Andrew Jackson Bashes The Whigs
for Mixing Religion And Politics
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A bristly letter denouncing his Whig enemies in Tennessee for ruining the career of a young clergyman and editor. “This so displeased a few of the Whig Elders, and Deacons of the church that they, for his becoming Editor, dropped him as a candidate for orders in their Church--some of whom are believed now never to have had three grains of religion.” ANDREW JACKSON.
Letter Signed, as former President, to Mahlon Dickerson. Hermitage, Ten., January 10, 1838. 1 p. With autograph address leaf.
Hermitage , Ten,
10th Jany 1838
My Dr Sir
This will be handed you by my friend Mr. J. O. Bradford who is a young Gentleman of good Education and of high moral worth. He was pursuing a course of studies to fit himself for the Ministry of the Episcopalian order, and to enable him to proceed he became Editor of the Nashville Union for a short space of time. This so displeased a few of the Whig Elders, and Deacons [inserted: of the church] that they, for his becoming Editor, [inserted: dropped] him [struck: from] [inserted:as a candidate for orders in] their Church--some of whom are believed now never to have had three grains of religion.
Mr. Bradford is therefore again turned upon the broad World to seek a support with nothing but his moral and private worth of character. He formerly, for a few years, followed a seafaring life in the merchant service, and would be pleased to get employment in our Navy, such as a Purser. Mr. B. has capacity enough to fill any subordinate office in any of the Departments. Col. Polk is well acquainted with his character to whom I refer you, and hope it may be in the power of the government to give him employment. He has been shamefully treated by his brethren of the Church.
I am very respectfully yours
Secretary of the Navy}
[address leaf:] Governor M. Dickerson / Secretary of the Navy / Washington / Mr. Bradford-
[docket:] Personal file / J.O. Bradford Jr / President Andrew Jackson
In 1834, several disparate political elements representing various interests coalesced to form the Whig Party. Whatever divided them was not nearly as important as that which united them - their opposition to President Andrew Jackson. They believed “King Andrew” was a dangerous man on horseback, with an insatiable appetite for power. While much of the vitriol between Jackson and the Whigs centered on key political issues, other factors played a part. For example, a Protestant religious revival movement had injected a moralizing element into the Whig ranks. Many Whigs were seeking to promote social change through activist government, and often blended evangelical religion with politics. The Whig Party proved especially congenial to social and religious reformers who sought to use the power of government to shape society. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, denounced the intrusion of religious and moral crusades such as temperance into politics, believing these belonged in the private sphere. This tension is evidenced in this letter by Andrew Jackson to Navy Secretary Mahlon Dickerson, concerning the travails of one John O. Bradford. In this January 1838 letter, the former President takes up the cause of Mr. Bradford.
Bradford served as editor of the Nashville Union for a five month stint in 1836. The newspaper was launched the previous year to essentially serve as a mouthpiece for Andrew Jackson and the Democratic Party. James Polk, a close ally of Jackson, was instrumental in launching the newspaper and had hired Bradford. By taking a job with the pro-Jackson publication, Bradford apparently committed an unpardonable offense in the eyes of the Whig Elders of the Episcopalian Church, who thus disqualified him from further religious pursuits. Jackson suggests Dickerson take Bradford’s plight up with “Col. Polk” – Speaker of the House of Representatives. Curiously, Jackson always referred to Polk’s military rank in letters, even though Polk never saw one minute of action. Jackson still considered it a mark of status to have served in the military. In the letter, Jackson suggests that Bradford might be suited for a position as purser in the Navy and evidently, he still possessed the political clout to influence events. The recommendation was a provident one. Not only did John O. Bradford receive this appointment, but he would eventually become Commodore John O. Bradford, Paymaster-General of the United States Navy.
Jackson remained a potent force in the Democratic Party until his death in 1845. It was very much Jackson’s behind the scenes maneuvering which secured the presidency for his successor Martin Van Buren. He also actively campaigned for Van Buren in his unsuccessful candidacy for re-election. In the presidential campaign of 1844, however, Jackson threw his support behind his reliable old ally James Polk, and helped him win the Democratic nomination for the Presidency. The Whig Party, which was born in opposition to Jackson, became increasingly fractured and was a spent force by 1856.