New sensibilities dump ‘Old Hickory’

The Andrew Jackson statue, by Clark Mills, in Washington’s Lafayette Park.

Andrew Jackson won the 1815 Battle of New Orleans.

But that didn’t affect the late 1814 Treaty of Ghent (Belgium), which was supposed to have ended the War of 1812.

Now in 2016, Jackson has lost his top $20 bill billing.

The face of Harriet Tubman, who went from slave to liberated to liberator, will replace Jackson’s. If you suffer from a history-education deficiency that leaves you uninformed about her inspiring worthiness of that honor, read Rich Lowry’s column on Page A17.

And before miscasting the only president born in our state as a villain who doesn’t even rate his new place on the back of the twenty, consider the context of his cruel times.

Yes, Jackson was the driving force behind the horrendous “Trail of Tears.” Under the cover of the 1830 Indian Removal Act, Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians were forcibly removed from ancestral Southeast homelands to destinations on the other side of the Mississippi River. Thousands perished along the merciless way west.

Yet Jackson, aka “Old Hickory,” was hardly the first — nor the last — powerful American to play for brutal keeps against Native Americans.

Yes, Jackson also owned slaves — a point stressed in this week’s reports on his being sent to the back of the bill.

Hey, plenty of Declaration of Independence and Constitution signers owned slaves. Plus, if ever being a slaveowner disqualifies anyone from being on U.S. currency, what about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Ulysses S. Grant? And Jackson was just one of the 12 presidents who at some point owned slaves — and one of eight who owned slaves while president.

Back to 2016:

Sure, it’s good to know that the U.S. is much fairer today than in the bad old days of the human bondage that helped build it — and remains our nation’s original sin.

Then again, before too smugly celebrating on the moral high ground that we 21st century Americans presume to hold over 18th, 19th and even 20th century Americans, ponder what those long departed would think if they could see their country now.

They might detect some fundamental flaws in us, too.

Ponder also the harsh verdicts that future generations might render after deliberating over how we could be so wrong about so much.

Though Jackson was born in South Carolina and lived in this state into his teens, he became very much a Tennessean.

As president, he called his native state’s bluff, threatening military force to make S.C. leaders back down during the 1832-33 Nullification Crisis over tariffs on Southern goods, including cotton.

Still, Jackson remains the only president who’s even just sort of from our state.

Sen. Ernest Hollings tried for the Democratic nomination in 1984 but dropped out early after finishing sixth in the New Hampshire primary.

Sen. Lindsey Graham’s futile bid for the 2016 GOP nomination didn’t even make it all the way through 2015.

S.C. (Seneca) native John Edwards won the 2004 S.C. Democratic primary and finished second in the nomination race. The N.C. senator then was John Kerry’s running mate on a ticket that would have won if it hadn’t narrowly lost Ohio.

Edwards ran again in 2008. But four days after finishing third in the S.C. primary, he gave up. Space limitations preclude reviewing the sex-and-payoff scandal that then scuttled his political career.

As for which state will produce our next president, New York has the inside track.

Uh-oh.

Pop test (answers at column’s end):

1) Who was the last president from New York, and how did he fare with S.C. voters?

2) Who was the last major-party presidential nominee from New York, and how did he fare with S.C. voters?

3) Name the last three major-party vice presidential nominees from New York (hint: their tickets lost the national election, but two of them won South Carolina).

4) Name the last vice president from New York.

1) New York’s Franklin D. Roosevelt, president from 1933-45, won South Carolina in all four of his White House elections.

2) New York’s Thomas Dewey, the 1948 GOP nominee, finished third in S.C. with a mere 3.8 percent of the vote as “Dixiecrat” nominee Strom Thurmond won his home state. Harry Truman finished second here but won the national election.

3) Jack Kemp, from Buffalo, N.Y., was Bob Dole’s running mate on the 1996 GOP ticket that won S.C. but lost to Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Geraldine Ferraro, from New York City (Queens), was Walter Mondale’s running mate on the 1984 Democratic ticket that lost 49 states to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. William Miller, from Lockport, N.Y., was Barry Goldwater’s running mate on the 1964 GOP ticket that won only six states, including S.C., against Lyndon B. Johnson and Hubert Humphrey.

4) New York’s Nelson Rockefeller was vice president from late 1974 to early 1977.

President Gerald Ford appointed “Rocky” as veep, and the Senate confirmed him four months after Ford left the VP job to fill the vacancy created by President Richard Nixon’s resignation.

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.