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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 379

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This is the grave of Andrew Jackson.

What to say about Jackson that hasn’t been said? Not much. He’s had a lot of ink spilled on him and you all have strong opinions. Like you, I have a bunch of holiday prep to do and we can leave most of this to the comments, but just a couple of points.

1) Jackson wasn’t stupid. I think that’s perhaps one point about him that is overlooked. He really did come from nothing. He was basically self-taught. Despite his terrible spelling, he was a voracious reader with a significant library. This is one way he is very different than the president who most resembles him, Donald Trump.

2) Of course, like Trump, he was a racist, a misogynist, and a man who believed in violence. Unlike Trump, he was personally brave and carried the bullets of duels in him. Trump can’t even fire someone in person. But Trump and Jackson represent much of the same terrible impulses about the United States–really it’s most aggressively worst parts. The ignorance (even if not true in Jackson’s case), the genocidal impulses, the belief that eastern elites are undermining True Americans, the aggressive belief in male supremacy as well as white supremacy–these men appealed to very bad things that were all too prominent in the United States. Jackson’s personal violence–toward political enemies, toward the British agents in Florida, toward Native people–all of these things made a lot of American feel good about themselves. It was the feature about Jackson, not the bug.

3) On Indian Removal, Jackson was a terrible as his reputation suggests. The only thing to say is that he genuinely represented the real feeling of White America on this. It is entirely possible that had the Cherokees not been removed that the state of Georgia would have just committed genocide to clear out those lands. This is not an excuse for Jackson. Rather, it’s an indictment of America.

4) The entire impulse around banking, undermining the BUS (even if Biddle was an arrogant bastard on his own), the pet banks–all of this was a complete disaster by a person who didn’t understand the economy. Yet he represented how a lot of Americans felt on all these issues. Like with Trump, ignorance and failure doens’t undermine faith in him. Plus, the inevitable economic collapse didn’t come until Van Buren had taken office.

5) At the very least, Jackson was a unionist. I kind of wish he had hanged Calhoun from the first tree he could find, although I suppose that would have been a disaster at the time. His response during Nullification might have saved the Union for awhile.

6) The Hermitage is a really awful museum, promoting an openly pro-Jackson message rather than admitting his, uh, many shortcomings. Slavery is barely mentioned and certainly is not dealt with anything like Monticello has done for Jefferson’s life. While it has plenty of money and the museum is physically pretty nice, the interpretation needs a lot of work.

I think everything else can be hashed out in comments.

Andrew Jackson is buried at The Hermitage, Davidson County, Tennessee.

This grave visit was funded by LGM reader contributions. This is the kind of grave you want and I am happy to go take care of it for you. If you would like this series to visit additional presidents, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. John Quincy Adams is in Quincy, Massachusetts and Martin Van Buren is in Kinderhook, New York. Seems odd that I have visited neither as they are heck of a lot closer than Nashville, but so it is. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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