A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history's most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? In Charles River Editors' American Legends series, listeners can get caught up to speed on the lives of America's most important men and women in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known.
The United States of America has had many presidents that Americans agree were either great or awful while some fall into a mediocre category of irrelevance. In many cases a national consensus has been reached on men like Abraham Lincoln and James Buchanan. But the president with the most controversial legacy might be "Old Hickory", Andrew Jackson.
In his lifetime Jackson came to represent what middle-class Americans viewed as the quintessential American. Jackson had a modest upbringing, served as a teenager during the American Revolution, became a war hero during the War of 1812, and championed populism and the common American during his presidency. He also embodied courage and manliness, famously carrying a bullet from a duel in his body for decades until his death.
On the other hand, critics continue to charge that Jackson's legacy is irreversibly stained by his stances on slavery and Native Americans. Jackson opposed the idea of secession but helped keep the antebellum slave system in place, but he is most notorious for his forcible removal of thousands of Native Americans, the best known being the Cherokees' "Trail of Tears". When the Supreme Court ruled that the state of Georgia could not impose laws upon the Cherokees, Jackson is popularly quoted (though apocryphally) as dismissing the decision: "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it."