Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
Society in the American backcountry was very different than that of the cultured east coast. Business transactions were enforced by the solicitor, or lawyer, which made this position not one that many rushed to obtained. Those that followed this profession were usually those that had “talent and ambition but with neither wealth nor connections.” Law was the perfect place for somebody with nothing to find something. It was a developing profession that was considered a new wilderness that was to be shaped. It was a position that did not make friends and was not for the weak of heart. In fact, it could prove deadly if the wrong moves were made against the wrong people. It in the end it was determined that “no better place could have been found” for Jackson as his personality fit the position perfectly. He was a fighter and evaluated the situation before he made his move. His success as a solicitor only aided in his “rapid rise to prominence in the community” despite making many foolish mistakes with gambling, dueling, and social disgraces as playing practical jokes on those of higher society. Today, many of Jackson’s actions would have prevented him from being anywhere but on the tabloid pages. The scandal of his invitation of prostitutes to a Christmas ball was shocking and brought Jackson quickly to the position of having to explain to everyone that it was a foolish joke that was not meant to have been carried out.
His work not only gave him exposure to the community around him, it also made his life a little more humble and gave him experience he would use later in life. As he traveled, he did not have the luxury of staying in nice inns. It was not uncommon to find him spending the night in the woods alone with only his rifle as his companion. Experience with the Indians grew as he traveled and learned more about them. He learned how to interact and more about their ways. This would prove valuable to his goals later on as a military leader against the Indians.
Without a formal education, Jackson found a career for himself that took him deep into society where he began to make a name for himself “in a way to make a deep impression on the impressionable people” he lived and worked with. He was a unique country gentlemen that was able to interact with anyone from any level of society and leave them knowing who he was. This was despite the fact that he continued to hold a temper that got him a different sort of reputation. Jackson was one that had many quarrels as he had a difficult time distinguishing between “mere opposition to his will” and “personal enmity to himself.” He was not one to keep his professional life and his personal life separate as he “carried his personal feelings, his likes and dislikes, into all the affairs of life.” This would prove dangerous as he moved into the political world of a nation that was looking for something new and a little closer to home.
Jackson entered a political scene rapidly ushering in a new era. The War of 1812 was behind the nation. It was the nation’s crowning achievement as it had proved to Britain and the rest of the world that this was a nation with potential. The politicians that rose up after the war were a new generation that had plans for “Americans’ aspirations for greatness.” This new generation saw limitless possibilities and had the energy to achieve it. Greatness was there for everyone from every walk of life. With that energy was a desire of “genuine popular control of government.” That had been the desire since the colonies had declared independence. States were changing tax rules and property limits for voting allowing more and more of the common man to have an equal say in the government. The people were gaining power. That meant local governments all the way up to the presidential election which meant a whole new political world.
Jackson began to make a name for himself as a lawyer and as a United States congressman. He was moving up in society despite his humble birth, but it would be his position as a military man that would make his name famous throughout the country. His confrontation and defeat of the British at the Battle of New Orleans would make him the hero America wanted. People saw one of their own rise up and represent them in war as he defended them. It was this success and subsequent ones in the South against the Spanish and the Indians that would make him one of the most well-known men of his time. From his stint as a congressman, politics was changing. Discontent in the masses was rising. The people were demanding change.
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Brown, William Garrott. Andrew Jackson. Kindle Edition. 2011.
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Parsons, Lynn H. Birth of Modern Politics: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and the Election of 1828. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Sellers, Charles. The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815-1846. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.