President Andrew Jackson
Biography

From: "Biographical Review of Cass, Schuyler and Brown Counties, Illinois 1892", by Biographical Review Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois; pages 46-51, a reprinted by Stevens Publishing Co., Astoria, Ill., 1971, is sold by the Schuyler County Historical Society, Rushville, Illinois.
 
  ANDREW JACKSON, the seventh President of the United States, 1829-'37, was born at the Waxhaw Settlement, Union County, North Carolina, March 16, 1767. His parents were Scotch-Irish, natives of Carrickfergus, who came to America in 1765, and settled on Twelve-Mile Creek, a tributary of the Catawba. His father, who was a poor farm laborer, died shortly before Andrew's birth, when his mother removed to Waxhaw, where some relatives resided.
  Few particulars of the childhood of Jackson have been preserved. His education was of the most limited kind, and he showed no fondness for books. He grew up to be a tall, lank boy, with coarse hair and freckled cheeks, with bare feet dangling from trousers too short for him, very fond of athletic sports, running, boxing and wrestling. He was generous to the younger and weaker boys, but very irascible and overbearing with his equals and superiors. He was profane a vice in which he surpassed all other men. The character of his mother he revered; and it was not until after her death that his predominant vices gained full strength.
  In 1780, at the age of thirteen, Andrew, or Andy, as he was called, with his brother Robert, volunteered to serve in the Revolutionary forces under General Sumter, and was a witness of the latter's defeat at Hanging Rock. In the following year the brothers were made prisoners, and confined in Camden, experiencing brutal treatment from their captors, and being spectators of General Green's defeat at Hobkirk Hill. Through their mother's exertions the boys were exchanged while suffering from smallpox. In two days Robert was dead, and Andy apparently dying. The strength of his constitution triumphed, and he regained health and vigor.
  As he was getting better, his mother heard the cry of anguish from the prisoners whom the British held in Charleston, among whom were the sons of her sisters. She hastened to their relief, was attacked by fever, died and was buried where her grave could never be found. Thus Andrew Jackson, when fourteen years of age, was left alone in the world, without father, mother, sister or brother, and without one dollar which he could call his own. He soon entered a saddler's shop, and labored diligently for six months. But gradually, as health returned, he became more and more a wild, reckless, lawless boy. He gambled, drank and was regarded as about the worst character that could be found.
  He now turned schoolmaster. He could teach the alphabet, perhaps the multiplication table; and as he was a very bold boy, it is possible he might have ventured to teach a little writing. But he soon began to think of a profession and decided to study law. With a very slender purse, and on the back of a very fine horse, he set out for Salisbury, North Carolina, where he entered the law office of Mr. McCay. Here he remained two years, professedly studying law. He is still remembered in traditions of Salisbury, which say:
   "Andrew Jackson was the most roaring, rollicking, horse-racing, card-playing, mischievous fellow that ever lived in Salisbury. He did not trouble the law-books much."
  Andrew was now, at the age of twenty, a tall young man, being over six feet in height. He was slender, remarkably graceful and dignified in his manners, an exquisite horseman, and developed, amidst his loathesome profanity and multiform vices, a vein of rare magnanimity. His temper was fiery in the extreme; but it was said of him that no man knew better than Andrew Jackson when to get angry and when not.
  In 1786 he was admitted to the bar, and two years later removed to Nashville, in what was then the western district of North Carolina, with the appointment of solicitor, or public prosecutor. It was an office of little honor, small emolument and great peril. Few men could be found to accept it.
  And now Andrew Jackson commenced vigorously to practice law. It was an important part of his business to collect debts. It required nerve. During the first seven years of his residence in those wilds he traversed the almost pathless forest between Nashville and Jonesborough, a distance of 200 miles, twenty-two times. Hostile Indians were constantly on the watch, and a man was liable at any moment to be shot down in his own field. Andrew Jackson was just the man for this service a wild, daring, rough backwoodsman. Daily he made hair-breadth escapes. He seemed to bear a charmed life. Boldly, alone or with few companions, he traversed the forests, encountering all perils and triumphing over all.
  In 1790 Tennessee became a Territory, and Jackson was appointed, by President Washington, United States Attorney for the new district. In 1791 he married Mrs. Rachel Robards (daughter of Colonel John Donelson), whom he supposed to have been divorced in that year by an act of the Legislature of Virginia. Two years after this Mr. and Mrs. Jackson learned, to their great surprise, that Mr. Robards had just obtained a divorce in one of the courts of Kentucky, and that the act of the Virginia Legislature was not final, but conditional. To remedy the irregularity as much as possible, a new license was obtained and the marriage ceremony was again performed.
  It proved to be a marriage of rare felicity. Probably there never was a more affectionate union. However rough Mr. Jackson might have been abroad, he was always gentle and tender at home; and through all the vicissitudes of their lives, he treated Mrs. Jackson with the most chivalric attention.
  Under the circumstances it was not unnatural that the facts in the case of this marriage were so misrepresented by opponents in the political campaigns a quarter or a century later as to become the basis of serious charges against Jackson's morality which, however, have been satisfactorily attested by abundant evidence.
  Jackson was untiring in his duties as United States Attorney, which demanded frequent journeys through the wilderness and exposed him to Indian hostilities. He acquired considerable property in land, and obtained such influence as to be chosen a member of the convention which framed the Constitution for the new State of Tennessee, in 1796, and in that year was elected its first Representative in Congress. Albert Gallatin thus describes the first appearance of the Hon. Andrew Jackson in the House:
  "A tall, lank, uncouth-looking personage, with locks of hair hanging over his face and a cue down his back, tied with an eel skin; his dress singular, his manners and deportment those of a rough backwoodsman."
  Jackson was an earnest advocate of the Democratic party. Jefferson was his idol. He admired Bonaparte, loved France and hated England. As Mr. Jackson took his seat, General Washington, whose second term of office was just expiring, delivered his last speech to Congress. A committee drew up a complimentary address in reply. Andrew Jackson did not approve the address and was one of twelve who voted against it.
  Tennessee had fitted out an expedition against the Indians, contrary to the policy of the Government. A resolution was introduced that the National Government should pay the expenses. Jackson advocated it and it was carried. This rendered him very popular in Tennessee. A vacancy chanced soon after to occur in the Senate, and Andrew Jackson was chosen United States Senator by the State of Tennessee. John Adams was then President and Thomas Jefferson, Vice-President.
  In 1798 Mr. Jackson returned to Tennessee, and resigned his seat in the Senate. Soon after he was chosen Judge of the Supreme Court of that State, with a salary of $600. This office he held six years. It is said that his decisions, though sometimes ungrammatical, were generally right. He did not enjoy his seat upon the bench, and renounced the dignity in 1804. About this time he was chosen Major-General of militia, and lost the title of judge in that of General.
  When he retired from the Senate Chamber, he decided to try his fortune through trade. He purchased a stock of goods in Philadelphia and sent them to Nashville, where he opened a store. He lived about thirteen miles from Nashville, on a tract of land of several thousand acres, mostly uncultivated. He used a small block-house for a store, from a narrow window of which he sold goods to the Indians. As he had an assistant his office as judge did not materially interfere with his business.
  As to slavery, born in the midst of it, the idea never seemed to enter his mind that it could be wrong. He eventually became an extensive slave owner, but he was one of the most humane and gentle of masters.
  In 1804 Mr. Jackson withdrew from politics and settled on a plantation which he called the Hermitage, near Nashville. He set up a cotton-gin, formed a partnership and traded in New Orleans, making the voyage on flatboats. Through his hot temper he became involved in several quarrels and "affairs of honor," during this period, in one of which he was severely wounded, but had the misfortune to kill his opponent, Charles Dickinson. For a time this affair greatly injured General Jackson's popularity. The verdict then was, and continues to be, that General Jackson was outrageously wrong. If he subsequently felt any remorse he never revealed it to anyone.
  In 1805 Aaron Burr had visited Nashville and been a guest of Jackson, with whom he corresponded on the subject of a war with Spain, which was anticipated and desired by them, as well as by the people of the Southwest generally.
  Burr repeated his visit in September, 1806, when he engaged in the celebrated combinations which led to his trial for treason. He was warmly received by Jackson, at whose instance a public ball was given in his honor at Nashville, and contracted with the latter for boats and provisions. Early in 1807, when Burr had been proclaimed a traitor by President Jefferson, volunteer forces for the Federal service were organized at Nashville under Jackson's command; but his energy and activity did not shield him from suspicions of connivance in the supposed treason. He was summoned to Richmond as a witness in Burr's trial, but was not called to the stand, probably because he was out-spoken in his partisanship.
  On the outbreak of the war with Great Britain in 1812, Jackson tendered his services, and in January, 1813, embarked for New Orleans at the head of the Tennessee contingent. In March he received an order to disband his forces; but in September he again took the field, in the Creek war, and in conjunction with his former partner, Colonel Coffee, inflicted upon the Indians the memorable defeat at Talladega, Emuckfaw and Tallapoosa.
  In May, 1814, Jackson, who had now acquired a national reputation, was appointed a Major-General of the United States army, and commenced a campaign against the British in Florida. He conducted the defense at Mobile, September 15, seized upon Pensacola, November 6, and immediately transported the bulk of his troops to New Orleans, then threatened by a powerful naval force. Martial law was declared in Louisiana, the State militia was called to arms, engagements with the British were fought December 23 and 28, and after re-enforcements had been received on both sides the famous victory of January 8, 1815, crowned Jackson's fame as a soldier, and made him the typical American hero of the first half of the nineteenth century.
  In 1817-'18 Jackson conducted the war against the Seminoles of Florida, during which he seized upon Pensacola and executed by courtmartial two British subjects, Arbuthnot and Ambrister acts which might easily have involved the United States in war both with Spain and Great Britain. Fortunately the peril was averted by the cession of Florida to the United States; and Jackson, who had escaped a trial for the irregularity of his conduct only through a division of opinion in Monroe's cabinet, was appointed in 1821 Governor of the new Territory. Soon after he declined the appointment of minister to Mexico.
  In 1823 Jackson was elected to the United States Senate, and nominated by the Tennessee Legislature for the Presidency. This candidacy, though a matter of surprise, and even merryment, speedily became popular, and in 1824, when the stormy electoral canvas resulted in the choice of John Quincy Adams by the House of Representatives, General Jackson received the largest popular vote among the four candidates.
  In 1828 Jackson was triumphantly elected President over Adams after a campaign of unparalleled bitterness. He was inaugurated March 4, 1829, and at once removed from office all the incumbents belonging to the opposite party a procedure new to American politics, but which naturally became a precedent.
  His first term was characterized by quarrels between the Vice-President, Calhoun, and the Secretary of State, Van Buren, attended by a cabinet crisis originating in scandals connected with the name of Mrs. General Eaton, wife of the Secretary of War; by the beginning of his war upon the United States Bank, and by his vigorous action against the partisans of Calhoun, who, in South Carolina, threatened to nullify the acts of Congress, establishing a protective tariff.
  In the Presidential campaign of 1832 Jackson received 219 out of 288 electoral votes, his competitor being Mr. Clay, while Mr. Wirt, on an Anti-Masonic platform, received the vote of Vermont alone. In 1833 President Jackson removed the Government deposits from the United States bank, thereby incurring a vote of censure from the Senate, which was, however, expunged four years later. During this second term of office the Cherokees, Choctaws and Creeks were removed, not without difficulty, from Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, to the Indian Territory; the National debt was extinguished; Arkansas and Michigan were admitted as States to the Union; the Seminole war was renewed; the anti-slavery agitation first acquired importance; the Mormon delusion, which had organized in 1829, attained considerable proportions in Ohio and Missouri, and the country experienced its greatest pecuniary panic.
  Railroads with locomotive propulsion were introduced into America during Jackson's first term, and had become an important element of national life before the close of his second term. For many reasons, therefore, the administration of President Jackson formed an era in American history, political, social and industrial. He succeeded in effecting the election of his friend Van Buren as his successor, retired from the Presidency March 4, 1837; and led a tranquil life at the Hermitage until his death, which occurred June 8, 1845.
  During his closing years he was a professed Christian and a member of the Presbyterian church. No American of this century has been the subject of such opposite judgments. He was loved and hated with equal vehemence during his life, but at the present distance of time from his career, while opinions still vary as to the merits of his public acts, few of his countrymen will question that he was a warmhearted, brave, patriotic, honest and sincere man. If his distinguishing qualities were not such as constitute statesmanship, in the highest sense, he at least never pretended to other merits than such as were written to his credit on the page of American history not attempting to disguise the demerits which were equally legible. The majority of his countrymen accepted and honored him, in spite of all that calumny as well as truth could allege against him. His faults may therefore be truly said to have been those of his time; his magnificent virtues may also, with the same justice, be considered as typical of a state of society which has nearly passed away.




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