Democrats should drop Andrew Jackson

Greg McNeilly

In a little more than three weeks, Michigan Democrats will gather in Detroit for their annual fundraising gala, the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.

The event is named after the men considered the founders of their political party, presidents Thomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican) and Andrew Jackson (Democrat).

Given Jackson’s treatment of Michiganians during his presidency, and a legacy littered with darker actions, it’s a tradition state Democrats should consider abandoning.

Nearly 200 years after Jackson’s presidency, few state Democrats can likely answer even basic questions about his personal, policy or presidential history. There’s a lot they should learn.

Jackson was known as the first “Frontier President,” and is credited as one of the leaders most responsible for our nation’s westward expansion.

In 1833 during Jackson’s second term, settlers in the Michigan Territory applied for statehood, but there were two major obstacles.

First, the Michigan Territory and the state of Ohio were embroiled in a longstanding border conflict over a narrow stretch of land from the southern tip of Lake Michigan to the southern tip of Lake Erie.

The conflict would eventually escalate into the Toledo War.

Second, Andrew Jackson was building a new political party, the Democratic Party. Ohio’s 21 electoral votes were supremely valuable.

Jackson firmly backed Ohio in the conflict, making it clear that Michigan would only gain statehood if they abandoned their claim to the Toledo strip.

The conflict led former President John Quincy Adams, a staunch defender of Michigan’s right to statehood, to observe that “Never in the course of my life have I known a controversy of which all the right was so clearly on one side and all the power so overwhelmingly on the other.”

Only after years of conflict with Ohio and their presidential puppet, Andrew Jackson, did Michigan surrender the Toledo strip, in exchange for Jackson’s signature on the bill granting statehood.

Before ascending to the presidency, Jackson gained fame as an “Indian fighter,” and wealth as a plantation owner. He owned 150 slaves.

One of Jackson’s first acts as president was championing and signing into law the Indian Removal Bill, which displaced nearly 100,000 Native Americans to open 25 million acres of land for white settlements, wealthy land barons, and the expansion of southern slavery.

The bill, along with Jackson’s refusal to enforce an order by the United States Supreme Court to protect the rights of the Cherokee people of Georgia, led directly to the Trail of Tears, where 4,000 Cherokee men, women and children died of cold, starvation and disease.

Still, year in and year out, Michigan Democrats chase cold hard campaign cash in Andrew Jackson’s name.

Greg McNeilly is president of the Michigan Freedom Fund.