People: Age of Jackson


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John Quincy Adams was the sixth President of the United States and the first President whose father was also President. A Harvard graduate, Adams was fluent in several languages. At 26, Adams was appointed Minister to the Netherlands and Russia. As a diplomat he helped negotiate the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819. As a result the U.S. bought Florida from Spain. Prior to his presidency, he served as a U.S. Senator and U.S. Secretary of State, and helped formulate the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. In the 1824 election, he ran against Andrew Jackson who claimed that Adams’ victory represented a “corrupt bargain.” He ran for reelection in the 1828 but lost to Jackson. He is the only President to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives after his presidency. In 1841, he served as counsel to the slaves on board the Amistad and argued their case before of the U.S. Supreme Court, where he defended their right to be free.
Sam Houston was born in Virginia and moved to Tennessee in his teens. His courageous service in the War of 1812 caught the attention of General Andrew Jackson, and the two men became friends. After the war he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1818. He represented Tennessee in the House of Representatives from 1823-28 and later became governor of that state. He resigned the office in 1829 and lived among the Cherokee Indians for a time, even being made a member of the Cherokee Nation. He assisted the tribe with the relocations required by the Indian Removal Act. On various trips, he met Alexis de Tocqueville who is believed to have used Houston in composite examples of Americans.

Houston soon moved to Texas, supporting its independence from Mexico. As Commander in Chief, he led the Texas Army in the defeat of Mexican General Santa Ana, and served as the first President of the Republic of Texas. The state joined the Union in 1845, and Houston served three terms in the US Senate. There, he often clashed with John C. Calhoun. He expressed support for the Union and favored the Compromise of 1850. He opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act because he believed it would contribute to increased sectionalism and lead to war. Though Houston owned slaves and opposed abolition, his desire to preserve the Union prevailed.

Houston left the Senate and was elected governor of Texas in 1859. When President Abraham Lincoln was elected, Texas seceded from the Union. In what many saw as a sign of integrity, Houston refused to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy, and was removed as governor. He died two years later.

Andrew Jackson was born on the border between North and South Carolina but always considered himself to be a South Carolinian. His success as a self-taught lawyer allowed him to build a home in Tennessee and buy slaves. He was that state’s first Congressman and also served in the Senate. Jackson was a general in the War of 1812, and he befriended Sam Houston. His defeat of the British at New Orleans made him a national hero.

General Jackson also oversaw the military removal of many Indian Tribes in Georgia, Alabama, and Spanish Florida, and negotiated several treaties securing Indian land for the US. He was elected President in 1828 and two years later proposed the Indian Removal Act. As a result of the legislation, 46,000 American Indians were removed from their homes. Many died on the Trail of Tears heading west, and 25 million acres of land were opened to settlement by the US.

Jackson saw himself as a populist—having been elected with a greater portion of the popular vote than any previous candidate—and proposed eliminating the Electoral College in his first address to Congress. Jackson frequently exercised his veto power over Congress’ legislation, which resulted in a split within Jackson’s political party. Those who opposed his policies included John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster and Henry Clay, who ran against him for president in 1832. Jackson was reelected in 1832 with five times more electoral votes than Clay.