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Donald Trump and Andrew Jackson

 

Our Federal Union! It must be preserved!

Toast offered by President Jackson, April 13, 1830

 

 

Another tale in the ongoing annals of Trump Derangement Syndrome.  Let me say at the outset that I doubt if Donald Trump knows all that much about Andrew Jackson.  Like most Americans, his knowledge of American history is superficial.  Most politicians fit into this category.  Certainly Obama, who didn’t know how to pronounce medical corpsman and Joe Biden who recalled television addresses by Franklin Delano Roosevelt were in that category.  I regret this, but such ignorance is not considered newsworthy unless the politician displaying ignorance is Donald Trump or some other Republican.

Trump in an interview with the Washington Examiner’s Salena Zito, mused that if Andrew Jackson had been born a little bit later perhaps he could have stopped the Civil War.  Go here to read about the interview.  In the interview Trump fully displays his limited knowledge of history especially in regard to the Civil War.  Trump finds the parallels between himself and Jackson flattering and was attempting to play up his knowledge of Jackson and fell on his face while doing so.   The media has been having a field day with this, hauling out historians to denounce Trump.  What has been missed is that Trump was correct on his main point.

Andrew Jackson, born in 1767 ,was a veteran of the American Revolution, something that marked him for life.  When the Declaration of Independence was issued, he was picked to read it aloud to his largely illiterate frontier community.  Both of Jackson’s brothers fought in the War and died in it.  He served in the militia and at the age of 13, as a POW, refused to shine a British officer’s boots and received a saber cut on his forehead for his defiance.  Like most Americans who fought in the Revolution, his service inspired in him a deep love for the new nation he had helped to create.  For all his days he was an ardent American patriot and a defender of the Union.  His steadfast stance against nullification during the Nullification Crisis of 1832 was completely in character as was his threat to lead an American army against South Carolina if it seceded and to hang every secessionist he could get his hands upon.  Although he was pro-slavery, I have no doubt that if he had been alive at the time of the Civil War he would likely have fought for the Union.  His state of Tennessee was divided during the war with East Tennessee being a hotbed of Union sentiment.  The man who considered himself the political heir of Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, was the only Southern Senator to stand by the Union.  His admirers called him Young Hickory, and in that I think they were absolutely correct.  In his love for the Union he shared with Jackson a sentiment that would override all sectional allegiances.  Abraham Lincoln understood this aspect of Jackson.  He had spent his entire political life fighting the political party founded by Jackson, yet in his office during the Civil War, he had an engraved portrait of Jackson hanging over his fireplace.  If Jackson had been President in 1860 I have no doubt that he would have taken action to militarily quelch secession.  Whether he would have been successful is another question.  However if Jackson had been there secessionists dreaming of a peaceful withdrawal from the Union would have realized that this dream was a delusion.

Ironically the historian who came closest to understanding this was Steve Inskeep, an NPR host who has written about Jackson.  Go here to read his comments on this tempest.  Trump would do better to avoid historical allusions that he lacks understanding of.  Historians should not let partisan beliefs to tempt them to misuse history in fighting contemporary political battles.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

17 Comments

  1. When the GOP nominates a man who lacks the common sense to not pontificate on matters he must know he is ignorant, it is a tell tale sign it is in bad shape. The fact that the other party may be in worse shape doesn’t change that fact one bit.

    Nor is mainstream media bias (as much a fact of life as that is) any excuse.

  2. “When the GOP nominates a man who lacks the common sense to not pontificate on matters he must know he is ignorant, it is a tell tale sign it is in bad shape.”

    Actually the GOP is in the strongest shape that it has been since Coolidge was President. The GOP has problems but the election of Trump is not among them. As for politicians pontificating on subjects they are bone ignorant on, that is a common trait. Reagan, the greatest president of my life time, did it all the time, and would usually make something up when called upon it. Trump in many ways is sui generis as President, but speaking through his hat is not one of them.

  3. Until things change on the national level, it won’t matter too much what gains are made on the state level.

  4. Disagree strongly on that. The key weakness of the GOP since the New Deal has always been a weakness on the State level. Strength on the Federal level was always fleeting because of Democrat hegemony over most of the States. That has been broken and that is a major accomplishment. The significance of this will be on full display in the redistricting of 2021, assuming that the Republicans can hold on to almost all their gains since 2010 which they have succeeded in doing in the three election cycles since 2010.

  5. I hope you’re right, Donald. It would seem that since the GOP has control of the White House and houses of Congress plus the historic gains they have made at the state level since 2010, they would be feeling serious wind at their backs nationally. But they still seem to be operating by the “Cave now, ask questions later.” playbook. State gains have to translate into housecleaning of the national party leadership. But there seem to be no signs of that happening.

  6. Agreed. The budget deal approved was massively disappointing. I do think if Congressional Republicans do no better in September that Trump will shut the government down by vetoing the budget, to the limited extent it can be shut down. We shall see.

  7. I’ve been in The Hermitage while our son was stationed at Fort Campbell with 1/187/3 BCT/101st Airborne. Screaming eagles!

    Greg, “The fact that the other party may be in worse shape doesn’t change that fact one bit.” TRUTH. However, every morning I wale, l pinch myself, and I recall the corrupt, incompetent Hillary is not President — PRICELESS.

  8. The Republicans have a history of acting like they are the minority party even when they control both houses of Congress. When are they going to learn that liberal Demorcrats’ mantra is Our Way or No Way. Any Republican who moves center is a fool. Have to hand it to the Dems – their party leadership keeps them inline with a united front.

  9. And don’t forget, Jackson, like Lincoln, would ignore the Supreme Court (Jackson with respect to Worcester v. Georgia, and Lincoln with respect to ex parte Merryman); and Jackson would infamously abuse the Indians by sanctioning their forcible removal from lands guaranteed them by treaty, resulting in the Trail of Tears. But it’s true, given his clear willingness to use the federalized troops to invade a state, he would foreshadow Lincoln. Had he been president instead of Buchanan, who waffled on the issue of how to respond to secession, he would have almost certainly have sent a clear message about secession that might have dissuaded the deep South from seceding. But then again, given what the South feared from the fire-breathing Republicans, maybe nothing could have staved off the impending storm.

  10. “And don’t forget, Jackson, like Lincoln, would ignore the Supreme Court (Jackson with respect to Worcester v. Georgia, and Lincoln with respect to ex parte Merryman);”

    In Worcester the Supreme Court did not ask for US Marshals to enforce its decision so there was nothing to ignore. Jackson called the decision still-born, and that was accurate, perhaps by the design of John Marshall to avoid a collision between the Executive and the Judiciary. In Merryman Chief Justice Taney was sitting as a Federal circuit court judge and he never actually ordered anyone to release Merryman. The case went no further so there was nothing for Lincoln to ignore.

  11. Lincoln did ignore the Supreme Court Dred Scott decision. Professor Hadley Arkes details in his book “Natural Rights and the Right to Choose”, the Buchanan adminstration had denied a black man a patent and another black man a passport (or similar documents) necessary for him to study medicine abroad, because according to the Dred Scott decision, they were not citizens of the U.S.
    Lincoln had his federal officers issue the patent and the documents.

  12. Truman Agreed With Trump. In his 1952 book, President Truman said that if Jackson had been president instead of Buchanan, there probably would not have been a Civil War. He thought that Jackson was strong enough to put down any secession at the first hint. So it’s not President Trump who doesn’t know history. You can agree or disagree with the conclusion, but it’s based on an understanding of history.

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