Old Hickory’s Axe

Andrew Jackson nearly lost everything in 1795… He had worked tirelessly to build himself up from frontier orphan to respected lawyer and public servant.  Jackson was the epitome of the self-made man, a true American success story.  By 1795, Jackson was one of Tennessee’s elite, acquiring the bulk of his wealth through land speculation.  Jackson’s gambles in this speculation laid the foundation for his war on the National Bank.


Looking to acquire a trading post on the Cumberland river… Jackson accepted bank notes for payment on land he sold in Philadelphia.  When the creditor went bankrupt in 1795, Jackson was libel for the notes- a debt he could not afford.  For the next two years Jackson scrambled to pay the debt- selling large tracts of his estate to satisfy the banks.  Old Hickory blamed the banks and their paper money for his troubles- a simplistic view of the complex financial game that had made him rich.


Jackson’s views on finance were largely unique to the frontier… westerners historically were in favor of paper currency due to shortages of coin in the wilderness.  Jackson was able to fuse his own prejudices to the western tradition of distrusting eastern elites.  The Second National Bank would serve as a suitable target for Jackson’s rage.  It stands as one of the great political maneuvers in US history- convincing westerners to go along with his policies despite of their own economic interests.  The people loved Old Hickory, not necessarily his policies.


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