“Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.” –Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson was born on this day in the Waxhaws region between North and South Carolina in 1767. Today is the 246th anniversary of his birth.
He was born to Andrew and Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson, Scots-Irish emigrants who had come over from Ireland two years before with their young sons Hugh and Robert. Andrew Jackson never met his father, who died three weeks before the baby was born.
Raised by his widowed mother, Jackson grew up with a large extended family—aunts, uncles, and cousins— who were also Irish immigrant farmers. As a youth, Jackson attended a good school and his mother had hopes of him becoming a Presbyterian minister. However, young Jackson’s propensity for pranks, cursing, and fighting quickly dashed those hopes. [The Hermitage.com]
The American Revolutionary War left the Jackson family devastated. All three boys signed up to fight the British (Andrew was just 13 and became a courier.) Older bother Hugh died of heat stroke at the Battle of Stono Ferry in 1779. In 1781 Jackson and his remaining brother Robert were taken prisoner. The boys nearly starved to death in the camp, and Jackson was slashed with a sword when he refused to polish a British officer’s boots. He carried the scars on his hand and head for the rest of his life. Both Jackson and Robert
contracted smallpox in prison and were gravely ill when Jackson’s mother arranged for their release in a prisoner exchange. Jackson survived, however, his brother died. After Jackson recovered, his mother traveled to Charleston to aid the war effort by nursing injured and sick soldiers. She contracted cholera and died leaving Jackson an orphan. [Ibid]
Growing up in the backwoods of the Carolinas, Jackson’s education was sporadic. He attended a “old-field” school in his youth. (An old-field school was a school that washeld on– either an open field or in a building built — on an exhausted corn, tobacco or cotton field.) After the Revolutionary War he worked for a while at a saddle makers shop, but then took up law.
In 1787, after three years of studying law, Jackson received his license to practice law in several counties scattered through the North Carolina back country. To supplement his income, he also worked in small-town general stores. While living in North Carolina, Jackson gained a reputation for being charismatic, wild, and ambitious. He loved to dance, entertain, gamble, and spend his free time with friends in taverns. [Ibid]
At 21 he became public prosecutor of the Western District of North Carolina. He became the prosecutr for both Jonesborough and Nashville. It was during this time that he met Rachel Donelson Robards (who was separated — and she assumed divorced — from her first husband Lewis Robards.) Jackson married Rachel while the two were in the wilderness of the Western District only to come back to Nashville to find out that Robards had not completed the divorce proceedings. He, Robards, then used Rachel’s ‘bigomy’ as grounds to finalize the divorce. Jackson and Rachel remarried, but the controversy followed them for the rest of their lives, and Jackson was willing to duel with any man who besmirched his wife’s name.
None of that stopped Jackson’s rise in the political arena. “He was the first man elected from Tennessee to the House of Representatives, and he served briefly in the Senate” [Whitehouse.gov]
During the War of 1812 President Madison “commissioned Jackson Major General of U.S. Volunteers and ordered him to lead 1,500 troops south to Natchez and eventually to defend New Orleans” [The Hermitage.com] His leadership in the Battle of New Orleans made “Old Hickory ” a national hero. In 1824 he made an unsuccessful run for President against John Quincy Adams. Four years later he ran again. This time he won the White House.
Accomplishments of his presidency:
- He paid off the National Debt
- Fought against corrupt bureaucracy with the Spoil System
- Enfranchisement policy
Crisis / Negatives of his presidency:
- Nullification Crisis
- Ethnic cleansing of about 45,000 Native Americans from their ancestral lands under his “Indian Removal Act” which lead to the Trail of Tears .
Neutral effects of his presidency:
- Tried to eliminate the Electorial College
- Opposed the National Bank