Monday, March 8, 2010
Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) was the first President to be born in a log cabin. Previous presidents were from wealthier families. Jackson was the son of poor Scotch-Irish immigrants but became an orphan at age 14. He grew up in the Carolinas but later moved to Tennessee. He became famous as an Indian fighter and as a War of 1812 general. He was known for being tough and was given the nickname of "Old Hickory." Jackson was born on March 15, 1767, in either North Carolina or South Carolina - no one knows which one. Jackson's parents were poor farmers from Northern Ireland, who sailed to America in 1765 with their two older sons, Hugh and Robert. His father built a cabin and started a farm. He died in 1767 just days before Andrew was born. Jackson had a quick temper and got in many fights. He was also a good reader. At age 9, he read the newly adopted Declaration of Independence to his neighbors. At age 11 he went to a nearby boarding school. At age 13 he and his brother Robert joined the South Carolina mounted militia. His brother Hugh died in an earlier battle. Andrew and Robert were captured by the British in April 1781. Andrew was severely cut with a sword when he refused to clean the British commander's boots. The officer forced the two Jackson boys to march 40 miles to a military prison where they caught small pox. Their mother was able to obtain their freedom during an exchange of prisoners. Robert died from the small pox, and Mrs. Jackson died soon after him. Andrew became an orphan at age 14 and was the only one of his family left living. Jackson studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1787. He served as solicitor or attorney general. He gained a large private law practice because of his success as a public defender. Jackson roomed at a boardinghouse in Nashville. There he met Mrs. Rachel Donelson Robards who was separated from her army officer husband. Believing that her husband had divorced her, she married Jackson in August 1791. They learned in December 1793 that the divorce was granted the previous September. Jackson and Rachel were remarried on January 18, 1794, in Nashville. The confusion surrounding their marriages made them targets of gossip for decades. The Jacksons had no children of their own. They adopted a four-day-old nephew of Mrs. Jackson in 1809 and named him Andrew Jackson, Jr. They also reared three other nephews of Mrs. Jackson. Jackson was a good businessman in addition to being a lawyer. He bought land at low prices and sold it for as much as thirty times the purchase price. He bought two plantations, Hunter's Hill and Hermitage. Hunter's Hill was later sold to pay debts, but the Hermitage remained his home. Jackson was a delegate at the state constitutional convention, which prepared for Tennessee's entrance into the Union. He may have be the one who suggested the name "Tennessee" for his state. Jackson was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1796 and the United States Senate in 1797 but resigned in April 1798. As a major general in the Tennessee militia, Jackson led 2500 Tennessee militiamen and offered their services to President James Madison when the War of 1812 started. While waiting for federal orders, the Tennessee governor directed him to reinforce troops in New Orleans. Jackson was in Natchez, Mississippi, when he received federal orders to demobilize his troops on the spot. Jackson was furious, refused to demobilize them and led them home through 500 miles of wilderness. Because his men considered him to be tough as hickory, he returned home to Tennessee with his famous nickname, Old Hickory. Jackson led 2000 men in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in a fight with Creek Indians. He dictated peace terms with the Creek, who gave up 23 million acres of land in present day Georgia and Alabama. The federal government commissioned Jackson a major general in the regular army and assigned him to command troops on the southern coast. On the way to New Orleans, Jackson seized Pensacola in Spanish Florida, which the British were using as a military base. When he arrived in New Orleans on December 1, 1814, he recognized that the city was defenseless. He set a furious pace putting up defenses. The British attacked at dawn on January 8, 1815, but were terribly defeated with losses of 300 men killed, 1250 wounded and 500 captured. American losses were 14 men killed, 39 wounded, and 18 captured. The victory made Jackson a hero but didn't affect the outcome of the war. A peace treaty had been signed two weeks earlier, but word didn't reach Jackson until after the battle. After the United States acquired Florida from Spain, Jackson served as the provisional governor in 1821 for a few months. Jackson was elected President of the United States in 1828 in spite of his marriage to Rachel becoming a campaign issue by John Quincy Adams. Mrs. Jackson died on December 22, 1828, from a heart attack and was buried at Hermitage. Before her death she expressed her desire that her niece should manage the White House for Jackson. Jackson was swept into office with the idea of reform. He wanted to destroy what he considered to be a monopoly of federal offices by wealthy individuals. He believed that no federal employee should have a right to a lifetime job. Jackson also took on the Bank of the United States. The bank had authority over the United States currency system. Jackson disliked the bank for both economic and political reasons and considered the law establishing the bank as unconstitutional. When the bank's charter came up for renewal, Jackson vetoed the bill (1832). In 1833 he removed the government funds from the Bank of the United States. The fight over the bank occurred at the same time as the opening of the West, heavy speculation in land, and increased foreign trade. The United States government was making more money than it was spending. [Wouldn't that be a wonderful situation?] Jackson used the surplus on January 8, 1835, to pay the final installment of the national debt. He was the only President to pay off the national debt. There were lots of problems for his administration involving Indians. In 1832, settlers drove the Black Hawk Indians from Illinois. In 1835, United States troops forced the Seminole Indians to retreat to the Florida Everglades. Texas declared its independence from Mexico in 1836. The Battle of the Alamo, the most famous battle in the war for Texan independence, took place in 1836. Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna defeated the Texans who were defending the Alamo. Famous Americans in the Alamo were Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie. Jackson thought Texas should be part of the United States but feared to recognize Texan independence. He thought it might damage Martin Van Buren's chances to become President. After Van Buren was elected, Jackson used his last day as President to establish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Texas. Jackson retired to Hermitage, white-haired and ill with tuberculosis and dropsy but still standing very much erect. He supported Van Buren's unsuccessful bid for re-election in 1840. In 1844 he supported James K. Polk in his successful bid for the presidency. Jackson died on June 8, 1845, and is buried in the garden at Hermitage beside his wife. Facts and information for this blog post are from an article written by James C. Curtis, World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 11, pp 6-14.