High-strung, scarcely literate, combative, vengeful, power-hungry, and corrupt: The adjectives could come from any headline covering presidential politics, but here they center on a president elected in 1828 with a powerful machine behind him.
Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) arrived on the political scene at a time when just about every voter would have called himself a Republican of some stripe; political parties had not yet fully evolved, so contests tended to be matters of personality rather than issues. Jackson, write the Heidlers (co-authors: Washington's Circle: The Creation of the President, 2015, etc.) changed that, backed by two broad groups of supporters whom they call “Jacksonians” and “Jacksonites”—“Jacksonians supported universal white manhood suffrage, territorial expansion, and the elimination of the Second Bank of the United States; Jacksonites were those willing to use Jackson’s popularity to achieve political power.” To be a Jacksonian, then, meant to be a true believer, whereas one did not have to agree with a single tenet to be a Jacksonite. There were tenets aplenty: Jackson did introduce an issues-driven platform to early Republican politics, scrapping over issues such as Indian removal and the question of whether a national bank represented constitutional overreach even though the lack of regulation of the banking business meant that nearly anyone could hang up a shingle and become a banker, setting a course for financial crisis. The Heidlers are careful interpreters of contemporary politics, deftly limning the issues surrounding Southern sectionalism and parsing the differences that underlay the electoral battles between John Quincy Adams and Jackson and their claims to be true heirs to the revolutionary tradition of the Founders. In the end, they write, it was apparent that “Jackson was the inheritor of the Jeffersonian tradition of limited government and fiscal prudence," which did little to fend off sectionalist rivalries that would play out in things like the Missouri Compromise and the Civil War.
A thoughtful survey, though general readers may prefer more popular studies by Robert Remini and H.W. Brands.