Andrew Jackson VI—the great-great-great-grandson of President Andrew Jackson, one of the godfather’s of the Democratic Party—is a committed Republican.
“I was supporting Rubio,” Jackson’s descendent told The Daily Beast over the phone on Friday afternoon. ”I feel most of the current Democratic candidates tend to be more socialist in their viewpoints.”
Jackson, a judge who lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, with his wife and three daughters, is unhappy with the U.S. Department of Treasury.
This week, Jackson (the former president, not the current judge) was officially deposed from the front of the $20 bill. The Treasury Department announced Wednesday that abolitionist icon Harriet Tubman will replace the Jackson’s visage on the front, with Old Hickory likely moved to the reverse of the bill.
“Well, I was disappointed,” Jackson’s great-great-great-grandson said. “I was sad they would do that. I think he deserves to be on the $20 bill. You know, he was put on there for a reason…I can’t think of any of his accomplishments that have changed since then that would [warrant] moving him to the back … Andrew Jackson is deserving, if not more so, than anybody to be there.”
Jackson listed the president’s biggest accomplishments as the United States victory in the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812 against Britain, and his handling of the Nullification Crisis that probably delayed the onset of the Civil War for 30 years, buying critical time for the North to industrialize.
When asked about Jackson’s brutal treatment of Native Americans (including the Trail of Tears), Jackson VI defended him, insisting that his ancestor’s accomplishments outweigh the atrocities.
“Well, I mean, I can’t sugarcoat the Trail of Tears … that’s a part of history,” he conceded. “I would say though that he was not the only president or person back then that was involved in removing Indians from their land and giving it to the European settlers … They had different viewpoints than we have today. Obviously today, I don’t think that that would be a good thing to happen. But I think it’s dangerous, when you look at history, to impose the standards that we have today on people then.”
He also reminded me that the “Indian Removal Act, it was passed by Congress, so it’s not like he did an executive order to make it happen.”
These policies of the Jackson administration have often been characterized as genocidal—a term his family today rejects.
“No, not at all, I don’t think that is supported at all by history,” he said. “Genocide is when you pick out a group of people to wipe them out, and I don’t think anything in history [of what President Jackson did] supports that.”
There is some historical debate over whether or not what Jackson did constitutes genocide, per se. However, terms such as “ethnic cleansing,” “forced removal,” and “mass death” are certainly fair game.
While Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have praised the decision to replace Jackson with Tubman, Republicans Donald Trump and Ben Carson criticized it, both suggesting she should have been placed on the front of the $2 bill instead (thus replacing Thomas Jefferson who was, like Jackson, a slaveowner).
“I think it’s pure political correctness,” Trump told the Today show on Thursday, stating that Jackson had a track record of “tremendous” success. “[Jackson] has been on the bill for many, many years and really represented somebody that was really very important to this country.”
Jackson agrees with the Republican presidential frontrunner on the alleged P.C. motives of the Treasury Department.
“Yes, it is political correctness, ignoring certain facts of history,” he said. “If people want to put a woman on some money, and I got no trouble with that … I’m not saying that there aren’t other people who deserve to be on [money]. I’m not in any way criticizing Ms. Tubman. What she accomplished was great … My problem is with them replacing Andrew Jackson with anyone.”
When asked about Carson and Trump’s $2 idea, Jackson responded approvingly.
“If it means keeping Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill, then I’m all for it,” he said with a chuckle.