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The Southern States of America
Biographies - Andrew Jackson


JACKSON, Andrew, statesman; b. March 15, 1767 in "the Waxhaw settlement." which seems to have been so near the border line of North and South Carolina that his biographers have differed as to which state held his birthplace. Parton says that it was in North Carolina, and Kendall puts it in South Carolina; while Jackson speaks of himself in his will as a South Carolinian; d. at his home, "The Hermitage," near Nashville, Tenn., June 8, 1845.

Jackson sprung from a Scotch-Irish ancestry. His father was one of that crowd of Ulstermen who, during the middle of the Eighteenth century, settled the western sections, and especially the Appalachian Valleys, of Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina; and whose descendants have contributed no insignificant distinction to the political, military, religious and literary history of America.

His early life was a struggle. His father died a few days before the future president was born; and in a frontier community where the fight for existence demanded more of muscle and sinew than a knowledge of letters, his opportunities for the acquisition of book-learning were of the scantest. His mother died when he was fourteen years old; and he was left alone and unaided to carve out his own career.

He followed for a while the trade of a saddler. Then he became a law student at Salisbury, where according to tradition he reversed the maxims of success by a series of horse-races, cock-fightings and general wild indulgences. It is said of him that his legal education, resembling the little which he derived from his scant academic studies, was a negligible quantity. He never acquired a sound knowledge of law, as he had never learned more than the elementary academic branches in the schools. He was a born fighter and master of men; and in spite of his lack of legal knowledge he had the address and ability to obtain for himself in 1788 the position of public prosecutor for the western part of North Carolina, which subsequently became the state of Tennessee. He settled at Jonesboro and soon found a considerable employment in his profession in suits concerning disputed land claims, and in the many cases of assault and battery which characterized the rude society of the place and period. This business extended over many counties, and Jackson's undaunted courage and ready coolness made an early impression upon the population. He was a prominent figure in quelling the disturbances that grew out of the attempted establishment by Sevier and Robertson of the State of Frankland; and he bore a conspicuous part in enforcing the administration of the laws against the Indians in their final struggle with the white invaders of their hunting-grounds. It was this large experience of danger and his readiness and skill in meeting it, that combined to make for him the fame which he achieved later as a soldier.

In 1791 he married Rachel Donelson, whose first husband had been Lewis Robards. The ambiguous circumstances of this marriage, which took place prior to Mrs. Robard's divorce, gave rise to a scandal; but Jackson's whole after-career was characterized by a single-minded devotion to his wife throughout life, and to her memory after her death.

In 1796 Jackson was a member of the convention that met in Knoxville to make a state constitution; and when in the same year the state of Tennessee was admitted to the Union, he became its single and first representative in the lower branch of Congress. He heard Washington deliver in person his last message to Congress, and he conceived in his first session in that body the antagonism to Hamilton's great financial measure of a national bank, which later gave him no small portion of his political fame. In 1797 he was chosen to fill a vacancy in the United States Senate, from which body he resigned in 1798 to become a judge of the supreme court of Tennessee.

He had numerous quarrels and fights, and more than one duel during these earlier years. He was overbearing and dictatorial in his manners and ruthless and relentless in vindicating himself from what he regarded as insult or injury.

From 1801 he was commander-in-chief of the Tennessee militia, but had no opportunity to display his military talents until in 1812, when he was ordered to Natchez at the head of 2,000 men. In this march, although it resulted in no fighting, he won from his troops by his sturdiness and courage, the affectionate sobriquet of "Old Hickory,"—an appellation which has since accompanied his name in history.

In 1813 Jackson and Thomas H. Benton had a personal rencontre in a tavern in Nashville, which resulted in Benton's shooting Jackson in the shoulder. They had prior to this occurrence been warm friends and their friendship was renewed and cemented at a later date in the United States senate.

In 1814 Jackson led the American forces against the Creek Indians and defeated them in the bloody battle of the Horseshoe Bend. In the same year he was made a major-general in the United States army and put in command of the Department of the South; and in that year he drove the British out of Florida. He fought the battle of New Orleans on Jan. 8, 1815, defeating the trained soldiers of England under Pakenham with a militant array of squirrel hunters and back woodsmen. In this battle Jackson's loss was seven killed and six wounded, while that of the enemy aggregated more than 2,000 of killed, wounded and missing. Recalled to Florida he hung Arbuthnot and Ambrister in 1818 for inciting the Indians to war and for levying war, and carried the Seminole war to a successful conclusion. In 1819 Florida was acquired by the United States from Spain, and in 1821 Jackson was appointed its governor. In 1823 he was elected to the United States senate, and in the same year he was offered and declined the mission to Mexico.

In 1824 his friends had already started him in the direction of a presidential candidacy, which the glamour of his military successes served to illustrate; and in 1828 he was elected President of the United States. Without the advantages of wealth, education or social training he was the first example of one of the plain people to achieve this supreme office. Calhoun was elected vice-president at the same time, and Jackson at once demonstrated his autocratic disposition by the selection of a cabinet, whom he is said to have employed as his clerks rather than as his secretaries.

Calhoun took issue with Jackson on the questions of the tariff and internal improvements, and at a democratic birthday-dinner in honor of Jefferson in 1830, Jackson declared war against the Jeffersonian States Eights democracy, headed by Calhoun with the toast: "Our Federal Union: it must be preserved"; to which Calhoun responded with: "Liberty, dearer than the Union."

The organization of the Whig party followed the breaking out of dissensions between Jackson and Calhoun. It was in the beginning composed of a mass of heterogeneous parties, consisting of national Republicans, anti-masons, national bank advocates, State Rights Democrats and others, bound together by their antagonism to Jackson. He triumphed over the aggregation, marshalled and led by Clay, Calhoun and Webster. He established the doctrine of "rotation in office," and illustrated in his appointments the principle that "to the victors belong the spoils." He waged a successful war on the United States Bank, and with the assistance of Clay's compromise tariff measure put an end to nullification in South Carolina.

He swept his political enemies before him with merciless power and rapidity, and after two administrations, whose history is that of one of the most stirring periods in the political annals of the nation, he closed his public career by dictating through his personal efforts and influence the nomination and triumphant election of his successor, Martin Van Buren, to the presidency.


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