Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Andrew Jackson has inspired numerous biographies and works of historical scholarship, but his religious views have attracted very little attention. Jackson may have been a giant on the political landscape, but he was also a human being, an ordinary American who experienced the same difficulties and challenges as other Americans of the early nineteenth century. Another common experience for many Americans of Jackson’s day included church life, revivals, and efforts to conceptualize every day events within the context of religious experience. Finding out where Jackson stood on religion and what role religion played in his thinking helps situate him as a man of his times. Unfortunately, he so greatly influenced his generation that he has taken on larger-than-life proportions, and even historians have found it difficult to present Jackson as an ordinary person who could choose to make the same responses to religion as did his contemporaries. In sum, looking at Jackson’s religious views as expressed in his correspondence regarding events both public and private helps explain him. Jackson wrote thousands of letters over the course of his lifetime, and his correspondence, especially his private letters to his friends and family, indicate that he did indeed inherit and live by a sturdy set of religious convictions, deeply rooted in the Calvinist tradition of Scottish Presbyterian Christianity. In his letters, Jackson briefly but consistently revealed his concern over his relationship to the sovereignty and providence of God. Jackson’s foundational belief that a sovereign God governed the world, guiding it toward a destiny only He could fully comprehend remained unshaken, even as he experienced the death of beloved family members, the difficulties of war, and other harsh realities of early nineteenth-century American life. As he grew older, Jackson also became more evangelical in his religious outlook, an experience common to many other people of the Jacksonian period. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s views on Providence serve as a foil to more greatly reveal the subtle difference between the Jacksonian Providential optimism rooted in uncertainty and the emerging, Whiggish world view that would eventually overcome it.
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Ruckel, Ryan, ""A kind providence" and "The right to self preservation": how Andrew Jackson, Emersonian whiggery, and frontier Calvinism shaped the course of American political culture" (2006). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 1118.
William J. Cooper