Andrew Jackson State Park near Lancaster, South CarolinaTwo famous Americans born on South Carolina’s rough and ready frontier would have a hand in shaping the history of the American West. One was the populist American hero of the Battle of New Orleans. The other was the fiery demagogue of Nullification and State’s Rights. Both served in some of the highest offices in the land and both served in the same administration. But Andrew Jackson, known as Old Hickory, and John C. Calhoun, known as the Cast Iron Man, departed ways as the 19th century neared its midpoint. Their split served as an omen for the issue of slavery and its ultimate divisive nature for the American Republic. Their careers, however, also embraced such frontier and western issues as indian removal and Manifest Destiny.
Young Andrew Jackson Statue at Andrew Jackson State Park near Lancaster, SC
Andrew Jackson, who was to become the 7th President of the United States, was born in 1767 in the Waxhaw region on the border between the two Carolinas. Jackson, himself, claimed he had been born in a little cabin in South Carolina just south of the border and considered himself a South Carolinian. His parents were Scotch-Irish and were recent immigrants. Jackson was taught to read and write in a frontier school. He received his education in other matters by experience. When the American Revolution broke out, Jackson, aged 13, volunteered along with his brothers and served as a courier for the Patriot forces under Colonel William Richardson Davie. He and one of his brothers participated in the Battle of Hanging Rock. Both young Jacksons were captured by the British and held as prisoners of war. They nearly starved to death. An infamous incident occurred during this young lad's desperate time. A British officer told Jackson to lick and clean his boots with his tongue. Jackson refused and the angry man slashed Jackson with his sword cutting his hand and head and leaving deep scars. Emotionally Jackson had scars too. He developed an intense hatred for the British and even more so when his brother died from smallpox during his imprisonment. Jackson, helped by his mother, was released but she also succumbed to the deadly disease. By age 14, Andrew Jackson was an orphan.
Andrew Jackson stands up to British Officier
John C. Calhoun, who was to become the 7th Vice President of the United States, was born in 1782 in the backcountry of South Carolina. His parents were also Scotch-Irish. He had to quit his studies at an early age to maintain the family farm after his father became ill. Later he was able to earn a degree at Yale College and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He studied law and then became a lawyer in South Carolina in 1807. Calhoun had a quick mind and was a brilliant orator and was elected to the United States Senate from South Carolina in 1810. He served from 1810 to 1817 and led the charge, along with other War Hawks, to declare war on Great Britain in 1812. He also was an ardent nationalist during this time and sponsored many bills to improve the nation’s standing by supporting industry and building internal improvements.
Calhoun was elected to the Vice Presidency in 1824. He served first under John Adams and then, with the election of Andrew Jackson, he served with him over the next 8 years. What began as a cordial relationship between these two South Carolinians quickly unraveled under the strain of the Nullification Crisis of 1828-1832 and in the clash of beliefs between these two men. Calhoun opposed the Tariff of 1828 and frustrated that it was not repealed he wrote the famous South Carolina Exposition and Protest in which he forwarded his theory of nullification—the right of a state to reject laws and legislation found objectionable to its interests. Jackson, who strongly believed in a powerful central government, did not support that position and the feelings between the two men grew antagonistic. At a 1830 Jefferson Day Dinner Calhoun proposed a toast with the words: “The Union, next to our liberty, most dear.” Jackson responded with his toast of “Our federal union, it must be preserved.”
By 1831 the break between the two men was final. Then along came the Nullification Crisis. In the Nullification Crisis, South Carolina, using Calhoun’s logic, repealed the national tariff and in fact declared it null and void and all other such federal laws that went against the state of South Carolina’s interests. In response, Jackson was empowered by Congress to enforce all federal legislation with the Force Bill. South Carolina then nullified the Force Bill. Senator Henry Clay worked behind the scenes in trying to cool things down by seeking a compromise on the tariff. He eventually got the Congress to pass the Compromise Tariff of 1833.
During the crisis, Jackson had vowed to send troops to South Carolina to enforce any federal law that was enacted. South Carolina backed down but Calhoun never forgot it and went on to build support in the south for his theory of nullification and state’s rights. Calhoun had resigned over these issues with Jackson in 1832. He returned to his Ft. Hill Plantation in today's Clemson, South Carolina and once again became a Senator for the state, serving until his death in 1850. Jackson retired to Nashville after his presidency and lived at The Hermitage until he died in 1845.
Fort Hill Plantation in Clemson, South Carolina
Both Jackson and Calhoun had been born on the South Carolina frontier. Both however, had come to have competing visions of America. Calhoun looked to the East while Jackson looked to the West. Jackson saw a strong federal government employed in removing Indians and settling the west. Calhoun saw a method to assert state’s rights and to preserve his home state’s system of slavery either with or without annexation of western lands. This issue was to boil until the outbreak of the Civil War. Both Jackson and Calhoun’s legacy, however also had much bearing on the frontier and the west including both the issues of American expansion and Indian removal. Both of these issues led to the later period of Manifest Destiny and the clash between native peoples and Europeans and the spread of American culture to the West.
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