Monday, May 1, 2017

The New Age of Jackson

"I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later, you wouldn't have had the Civil War.  He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart.  He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War.  There's no reason for this."

Leave it to the Donald to give us a revisionist view of the Civil War.  It is relatively safe to say that Jackson would have been against the Civil War given his position on South Carolina's nullification bid, but the two events were thirty years apart.  This is what happens when you are spoon-fed little morsels of history from Stephen Bannon.

I was wondering where all this interest in Jackson came from?  It probably stems from the decision reached last year to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.  Trump questioned  this decision during the transition and one of his first acts as President was to prominently hang a portrait of Old Hickory in the Oval Office.  This is a very alt-right thing to do.  No one in the administration, including Trump himself, has explicitly stated he wants to reverse the Treasury Department decision, but all the signs are there.  It wouldn't be until 2020 that we would actually see a Tubman 20.

This isn't the first time someone tried to resurrect Jackson.  Arthur Schlesinger saw our first log cabin president as the embodiment of American values both past and present in The Age of Jackson.  He linked this populist fervor described by Walt Whitman and others at the time of Jackson's election to Roosevelt in the 1930s.  It seems both Art and Walt were willing to forgive Jackson's many transgressions, including the war he waged against American Indians.  Jackson has mostly been remembered for the Battle of New Orleans, saving us a second time from British rule.  Here's Old Hickory leading the charge on a 1965 commemorative stamp.

It is not surprising Trump identifies with Jackson, given the frontier president's stand against big government in the form of the Second US Bank.  The odd part about Jackson is that he was very much a states' right president and supported the extension of slavery into the western territories, he just didn't cotton to secession.  He felt the whole country should live under southern laws.  In this sense, he embodied the current GOP thinking.

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