Who is your favorite president? Most people might say it’s Abraham Lincoln. Why? Because for example, in 1862, he signed the Emancipation Proclamation declaring all slaves free in the states outside of federal control (history.com); he supported the 13th amendment – and emphasized unity over states’ rights, allowing America to become the great nation it is today. While many others favor president Andrew Jackson. Why? One of the reasons is that they figure if the “Defender of the Union” had been active during the 1850’s and 60’s (he died in 1845), then matters would never have escalated to war because of his rigorous assertion of the federal government.

According to historians, Jackson did not capitulate to the southerners the way other politicians did, as demonstrated during the Nullification Crisis (import tax denial) of 1832, when he kept troops at the ready to deal with these ‘southern-secession-type’ issues. He then warned the southerners against their “treason” and threatened them with Civil War at that time. There was also his famous Bank Veto during the same year, a bill he rejected due to the “money power” he viewed as a major threat to ordinary citizens.

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Fans of the seventh president may view Jackson as a founder – (of the Democratic Party) and see the sixteenth president as a beneficiary of Jackson’s earlier institutions and policies. In any event, if Andrew Jackson fans claim the Civil War was preventable and feel the need to compare him with Abraham Lincoln, they must be two of the most popular presidents. So what happened in between? What were America’s leaders doing during this 24-year span of time and how did their decisions result in such extreme civil unrest?

  • 8th MARTIN VAN BUREN (Democratic) 1837-1841 # = costly compromise for unity of the nation.
  • 9th WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON (Whig) 1841 # = pro-slavery. 
  • 10th JOHN TYLER (Whig) 1841-1845 # = sided with the confederacy when the Civil War began. 
  • 11th JAMES K POLK (Democratic) 1845-1849 # = institutes war for territory. 
  • 12th ZACHARY TAYLOR (Whig) 1849-1850 # = a moderate who compromised – was pre-occupied with southern secession and sectionalism in congress. 
  • 13th MILLARD FILLMORE (Whig) 1850-1853 # = supported slavery to protect the union because of the economy (50% southern).
  • 14th FRANKLIN PIERCE (Democratic) 1853-1857 # = signed the Fugitive Slave Act (runaway slaves must be returned to their owners). Signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act into law allowing states to decide about slavery.
  • 15th JAMES BUCHANAN (Democratic)  1857-1861 # = endorsed the Kansas Lecompton, a pro-slavery constitution excluding blacks from its bill of rights.  TURN PAGE