Sunday, February 03, 2013

10 Fun Facts About Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of the United States

1. Andrew Jackson was born in the Carolina colony in March of 1767 to Irish-born parents who had only emigrated to the colonies a few years earlier.  Born in a log cabin, he was the first of a string of 19th century presidents to have such humble beginnings.  His two older brothers were both born in Ireland.  Jackson's father died in an accident just a few weeks before he was born.  Because the border between North and South Carolina was not yet firmly established at the time of his birth, it is unclear exactly which state he was born in.
2. As a young teenager, Jackson served as a courier for the American forces in the Revolutionary War.  His oldest brother, Hugh, died in battle in 1779, and later both Andrew and his second brother, Robert, were captured by the British and held as prisoners of war.  Both contracted smallpox and Robert succumbed to the disease in 1781.  Shortly after his brother's death, Jackson was freed and his mother began serving as a nurse to American prisoners.  She came down with cholera as a result of this and died in November of 1781, leaving Jackson the only survivor of his family at age 14.  He would become the last president who was a veteran of the Revolutionary War.
3. Having no formal education, Jackson studied law in the 1780's and was admitted to the bar at the age of 20.  He began practicing law in the North Carolina town of Jonesborough, which is now in the eastern part of Tennessee.  In the 1790's he served as a delegate to the Tennessee constitutional convention, and when Tennessee was accepted as a state in 1796, he served as its first representative to the U.S. House.  He later served briefly as a U.S. Senator before being named to the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1798. 
4. Around 1790, Jackson began living with a married woman named Rachel Robards.  They were married shortly thereafter, even though Rachel was still not divorced from her first husband.  Eventually the divorce went through and the Jacksons remarried to make it legal, but this incident would later lead to charges of bigamy during his presidential career.  The couple never had children of their own, but they adopted three sons, two of whom were Indian.  They also became the guardians of several nieces and nephews after Rachel's brother died.  Later, four more children came under their roof after the death of a family friend.
4. In the early 1800's, Jackson began serving with the Tennessee militia and was elected Major General of the militia in 1802.  After leaving the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1804, he devoted himself full-time to his plantation, his business ventures, and his military career.  He became a wealthy slaveholder, land speculator, and horse breeder, and in 1804 built the Hermitage near Nashville, which would be his family home for the remainder of his life.  In 1806, after warring publicly with a rival attorney, Jackson killed the man in a duel and took a bullet to the chest for his efforts.  Lodged near his heart, the bullet was never removed.  This, and other duels and public brawls, gained Jackson a reputation as a quarrelsome and violent person.
5. During the War of 1812, Jackson first distinguished himself by leading American troops against Indian attacks in Georgia and Alabama, after which he successfully defeated the invading British armies at New Orleans in January of 1815.  Despite this battle taking place after the peace treaty ending the war had been signed (but before news of the treaty reached North America), Jackson became an instant celebrity.  It was during this time that he acquired his nickname, "Old Hickory." Jackson remained a prominent military figure after the war, winning more battles against Native American tribes throughout the South, and serving for a time in the early 1820's and the military governor of Florida. 
6. In 1822, Jackson re-entered politics, being elected to serve again as a U.S. Senator from Tennessee.  He was nominated for president in 1824, running against three other candidates.  Jackson won the popular vote and the electoral vote, but did not win enough electoral votes to gain the presidency (the Constitution requires a candidate to win a clear majority of the electoral votes; since there were four candidates splitting the votes, Jackson - despite winning the most overall - did not have a majority).  The election was thus thrown to the House of Representatives, which elected John Quincy Adams after a lengthy and contentious debate that lasted until February of 1825 - less than a month before the inauguration.  Jackson, who had reasonably expected to win the House run-off, was enraged and vowed to run again in 1828.
7. In order to solidify his chances in 1828, Jackson resigned from the Senate in 1825, and began forming a coalition of supporters that would eventually coalesce into the Democratic Party.  During the 1828 election, Jackson's opponents frequently referred to him as "the Jackass," and while it was meant as a slur, Jackson - ever the shrewd politician - turned it into his official campaign symbol.  After Jackson's departure from mainstream politics, the image fell out of use, but was revived again in the 1870's and has become the familiar mascot of the Democratic Party.
8. Jackson defeated Adams in the rematch of 1828, and went on to serve two prominent terms in the White House.  He turned the office into a powerful one that took the lead on issues facing the country, both domestic and foreign.  Among his actions in office were opposing the national banking system and overseeing its dismantling (Jackson would probably turn over in his grave if he knew his face was on federal currency), paying off the national debt (the only time in U.S. history this has occurred), and instituting what became known as the "patronage system" in federal politics - appointing party loyalists to prominent federal positions.  This system became heavily corrupted over the years and was finally ended in the 1880's.  
9. Jackson's wife Rachel died two weeks after his election to the presidency in 1828.  As a result, his wife's niece served throughout Jackson's term as hostess of the White House (the title "First Lady" did not enter widespread use until the latter part of the 19th century). This niece's husband, Andrew Jackson Donelson, would later run for vice-president in the 1850's on the anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic platform of the American Party.  During the last few years of Jackson's presidency, his daughter-in-law also served as White House hostess, marking the only time in U.S. history that two women have served traditional First Lady roles.  In 1832, his first vice-president, John C. Calhoun, resigned over a scandal involving the wives of Jackson's cabinet, the first time a vice-president had ever resigned from office.   
10. Jackson died of tuberculosis and chronic heart failure in Tennessee in 1845.  In 1835, he had become the first sitting president to experience an assassination attempt.  An unemployed British immigrant fired shots from two pistols at him as the president was leaving a Washington funeral.  Both pistols misfired and the assassin was captured by onlookers.  He was eventually committed to an insane asylum after telling investigators that he was King Richard III of England - who had been dead for 250 years.  Jackson lived long enough to become the second earliest president to be photographed.  The other was his political nemesis John Quincy Adams, who outlived him by three years.     


Joel Raupe said...

Nice thumbnail look at some of Jackson's back story, reminding me of a number of facts I had forgotten. Thank you.

Having just finished reading Ralph Ketcham's "James Madison," and long acquainted with the irony of the Battle of New Orleans victory coming after Ghent, I liked Ketcham's context for news of both events arriving on the eastern seaboard more or less at the same time. Thanks again!

Scott said...

Thanks Joel. Glad you enjoyed the post. Jackson has one of the more interesting presidential stories.

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