As the left pummels President Trump over his comments about Andrew Jackson, they are ignoring something about Jackson that all Americans should know.
He was a war hero nicknamed “Old Hickory” for his heroism in the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812, but as America’s seventh president he earned the nickname “Sharp Knife” from the Cherokee Tribe for his devastating policy of forcibly removing Native Americans from their ancestral homelands.
The Indian Removal Act he pushed for and then signed in 1830 authorized President Jackson to negotiate grossly unfair treaties that moved tribes who had lived east of the Mississippi River for thousands of years westward to what is now Oklahoma to make way for American settlers.
Jackson justified this by his racist belief that native tribes were uncultured “savages” who could be transformed “from barbarism to the habits and enjoyments of civilized life.”
During his administration, more than 46,000 Native Americans were moved off of 25 million acres of their ancestral lands, and despite violent clashes with American troops that killed hundreds—and the exposure, disease, and starvation that killed upwards of 6,000 more on the notorious “Trail of Tears” in the late 1830s—Jackson claimed that his Indian removal policy was a resounding success.
“My original convictions upon this subject have been confirmed by the course of events for several years, and experience is every day adding to their strength,” he said during his Fifth Annual Address to Congress in 1833. “That those tribes can not exist surrounded by our settlements and in continual contact with our citizens is certain.
“They have neither the intelligence, the industry, the moral habits, nor the desire of improvement which are essential to any favorable change in their condition. Established in the midst of another and a superior race, and without appreciating the causes of their inferiority or seeking to control them, they must necessarily yield to the force of circumstances and ere long disappear.”
Jackson’s steadfast belief in racial inferiority fueled his early career as a slave trader, which in turn funded his purchase of the Hermitage plantation in 1804. More than 150 slaves worked the land at one point and throughout his life, Jackson is believed to have owned upwards of 300 slaves.
Yes, America’s seventh president—immortalized today on the $20 bill—was a slave owner, slave trader, and virulent racist whose policies decimated Native American tribes.
He was also the founder of the Democratic Party. In fact, the donkey that now serves as the party’s logo was originally Jackson’s logo, which he started using after his political opponents called him a “jackass.”
Largely lost today is that the man who founded the Democratic Party and was elected as its first president in 1828, forcibly removed Native Americans from their lands—leading to the deaths of thousands—and was actively involved in the slave trade.
By way of comparison, the first Republican president was Abraham Lincoln, who freed the slaves.
This essay originally appeared on April 21, 2016