Hence General Jackson's power is constantly increasing, but that of the President grows
The federal government is strong in his hands; it will pass to his successor enfeebled.
taken on the 25-year anniversary
Perhaps the most appropriate statement of Jackson's desire to be remembered is in the Farewell Address of Jackson to the People of the United States (March 4, 1837). Though usually noted for defeating the national bank and for his stand on nullification, Jackson's greatest achievement was actually the rise of the Democratic party and the two party system. At the end of Jackson's second term, the Democratic party begins to take over the Jackson image. The loyalty to Jackson transforms into a commitment to the party, as a way to ensure the will of the people was heard once Jackson was gone. Van Buren retains the Democratic nomination in 1836 and Jackson campaigned as vigorously as his poor health would allow to ensure his election.
Once VanBuren was elected, Jackson lived the rest of his life with little public attention or political activity. With the exception of a few public ceremonies, such as the anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans, Jackson was seldom in the public eye. Yet his image seems to take on a life of its own, completely separate from the man.
Tocqueville's statement foretold the legacy of Jackson within the Van Buren administration. Though Van Buren won the election in 1836, he did not win re-election and the age of Jacksonian democracy will begin to trail off before Jackson's death in 1845. Van Buren was vital to the career and accomplishments of Jackson, yet he did not have the necessary charisma to hold on to Jackson's power.
The 1840 campaign marked the year that the opposition took over the Jacksonian image. The candidates were Tyler versus Harrison in the famous "log cabin campaign." Vying for the position of Jackson's disciple, Harrison rallied around the log cabin image, assuming the role of an embodiment of Jacksonian virtues. Using Van Buren and his protege Tyler as examples of corrupt government and the perversion of Jacksonian ideas, Harrison's campaign managed to subvert Jacksonian tactics and claim the image of reformer for himself.
|photo by Matthew Brady in 1845|
two months before Jackson's death
Gentlemen you seem fatigued. If you will accept the fare of a log cabin, with a Western farmer's cheer, you are welcome. I have no champagne but can give you a mug of good cider, with some ham and eggs, and good clean beds. I am a plain backwoodsman. I have cleared some land, killed some Indians, and made the Red Coats fly in my time.(Ward, 96)With the familiar Jacksonian rhetoric, the opposition had turned the tables. The Whigs managed to take power from the Democrats in their adoption of this campaign tactic; using Jackson's image as their model.
Though Jackson stands as the first example of political image making, he does not loom large in modern American memory and memorialization. His actions concerning Indians left posterity with the memory of a genocidal racist rather than a man of the people. Yet he was a product of his times, and a revolutionary in democratic action.