Andrew Jackson and Presidential Power

SSRN Electronic Journal 07/2008; DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.1158001


This paper examines Andrew Jackson's role in establishing the foundations of the Presidency. He is generally considered by historians to have been one of the nation's most vigorous and powerful chief executives. He advanced a new vision of the President as the direct representative of the people. Jackson put theory into practice with the vigorous exercise of his executive powers - interpreting the Constitution and enforcing the law independently, wielding the veto power for policy as well as constitutional reasons, and re-establishing control over the executive branch. In the first of two great political conflicts of his time, the Bank War, Jackson vetoed a law that the Supreme Court and Congress both thought constitutional, removed federal deposits from the Bank, and fired cabinet secretaries who would not carry out his orders. In the second, the Nullification Crisis, Jackson again interpreted the nature of the Constitution and the Union on behalf of the people, and made clear his authority to carry out federal law, even against resisting states. Although he was a staunch defender of limited government, Jackson would confront head-on the forces seeking a weaker union and or a weaker Executive. His achievement would be to restore and expand the Presidency, within the context of a permanent Union. He would also spark resistance so strong that it would coalesce into a new political party, the Whig party, devoted to opposing concentrated executive power.

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