But his record as President is a far darker affair. Causing what many consider to be the single greatest criminal act in American history, Jackson forced the Cherokee people off of their land in the American Southeast. Blatantly ignoring a Supreme Court decision that clearly stated the Cherokee were the rightful and lawful owners of their land, Jackson did as he pleased, regardless of the law, acting as a mob unto himself. By disregarding the decision, he precipitated the greatest American constitutional crisis of all time.
The humanitarian catastrophe that followed was even more shameful. Even though the “Indian Removal Act” of 1830 was ruled unconstitutional, Jackson, along with subsequent administrations, forced more than 15,000 innocent Amerindians from their homes in a series of involuntary marches. Today, these resettlements are known as the “Trail of Tears”, in which 2,000 to 6,000 natives, mostly Cherokee, perished. A people that lived settled and agricultural lives developed a written language, many of whom were Christian, and who peacefully used the American legal system to plead for their rights were forced to engage in a death march into a barren reservation nearly thousand miles from their rightful homes.
If Jackson’s forced removal of Natives constituted a crystal clear example of lawlessness and tyranny, his insistence on eliminating the “Second Bank of the United States” constituted chaos – financial chaos the likes of which Americans never experienced before. Jackson’s insistence on vetoing a re-chartering of the national bank led to a reorganization of money deposits into state and local banks. This stimulated a lending bonanza and leading to land speculation, ending in a real estate collapse in 1837 that lasted at least until 1844. The collapse occurred shortly after Jackson left office, but was linked directly to the financial chaos caused by the destruction of the national banking system.
So then, it seems fitting that the most disorderly and controversial inauguration in American history would foreshadow some of the events to take place during Jackson’s presidency itself. Earlier, one observer was noted as saying the event was a “Saturnalia”, which is defined as a temporary inversion of the normal social order. Perhaps it was Jackson himself, and not his enthusiastic supporters that truly embodied the spirit of Saturnalia.
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