Plotting to Kill the President: Assassination Attempts from Washington to Hoover

By Mel Ayton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
The First Attack on an American President

Damn him, he does not know his enemy; I will put a pistol … erect a gallows….
Damn General Jackson!

—Would-be Jackson assassin, Richard Lawrence

Andrew Jackson, who succeeded John Quincy Adams in 1827, was swept into office on his reputation as a military commander and by a hero’s role in the War of 1812. He is known for ushering in a new age in American history. His time in office and beyond was called “the Age of Jackson” and noted in terms of the passing of political power from established elites to ordinary voters organized into political parties.

With Jackson’s election in 1828 came the birth of populism and the emergence of formal political parties. The 1820s was a time when states began opening the elections up to all (white male) citizens and he was the first president to style himself as a “man of the people.” In effect, Jackson demonstrated that ordinary people could govern themselves.

It was also the beginning of a long period, running through most of the nineteenth century, in which average people were very interested in politics. American citizens were wildly patriotic, but not particularly reverent about their elected officials. New Englanders, for example, considered Jackson to be a somewhat unlettered and brutish ignoramus, and said so.

Throughout his life, Jackson was criticized for his unbending opinions and autocratic manner. But he had a number of noted successes. At

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