Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Attempted Assassination of Andrew Jackson


  On January 30th, 1835 Andrew Jackson nearly lost his life in an assassination attempt by an insane unemployed house painter named Richard Lawrence. Some say that he was only saved by the intervention of God himself. Many, such as the Indians and his political enemies thought Jackson was the devil incarnate. Regardless of your view of Jackson he experienced a miracle that day. Jackson was 67 years old at the time of the assassination attempt and had truly earned his nickname as "Old Hickory" for his toughness. Besides losing his father a few days before his birth, both his brothers and his mother were casualties of the Revolutionary War. In captivity by the British he carried a large scar on his face and hand where he tried to defend himself when a British Officer struck him with a sword for refusing to polish his boots. In captivity he came down with smallpox, the same thing that one of his brothers had died with. He not only survived the Revolution but the War of 1812, fighting the Indians and the British.

  He was shot twice in a huge fight on the Nashville town square with Thomas Hart Benton and his brother Jesse. Both bullets struck Jackson in the shoulder cutting an artery and it took every Nashville doctor at that time to save his life. He carried one of these bullets to his grave and one was removed in the White House as President by a doctor without anesthesia because Jackson refused it. He settled for a bottle of whiskey. Jackson was able to reconcile with Thomas Hart Benton after Benton became a Missouri Senator and staunch Jackson supporter. When Jackson had the bullet removed he offered it to Benton as a souvenir. Benton told him"you keep it, you earned it". In 1806 he allowed Charles Dickinson to take the first shot in a duel which barely missed his heart because he was determined to kill Dickinson. "I should have shot him, if he had shot me through the brain". Jackson, severely wounded, was able to hit Dickinson in the stomach, mortally wounding him. Jackson suffered greatly from this wound for the rest of his life because doctor's did not have the technology to safely remove it.

  The assassination attempt occurred as Jackson was leaving the Capital after the funeral of a U.S. Congressman. Lawrence stepped from behind a column and at point blank range pointed a percussion cap pistol at Jackson's mid section pulling the trigger. The cap exploded with a loud bang but it did not set off the powder charge. Jackson took his cane and began hitting Lawrence. Lawrence pulled a second pistol which misfired the very same way. By this time others in Jackson's entourage, including Davy Crockett, helped wrestle Lawrence to the ground and disarmed him. Lawrence was found to be insane because he imagined that the government owed him a large sum of money. Release of the funds would enable him to become King Richard the III of England. In subsequent tests of both pistols they never misfired during the tests. Lawrence would die in an insane asylum in 1861. The first picture is of the attempt on Jackson's life. The second is a rare photograph of Jackson a year before his death in 1845. The third is Davy Crockett who would die at the Alamo less than fourteen months after the assassination attempt.

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