NEW ORLEANS — The anti-statue mob has now come for Andrew Jackson, whose mounted figure in the heart of the French Quarter has been a symbol of this city since the Civil War.
The statue of Jackson in the shadow of St. Louis Cathedral in the square that bears the former president’s name has long been a postcard image of New Orleans and served as a backdrop for President George W. Bush’s first address to the nation after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
And even an anti-Confederate inscription carved into the statue’s base by Union troops who occupied the city in 1862, may not be enough to save the famed warrior and one-time slave owner.
Take ‘Em Down NOLA, a local group dedicated to toppling monuments of historic figures it deems dubious, has held rallies recently and now set its sights on the Jackson statue, which has been in the Quarter since 1856.
Protesters demanded Jackson join the other New Orleans statues that have already been removed, chiefly of Confederate Army figures such as one of Robert E. Lee that stood atop a tall pillar on St. Charles Street.
“New Orleans still allows its largest remaining monument to the slaver and genocidal warmonger Andrew Jackson to stand shamelessly in its most prominent square in the city,” Take ‘Em Down NOLA states at its website.
The group’s chief goal is to “take down all symbols of white supremacy,” although it has other demands that have been given renewed energy since May 25 when George Floyd died while in police custody in Minneapolis.
“Finish the job!” demands a manifesto on the group’s website. “Remove all symbols of white supremacy and abolish the police!”
They also are pushing to transform much of New Orleans’ antebellum nomenclature by changing the names of various streets and schools.
While Jacksonian Democracy has long comprised an important element of American history, “Old Hickory” has long been recognized as a problematic figure. The nation’s seventh president, Jackson became a military hero for his victory in the Battle of New Orleans that ended hostilities in the War of 1812.
But he also led military campaigns against the Seminole Indian tribe and, as president, set off the “Trail of Tears” through the forced displacement of an estimated 60,000 Native Americans, largely Cherokee, from the southeastern United States to points west of the Mississippi River.
Jackson’s anti-Confederate sentiments have not cooled the ardor of his modern opponents.
Jackson was a slave owner who opposed abolition, yet as president favored policies to keep the U.S. intact. When he caught wind that his secretary of state, John Calhoun, was going to skewer the Union with a state dinner toast, Jackson preempted the maneuver by raising his glass first and stating, “To the Union. It must and shall be preserved.”
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler, who commanded Union troops occupying New Orleans in the Civil War, ordered those words carved into the marble block below Jackson’s mounted figure as a reminder to hostile locals that a Southern hero opposed secession.