Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Presidents Day & Andrew Jackson

Not long ago, Americans celebrated the birthdays of Presidents Washington and Lincoln, an appropriate honor for two of the giant figures of this Republic. Now, we celebrate Presidents Day – by taking advantage of discounted cars and mattresses.

Still, Lincoln and Washington remain ubiquitous as the great American Presidents – but they have not always stood alone on their pedestals. Andrew Jackson has been lost to mists of history and political correctness. But for many generations he too was revered as a Presidential giant. FDR (another giant) travelled to Jackson’s home The Hermitage and met an old woman who had tended to Jackson as an old man. Afterwards, FDR wrote, “The more I learn about old Andy Jackson the more I love him.”

Truman, writes in his memoirs how his old friend, Eddie Jacobson recalled, “You have probably read every book there is on Andrew Jackson. I remember when we had the store that you were always reading books and pamphlets, and a lot of them were about Jackson. You put this statue in front of Jackson County Courthouse in Kansas City when you built it.”

Far be it for this brief missive to attempt to resurrect Jackson’s reputation. Some of his recent anonymity is well deserved – particularly for his monstrous policies towards the Native Americans. But Jackson believed the United States was a special country and devoted his life to preserving the Union and democratic rule. His efforts were not as dramatic as those of Lincoln – but Jackson’s America was a newer and more fragile entity.

Jackson was president in a time of political and intellectual ferment, what Samuel Huntington in American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony calls a period of creedal passion when Americans seek to remake the country in accord to its treasured values of freedom, equality, limited government, and democracy. We may be entering such a phase again and we would be wise to follow Truman’s course and study the Old General.

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