Study Guide

The Jackson Era People

  • Andrew Jackson

    Andrew Jackson (1767–1845) was the seventh President of the United States. Born in South Carolina, as a teenager, Jackson served in the Patriot militia during the American Revolution and had a distinguished career in the American military. He served as a major general in the militia during the Creek War of 1813 to 1814 and as a major general in the United States army during the War of 1812

    In the latter capacity, he led American forces to victory in the Battle of New Orleans. He also served as a general in the Seminole War of 1818 and as the military governor of Florida in 1821. After Tennessee was admitted to the Union, he served as its first congressman (1796–1797) and briefly served in the United States Senate before accepting an appointment to the Tennessee Supreme Court (1798–1804). He represented Tennessee again as a United States Senator from 1823 to 1825.

    Jackson married Rachel Donelson Robards in 1791; the circumstances of their marriage—Rachel was still legally married to her first husband at the time—plagued Jackson's political career.

    Despite receiving more popular and Electoral College votes than John Quincy Adams in the presidential election of 1824, Jackson finished second to Adams when the election was thrown into the House of Representatives. Neither had attained an absolute majority. Jackson alleged that Adams, in order to win the election after it was thrown into the House, secured the critical support of House Speaker Henry Clay by promising to appoint Clay his Secretary of State. Jackson's supporters labeled this a "corrupt bargain" and built Jackson's 1828 presidential campaign around this issue.

    As president, Jackson organized the relocation of more than 90,000 Native Americans from the eastern United States to territories west of the Mississippi River. He strengthened the Union by rejecting South Carolina's claim that it possessed the authority to nullify federal laws. And he destroyed the Bank of the United States, leaving the nation without a central bank capable of monitoring the nation's money supply.

  • John Quincy Adams

    John Quincy Adams (1767–1848) was the sixth President of the United States. The son of John Adams, the Revolutionary statesman and second president, John Quincy was born in Massachusetts and educated at Harvard. 

    He held a series of diplomatic posts—minister to the Netherlands (1794–1796), minister to Russia (1797–1801, 1809-1814), and minister to Great Britain (1815–1817). He also led the American delegation that negotiated the Treaty of Ghent ending the War of 1812. He served in the United States Senate from 1803 to 1806, and was the Secretary of State under President James Monroe from 1817 to 1825.

    Adams was elected president of the United States in 1825 despite receiving far fewer popular and Electoral College votes than Andrew Jackson. Jackson alleged that Adams, in order to win the election after it was thrown into the House of Representatives, secured the critical support of Henry Clay, the Speaker of the House, by promising to appoint Clay the Secretary of State in Adams' administration. Jackson's supporters labeled this a "corrupt bargain" and built Jackson's 1828 presidential campaign around this issue.

    Defeated by Jackson in 1828, Adams won a seat representing his Massachusetts district in the House of Representatives in 1831 and served until his death in 1848. He remains the only American president ever to serve in Congress after completing his term in the White House.

  • John C. Calhoun

    John C. Calhoun (1782–1850) was the Vice President of the United States under both John Quincy Adams (1825–1829) and Andrew Jackson (1829–1832). 

    Born in South Carolina, he attended Yale and practiced law before winning a seat in the South Carolina state legislature in 1808. He served in the United States Congress from 1811 to 1817 and as Secretary of War under President James Monroe from 1817 to 1825. 

    In the presidential election of 1832, Jackson replaced Calhoun with Martin Van Buren as his vice presidential running mate. Calhoun subsequently served in the United States Senate (1832–1843 and 1845–1850), and as Secretary of State for President John Tyler. Calhoun was one of the most prominent American statesmen of the first half of the 19th century.

    While Calhoun was a critical part of the coalition that secured Jackson's election in 1828, serious differences between Jackson and Calhoun quickly forced a break between the president and vice president. 

    The Calhouns' role in the Eaton affair, the revelation that Calhoun had encouraged President Monroe to punish Jackson for his conduct as commander of the American forces during the Seminole War of 1818, and Calhoun's support of nullification during the crisis prompted by the 1828 tariff led Jackson to replace Calhoun with Martin Van Buren on the Democratic ticket in 1832.

  • Martin Van Buren

    Martin Van Buren (1782–1862) was President Andrew Jackson's Secretary of State from 1829 to 1831 and vice president from 1833 to 1837. With Jackson's support, he became the eighth President of the United States in 1837. 

    Born in New York, Van Buren was admitted to the state bar in 1803 and served as a New York State Senator (1812–1820) and Attorney General (1815–1819) before being elected to the United States Senate in 1821. 

    As a member of the Senate, Van Buren was the principal architect of the coalition of mid-Atlantic and Southern politicians that supported the candidacy of Andrew Jackson in 1828. He convinced former presidential candidates John C. Calhoun and William Crawford (both Southerners) to endorse Jackson, and he carefully crafted the tariff legislation of 1828 in order to attract mid-Atlantic agricultural and manufacturing interests to the new Democratic coalition.

    Serving as Secretary of State during Jackson's first term as president, Van Buren became the president's most trusted and loyal advisor. He resigned in 1831 in order to facilitate Jackson's reorganization of his Cabinet. Van Buren replaced Calhoun as Jackson's vice presidential running mate on the Democratic ticket in 1832 and received Jackson's support in his successful campaign for the presidency in 1836.

  • Samuel Worcester

    Samuel Worcester (1798–1758) was a missionary to the Cherokees and the plaintiff in Worcester v. Georgia

    Worcester was born in Vermont into a family of ministers. In 1825, he applied to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Nations to become a missionary to the Cherokees after meeting Eliot Boudinot, the editor of the Cherokee Phoenix, the first Native American newspaper in the country. 

    Stationed first at Brainerd, Tennessee, and then at New Echota, the Cherokee capital, Worcester worked with Boudinot in translating the Bible and other religious materials into the Cherokee language.

    On March 12th, 1831, Worcester and 11 other missionaries were arrested for refusing to comply with a recently passed Georgia law requiring white persons wishing to live on Native American land to obtain licenses. Their convictions were overturned by the United States Supreme Court on the grounds that the Cherokees were an independent political community subject only to the authority of the federal government, as stipulated by several treaties. 

    Worcester accepted a pardon from Georgia's governor in January 1833.

  • John Marshall

    John Marshall (1755–1835) was the third Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, serving from 1801 until his death in 1835. 

    Born in Virginia, he served in the Continental Army during the Revolution. After the war, he practiced law in Virginia. Marshall turned down George Washington's invitation to serve as his first Attorney General, but he took part in the "XYZ" delegation to France in 1797 to 1798, represented his Virginia district in the House of Representatives from 1799 to 1800, and briefly served as Secretary of State under John Adams from 1800 to 1801. John Adams named Marshall to the Supreme Court in the final months of his presidency.

    During Andrew Jackson's presidency, Marshall's Court ruled on two critical cases clarifying the relationship between Native Americans and the state and federal governments (Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, 1831; Worcester v. Georgia, 1832). 

    In the first case, he ruled that the Cherokees were a "domestic dependent" nation, not a foreign nation, and therefore, the case didn't fall under the Court's arena of original jurisdiction. In the second case, Marshall ruled on the side of the Cherokees in recognizing them as a politically independent community, and therefore, subject only to the authority of the federal government—and not the state governments—via its treaty-making powers.

  • Peggy Eaton

    Margaret O'Neale (Peggy) Eaton (1799–1879) was the wife of John Eaton, President Andrew Jackson's Secretary of War from 1829 to 1831, and the focus of a Washington sex scandal that divided the Jackson administration. 

    The daughter of a Washington, D.C. tavernkeeper, Peggy Eaton earned a reputation as a beauty. She married John Timberlake in 1815 and had two daughters. Timberlake died at sea in 1828; he may have committed suicide.

    Peggy's 1829 marriage to John Eaton, a former senator from Tennessee and the soon-to-be Secretary of War, encouraged rumors that they'd had a long affair, and that the revelation of their affair had led Timberlake to suicide. The wives of other public officials ostracized Peggy Eaton, causing a crisis in Jackson's administration. 

    Jackson defended her honor, but was unable to reconcile the divisions within his Cabinet and accepted the resignations of all Cabinet officers to form a new Cabinet in 1831.