Should Andy Jackson be left seated on his bronze horse?

Even in well motivated crowds some people go off the rails. Such is the case of the BLACK LIVES MATTER protests sweeping the nation. Never has it been clearer to me that the statues erected from the Gilded Age through the post WW I era were celebrating segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever and not the splendor of the Lost Cause. Slavery was never splendiferous.

So, it will take some time to think through which of the targeted statues should really come down. Abe Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant and Teddy Roosevelt weren’t the bad guys. In fact, despite being captives of their time, they were idealists who furthered the equality espoused by the Declaration of Independence and handed it on to today’s generation to further advance.

I’m particularly saddened to see Grant’s statue knocked down in California. Grant had a slave given to him but he offended all his neighbors by working with his slave as an equal on the farm he called “Hardscrabble.” He freed his coworker before the Civil War. And then he freed all the slaves of the Rebelling states. It is only ignorance that allowed a crowd to topple his statue. I believe it will soon be resurrected.

As for Andy Jackson’s statue that came under attack across from the White House. Andy’s a harder president for me to defend but ironically, I took a stab at it three weeks ago when I submitted my last column to the Duluth Reader. Because it was a very busy week the Reader didn’t print it. But this is a perfect time to share my perspective.


Donald Trump fancies himself the new Andrew Jackson. Other Presidents come to my mind one of them our second Andy, Andrew Johnson. Like Johnson, Trump brings a past as a Democrat not a Republican. Like Johnson, Trump champions white men. White women too but only if you’re talking about beauty queens and especially their desirable lady parts. Other Americans? Not so much. And Trump has proven to be a most divisive President like Johnson, who the fans of Abraham Lincoln desperately wished to impeach and remove from the land of the Gettysburg Address. Its not at all surprising that a group of Republicans under George Conway are calling themselves the Lincoln Project and raising millions to harry Donald Trump just as I Harry him.

But let me take you back to Jackson to see if Trump measures up.

One obvious difference between the two presidents has to do with Jackson’s chivalrous attitude toward women compared to Trump’s predatory attitude. Jackson the warrior famously killed a man in a duel to defend his wife’s honor. Trump the draft dodger famously dumped his first two wives when they were no longer hot enough. Yes, but many of his religious advocates harken back to the Old Testament and point to King David. Remember Bathsheba? David put her husband Uriah in the line of fire to widow her. Sounds like Trump. It doesn’t sound like Jackson.

Back to Trump’s Jackson metaphor. Jackson was a hero for Democrats long after his presidency. When I was growing up Republicans had Lincoln Day Dinners and Democrats had Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners.

Has the Republican party become the Party of Jackson too? And what links Jackson to Thomas Jefferson? Jackson took the Democratic party a step closer to Jefferson’s declaration that “ all men are created equal.” The Tennessean Jackson lived west of the Appalachians in a state carved out of Indian lands. To be admitted to the Union states were required to have enough voting age residents to pass muster. There was no quicker way to go from territory to statehood than by dropping the property ownership requirements. This standard prevailed in the first states. But in Daniel Boone country lots of poor men seeking their fortunes became eligible to vote by virtue of their residency alone. If you were 21 that was good enough and it sure sped up a territory’s chance to become a star on the grand old flag.

Jackson, a man of the west, was a champion of such men. At his inaugural party thousands of poor white folks stampeded the White House to the horror of the prissy Eastern establishment. They grabbed hold of America with equal fervor. This is the ethos that Donald Trump embraces.

Jackson democrats stopped there. Blacks? Some in the Northeast had become respectable citizens but they weren’t allowed educations in the South. Indians? Its true that Jackson adopted a baby boy he found clinging to his murdered Creek mother in a village Jackson massacred but otherwise Jackson was President Trail of Tears.

Donald Trump, like both Andy’s, only embraces white America.

But Andrew Jackson is not without merit although the historically illiterate Trump wouldn’t know this. Abe Lincoln’s hero was Jackson’s greatest foe, Whig party leader Henry Clay. Despite Lincoln’s former prejudices he too latched onto Jackson once he became the sixteenth president facing a Civil War. That’s because Andrew Jackson was also a champion of the Union. When Southern slaveholders like South Carolina’s Senator, John C. Calhoun, threatened to secede from the Union if tariffs weren’t abandoned Jackson told him he’d lead the army to smash South Carolina if they tried it. And he’d have done it too, just as President George Washington donned his old uniform and led the nation’s army into Pennsylvania to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. Quaker state farmers had been harassing federal tax collectors who dared to tax their whiskey.
So, I say no. Donald Trump isn’t even a pale imitation of President Jackson. I’ve just heard that a lot of Trump fans concealing their red MAGA hats drove to Minnesota to firebomb Minneapolis to make the people protesting George Floyd’s murder look bad. If Jackson was here I’m pretty sure he’d challenge Trump to a duel rather than let him start a second Civil War.
America profited by Jackson’s expansion of the vote. But today its the Democratic party that wants to extend the voting franchise, just as Lincoln extended the vote to freed slaves. Today’s Republicans just want to close inner city polling stations and make Democrats risk corona virus by voting in person.
Donald Trump is not the heir to Jackson. He is but Jackson’s error.

Harry Welty is going to set aside Not Eudora for the summer for a wild goose chase or rather a Trump-Stauber chase. Should Harry become Minnesota’s 8th District Congressman he pledges to continue sending the Duluth Reader his bi-weekly columns while cleaning up after Donald Trump. Read all about it at:

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