NASHVILLE — President Trump, in his first days in office, has been drawing comparisons to Andrew Jackson, the pugilistic populist president who campaigned against elites and was known as temperamental and rash. Trump ordered a portrait of Jackson, with his distinctive shock of white hair, to be hung in the Oval Office, and his adviser Stephen K. Bannon called Trump’s inaugural address “very Jacksonian.”
The Hermitage, Jackson’s Nashville estate and museum, is seeing an uptick in interest in the 7th president because of Trump, the 45th.
“My email is exploding,” said Howard J. Kittell, president and CEO of the Andrew Jackson Foundation that runs the Hermitage, as he walked around the grand 1,000-acre grounds over the weekend.
Both outsiders, Trump and Jackson share a number of qualities, but one of particular note: Rabid fans and rabid foes. “A challenging figure,” is how Kittell describes Jackson.
Jackson’s tenure spawned the term “kitchen cabinet” as his opponents railed against his unofficial advisers with powerful influence. Now Trump’s inner circle — Bannon chief among them — is causing alarm even among members of the Republican Party.
Kittell noted that Jackson holds the distinction of having had more official portraits painted of him during his lifetime than any other president. Trump has a penchant for portraits of himself, including large ones that hang in his grand Florida home, Mar-a-Lago.
Jackson, who led the nation from 1829 to 1837, was self-made, the first “common man” to be elected to the presidency; he was referred to as the “people’s president.” At the same time, he was famous for his showy display of the opulent marble and mahogany furnishings in his home.
Jackson’s mansion includes, according to a tour guide in 19th Century dress, the drawing room “where Jackson ushered guests in to brag about himself.”
Intensely interested in what the media wrote about him, Jackson subscribed to 16 newspapers. Aging binders of old newspapers are stacked beside his desk and a big “X” is marked over one article that caught Jackson’s fury, an old-time precursor to Trump’s tweet blasts about articles and publications he hates.
Despite the similarities, author Jon Meacham, a Nashville resident who has written a biography of Jackson and is on the board of directors of the Hermitage, notes key distinctions: Jackson was a war hero and had political experience serving in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Jackson, Kittell said, was also an unapologetic slave owner.
Trump is a businessman and reality TV star. He never held public office or served in the military and avoided Vietnam with student deferments and by citing a medical problems with bone spurs in his feet.
John Donnelly, a visitor from Ohio to the Hermitage, was reading an exhibit on the “Trail of Tears,” a deadly journey of Native Americans forced off land east of the Mississippi that Jackson triggered with the signing of the Indian Removal Act.
“I guess undocumented Mexicans feel like that now,” Donnelly said.
The famous Jackson quote displayed at the entrance of the Hermitage?: “I was born for a storm and a calm doesn’t suit me.”
Calm doesn’t suit Trump either, said Ann Packard, a Nashville resident visiting the Hermitage and upset over Trump’s executive order to ban people from certain Muslim-majority countries. She wondered what in years to come Trump’s presidential museum will feature: “I hope it’s not all about the storms he caused.”