Should the seventh president be revered or reviled? The question of how to grapple with Andrew Jackson’s tarnished reputation has existed since Old Hickory’s contested lifetime.
Known as strong-willed, argumentative and combative in his day, Jackson’s critics point to his harsh treatment of enslaved workers and his forced removal of Native Americans from their ancestral lands as reasons why valorizing him is offensive. His fans, on the other hand, cite him as a populist hero who challenged the political establishment and ushered in a new era of exploration and American expansion. Jackson is considered so influential that his face is on the front of the $20 bill—a fact that has inspired controversy in recent years as consecutive Secretaries of the Treasury tussle over whether it’s appropriate to keep him there.
Now, news that Jackson’s grave was vandalized at The Hermitage, his plantation in Nashville, has breathed new life into the debate. Here’s what happened at Jackson’s tomb—and how it fits into the ongoing argument about his legacy.