General Jackson is the majority's slave; he yields to its intentions, 
desires, and half-revealed instincts, or rather he anticipates and 
forestalls them.
                                   Alexis DeTocqueville
                                   Democracy in

The Jacksonians and the Anti-Jacksonians were each in vehement possession of their own distinct "Andrew Jackson". The conflicting images were not generalized entirely from the argumentative nature of partisan politics. Jackson was a man of great contradiction. James Parton may have best articulated this in his 1860 biography:

The first of statesmen, he never devised, he never framed a measure. He was the most candid of men, and was capable of the profoundest dissimulation. A most law-defying, law- obeying citizen. A stickler for discipline, he never hesitated to disobey his superior. A democratic autocrat. An urbane savage.
Yet these characteristics worked to Jackson's benefit and allowed for his appeal within the social structure of his day. A stubborn and uncompromising man, he was admired for his "iron will". An advocate of a weak central government, he was a committed Unionist. A man dedicated to decreasing the power of government, he was the most powerful of presidents -- often described as a demagogue and characterized as a dictator, but always cheered by the people. Such contradictions allowed for strong argument to exist on both sides of the Jacksonian debate.

The life of Andrew Jackson lent itself to American image making as few others ever have. The most succinct summary of Jackson's popular image appeared in the Albany Argus in 1828:

The Soldier Boy
of the First War of Independence
The Veteran Hero
of the Second;
Now the Honest, Unassuming Farmer of Tennessee

Americans valued independence, natural genius, hard work and providence. Jackson was the epitome of the self-made man. He was practically an orphan all his life. His mother died during the Revolution and his father had not survived to see Andrew born. Truly a loner, Jackson grew up fast and had no one to rely upon for direction or aid. The misfortune of Jackson's childhood appealed to the new democratic definition of success. He was a man without class or family, who worked his way up on his own strength and merit to become a great soldier and hold the highest public office.

National attention first came to Jackson as a result of the war of 1812. Vital to the development of the Jacksonian image was Jackson's hard charging attack at the battle of New Orleans in 1815, which ended with 2000 British killed and wounded, and American casualties of only eight dead and thirteen wounded (Ward, 17). Stories of this battle would long survive as exemplums of Jackson's decisive leadership and divine protection in battle. During his 1831-32 trip to America, Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville analyzed the fascination with Jackson thus:

General Jackson, whom the Americans have for the second time chosen to be at their head, is a man of violent character and middling capacities; nothing in the whole of his career indicated him to have the qualities needed for governing a free people; moreover, a majority of the enlightened classes in the Union have always been against him. Who then put him on the President's chair and keeps him there still? It is all due to the memory of a victory he won twenty years ago under the walls of New Orleans (Tocqueville, 278).
Though Tocqueville's statement oversimplifies the situation, Jackson's military glory would remain a major tenet of his strength as a politician. Upon Jackson's death, this statement culminated the years of admiration:
In his command at New Orleans...we seem to follow some heaven-appointed and heaven assisted warrior of the ancient dispensation, rather than a chieftain of modern times. Such superhuman activity...such frightful havoc in the troops of the enemy; and such almost miraculous preservation of his own; who in these things does not see the hand of God, the agency of an instrument ordained, prepared, and guided by Himself? (Ward, 109)

Jackson's image as the "Honest, Unassuming Farmer of Tennessee" may be true as a personality description, any implication that he was one of the people is purely fictional. Hardly the "farm" of most Americans, Jackson's Hermitage was a slave labor plantation with a wealthy landowner at its head. In reality, Jackson was a Tennessee southern gentleman; wealthy, slave owning and certainly not pulling a plow. Yet Jackson was closer to the people than any President before, and they wanted to believe in Jackson's image. The Jacksonians developed ways to establish intimacy between the President and his constituents, such as engravings of Jackson at work on his farm, and as our first nicknamed president, "Old Hickory", created a feeling of kinship and accessibility to the people.

Obviously, a majority of the population supported Jackson. Yet holding such power certainly generated its share of enemies. There are many examples of cartoons and stories attempting to undermine Jackson, rather than to praise him. The anti-Jackson Whigs perpetuated a negative stereotype of Jackson as a power hungry dictator, shown in this 1832 cartoon. Often attacked as a demagogue by the opposition, the great power held by Jackson allowed for a questioning of his motives.

There were also anti-Jackson pleas circulating, such as a "Repentant Jacksonman". Though the authenticity of such a person was doubtful, the persuasive devices were well conceived. Operating in much the same way as the Jacksonians, it appeals to emotion and grand principles, rather than specific arguments.

However, some actual events did occur that were easily turned against Jackson by his opponents. The coffin poster to the right was a popular anti-Jackson campaign motif concerning a trial and execution by Jackson of six militia men during the Creek War, immortalized against him in art and ballad as a popular piece of anti-Jacksonian imagery. In rejoinders to such accusations of murder, a typical response of the Jacksonians was, "Why don't you tell the whole truth? On the 8th of January, 1815, he murdered in the coldest blood 1,500 British soldiers for merely trying to get into New Orleans for Booty and Beauty" (Cole, 18); thus turning the tables on the enemies by praising the undeniable image of Jackson's bravery and patriotism.