Monday, December 21, 2015

Andrew Jackson - American Superman

“I was born for a storm and a calm does not suit me.”
Andrew Jackson

  Andrew Jackson is one of those historical figures that I can't help but admire. This is how I view Nathan Bedford Forrest. If you judge Jackson from the moral standards of today he is very flawed. To be fair you have to take into account the period of history in which he was born. As a result we must try to arrive at a balanced view of him. Most American presidents have a long and varied political career before they became president or in the case of William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight Eisenhower a long military career. Nobody has impacted the history of this country like Andrew Jackson. The only exception would be George Washington. Like Washington much of the impact that Jackson had on the country occurred before he became president. In Washington's case he literally started a world war. The French and Indian War which was a decisive victory of the British over the French. It would ultimately drive the French from North America and end much of the Indian attacks on the British that were inspired by the French. Britain would acquire additional territory from the French in America, including Canada. Washington made some crucial mistakes but would perform brilliantly in saving the survivors of Braddock's forces after they were ambushed by French and Indian's. He was absolutely essential in winning our independence in the American Revolution and by his presence at the Constitutional Convention. 

  Andrew Jackson was born on March 15, 1767, in the Waxhaw's region of South Carolina, just three weeks after the death of his father. His parents were Irish immigrants that had only arrived in America two years earlier, along with Andrews two older brothers. Jackson received little schooling as a child. In 1780-1781 the British invaded South Carolina and Andrew, along with his brothers, joined the patriot cause and volunteered to fight the British. Andrew Jackson was only thirteen when he joined the militia. His oldest brother Hugh died of heat stroke after fighting in the Battle of Stono Ferry in 1779. In 1781, Jackson and his brother Robert were captured. After a battle near their home Andrew and his brother Robert hid in the house of their relative Thomas Crawford. British dragoons found the two of them and began to tear the house apart, destroying furniture and breaking windows. The boys hid in the living room until the British commander ordered Andrew to clean the mud from his boots. He refused by saying "Sir, I am a prisoner of war and claim to be treated as such." In a rage, the officer raised his sword and swung at Jackson's head. Andrew deflected the blow with his left hand. His wrist was cut to the bone and the sword struck him on his head leaving both physical and mental scars that would remain with Jackson for the rest of his life. Robert also refused the order and was sent staggering across the room by a blow from the officer's sword. Andrew and Robert were held prisoner at Camden, South Carolina. They were infected with smallpox and would have died  if it hadn't been for their mother Elizabeth who arranged a prisoner transfer. The patriots swapped thirteen British soldiers for seven American prisoners that included the two brothers. Andrew walked 40 miles back home to Waxhaw, with his mother and his dying brother at his side. Robert died two days after returning home. It would be several weeks before Andrew was well enough to leave his bed. After Andrew was well enough his mother Elizabeth traveled to Charleston in order to nurse American soldiers who were being held prisoner on British ships in Charleston harbor. There was a cholera epidemic on board ship and Elizabeth contracted the disease. Elizabeth Jackson died in November 1781. Andrew realized that his mother had died when relatives shipped some of her clothing to him. In his mind the British were responsible for the death of his immediate family with the exception of his father. The Jackson's already had an Irishmen's hatred of the British but Andrew would possess a violent hatred of them for the rest of his life. The movie the Patriot, starring Mel Gibson,  is a fairly accurate portrayal of the brutality of the British during this phase of the war.

  Jackson studied law and was admitted to the North Carolina bar in 1787. He travelled across the Appalachians to the the territory that would become Tennessee. Jackson became a prosecutor in the Nashville settlement. He would later set up a private practice meeting Rachel (Donelson) Robards, the daughter of John Donelson, who was an original leader, along with James Robertson, in the settlement of Nashville. The Donelson stockade was near the present Two Mile Pike and Gallatin Road. They fell madly in love but Rachel was in an abusive marriage. It was thought that her husband had been granted a divorce. A woman could not file for a divorce at that time. Rachel and Andrew would not find out until after they were supposedly married in Natchez Mississippi that her ex - husband had only filed for a divorce and had not been granted one. There is no evidence that they were actually married in Natchez but from that time on Rachel was labeled an adulterer. They would be married for sure in Nashville after her divorce was finalized. This issue would resurface at various times in Jackson's life. The gossip and insults against her would continue through the virulent presidential campaign of 1828 against John Quincy Adams. The insults would contribute to her fatal heart attack at the Hermitage in December 1828. In 1796, Jackson became the first man to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Tennessee. He declined to seek reelection and returned home in March 1797, Jackson was elected to the U.S. Senate but resigned a year later and was elected judge of Tennessee’s superior court. He was picked to head the state militia, a position he was holding when the War of 1812 began.
Rachel Jackson

  Jackson was involved in several duels over the years but they usually ended without anyone being hurt. In 1806 he would become involved in a dispute with Charles Dickinson who accused Jackson of not paying a horse bet, being a coward, and a bigamist. Being accused of bigamy was an attack on the honor of Rachel, which was unforgivable. A duel was arranged but Dickinson was an expert shot and Jackson wasn't. Jackson was six foot tall and only weighed 145 pounds. His thin frame would work to his advantage. In addition he wore a loose fitting dark blue frock coat. Dickinson fired first as planned. A witness described what happened next. A fleck of dust rose from Jackson's coat and his left hand clutched his chest. For an instant he thought himself dying, but, fighting for self-command, slowly he raised his pistol. Dickinson recoiled a step horror-stricken. "My God! Have I missed him?" Overton [Jackson's second] presented his pistol. "Back to the mark, sir!" Dickinson folded his arms. Jackson's spare frame straightened. He aimed... and fired. Dickinson swayed to the ground... [and later died]. [Jackson, too, was wounded, to the point where his left boot had filled with blood.] Jackson's surgeon found that Dickinson's aim had been perfectly true, but he had judged the position of Jackson's heart by the set of his coat, and Jackson wore his coats loosely on account of the excessive slenderness of his figure. He later said that he was determined to kill Dickinson even if he had been shot through the head. Jackson would carry Dickinson’s bullet in his body for the rest of his life.

  On September 4th 1813 Jackson was nearly killed in a gun fight in a Nashville tavern. It was because of a feud between Jackson and Thomas Hart Benton and his brother Jesse Benton. This feud would result from an earlier duel in which Jesse Benton had a duel with William Carroll who would eventually be elected governor of Tennessee. Jackson was Carroll’s second. Carroll and Benton both survived the duel. Thomas Hart Benton blamed Jackson for the duel and he made threats against him. Jackson promised to have revenge. On September 3, the Benton brothers arrived in Nashville and checked in to the City Hotel on the public square. The next morning Jackson, John Coffee, and Stockley Hays arrived at the Nashville Inn, which was usually their headquarters when in town. They were well armed and Jackson was carrying a riding whip. Jackson and Coffee went to the post-office, near the City Hotel. They crossed the Square and passed in front of the tavern where the Benton's were standing on the walk. Jackson and Coffee continued on the walk and as they reached the hotel Jesse stepped into the bar. Thomas Hart Benton was standing in the doorway of the hall that led to the rear porch overlooking the river. Jackson walked toward Thomas brandishing his whip. “Now, defend yourself you damned rascal!” Before he could draw his pistol Jackson’s gun was in his chest. Thomas Benton backed slowly through the hallway, Jackson following, step by step until they reached the porch, Thomas Benton could see his brother Jesse slip in behind Jackson, raise his pistol and shoot. Jackson fell forward firing his pistol. The bullet missed but Tom's coat was powder burned. Thomas Benton fired twice as Jackson was falling and Jesse lunged forward to shoot at him again. A bystander named James Sitler shielded Jackson as he lay on the ground while his left side was gushing blood.
Thomas Hart Benton

  John Coffee, who was a big man, walked through the smoke  firing his pistols at Thomas Benton over the heads of Jackson and Sitler. Coffee missed but was trying to club Benton with his empty pistol. Benton fell backward down a flight of stairs trying to get out of Coffee's way. Stockley Hays ran at Jesse Benton with a sword cane. The blade caught on one of Jesse's buttons, breaking the blade and preventing him from being killed. Jesse had a pistol left that was still loaded. Benton stuck the muzzle against Hays body after he came at him with a knife. Jesse pulled the trigger but the gun failed to fire. Two mattresses were soaked with blood from Jackson's wounds at the Nashville Inn. He was near death. The bullets shattered his left shoulder, cutting an artery, and a ball was lodged in the upper bone of the same arm. He was wounded both times by Jesse Benton’s pistol. Luckily, all of the doctors in Nashville were on hand trying to save Jackson's life. Thomas Hart Benton and his friends were standing outside the Inn shouting insults and challenging him to come out. Only one doctor wanted to save his arm. The rest were for amputation. Jackson settled the matter by weakly saying “I’ll keep my arm.” just before he lost consciousness.

  A few weeks later Jackson would lead the Tennessee Militia in a successful campaign against the Creek nation with his arm in a sling. Thomas Hart Benton would move to Missouri and become a powerful senator. Ironically he became a political ally and friend of Andrew Jackson after he became president. By 1831, one of Jesse Benton's bullets was moving and causing intense pain in his arm. Jackson thought about going to Philadelphia in order to have it removed but decided against it. In January 1832  Dr. Thomas Harris was brought to the White House to remove the bullet. There was no anesthesia available. Baring his arm and gritting his teeth he said "Go ahead." Harris made an incision, and when he squeezed his arm the bullet popped out. Jackson began to feel better immediately and there was evidence that he was suffering from lead poisoning. Sometime after having the bullet removed Jackson met with Thomas Hart Benton in the White House. Jackson offered the bullet to Benton. He told Jackson, "You keep it. You earned it. I have an affinity for the "bad ass" in American history and culture. In their own way, there were many bad asses. Washington, Andrew Jackson, Stonewall Jackson, Lee, Forrest, Grant, George H. Thomas, Sherman, Sheridan, Alvin York, and George S. Patton, just to name a few. Each of these men had different personalities. Some were boisterous like Patton and others were quiet and reserved like Grant and Thomas. However they all had an indefatigable will that some would call stubbornness and as Shelby Foote would call, four o'clock in the morning courage. No matter what time of day or condition they found themselves in they were absolutely fearless. I believe that America, in most cases, have been blessed for having these kind of people. This is in no way condoning any bad that they might have done.

  Jackson's contribution to America was his acquisition of the territory of Alabama and Mississippi by defeating the Creek Indians at the battle of Horseshoe Bend in March 1814. He beat the best troops in the British Army at the Battle of New Orleans with a rag tag army of Tennessee and Kentucky militia, pirates and free blacks on January 8th 1815. The British lost some 2,000 casualties assaulting Jackson's forces along with three generals and seven colonels. Jackson’s army lost less than 100 men in a span of about a half hour. The nation had little to cheer about during the War of 1812. We were lucky that we weren't defeated. Our capital had even been burned by the British. Jackson became a national hero overnight. The war seemed to solidify our place in the world and Britain began to take us seriously as a country. Especially after being so soundly defeated by Jackson. What many do not realize is that one of the objectives of the British army at New Orleans was to conquer the area that comprised the Louisiana Purchase area acquired by President Thomas Jefferson in 1803. If the British had won at New Orleans they would, at the very least, devastated the American economy by closing off New Orleans from American commerce. The British Navy could have locked up New Orleans tighter than a drum. The government tried to divert the attention of the English people from this disaster at New Orleans to the escape of Napoleon from the Island of Elba and his subsequent defeat at Waterloo in June 1815. British pamphleteer William Cobbett wrote, “Bonaparte had landed from Elba, and the battle of Waterloo soon succeeded. Both the Government and the people were glad to forget all about this unmerciful beating in America.” However this battle of New Orleans broke the heart of European despotism. The man who won it did, in that one act, more for the good and the honor of the human race than ever was done by any other man.”
Jackson Square In New Orleans

 Jackson was not through. In 1817 he invaded Spanish Florida on ambiguous orders from President James Monroe. The Seminoles attacked Jackson but this left their village vulnerable. Jackson burned their houses and crops. Letters were found that implied that the Spanish and British were assisting the Indians. If Spain and England were provoking the Indians to fight then Jackson argued that his actions were taken in self-defense. He captured Pensacola with little resistance and ousted the Spanish governor. Jackson tried and executed two British citizens, Robert Ambrister and Alexander Arbuthnot, who had been advising the Indians and supplying them. Jackson considered them spies. The Seminole tribes begin to fear "Sharp Knife" as word spread of Jackson's ruthlessness in battle. Because of his success the Monroe administration suggested that Spain should give up Florida. Because of Spain's weakness it signed the Adams-Onis treaty in which Florida was ceded to the United States for five million dollars and giving Spain everything west of Louisiana from Texas to California. Jackson would become the military governor of Florida and would serve from March 10, 1821 to December 31, 1821. Good or bad several things were accomplished by this treaty. Florida had been a refuge for escaped slaves. They were being adopted into the Seminole tribe and Jackson's enemies believed that his main motivation for invading Florida was to stop this flow of slaves to freedom. The French allied with the Indian tribes to fight against the British in the French and Indian War. The English allied with the Indians to fight against the Americans during the revolution. The Spanish were encouraging Indian raids into the Southern settlements. Nashville endured Indians attacks until 1795 and the massacre at Ft. Mims Alabama on August 30th 1813 started the Creek War. Jackson knew that removing the Spanish from Florida would go a long way toward securing the South from Indian attacks. During the War of 1812 not only the Spanish in the South but the English in the North from Canada and Detroit were encouraging Indian attacks on the Ohio country. The victory by William Henry Harrison over Tecumseh at the battle of the Thames and the treaty of Ghent, that ended the War of 1812, would pretty much end the Indian threat.  The Spanish were the last of the three European powers expelled from the area east of the Mississippi.  In three campaigns, the Creek War, the Battle of New Orleans and the invasion of Florida acquired the future states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida. Fifteen States would eventually evolve from the Louisiana Purchase. President James K. Polk secured Texas, the entire Southwest and California by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ending the Mexican War. He would also negotiate the acquisition of the Oregon territory from England. These two Tennesseans added more territory to the US than at anytime in American history.

  Andrew Jackson won the popular vote for the presidency three times in 1824, 1828, and 1832. Because Henry Clay gave his electoral votes over to John Quincy Adams in 1824, Jackson lost the election. He accused them of a "corrupt bargain" because Clay was appointed as Adams secretary of state. This cabinet position was seen as a stepping stone to the White House. Four years later, after one of the ugliest campaigns in American history, and which probably hastened the death of his beloved Rachel, Jackson won the presidency. Jackson's election was a turning point in American politics because he was the country's first frontier president. Nashville became the nerve center of national politics overnight and would remain so into the late 1840's after the presidency of James K. Polk, who was a protege of “Old Hickory”. Polk was nicknamed "Young Hickory". Because of Jackson's strong personality and leadership the pro - Jackson branch of party became known as the Democrats. The Democrats were known earlier as the Democrat - Republican Party. The anti-Jackson party (led by Daniel Webster and Henry Clay) were known as the Whig Party. Jackson did not hesitate to use his veto power as president. “King Andrew I became Jackson's nickname and the Whigs claimed to fight for individual liberty against the tyrant Jackson. Lincoln would identify with the Whig Party during this time. Eventually anti - slavery Democrats and Whigs would combine to form the Republican Party in 1854. The charter of the Bank of the United States was due to expire in 1832. Andrew Jackson and his supporters opposed the bank because they considered it to be a privileged institution and the enemy of everyday people; meanwhile, Webster and Clay led the fight in Congress for its recharter. A huge battle developed between the two parties over the bank. The recharter was vetoed by Jackson. In spite of the veto Jackson won reelection easily over Clay. He had more than 56 percent of the popular vote and five times more electoral votes.
The Hermitage

Spiral staircase

  Jackson was a states’ rights man all the way but he was a strong Unionist. He battled against Senator John C. Calhoun and the South Carolina legislature. In 1832 the federal tariffs passed in 1828 and 1832 were declared null and void by the South Carolina legislature. Their enforcement was prohibited within the state boundaries. Jackson tried to reduce the high tariffs because he also believed that they were high but at the same time he threatened to invade South Carolina with armed force if they did not enforce the law. South Carolina eventually backed down and Jackson was credited with saving the Union after he called South Carolina's bluff. During Jackson’s second term, he became the first president in American history to become the target of a presidential assassination attempt. He was leaving a memorial service for a congressman inside the U.S. Capitol on January 30, 1835, and a deranged house painter named Richard Lawrence stepped from the crowd and pointed a single-shot pistol at Jackson. When the gun failed to shoot,  Lawrence pulled out a second pistol and it also misfired. Totally in character Jackson attacked the would be assassin and repeatedly hit him with his cane. Bystanders,which included Davy Crockett, subdued Lawrence. He was of English birth and he believed he was an heir to the British throne. In his demented mind he believed that the US government owed him a huge amount of money. He was confined to institutions for the rest of his life after being declared insane. 
Assassination attempt on Jackson

  The most controversial act of Jackson's presidency was the Indian Removal Act of 1830. This gave him the power to negotiate treaties with tribes that resulted in their removal to territory west of the Mississippi River. He stood by as Georgia seized nine million acres inside the state, in violation of a Federal treaty. This land had been guaranteed to the Cherokee's. The Supreme Court ruled, in two different cases, that Georgia had no authority over the Cherokee lands. Supposedly Jackson said "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!" Jackson would not enforce these decisions and he negotiated a deal where the Cherokees would leave their land in return for territory that would become Oklahoma. This agreement would result in the Trail of Tears. An estimated 15,000 Cherokee Indians would be relocated and out of this number approximately 4,000 died of starvation, illness, and exposure. Martin Van Buren was hand picked by Jackson as his successor with an economy ready to fail. Jackson did not believe in paper money. This is ironic since Jackson's picture is on the twenty dollar bill. In Jackson's view the common man didn't benefit from it. Paper money allowed speculators to buy large parcels of land driving prices artificially high. Because of paper money he had suffered a huge loss himself. In July 1836 Jackson issued the Specie Circular which required payment in gold or silver for public lands. Banks began to fail because they couldn't meet the demand. The Panic of 1837 devastated the economy and Martin Van Buren, like Bush after Reagan, would became a one term president. I use this comparison because Jackson and Reagan were men of the people. They both had a special rapport with the American people and were very popular throughout both terms as president. The Panic of 1837 was a lot worse than anything Bush 41 would face. His recession was a mild one but was successfully exploited by Bill Clinton. William Henry Harrison, a war hero and a Whig, would win in 1840 but would die of pneumonia only one month after becoming president. Andrew Jackson was the first and only president to completely eradicate the national debt through a program called (Retrenchment and Economy). It can be argued that instead of shrinking the size of government it was expanded through the (Spoils System) which was a system of rewarding political supporters with patronage jobs. Jackson died at the Hermitage on June 8th 1845 at the age of 78, He suffered from chronic tuberculosis, dropsy, and heart failure. Jackson suffered from many health problems throughout his life such as malaria which he contracted in the swamps of Florida during the Seminole campaign. Dysentery which he also contracted in Florida during the Seminole campaign and he would have chronic abdominal pain for years which may have also been lead poisoning. It is believed however that the bullet from his duel with Dickinson was what eventually killed him. He was in good health until that duel and would be a semi-invalid for the rest of his life afterward. It was only his unbelievable will power and constitution that kept him alive. For the rest of his life he would have coughing fits in which he would cough up a bloody mucous and occasionally he would hemmorhage from his lungs. Doctors misdiagnosed this condition as tuberculosis but it was actually where the bullet from the duel had brought bone and clothing into his lung causing frequent abcesses.

Theodore Roosevelt visiting the tomb of Andrew Jackson

  One legacy of Jackson is that through his affinity and rapport with the common white man it would lead to a greater involvement and interest in government. Blacks, Indians, and women did not directly benefit from Jacksonian Democracy but it would be a step in the right direction toward the eventual enfranchisement of these classes. Jackson's Indian removal policy was bad and like so many of our early presidents he was a slave owner. However a balanced view has to be taken of his impact on American history. I don't know too many people who are willing to return the state of Florida to the Spanish or Alabama and Mississippi to the Creek Indian Tribe. Jackson also had a huge impact on the eventual acquisition and statehood of Texas. One can even argue that he preserved the 15 states that would eventually evolve from the Louisiana Purchase from England's dominance by his victory at New Orleans. New Orleans recently voted to remove four Confederate monuments. Three of the statues are of Lee, Beauregard, and Jefferson Davis. It stands to reason that the PC police will soon eradicate everything associated with the savior of New Orleans, Andrew Jackson. I just want to warn the PC police in America that they have their work cut out for them in regard to Jackson. 
Jackson statue in Lafayette Park

The following is an incomplete list of all things bearing the name of Andrew Jackson.

Andrew Jackson State Park, Lancaster County, South Carolina

Fort Jackson, South Carolina, the U.S. Army's largest training base

Hermitage, Pennsylvania (formerly Hickory Township), after his homestea

Hermitage, Tennessee, after his homestead

Hickory County, Missouri, after his nickname, "Old Hickory"

Jackson, Alabama

Jackson, Georgia

Jackson, Louisiana

Jackson, Michigan

Jackson, Mississippi

Jackson, Missouri

Jackson, New Hampshire

Jackson, New Jersey

Jackson, Ohio

Jackson, South Carolina

Jackson, Tennessee

Jackson County, Alabama

Jackson County, Arkansas

Jackson County, Colorado

Jackson County, Florida

Jackson County, Illinois

Jackson County, Indiana

Jackson County, Iowa

Jackson County, Kansas

Jackson County, Kentucky

Jackson Parish, Louisiana

Jackson County, Michigan

Jackson County, Mississippi

Jackson County, Missouri

Jackson County, North Carolina

Jackson County, Ohio

Jackson County, Oklahoma

Jackson County, Oregon

Jackson County, Tennessee

Jackson County, Texas

Jackson County, West Virginia

Jackson County, Wisconsin

Jackson Township, Indiana

Jackson Square in New Orleans, Louisiana

Jacksontown, Ohio in Licking County, Ohio

Jacksonville, Florida

Jacksonville, Illinois

Jacksonville, North Carolina

Mount Jackson, Virginia

Old Hickory, Tennessee, after his nickname

Old Hickory Lake and Dam, Tennessee

Many streets and avenues

Educational institutions
Jackson Memorial Hospital (Miami, Florida)
Andrew Jackson Elementary School (Old Hickory, Tennessee)
Andrew Jackson High School (South Carolina)
Andrew Jackson High School (Jacksonville, Florida)
Andrew Jackson High School (Cambria Heights, New York), Queens, New York City, New York
Miami Jackson High School, Miami, Florida
Andrew Jackson Language Academy, Chicago, Illinois
Andrew Jackson Middle School (Cross Lanes, West Virginia)
Andrew Jackson Middle School (South Carolina)
Andrew Jackson Middle School (Titusville, Florida)
Andrew Jackson Middle School (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
Andrew Jackson Fundamental Magnet High School, Chalmette, Louisiana
Andrew Jackson Academy, Forrestville, Maryland
Andrew Jackson Public School 24Q (Flushing, New York), Queens, New York City, New York


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