from Northern Ireland that migrated here during a time of social and economic turmoil. Arriving in the late 1760’s, Jackson explored the prospective rolling countryside with the uncontrolled freedom that encouraged his wild behavior. By the age of fourteen, Jackson had lost his brothers and both parents, leaving a young troubled boy to fend for himself in the turbulent south. Evidently, Jackson’s rebellious attitude brought him nowhere in school. The local schoolmaster barley taught him to read or write, but he expressed himself directly. Even into his presidency his advisors had to revise his public writings due to his horrid grammar and spelling. Throughout the beginning of the book, Curtis extensively relates Andrew’s early encounters to his future motivations in personal and political thought.
Andrew’s break came at the age of seventeen when he landed a job with a lawyer to practice law. Soon Andrew had a legitimate chance in frontier diplomacy. In 1784 he was involved in the Spanish Conspiracy. In this conflict the colonists were looking for a bold, reactionary person to represent them. Andrew took to this and forcefully went after the Indians. Obviously, his rashness toward the Indians was rooted in his own struggles with authority as a child. ” They were doubly evil, reminding him of a past he was trying to forget and threatening a future he was trying to achieve. The Indian was a fit target for wrath.”(23) Curtis’ style emphasizes that Jackson was relating the unconstrained conditions of the frontier to his own unconstrained behaviors. As a result, Jackson wanted to suppress this feeling and took out his angers on the Indians.
Finally in 1796, Jackson’s political chieftain, William Blount, selected the young judge advocate of the Davidson County Militia. After two years he replaced Blount’s seat in the senate. Senator Jackson sat in office for about a year before he realized that his brash public speaking skills and high temper could not contest with the polemical persuasion the other Senators possessed. Once again Jackson returned to the profitable judgeship that the Blount regime offered. He served giving six years of crude but fair justice as a prominent judge.
In 1806, Jackson once again revealed his reckless and impulsive behavior when he challenged a fellow opponent to a duel. Jackson exercised his boldness after allowing the sharpshooter take the first shot. Wounded, he immediately raised his gun and killed the other man. Curtis showed that this level of bravery would be his greatest alibi in future encounters.
With the return of peace in 1815 allowed for more productive use of transportation. Consequently, the Market Revolution was born, as well as a time for political change. The old regimes were being taken over by new ones that represented a different generation of Americans. The majority favored Americans that were born and raised in the light of the Revolution. Andrew Jackson was and acted like that kind of person. His unstable past caught the admiration of the working class as well as the slave owners, but the old political parties saw Jackson as a frantic militiaman. He disappointed those ” whose minds were prepared to see me with a Tomahawk in one hand and a scalping knife in the other.”(82) These reactions concerned Jackson and inspired him to seek a different course of action. Curtis showed, ” the candidate desperately wanted such vindication.”(82)
From 1828 to 1836 Jackson served the presidency with the same motivation that got him there. Tragedy struck again with the death of his wife, a serious illness, and the Eaton affairs. In 1831 allegations from the banks were swarming Jackson. The pressure of presidency was taking its toll. The fight with the Indians was showing progress, but the south was deteriorating. Jackson soon elected a new cabinet that contained federalists and Bank members. He even went to the extent in terminating his administration. Later in his retirement, he claimed,” It was the sovereign people that….enabled me to terminate my administration so satisfactorily.”(179) This partisan split showed Jackson’s trust in the people. Thus, his vindication was cured by the endorsement of the American citizen.
For most he showed that the poor and unfortunate individuals could rise to the top, but he didn’t realize the human costs of economic expansion. During this time period Curtis presents Jackson as a resilient and self-promoting individual. However, there were just as important issues that should have been addressed besides the Market Revolution, issues with state banks, and Jackson fulfilling his need to clear his name from criticism. For instance, minorities, primarily blacks, didn’t have the slightest chance in rising to the point to make social change.
The slaves were used as economic fuel to ignite the Market Revolution. I think this book did address Andrew Jackson as a genius in promoting change, but lacked in promoting his moral character and I would not recommend it. It seemed to me, Curtis represented him as an American hero more than a dynamic political figure. Andrew Jackson was the result of the troubled lives Americans lived during the Revolutionary period. The emotions of those people were the catalyst in Andrew Jackson’s search for vindication.