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tv   QA with Mark Cheathem  CSPAN  May 15, 2017 5:58am-7:01am EDT

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this week on q&a, mark cheathem on his biography of andrew jackson. he talks about the comparisons made between president jackson and president trump. brian: mark cheathem, author of "andrew jackson, southerner," and a lot of other books about andrew jackson and the south, when you see this picture on the screen, what comes to mind? mark: all the comparisons between trump and jackson and how wrong they are, frankly. i don't see a lot of similarities in terms of depth between donald trump and andrew jackson. brian: really? not a -- mark: really. brian: -- not a thing? mark: i'm not saying there aren't some similarities. they both have great hair, of course. but i think a lot of the comparisons try to push trump
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into a box with jackson and it's not a viable comparison, in my opinion. brian: that's a picture of -- i mean, a painting in the oval office that he put up. why do you think he did that? mark: steve bannon convinced him to do it, i think. i don't think trump had any clue as to who jackson was, probably, before he became president. or maybe he had some clue. i was at the hermitage recently when trump was there, and someone afterwards said that trump studied jackson and knew all about him before he became president, modeled his campaign after jackson. and i just had to shake my head. i just don't think trump really has a good idea of who jackson is. brian: when did you first get interested in andrew jackson and why? mark: i was an undergraduate at cumberland university and i had a professor, monty pope, who was one of the first trained docents at the hermitage. and one day he pulled me aside and said, "mark, you really need to go work at the hermitage." he didn't tell me you had to dress in period costume, which
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when you're 21-years-old isn't the coolest thing in the world. but he convinced me to go work at the hermitage in between my junior and senior years and that's where i became interested in jackson. and from there, went through my graduate studies and up until today. brian: what is the hermitage? mark: the hermitage is andrew jackson's home near nashville. it's about 15 minutes east of nashville. it's a plantation home, like you would expect. it's actually not as big as a lot of people think it will be when they first come to it. but it was where jackson lived for most of his adult life, pre-presidential and post-presidential years. brian: when did you work there and what did you do? mark: i worked there in the summer of '95. i was a docent, so i gave tours to guests who visited the hermitage and also those who visited tulip grove, which is a home on the plantation property that belonged to andrew jackson donaldson, who was one of andrew jackson's nephews. brian: so where is cumberland? how big is it?
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and what do you do there now? mark: cumberland university is located in lebanon, tennessee, which is about 30 miles east of nashville. lebanon is the home of cracker barrel. that's where the first cracker barrel was founded. but cumberland has been around since 1842, we're celebrating our 175th year. it's a university of about 2,000 students, a small liberal arts college. and i've been a professor there since 2008. brian: here is some video of donald trump in march of this year, talking about andrew jackson. [begin video clip] pres. trump: to clean out the bureaucracy, jackson removed 10% of the federal workforce. he launched a campaign to sweep out government corruption totally. he didn't want government corruption. he expanded benefits for veterans. he battled the centralized
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financial power that bought influence at our citizens' expense. he imposed tariffs on foreign countries to protect american workers. that sounds very familiar. [end video clip] brian: what's your reaction? mark: i think trump sees a comparison between himself and jackson in terms of draining the swamp. jackson came into office and was determined to root out corruption, in terms of government workers who he thought were incompetent, who were not loyal to him. so there's some similarity between trump and jackson there. i think trump also sees himself in the same vein of jackson in terms of fighting the powers that be. you know, the great financial institutions and those types of things. and i think that's where one of those comparisons falls apart. jackson was someone who had to work his way up to become wealthy. he was someone who had to fight hard to make it to the presidency. and i think trump, as most people know, had a lot of things handed to him from his father.
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trump had a pretty easy life and so comparing himself to jackson in those regards is a false comparison. brian: let's do one more on video, to hear more of what president trump had to say about jackson. [begin video clip] trump: it was during the revolution that jackson first confronted and defied an arrogant elite. does that sound familiar to you? [laughter] trump: i wonder why they keep talking about trump and jackson, jackson and trump. oh, i know the feeling, andrew. [laughter] [end video clip] brian: how do they compare? mark: i think that they both came in on a populist wave. i think they both took advantage of a voting population that wanted change. in jackson's case, a lot of people think of him as someone
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who spurred democracy, but he really took advantage of it. a lot of the states had loosened suffrage restrictions by taking away property requirements, by allowing more white men to vote, and jackson rode that wave into the white house. so he's not the one causing the change, but he's benefitting from it. so in that sense, he benefitted from populism. i think trump benefits -- or benefitted -- from anger at the government, anger at big government, anger at the status quo, anger at -- you know, lots of different things. i don't necessarily see that with jackson, and that's one of the gaps in historiography. i think that the study of the jacksonian period is, what was it that motivated voters to vote for jackson? was it they saw him as a democratic hero? was it he was a military hero? were they tired of the john quincy adams administration? was it the campaigning innovations that were put together by martin van buren and the rest of the jacksonian
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democrats? i think that's one of the things we need to understand to be able to make a better comparison between trump and jackson in terms of their first winning presidential campaigns. brian: when was he president and how old was he at that time? mark: andrew jackson was elected in 1828. he took office, of course, in march of 1829. at that point he was just about to turn 72 -- sorry, 62-years-old. so he was relatively older man. he had a long military career. a shorter political career. he was someone who wanted to retire in the early 1820's, live out his life as a farmer and as a husband and as a father, and was coaxed into politics by some of his friends in tennessee and wound up becoming president. brian: what's the rachel controversy? mark: it's a long story. when jackson came to tennessee to nashville in 1788, he was 21-years-old.
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nashville was on the edge of the western frontier at that point. and jackson started to rent a room from a woman by the last name of donelson. she was the widow of one of the cofounders of nashville. her daughter, rachel donelson robards, was living in the area as well, and andrew and young rachel apparently struck up a friendship. now, what's interesting is that rachel was married. so, she and andrew strike up this friendship of some sort. her husband, lewis robards, is not happy as you can imagine. there are lots of accounts of him being jealous and perhaps of even being abusive toward rachel. in any case, andrew and rachel continue their friendship. lewis leaves town, abandons her, and andrew and rachel go down to spanish natchez on the mississippi river. they come back, they say that they've been married. and a few years later they find out that lewis robards has just
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now filed for divorce. so andrew and rachel had actually living in adultery. and rachel was actually a bigamist legally, because she was still married to lewis and saying she was married to jackson. so the divorce does go through and andrew and rachel do legally marry in early 1794. and at the time it's not that big of a deal outside of probably lewis robards and a couple of other people. but looking ahead 30 years, it is a big deal when it comes to the presidential election of 1828. brian: what happened? how did it have an impact on 1828? mark: in 1828, henry clay who was secretary of state at the time, and john quincy adams who was president, used the jackson marriage as one of the angles to try to derail jackson's presidential campaign against adams. they besmirch rachel's character
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and her honor by insinuating that she was a bigamist, that she was an adulterer, that she was a whore. if i can use that kind of language. and it's something that enrages jackson and his friends have to constantly tell him, just let it go. it's not that important. you know, focus on the big prize of the presidency. there are times when jackson is ready to fight duels. he's ready to go back to his youth when he was a little bit more violent and to do something with clay or with others, but his friends convince him, "let it go, it's not that important." brian: in your research, how much did john quincy adams, who has an image that doesn't sound like he'd be throwing around epithets, and henry clay, who ran for president how many times? mark: oh gosh. brian: three times? three, four times? mark: yes. brian: but their image in history is quite prominent. what did you find at the core of that? were those two men actually responsible for this controversy
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about rachel? mark: well, that's what jackson believes. in fact, there's one newspaper editor in cincinnati, ohio, by the name of charles senior hammond who is actually the one who is doing most of the mud-slinging in that regard. he is one of those who spreads rumors about jackson's mother being a prostitute, about jackson being the offspring of jackson's mother elizabeth and an african american slave. so, hammond seems to be really the central person who is involved in the mud-slinging. but clay and adams don't do a whole lot to stop it. and it is kind of interesting, even though they're not actively propagating these ideas, they had the power to stop them and they don't. brian: how big did andrew jackson win in 1828? mark: he won substantially.
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he wins all the regions of the country except for new england. i don't remember the exact numbers in terms of electoral vote count, but it was considered a landslide. he wins a fairly large majority for the time, and what you have to remember is that between '24 and '28 there's nearly a doubling of the number of voters in the united states. and so for jackson to win after having lost in '24, and to win big, solidifies within himself and within his coalition this idea that he is the choice of the people. he is the one that the people have given a mandate to effect change in the united states. brian: where do you put yourself and the writers of jackson currently alive? i mean, what's the difference between say -- i'm going to show a clip in a moment of robert remini -- who you quote almost on every page. but where do you put yourself? what's your philosophy of andrew jackson, compared to some of the others that are still writing about him?
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mark: i think i'm fairly even-handed on jackson. one of the criticisms of remini was that he was too soft on jackson. that the more he studied jackson, and remini studied jackson for over 50 years -- that the more he studied jackson, the more he liked him and so he wasn't as critical of him. he excused a lot of the things that jackson did. i think i'm fairly even-handed. i think i'm definitely critical of jackson, which we have a right to be. even living in the 21st century, we have a right to be critical of the stances that he took on certain issues during his lifetime. but at the same time, i think we have to be fair and understand that the times he lived in are different from the times we live in. and one of the things i tell my students is, you should always take a two-pronged approach to history. you should look at the people in their times, understand them within the context of their times. and in jackson's case, that meant that white supremacy, that racism, that his attitude toward native americans, all those things were really part and parcel of the american character at the time.
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so we look at people in their times, but we also have to look at them from our perspective. and we can be critical of them. so when we look back at jackson's racism, when we look back at his treatment of native americans, we should be critical of him just as people during his lifetime were critical of him. brian: robert remini has passed, but he was -- his last job was historian of the house of representatives and he wrote a number of books on andrew jackson, including a book on henry clay. but here he is talking about this back in 2001, about andrew jackson. [begin video clip] robert remini: andrew jackson was once considered one of the great heroes in american history. and as a matter of fact, a lot of presidents still regard him as one of the most important. and historians as well, including me, and that his life needs to be known. but the one thing that has diminished him has been the
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removal of the indians, and how it was done, and the awful suffering that resulted from it. [end video clip] brian: when was he a great hero and do you agree with professor remini? mark: i think jackson was a great hero at a number of points in his life. certainly during the war of 1812, at the battle of new orleans in december of 1814, january of 1815. he was able to defeat the greatest army in the western world, the british. and he did so facing overwhelming odds. so certainly he was a hero then. i think as president we could consider him a hero. in 1832, 1833, he stood up to south carolina and the nullification movement there, and kept the union together. brian: what does that mean, nullification? mark: nullification was the idea that a state -- if they considered at federal law unconstitutional, could nullify or void that law and thus
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protect the people of that particular state. brian: why did they -- south carolina -- want to nullify a law? mark: congress had passed two tariffs, the tariff of 1828 and the tariff of 1832. and south carolinians thought that those tariffs were unconstitutional because they adversely affected southerners as compared to northerners. because southerners, from their perspective, southerners were going to pay more for imported goods, which is what a tariff is, a tax on imported goods. that southerners would pay more on -- in terms of tariffs, than northerners. but there was also this other interesting facet to that, that south carolinians and other southerners were afraid that congress would use the revenue generated by tariffs to emancipate slaves. to fund either compensated emancipation or colonization, which is sending enslaved
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african americans back to africa. so there was a lot going on with nullification, but the tariff was really sort of the focal point. and so, jackson -- when south carolina passed a nullification ordinance saying that these two tariffs are unconstitutional -- jackson stepped in and issued his own proclamation that said that this is treason and we cannot allow this, because it will destroy the union. and he threatened to send the military into south carolina to keep the union together. brian: i want to go back to that photograph in the oval office of president trump. let's just say that he calls you up and says, come to the oval office. [laughter] brian: and he's sitting there looking at that portrait of andrew jackson, and he says,
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"what do you think of this comparison, and what would you do if you were president of the united states and you know me and you know andrew jackson. would you leave that up there on the wall of the oval office?" mark: i would tell him to take it down, because i don't think he represents the positive values that jackson represented. he certainly represents some of the negative values that jackson represented, but i think i would tell president trump that if he wants to be like andrew jackson, he has to put nation in front of his own personhood. he has to put nation in front of his own family, has to put nation in front of his own interest. because that's what jackson did for most of his presidency. brian: well let's talk about hermitage. how did he get the money to build a hermitage? mark: a number of different ways. jackson was a land speculator in middle tennessee. so he would buy and sell land, basically flip it and make a profit from that. he was a lawyer, practiced law for a number of years before he started his military career. he owned enslaved people, so he bought and sold african
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americans and a lot of his wealth was generated from the fact that he had a large number of enslaved people. when he became president he had around 160 african americans in bondage living at the hermitage. over the course of his lifetime, he probably owned close to 300 enslaved people. that was a large part of his wealth. because to be an elite southerner, which jackson was, you had to own slaves and you had to have them work whatever crop it was you were growing -- cotton, corn, sugar, rice, whatever it was, you had to have them work that in order for you to become wealthy and to stay wealthy. brian: i think you said in your book at one time he had as many as 300 slaves? mark: yes, right. brian: then you also say when a slave ran away, he would offer
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$20 to get the slave back and then suggest that they ought to get 100 lashes. what's so good about that? mark: well, it's not good. so jackson is -- as i tell people, jackson is really a typical southern slave owner and if you think of slave ownership as being on a spectrum, you have some slave owners who were violent, extremely violent, sadomasochistic. you know, raped enslaved women and so on. and then you have other slave owners who -- you know, even though they own other human beings, we would consider them rather benign in terms of their ownership. jackson's in the middle. there are times when he expresses concern about slaves when if they're sick, he'll send a letter asking about their well-being. he will make sure that they're given gifts. but at the same time in 1804 there's a runaway slave, there are actually two runaway slaves. one of them was captured and brought back, one is not. and he offers extra money if
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they're given 100 lashes. so that tells you that jackson saw the value of keeping slaves in line. because if one slave runs away and you don't do anything about it, what's to keep other slaves from running away? you have to maintain control over your slave population and if that means that you have to discipline one slave or even kill a slave, if that's necessary in order to keep the other 99 in place, then that's what you have to do to protect your property. brian: so the hermitage, the home of andrew jackson, wouldn't be there without slaves? mark: no, absolutely not. it was built, what you see today was built in 1819. it partially burns in the mid-1830s when jackson is president and then is rebuilt. but most of what you see of the hermitage today was built during the peak of jackson's wealth and that was based on slave ownership. and it wasn't just the hermitage. so the hermitage was, i think, approximately 1200 acres of property that jackson owned in
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middle tennessee. but he owns other plantations in alabama, in mississippi, and west tennessee. so his land holdings are extensive and all those land holdings had to have enslaved people because white people weren't going to work that land and make a profit in the same way that enslaved people would. brian: so like president trump who is a wealthy man, he was a wealthy man. mark: he was wealthy, but it was a wealth that he built up over his lifetime. jackson isn't given anything in terms of wealth growing up. his father dies around the time that he's born. his mother and two older brothers die when he's a young teenager. he has extended family, but he leaves them very early on in his mid-teens. so jackson has to build up his wealth by himself, and slave ownership was one of the ways that he did that. brian: you talk a lot in here about duels and the violence of duels and the number of times that he was shot. first of all, did he ever kill anybody in a duel? mark: he did. in 1806, jackson's involved in a duel with charles dickinson over a horse race. and actually dickinson's not even involved in the horse race.
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so jackson loved to race horses and that was one of the signs of his wealth. as he was growing up, he saw around him people who owned horses. that was one of the indications of their wealth. and so he loves to race horses as he gets older. so he's involved in a horse race and he was betting on a horse race, something happens, the other person had to pull out, and so there was supposed to be a penalty that that person paid. so when the person tried to pay the penalty, jackson didn't like the way that they paid it and so this charles dickinson character comes in and inserts himself into that feud for some reason. and so he and jackson have words and that leads to a duel and jackson actually shoots and kills him on the dueling grounds.
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brian: how many duels did he participate in? mark: the records show that jackson fought two duels. now if you go on the internet, and of course the internet's always right, you will find that he fought dozens or hundreds of duels. but the evidence only shows two duels. one was the duel with charles dickinson in 1806 and then the other is a duel that jackson fought with waightstill avery in jonesborough, tennessee in 1788. those are the only two duels that we have records for. brian: how many times was he wounded in a duel? mark: he was wounded the one time in 1806. dickinson fired first, shot jackson in the chest near his heart and jackson was able to summon the fortitude to fire back and he shot dickinson in the stomach and dickinson bled out later that day. brian: what happened to andrew jackson after he'd been hit in the chest? mark: after he shot dickinson, he collapsed and he was bedridden for a while. the bullet was so close to his heart that doctors couldn't remove it and so he actually carried that bullet with him until he died.
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and it's interesting because that bullet -- bullets were made out of lead, that lead probably poisoned him over the years. but suffering from lead poisoning was better than risking extracting the bullet and piercing his heart. brian: wasn't he hit in a battle or something? he was also wounded at another time. mark: right. in 1813, jackson gets involved in a street brawl in downtown nashville with a couple of brothers by the last name of benton, one of whom by the way goes on to become senator thomas hart benton who's one of jackson's closest allies. so they have a change of heart later in life. but jackson, again, there's a duel involved, he supports one of his friends in the duel. thomas hart benton doesn't like it, so he and his brother jessie benton are roaming the streets of nashville looking for jackson. jackson and his friends go down to downtown nashville, they bump into each other, there are some words exchanged and a gunfight ensues.
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jackson is shot, falls down a set of stairs and is bedridden. and what's really interesting about that episode is that it occurs in the middle of the war of 1812. jackson had already gone to battle one time and had come back. he's bedridden from this brawl but he summons again his fortitude, he summons that fortitude to recover and then to go and fight the majority of the war of 1812 against the creek indians and against the british. brian: were they able to take those bullets out of him? mark: the one in 1813 they eventually did extract and jackson gave it to thomas hart benton as a souvenir of their former relationship once they had reconciled. brian: so when he ran in 1824 for the presidency, the first time, did the public know about the fact he was walking around with a bullet near his heart? mark: i'm sure they did, because it was well-recorded in the newspapers at least in the national area.
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jackson had a national reputation in 1824 and that's really why his friends wanted him to run, is because he was seen from their perspective as a second george washington. you know, here was a man who could replicate what washington had done as the father of the country. jackson could restore the country to its former greatness. and so they run him as the "second george washington" during the 1824 campaign. brian: why was it "formerly great" and not "great" in 1824? mark: well, by 1824 there had been two political parties and one of those parties had essentially disappeared at the national level, so you had the democratic republican party that was left and this was the party that was formed by thomas jefferson in the early 1800's. and what happens when you have one political party in charge is that you don't have this unity. you know, i think that's what a lot of people even today think.
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oh, if we could just get rid of the opposing party, everything would be great. but what happens is when you're the only party in power or you have a super-majority of power, what happens is you start to divide into factions. and that's what had happened during the second term of james monroe's presidency, is that you had democratic republicans starting to splinter into factions based on personality. and so jackson and his supporters look around and think, this is no better than what we were during the early years of the republic. we need to find a way to bring the country back together and to make it great again, to use president trump's phrase, and the way to do that is to elect andrew jackson. brian: how much did he campaign? mark: presidents didn't campaign at that time. that is something that's a later innovation. so presidential candidates were expected to stay at home, they were expected to be reluctant candidates, they were expected to only be available candidates because the people wanted them to be available.
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and so there was this false reluctance you were supposed to propagate to voters that made you even more attractive, that you were such a committed person to the union that you were not going to put your personal interests first. and what that meant was the people then had to vote you in, the people had to campaign for you and that's what happened in '24. brian: what was the "corrupt bargain"? mark: the corrupt bargain was really the culmination of the election of 1824. jackson won the most popular votes, he won the most electoral votes, he won the most states. but to become president, you have to win a majority of the electoral vote, and jackson doesn't. he only wins 99 and so the election -- according to the constitution, the election had to go to the house of representatives at that point. so the top three vote-getters in
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terms of electoral votes, and that was jackson, john quincy adams, and william h. crawford. those three candidates had their names submitted to the house, and then each state delegation in the house would vote, one vote per state, for who would become president. so jackson goes into that house election thinking, "i should become president, i won the most states." if you were to tabulate the states and the house, he should win with a majority. but what happens, according to jacksonians -- and there's no smoking gun, but what happens, according to jacksonians -- is that henry clay and john quincy adams get together. henry clay had run for the presidency in 1824 and had not been one of the top three, but he's the speaker of the house and he has his eye set on the white house. and so he and adams get together and allegedly decide that clay will work the house, will make sure that adams wins the presidency, and in return, adams will appoint clay to be
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secretary of state. and that was important, because several presidents prior to john quincy adams had been secretaries of state before entering the presidency. john quincy adams in fact had been secretary of state. so secretary of state was really the stepping stone to become president. and so essentially, clay is setting himself up to become john quincy adams' successor once adams decided to leave office. so that's exactly what happens in the house. the house votes for adams to become president, and jacksonians jump on that alleged corrupt bargain, and they use that as their main campaign theme in 1828.
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brian: why is it the democratic party for years has had every year something called the jefferson-jackson dinners? mark: this is a way to commemorate what many people, or who many people consider to be the founders of the democratic party. you have thomas jefferson, who formed that original democratic republican party, and then you have jackson, who many people within the party see as rejuvenating or revitalizing the old democratic party and making it more modern, in the 1820's and 1830's. brian: representative tom cole of oklahoma in an interview had the following to say. [video clip] >> we are chickasawans. my great-great-grandfather was forcibly removed from mississippi, and some of the last chickasaws to come out, so we were raised with a -- i used to tell people when i was five years old, i wasn't sure who andrew jackson was, but i knew he was a very bad man who had done evil things. so my grandmother literally wouldn't carry a $20 bill. brian: what do you think? mark: that's a common refrain among native americans. several years ago when this book, "andrew jackson, southerner," came out, someone
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in the nearby city wrote me a letter, and the letter started out, you know, dear dr. cheathem, i see that you've written a book on andrew jackson. i want you to know that i think he was one mean son of a bitch. and he went on for a couple of pages talking about why he had that opinion. it's a common opinion, certainly understandable. brian: was he mean? mark: he was. again, going back to what i said before, if you understand jackson within the context of his times, he's not unusual. there are people who oppose the ill-treatment of native americans, there are people who oppose the removal of native americans. but particularly within the white south, jackson is the norm. his view of native americans,
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that they were inferior, that they were uncivilized, that they stood in the way of white progress, of american progress -- and that was white progress at the time -- and so they needed to be removed. that is the norm. again, people were critical of him at the time, and certainly that is the major criticism of jackson today, that he removed native americans from their land. brian: who were the creeks? mark: the creek indians were located primarily in alabama, the present-day state of alabama. some were located also in georgia and then some also in northern florida, the panhandle. they were the group -- or at least one segment of the creek indians was the group that jackson fought against during the war of 1812. a lot of people don't realize, because of the battle of new orleans, jackson spends most of that war fighting the creek indians, not the british. he really only has one major encounter with the british, and that's in new orleans. the other 18 months or so were spent fighting the creek indians. brian: i'm going to read from your book. page 65. "he wanted to punish the creek -- all of them -- and take their
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land. he succeeded. as he told the creek, quote, you have followed the counsel of bad men and made war on part of your own nation and the united states. this war has cost the united states a large sum." didn't the land belong to the creeks? mark: it did, but in jackson's mind, the creek had allied themselves with the british and the british were the enemy of the united states so therefore the creek were the enemy of the united states. the creek indians, or at least a segment of them, had also attacked white settlements in tennessee and in other places, and jackson saw that as an abrogation of any kind of treaty or any kind of rights, negotiations, or treatments that the two sides had with each other, the americans and the native americans. and so because of their violence against the united states, because of their alliance with
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the british, jackson believed that they had to be punished. and the interesting thing is that there were some creek indians who were allied with the united states. and i said all of the creek had to be punished -- from the segment you read -- all the creek had to be punished, because jackson did not differentiate, in most cases, among native americans. so you have cherokee, who are loyal to him during the war of 1812. that does not matter when it comes to taking their land, because that land, from jackson's view, is necessary in order for the united states to progress. brian: if president trump looked out of his second floor family quarters in the lafayette park, he would see a statue of andrew jackson on a horse. why do you think people thought he was that important? mark: because he was. yes, very famous -- very famous statue representative of jackson's military career.
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jackson helped save the united states, or at least that's what people thought at the battle of new orleans. and the interesting thing about that battle, of course, is that the treaty negotiations between the united states and britain had already taken place in europe. both sides had agreed to declare the war a draw, to go back to the status quo antebellum, the way things were before the war. so, that news doesn't come to the united states immediately, of course. it takes a while to get here. so, the battle that jackson's most famous for actually occurs after those negotiations are over. but psychologically, i think, most americans hear news about jackson's victory first. then they hear news about the war being over. and psychologically, i think they order things in that way. that jackson won this great victory. the treaty was signed. therefore, jackson's victory led to the end of the war.
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and the mythology of jackson, i think, still reinforces that. that that battle was so crucial to the united states staying together and being able to defeat the british, when in reality, it's important, certainly, but it wasn't as critical as many people then or now think. brian: how many native americans was jackson responsible for killing? mark: thousands. not personally, of course, but during the various battles of the war of 1812, thousands of native americans, mostly creek, are killed fighting american forces. certainly, if you add removal -- after the war of 1812, during the mid-to-late teens, if you add the removal of native american groups during jackson's presidency, and even after, as his policy is implemented under martin van buren. certainly thousands, if not
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maybe ten thousand native americans jackson is responsible for. brian: i want to go back to the portrait in the oval office. by the way, you're still sitting there talking to the president. and you've just told him all of this. at what point does he say, this sounds awfully much like i am? mark: well, i don't know if he would be that introspective. brian: i take it, by the way, just from listening to you, you don't care for him much. [laughter] mark: i don't. i don't, no. i think, well, he -- he has some failings, some personal and political failings for sure. i don't know that -- that trump would -- would be introspective enough to recognize these things. but even if he were, i'm not sure that it would matter, because it's power, it's enacting the policy of your force onto people that you see as inferior. and so, i'm not sure president
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trump would see anything wrong with that. jackson certainly didn't. brian: so, when you look back at jackson's life -- 300 slaves, thousands of native americans being killed. what's the good side of him? mark: well, the good side is he expands the united states, even if it is at the cost of tens of thousands of native americans losing their land. brian: what territory? mark: primarily the deep south. if you look at the present-day states of mississippi, alabama, parts of georgia, most of florida, jackson really is responsible for opening that land up for u.s. expansion. you could argue that texas is also partly his responsibility, in the sense that after he leaves the presidency, he wants to see texas become part of the union, and he is instrumental in trying to convince the texas government to join the united
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states in the mid-1840's. he doesn't personally go to texas and talk to sam houston, one of his old friends, who's president of texas, but he sends one of his nephews out there, through a diplomatic appointment, to talk to houston. so jackson's really responsible for a lot of land coming into the united states. he does keep the union together, as we talked about with nullification. and that is what most people look back on as his greatest triumph. if you want to pick the one thing that jackson did that was best for the united states, it was keeping the union together instead of having a civil war take place in the early 1830's. brian: cumberland university, where you teach, how many years you been there? mark: this is our 175th year. brian: no, you. [laughter] mark: me? i haven't been there 175 years, i have been there since 2008 as
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a professor. brian: and are you head of the history department now? mark: i am, yes. brian: you have something in common with andrew jackson. not you personally, but cumberland university. and that is cumberland has two supreme court justices in history, and a former secretary of state, cordell hull. and andrew jackson, as you say in your book, appointed four men to be on the supreme court. mark: yes. brian: but if my memory is correct, he put somebody on the supreme court that was very controversial. mark: yes, probably you're thinking of roger b. taney. brian: i am. mark: yes, roger b. taney is one of the most controversial supreme court justices. and he's mostly controversial for what happens in 1857 with the dred scott decision, which essentially says that enslaved african-americans are property, and gives the supreme court's endorsement of that idea. jackson puts him on the court,
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really as a reward for taney's help during the bank war of jackson's second term. taney was a strong supporter of jackson's banking policy, and -- brian: he had been secretary of treasury? mark: he had. and jackson rewarded him for that loyalty by making him chief justice of the supreme court right before he left office. brian: what do you think -- andrew jackson was dead by then. what do you think he would have thought of the dred scott decision? would he have liked it? mark: i think so. it's always difficult to project what would someone have thought if they were alive, but jackson believed that enslaved african-americans were property. he, like most southerners, could talk about them as family, but that definition of family is not our definition of family. it's not, you know, kinship in the sense of blood relation or marital relation, it's "you're part of the household." but you're still property. you can still be bought and sold.
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you can still have families broken up. you can still be whipped. all those things can happen, because you're really just property. brian: the media and the press have spent a lot of time in the last couple of months talking about the family of donald trump that surrounds him. jared kushner, his daughter ivanka, and others. did andrew jackson have any family around him in the white house? mark: he did. he had one nephew, andrew jackson donelson, who was one of rachel donelson jackson's nephews. andrew and rachel jackson never had any natural children. so, andrew jackson donelson essentially serves as jackson's private secretary and a little bit like a chief of staff, in some regard. and then andrew donelson's wife, emily, serves as the de facto white house hostess or first lady, because rachel jackson dies right after jackson is elected in 1828.
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so andrew and emily come to the white house, and essentially serve as a buffer -- or try to serve as a buffer between jackson and washington society. brian: did they think there was anything wrong with it back then? mark: no -- no, i think the expectation was you would bring some family with you. donelson -- in his case, he actually doesn't get an official paid position, a salaried position, until jackson's second term. he serves as secretary of the general land office, so he signs off on land office patents. so for a long time, he is not actually even paid by the government. but no, they didn't see anything wrong with that. brian: so why do you think the media cares so much today about family being around donald trump? mark: well, i think it's the enrichment, the personal enrichment, that can take place. i think the influence is going to be there regardless. and to think that any family member that a president cares about, that that family member's not going to influence them is -- is really naive.
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certainly that's going to happen. but i think it's the personal enrichment. i think it's also the fact that you want qualified people making big decisions. so in the case of jared kushner, who is essentially serving as almost a secretary of state, in many ways -- he's in charge of peace in the middle east, he's in charge of this, he's in charge of that. is he qualified to do that? and can he handle any of those duties, much less all of those duties? i think that's where the real problem is today. brian: so, go back -- you know, you're still talking to the president about andrew jackson. and he says, you know, you've been telling me all these great things about him in the past, maybe i ought to take him down for the reasons that he was not good. and i would ask you again, if
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you were going to recommend somebody for him to put up on his wall in the oval office, who would that be? mark: richard nixon would be a good choice. just to remind him of what can happen when you overstep your authority and overstep your power. that would be my recommendation. but, honestly, i think what we have to remember is that whichever president goes up on the wall of the oval office, all of them have flaws. and i think it's easy for us to focus on jackson and all of his deficiencies -- and there were many -- but if thomas jefferson were hanging there, we would have to talk about his deficiencies. he also removes native americans. he has a relationship, that may not have been consensual, with one of his enslaved women, sally hemings. george washington owned african-americans.
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you know, the list goes on and on. every president is flawed because every president is a human being. jackson, i think, just happens to encapsulate a lot of the weaknesses of the early 19th century. brian: how popular was he during those eight years? he was a two-termer. mark: he was a two-termer. he lost a little bit of the percentage of popular vote during his second election in 1832. but again, the voting base had expanded, so he had more votes than he has in 1828. he's fairly popular with the people. but he also is not popular with some of the washington politicians. and in fact, that one party system that had helped elect him disintegrates into a two party system during his second term. and you have the whig party emerge as the opposition party. and the whig party was made up of a variety of different factions, but the one thing they had in common was they hated jackson. and so he's the force that binds them all together. brian: is it fair to call andrew jackson the father of the democratic party? mark: i think so. i think he has to share that moniker with martin van buren. van buren's really the architect. i don't think you can have jackson elected without van buren.
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but also, i don't think you would have van buren elected president without jackson. so i think you have to see those two as codependent when it comes to the democratic party, but certainly jackson's the figurehead. brian: why didn't he like the u.s. bank? mark: jackson saw the u.s. bank as this -- so, the u.s. bank -- the second bank of the united states was formed in 1816, had a 20-year contract -- so, 1836 -- and what jackson saw the bank doing was manipulating the american economy and using government money against him. against him personally. shortly after the 1828 election, some of jackson's advisors come to him and tell him that president nicholas biddle, president of the u.s. bank, had used bank money to help fund john quincy adams' campaign in
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new england. and jackson thought that was horrible. that the people's money was being used for political purposes, and that just added to his suspicion about banks. jackson wasn't necessarily fond of banks anyway. and so based on that, based on the fact that henry clay was a strong supporter of the bank, and that he tried to push the bank's recharter, or new contract, through in 1832 as an election year issue -- all that sort of coalesced jackson's hatred of the bank. and then when nicholas biddle tried to start a recession as a way of getting back at jackson's interjection into the bank's business, that just made clear what jackson had to do. what jackson had to do. he had to destroy the bank. brian: what was the eaton affair and when did it happen? mark: the sex scandal. the eaton affair. that occurs between 1829 and 1831. this was a scandal involving jackson's very close friend, senator john eaton, whom jackson appointed secretary of war.
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and -- brian: he was from where, by the way? mark: john eaton was from tennessee, from middle tennessee, near where jackson lived. brian: and jackson's buried now in tennessee and lived there at the end of his life. mark: right, absolutely. so john eaton had been good friends with margaret o'neill timberlake and her husband, john timberlake. john timberlake was a navy purser. and what that means is that he would go out and be an accountant for the united states navy. so he would be gone for months on end on ships, keeping track of wages and that sort of thing. so while he was gone, john eaton and margaret o'neill timberlake would go to social functions together, and rumors started to spread that they were having an affair. well, then john timberlake committed suicide. and the account was that he had slit his own throat because he found out that his wife and his best friend, john eaton, were having an affair. now, whether that's true or not -- he did kill himself, but
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whether it was because of the affair, the alleged affair, we don't know. but -- so, margaret eaton is now -- margaret o'neill timberlake is now a widow. and less than a year after her husband commits suicide, she marries john eaton, the man she was allegedly having an affair with. so all of this happens before jackson becomes president. well, jackson appoints eaton to be secretary of war and washington society is aghast that jackson has appointed this man, who was having an affair with this woman they consider a whore, and they used that word. so jackson appoints eaton, sees him as a very close, loyal friend, wants him to be in his cabinet, and he defends eaton and margaret over the next two years, to the point that he will call cabinet meetings to discuss whether or not john and margaret had an affair, and he will provide evidence that shows that they did not.
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and what historians and biographers of jackson, in particular, see is they see a man -- they see a president who lost his wife in december of 1828, a wife who had been accused of adultery, a wife who had been accused of having an affair, and many of jackson's biographers, including myself, see jackson projecting psychologically onto the eatons what he must have felt about his own marriage. he couldn't defend rachel anymore, she's dead. so he's going to defend one of his best friends and his best friend's wife, in order to sort of salve his conscience about rachel. and so this continues for two years, disrupts jackson's cabinet. he spends an inordinate amount of time defending the eatons, defending their marriage, calling witnesses to show that they're innocent.
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and then it all culminates in martin van buren, who's secretary of state under jackson -- martin van buren and john eaton saying, we will resign in order to end this, and that will allow you as president to call for the resignations of your other cabinet members. you can appoint a new cabinet, start fresh, and we can move on from this entire episode. brian: if andrew jackson was sitting here right now, what would be your first question? mark: why did he spend so much time on the eaton affair. you know, i don't know. i guess i would ask him if he was cognizant of what was happening, what would he think of president trump. does he see something of himself in president trump. and i would be curious to hear his answer, because i don't think he would. i think he would see lots of things in president trump that he would not find very satisfactory, and i think he would find it offensive. and one example is treatment of women.
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jackson was a strong defender of women, not just rachel, his wife, but margaret eaton and other women that he saw as needing protection. and again, in 2017, this is something that we don't necessarily see as necessary today, that men don't have to protect women, but jackson saw it that way, and he certainly would not have wanted to see a president who was accused of the things that president trump has been accused of, in office. brian: but what about going the other way? and if you're donald trump, you know, you say -- or you say to steve bannon, why would you recommend a connection to andrew jackson? he whipped slaves. he killed native americans. he got in duels and killed a man. i mean, he'd go down the list the other way around.
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he'd say, why would you want to be associated with andrew jackson? mark: again, i'm not in the mind of steve bannon, but i think it would be the focus on populism, that jackson was seen and is seen still as a man of the people, as a president of the people, and that is the way that trump wants to see himself. that he is a populist president. brian: was jackson a man of the people? mark: in some regards, yes. he's someone who essentially came from nothing, so he understood the plight of common people. he was someone who defended common people, in many ways. not in the way that we would today, because his conception of common people would not include minority groups. brian: at the end of his life -- and we're about out of time -- how old was he and what did he die of? mark: he was 78-years-old when he died in june of 1845. he died of a number of different things. lead poisoning, the treatments, the medical treatments that were trying to address the lead poisoning. jackson had suffered from dysentery, which is a severe form of diarrhea, during the war of 1812, and that still plagued him. he had a number of issues, health problems over the years. brian: and if he came from nothing, though, how much was he
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worth when he died? mark: he was worth, probably all told, around $100,000. brian: in those days. mark: in those days. which is a substantial amount of money -- brian: several million. mark: several million, yes. brian: so did he get this money from politics, from being in the military? where'd he earn it? mark: no, he mainly earned it from his plantations, in tennessee and in mississippi in particular. brian: our guest has been mark r. cheathem. he is a professor and head of the history department at cumberland university in lebanon, tennessee. one of his books, "andrew jackson, southerner." what are the others? mark: "old hickory's nephew: the political and private struggles of andrew jackson donelson," which is about andrew jackson donelson. "andrew jackson: the rise of the democrats," which is really an overview of the democratic party and its origins. those are a couple. brian: mark cheathem, thank you very much for joining us. mark: thank you, brian. ♪
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[captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] ♪ announcer: for free transcripts or to give us your comments about this program, visit us at q-and-a.org. "q&a" programs are also available as c-span podcasts. ♪ announcer: if you enjoyed this week's "q&a" interview with mark cheathem, here are some other programs you might like. professor nancy isenberg on her book "white trash." another author on his book, "the making of donald trump," and historian gordon wood talks about his work. you can watch these anytime, or search our entire video library at c-span.org.
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