Andrew Jackson has a complicated legacy. On the one hand, he was a populist hero and a venerated war general. On the other hand, he was a president who enslaved persons, killed thousands of Native Americans, created an economic depression, and killed a man.
"Old Hickory" lived a mad life — eventually leading to a presidency where he gave some very questionable orders, said some very unusual things, and took other actions many deem as messed up. Maybe that's why he's referred to by some as "America's worst 'great' president."
He Killed Off Fugitive Slaves
During the Seminole War, an alliance formed between Native Americans and fugitive slaves, so it was up to future President Jackson to defeat them both.
Spanish-controlled Florida had become a safe haven for escaped slaves, and many had gathered in an old British fort, dubbed "Negro Fort." Old Hickory that he was, Jackson ordered his troops to destroy the fort. A US gunboat launched a cannonball into the fort, hitting their gunpowder and causing an explosion that killed 270 people seeking refuge.
Eventually, Florida was annexed by the United States, and it was no longer a safe haven for fugitive slaves.
He Caused An Economic Depression
Andrew Jackson loathed the Bank of the United States — but his actions against it would lead to a nationwide economic depression.
In 1832, Jackson shut down the Bank of the United States, “opting instead to deposit government funds in select state or 'pet' banks,” which loaned money to just about anyone. This led to inflation. Jackson had another on-brand idea: Stop letting people buy land with paper money (which he also hated).
This “Species Circular” — issued by Jackson on July 11, 1836 — decreed land could only be bought with gold or silver. But this law made land speculation slow down, which led to decreased revenue for the states, which led to the Panic of 1837.
He Ruled New Orleans Like A Dictator
Near the end of the War of 1812, General Jackson arrived in New Orleans to find the city in disarray. Taking command of the situation immediately, Jackson put the city under martial law until the war was over; however, once the war finally ended, he still refused to lift his order for another few months.
When a Louisiana State Senator wrote of his apprehension at the idea of an open-ended martial law, Jackson had the senator arrested. Then, “When a U.S. District Court Judge demanded that the senator be charged or released, Jackson not only refused, he ordered the judge jailed before banishing him from the city.”
He Fired Hundreds Of Government Employees In Favor Of His Friends
During his campaign, Jackson promised political positions to his key supporters. Then, “on the night of his inauguration, office-seekers so crowded the White House that the party devolved into a near riot.”
Instead of ending corruption (as was part of his populist message), Jackson’s administration has been credited with creating a “spoils system” — in which Jackson purged federal employees in favor of those who had supported him.
At the start of his presidency, Jackson removed 919 government officials (a full 10% of all government employees), and, “Within the first year, the new administration dismissed 423 postmasters, many with long and credible records of service.”