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West Point professor speaks on America’s evolving civil-military relations under Jackson


On April 28, Professor Samuel Watson of the United State Military Academy spoke about Andrew Jackson and contemporaneous civil-military relations. Professor Watson began by characterizing the two opposing models of civilian-military relations in American history. On the one hand, a viable model was found in generals taking the liberty to act as they saw fit under loose constraints. On the other–arising to become the dominant tradition–was a model in which military operations were bound by strict civilian authority. Jackson, Professor Watson argued, is emblematic of the former model.

While shirking oversight from civilian control, Jackson himself conducted military operations in the manner he saw fit.  On occasion, Jackson not only steered his forces away from oversight but assumed powers normally the prerogative of the government. For example, Professor Watson said, Jackson relocated several groups on numerous circumstances; in one case, even relocating a portion of New Orleans’ population he thought in collusion with Spain. Jackson’s imperious style left America with little appetite for military mavericks.