The Great Debate

THOMAS SULLY American, born England, 1783–1872 Andrew Jackson, 1845 Oil on canvas, 20 3 ⁄8 × 17 1⁄4 in. (51.8 × 43.8 cm) National Gallery of Art, Washington, Andrew W. Mellon Collection, 1942.8.34. Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Historians continue to debate the merits of the decisions and actions taken by President Andrew Jackson during his two terms in office. Living between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, Jackson played a central role in virtually all the controversial issues of his time—Indian removal, economic reform, states’ rights, and slavery.

Overshadowed in popular culture by the Founding Fathers and even wartime Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, Jackson nonetheless played a pivotal role in America’s development. In 1929 the Treasury Department replaced Grover Cleveland’s portrait on the twenty-dollar bill with that of Jackson, a nice bit of irony considering Jackson’s opposition to paper money. Today some people advocate replacing Jackson’s image with that of some other prominent American, such as Martin Luther King or even President Ronald Reagan.

Divide students into small groups and have them debate for and against Jackson’s placement on currency. For additional implementation plans, visit PBS WebQuest.

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