The Presidencies of John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson

It is the beginning of the XIX century which is going to be in the focus of our attention: the era of serious and important changes for the United States. Certainly, changes do not happen on their own. There are alive people and characters behind those changes. It often happens that behind major changes in the history of a country the most important role is played by just one or two personalities, and it is them, who initiate those changes, it is them, due to whom they occur. This was exactly the case with the US at the beginning of the XIX century and there were two major characters behind those changes. They were the presidents of the nation. They were John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. Two very different people, two very different presidents.

Main Contasts

In fact, the presidencies of the sixth and the seventh U.S. presidents appear to have many contrasts. Some people try to tie this to different origin of those two presidents. John Quincy Adams originates from a very wealthy family. He was the son of the US second president, John Adams. Meanwhile, Andrew Jackson was a son of two immigrants, living on the frontier of two states. Some people believe that this is what brought the victory to Jackson at the 1828 elections between himself and Adams. This was the first time, when white people, who did not have land in their property, and thus were rather poor, had the right to vote. And it was those white poor people, who believed into Jackson’s “Rug-to-riches” slogan and brought him the victory. In general it can be remarked that the two presidents had opposite attitudes towards such important issues as the slavery, the removal of the Native Americans and the National Bank. This opposition in views was sharpened by the political and personal rivalry. Besides, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson had strikingly contrasting characters. Whereas John Quincy Adams is described by Thomas Bailey as “an honest and high-minded man” (1), the historians’ opinion about Andrew Jackson is not so favoring. Being a very tough person, he even acquired the nickname of Old Hickory.

John Quincy Adams, an outstanding diplomat with a deep respect for the national values, structured both his domestic and foreign policy according to his high-aiming projects, most of which, unfortunately, remained unfulfilled because of the unfriendly attitude of the Congress.

His domestic policy was characterized by vast improvements of the road and cannel systems and the development of the educational system. These improvements include building the Louisville and Portland Canal and the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, the lengthening of the Cumberland Road, which now went into the State of Ohio, and connecting the Great Lakes with the Ohio River system.

Adamson’s vigorous opposition to the slavery and his support of the Native Americans emphasize the humanitarian aspect of his personality. But at the time these were not very popular ways of thinking and caused him some opposition not only from his rivals but also from certain groups of population, such as settlers on the borders and Southern slave-owners.

From the financial point of view it is worth mentioning  J.Q. Adams’s paying a substantial part of the national debt and his support of the National Bank.

Adams’s foreign policy was based on his previous achievements in the sphere of diplomacy. It was aimed at cooperation with Mexico, Russia and Scandinavian countries. However he was not able to achieve significant results due to the opposition.

Thus, it can be concluded that many of Adams’s merits and worthy aspirations were wasted, hampered by Jackson’s opposition and unfavorable ambience of slavery and discrimination of the Native America.

Two very different presidents

President Jackson had one thing in common with President Adams. He also did his best to pay the American debt, and he managed to pay whatever was left after President Adams. And it was the first time in the American history that the debt was paid in full. However, the results of it were not as bright as it had been expected by both presidents. The great depression followed shortly and the debt of the US reached the figure of 33 million in 1838. This debt has never been fully paid.

Jackson was the first president who allowed public into the White House ball held in honors of his first inauguration. Due to his populism Jackson obtained a nickname “King Mob”. Jackson made serious effort to destroy the Second American Bank, which, according to his belief, was owned by just a few families at the expense of all the farmers and other hard working people of the country. He succeeded to destroy the bank and reinvest its capital into two other banks. The lending functions of the bank were right away overtaken by a large number of small local banks. After first positive effects of Jackson’s withdrawal of money from the Second American and reinvesting it into other banks President Jackson issues a bill, which requires every buyer of the land, who purchased it from the state, to pay in silver coins. Now this brought the country to a great panic. The majority of banks did not have enough of those coins and this panic brought the country right to the great depression.

Another outstanding part of Jackson’s policy was so called Indian Removal. He was a very well known advocate of removing Native American tribes to the west of Mississippi river. And he did a lot in this direction both during two terms of his presidency and before it. Though he is often accused of the Trail of tears, Jackson, however, wanted the removal to be voluntary. In his first message to the Congress in 1829 Jackson says:

“This emigration should be voluntary, for it would be as cruel as unjust to compel the aborigines to abandon the graves of their fathers and seek a home in a distant land. But they should be distinctly informed that if they remain within the limits of the States they must be subject to their laws. In return for their obedience as individuals they will without doubt be protected in the enjoyment of those possessions which they have improved by their industry.” {2}

As we can see, both presidents were outstanding and controversial characters in the history of the US. Both made mistakes, but, as it were, it happens when you try. The role of neither one of them can be overestimated.

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