In 1927, Gerald W. Johnson wrote, “Andrew Jackson: An Epic in Homespun.” After reading the following excepts from Johnson’s biography of Jackson, one will understand why President Trump identifies with “Old Hickory” and the General’s portrait is in the most conspicuous place in the Oval Office. I recognized Trump early as Jackson’s “spiritual heir” and aligned myself with this “superman.”
“In so far as Jackson is concerned, it is difficult even for a sentimentalist to pump up any great moral indignation in his behalf. History perhaps never selected for an unjust burden shoulders better able to bear it. In life the General thrived on criticism; and since his death the damnation pronounced upon his reputation by countless learned clerks has not been able to bear it down.
The man is a poplar hero in the strictest sense of the word. He is the hero of the people, not of the intelligentsia. The people still delight in the legends of his prowess, of his lurid language, of his imperious and dictatorial temper. The tale of his usurpations does not appall them, but delights them, for Americans have always loved a really masterful man. If Jackson’s spiritual heir should appear now, there is every reason to believe America of the twentieth century would hail him as rapturously and follow him as blindly as it hailed and followed the hero a hundred years ago.
Therefore he remains a significant figure. His faults stand out with startling vividness. His errors are plain to the purblind. His weaknesses are obvious, his follies patent, his egregiousness inescapable. But the man will not collapse. His fame is still dear to the hearts of the people, therefore the prudent man will search diligently for some residuum after the faults, errors and follies have been taken into account. For if another appears with such qualities, even handicaps as gigantic as those under which Jackson labored cannot prevent his sweep to power. And the wise men of that day will be those who recognize him early and align themselves with him, rather than against him. It is this that gives him a severely practical significance in the century that has succeeded his own.
But to the impractical idealist, to the dilettante, to the curious seeker after the bizarre, the quaint, the colorful, Jackson makes a powerful an appeal as to the student of public affairs. For he was above all else vivid. He was a great actor and on the national scene he staged the most gorgeous, colorful and romantic show in American history.
It is said to be an accepted dictum in the theatrical world that if you can work into our play of three hour’s length just thirty seconds during which the spectator will sit on the edge of his seat while the hair rises on the back of his neck, our success is assured, no matter what fills up the rest of the time. Jackson gave the country such moments. It is no wonder that his performance was an immense success, greeted with applause that has come rolling down the years to the ears of a generation living a century and after the curtain first rose.
In the popular estimation, he was already a man set apart so far from ordinary mortals as to be quite unpredictable. Andrew kicked away the existing political system and substituted one more to his liking. Probability did not apply to Jackson. He conformed to no known rules. He was a monster or a demigod, but not by any chance a man.
And so to a large extent he has since remained. Yet to the student who makes even a superficial examination of the record of his life it is apparent that few men who have figured largely in public affairs have exhibited more conspicuously the traits common to all humanity, both the worst and the best. Jackson was intensely human. It is merely the intensity of his humanity, indeed, that has given rise to the legends of a superman.
Affection for Andrew Jackson is impossible to avoid if one knows his story; for let his enemies say what they will, here was one American who carried himself with an air unlettered, uncouth, unskilled in the graces of polite society, but none the less a chevalier.”