Virtual Museum of Art | Virtual Museum of History | Virtual Public Library | Virtual Science Center | Virtual Museum of Natural History | Virtual War Museum
   You are in: Virtual War Museum >> Hall of American Wars and Conflicts >> Andrew Jackson





American’s Four United Republics: Discovery-Based Curriculum

For More Information go to America's Four United Republics Curriculum


 


Andrew Jackson (March 15, 1767 – June 8, 1845) was the seventh President of the United States (1829–1837). He was military governor of Florida (1821), commander of the American forces at the Battle of New Orleans (1815), and eponym of the era of Jacksonian democracy. He was a polarizing figure who dominated American politics in the 1820s and 1830s. His political ambition combined with widening political participation, shaping the modern Democratic Party.[1] Renowned for his toughness, he was nicknamed “Old Hickory.” As he based his career in developing Tennessee, Jackson was the first president primarily associated with the frontier..

Andrew Jackson

Seventh President of the United States
 under the US Constitution of 1787
17th President under the Perpetual Union of the United States

 

Andrew Jackson Engraving © Stan Klos
Click Here for Larger View
Copyright © 2001 by Virtualology®.

JACKSON, Andrew, seventh president of the United States, born in the Waxhaw settlement on the border between North and South Carolina, 15 March, 1767; died at the Hermitage, near Nashville, Tennessee, 8 June, 1845. His father, Andrew Jackson, came over from Carrickfergus, on the north coast of Ireland, in 1765. His grandfather, Hugh Jackson, had been a linen-draper. His mother's name was Elizabeth Hutchinson, and her family were linen-weavers. Andrew Jackson, the father, died a few days before the birth of his son.

The log cabin in which the future president was born was situated within a quarter of a mile of the boundary between the two Carolinas, and the people of the neighborhood do not seem to have had a clear idea as to which province it belonged. In a letter of 24 December, 1830, in the proclamation addressed to the nullifiers, in 1832, and again in his will, General Jackson speaks of himself as a native of South Carolina; but the evidence adduced by Patton seems to show that the birthplace was north of the border. Three weeks after the birth of her son Mrs. Jackson moved to the house of her brother-in-law, Mr. Crawford, just over the border in South Carolina, near the Waxhaw creek, and there his early years were passed. His education, obtained in an "old-field school," consisted of little more than the "three R's," and even in that limited sphere his attainments were but scanty. He never learned, in the course of his life, to write English correctly.

 

His career as a fighter began early. In the spring and early summer of 1780, after the disastrous surrender of Lincoln's army at Charleston, the whole of South Carolina was overrun by the British. On 6 August, Jackson was present at Hanging Rock when Sumter surprised and destroyed a British regiment. Two of his brothers, as well as his mother, died from hardships sustained in the war. In after years he could remember how he had been carried as prisoner to Camden and nearly starved there, and how a brutal officer had cut him with a sword because he refused to clean his boots; these reminiscences kept alive his hatred for the British, and doubtless gave unction to the tremendous blow dealt them at New Orleans.

In 1781, left quite alone in the world, he was apprenticed for a while to a saddler. At one time he is said to have done a little teaching in an "old field school." At the age of eighteen he entered the law-office of Spruce McCay, in Salisbury. While there he was said to have been "the most roaring, rollicking, game-cocking, horse-racing, card-playing, mischievous fellow" that had ever been seen in that town. Many and plentiful were the wild-oat crops sown at that time and in that part of the country; and in such sort of agriculture young Jackson was much more proficient than in the study of jurisprudence. He never had a legal tone of mind, or any but the crudest knowledge of law; but in that frontier society a small amount of legal knowledge went a good way, and in 1788 he was appointed public prosecutor for the western district of North Carolina, the district since erected into the state of Tennessee.

Andrew Jackson Sketch © Stan Klos
Click Here for Larger View
Copyright © 2001 by Virtualology®.

The emigrant wagon-train in which Jackson journeyed to Nashville carried news of the ratification of the Federal constitution by the requisite two thirds of the states. He seems soon to have found business enough. In the April term of 1790, out of 192 cases on the dockets of the county court at Nashville, Jackson was employed as counsel in 42; in the year 1794, out of 397 cases he acted as counsel in 228; while at the same time he was practicing his profession in the courts of other counties. The great number of these cases is an indication of their trivial character. As a general rule they were either actions growing out of disputed land-claims or simple cases of assault and battery.

Court day was a great occasion in that wild community, bringing crowds of men into the county town to exchange gossip, discuss politics, drink whiskey, and break heads. Probably each court day produced as many new cases as it settled. Amid such a turbulent population the public prosecutor must needs be a man of nerve and resource. It was a state of chronic riot, in which he must be ever ready to court danger. Jackson proved himself quite equal to the task of introducing law and order in so far as it depended on him. "Just inform Mr. Jackson," said Governor Blount when sundry malfeasances were reported to high: "he will be sure to do his duty, and the offenders will be punished." Besides the lawless-ness of the white pioneer population, there was the enmity of the Indians to be reckoned with. In the immediate neighborhood of Nashville the Indians murdered, on the average, one person every ten days.

 

From 1788 till 1795 Jackson performed the journey of nearly two hundred miles between Nashville and Jonesboro twenty-two times; and on these occasions there were many alarms from Indians, which sometimes grew into a forest campaign. In one of these affairs, having nearly lost his life in an adventurous feat, Jackson made the characteristic remark: "A miss is as good as a mile; you see how near I can graze danger." It was this wild experience that prepared the way for Jackson's eminence as an Indian-fighter. In the autumn of 1794 the Cherokees were so thoroughly punished by General Robertson's famous Nickajack expedition that henceforth they thought it best to leave the Tennessee settlements in peace. With the rapid increase of the white population which soon followed, the community became more prosperous and more orderly. In the general prosperity Jackson had an ample share, partly through the diligent practice of his profession, partly through judicious purchases and sales of land.

With most men marriage is the most important event of their life; in Jackson's career his marriage was peculiarly important. Rachel Donelson was a native of North Carolina, daughter of Colonel John Donelson, a Virginia surveyor in good circumstances, who in 1780 migrated to the neighborhood of Nashville in a very remarkable boat-journey of 2,000 miles down the Holston and Tennessee rivers and up the Cumberland. During an expedition to Kentucky some time afterward, the blooming Rachel was wooed and won by Captain Lewis Robards. She was an active, sprightly, and interesting girl, the best horsewoman and best dancer in that country; her husband seems to have been a young man of tyrannical and unreasonably jealous disposition. In Kentucky they lived with Mrs. Robards, the husband's mother; and, as was common in a new society where houses were too few and far between, there were other boarders in the family--among them the late Judge Overton, of Tennessee, and a, Mr. Stone. Presently Robards made complaints against his wife, in which he implicated Stone. According to Overton and the elder Mrs. Robards, these complaints were unreasonable and groundless, but the affair ended in Robards sending his wife home to her mother in Tennessee.

 

This was in 1788. Colonel Donelson had been murdered, either by Indians or by white desperadoes, and his widow, albeit in easy circumstances, felt it desirable to keep boarders as a means of protection against the Indians. To her house came Andrew Jackson on his arrival at Nashville, and thither about the same time came Overton, also fresh from his law studies. These two young men were boarded in the house and lodged in a cabin hard by. At about the same time Robards became reconciled with his wife, and, having bought land in the neighborhood, came to dwell for awhile at Mrs. Donelson's. Throughout life Jackson was noted alike for spotless purity and for a romantic and chivalrous respect for the female sex. In the presence of women his manner was always distinguished for grave and courtly politeness. This involuntary homage to woman was one of the finest and most winsome features in his character. As unconsciously rendered to Mrs. Robards, it was enough to revive the slumbering demon of jealousy in her husband. According to Overton's testimony, Jackson's conduct was irreproachable, but there were high words between him and Robards, and, not wishing to make further trouble, he changed his place of abode.

After some months Captain Robards left his wife and went to Kentucky, threatening by and by to return and "haunt her" and make her miserable. In the autumn of 1790 rumors of his intended return frightened Mrs. Robards, and determined her to visit some friends at distant Natchez in order to avoid him. In pursuance of this plan, with which the whole neighborhood seems to have concurred, she went down the river in company with the venerable Colonel Stark and his family. As the Indians were just then on the war-path, Jackson accompanied the party with an armed escort, returning to Nashville as soon as he had seen his friends safely deposited at Natchez. While these things were going on, the proceedings of Captain Robards were characterized by a sort of Machiavelian astuteness.

In 1791 Kentucky was still a part of Virginia, and, according to the code of the Old Dominion, if a husband wished to obtain a divorce on account of his wife's alleged unfaithfulness, he must procure an act of the legislature empowering him to bring the case before a jury, and authorizing a divorce conditionally upon the jury's finding a verdict of guilty. Early in 1791 Robards obtained the preliminary act of the legislature upon his declaration, then false, that his wife had gone to live with Jackson. Robards deferred further action for more than two years. Meanwhile it was reported and believed in the west that a divorce had been granted, and, acting upon this report, Jackson, whose chivalrous interest in Mrs. Robards's misfortunes had ripened into sincere affection, went, in the summer of 1791, to Natchez and married her there, and brought her to his home at Nashville.

 

In the autumn of 1793 Captain Robards, on the strength of the facts that undeniably existed since the act of the Virginia legislature, brought his case into court and obtained the verdict completing the divorce. On hearing of this, to his great surprise, in December, Jackson concluded that the best method of preventing future cavil was to procure a new license and have the marriage ceremony performed again and this was done in January. Jackson was certainly to blame for not taking more care to ascertain the import of the act of the Virginia legislature. By a carelessness peculiarly striking in a lawyer, he allowed his wife to be placed in a false position. The irregularity of the marriage was indeed atoned by forty years of honorable and happy wedlock, ending only with Mrs. Jackson's death in December, 1831 and no blame was attached to the parties in Nashville, where the circumstances were well known. But the story, half understood and maliciously warped, grew into scandal as it was passed about among Jack on s personal enemies or political opponents; and herein some of the bitterest of his many quarrels had their source. His devotion to Mrs. Jackson was intense, and his pistol was always ready for the rash man who should dare to speak of her slightingly.

 

In January, 1796, we find Jackson sitting in the convention assembled at Knoxville for making a constitution for Tennessee, and tradition has it that he proposed the name of the "Great Crooked River" as the name for the new state. Among the rules adopted by the convention, one is quaintly significant; "He that digresseth from the subject to fall on the person of any member shall be suppressed by the speaker." The admission of Tennessee to the Union was effected in June, 1796, in spite of earnest opposition from the Federalists, and in the autumn Jackson was chosen as the single representative in congress. When the house had assembled, he heard President Washington deliver in person his last message to congress. He was one of twelve who voted against the adoption of the address to Washington in approval of his administration. Jackson's chief objections to Washington's government were directed against two of its most salutary and admirable acts--the Jay Treaty with Great Britain, and Hamilton's financial measures. His feeling toward the Jay Treaty was that of a man who could not bear to see anything but blows dealt to Great Britain. His condemnation of Hamilton's policy was mingled with the not unreasonable feeling of distrust which he had already begun to harbor against a national bank.

The year 1797 was a season of financial depression, and the general paralysis of business was ascribed --no doubt too exclusively--to the over-issue of notes by the national bank. Jackson's antipathy to such an institution would seem to have begun thus early to show itself. Of his other votes in this congress, one was for an appropriation to defray the expenses of Sevier's expedition against the Cherokees, which was carried "three others were eminently wise and characteristic of the man" 1. For finishing the three frigates then building and destined to such renown--the "Constitution," "Constellation," and "United States." 2. Against the further payment of blackmail to Algiers. 3. Against removing "the restriction which confined the expenditure of public money to the specific objects for which each sum was appropriated." Another vote, silly in itself, was characteristic of the representative from a rough frontier community it was against the presumed extravagance of appropriating $14,000 to buy furniture for the newly built White House.

 

 

Jackson's course was warmly approved by his constituents, and in the following summer he was chosen to fill a vacancy in the Federal senate. Of his conduct as senator nothing is known beyond the remark, made by Jefferson in 1824 to Daniel Webster, that he had often, when presiding in the senate, seen the passionate, Jackson get up to speak and then choke with rage so that he could not utter a word. As Parton very happily suggests, one need not wonder at this if one remembers what was the subject chiefly before the senate during the winter of 1797-'8. The outrageous insolence of the French Directory was enough to arouse the wrath of far tamer and less patriotic spirits than Jackson's. Yet in a letter written at that time he seems eager to see the British throne overturned by Bonaparte.

In April, 1798, he resigned his seat in the senate, and was appointed judge in the supreme court of Tennessee. He retained this office for six years, but nothing is known of his decisions, as the practice of recording decisions began only with his successor, Judge Overton. During this period he was much harassed by business troubles arising from the decline in the value of land consequent upon the financial crisis of 1798. At length, in 1804, he resigned his judgeship in order to devote his attention exclusively to his private affairs. He paid up all his debts and engaged extensively both in planting and in trade. He was noted for fair and honorable dealing, his credit was always excellent, and a note with his name on it was considered as good as gold. He had a clear head for business, and was never led astray by the delusions about paper money by which American frontier communities have so often been infested. His plantation was well managed, and his slaves were always kindly and considerately treated.

But while genial and kind toward his inferiors, he was among his fellow-citizens apt to be rough and quarrelsome. In 1795 he fought a duel with Avery, an opposing counsel, over some hasty words that had passed in the court-room. Next year he quarreled with John Sevier, governor of Tennessee, and came near shooting him "at sight." Sevier had alluded to the circumstances of his marriage. Ten years afterward, for a similar offence, though complicated with other matters in the course of a long and extremely silly quarrel, he fought a duel with Charles Dickinson. The circumstances were revolting, but showed Jackson's wonderful nerve and rare skill in "grazing danger." Dickinson was killed, and Jackson received a wound from the effects of which he never recovered. In later years, when he was a candidate for the presidency, the number of his violent quarrels was variously reckoned by his enemies at from a dozen to a hundred.

 

 

In 1805 Jackson was visited by Aaron Burr, who was then preparing his mysterious southwestern expedition. Burr seems to have wished, if possible, to make use of Jackson s influence in raising troops, but without indicating his purpose. In this he was unsuccessful, but Jackson appears to have regarded the charge of treason brought against Burr as ill-founded. At Richmond, while Burr's trim was going on, Jackson made a speech attacking , Jefferson. He thus made himself obnoxious to Madison, then secretary of state, and afterward, in 1808, he declared his preference for Monroe over Madison as candidate for the presidency. He was known as unfriendly to Madison's administration, but this did not prevent him from offering his services, with those of 2,500 men, as soon as war was declared against Great Britain in 1812.

Since 1801 he had been commander-in-chief of the Tennessee militia, but there had been no occasion for him to take the field. Late in 1812, after the disasters in the northwest, it was feared that the British might make an attempt upon New Orleans, and Jackson was ordered down to Natchez at the head of 2,000 men. He went in high spirits, promising to plant the American eagle upon the ramparts of Mobile, Pensacola, and St. Augustine, if so directed. On 6 February, as it had become evident that the British were not meditating a southward expedition, the new secretary of war, Armstrong, sent word to Jackson to disband his troops. This stupid order reached the general at Natchez toward the end of March, and inflamed his wrath. He took upon himself the responsibility of marching his men home in a body, an act in which the government afterward acquiesced and reimbursed Jackson for the expense involved. During this march Jackson became the idol of his troops, and his sturdiness won him the nickname of "Old Hickory," by which he was affectionately known among his friends and followers for the rest of his life.

Shortly after his arrival at Nashville there occurred an affray between Jackson and Thomas H. Benton, growing out of an unusually silly duel in which Jackson had acted as second to the antagonist of Benton's brother. In a tavern at Nashville, Jackson undertook to horsewhip Benton, and in the ensuing scuffle the letter was pitched down-stairs, while Jackson get a bullet in his left shoulder which he carried for more than twenty years. Jackson and Benton had formerly been friends. After this affair they did not meet again until 1823, when both were in the United States senate. Their friendship was then renewed. Click Here for an illustration of Jackson as US Senator - Copyright © 2001 by Virtualology®.

 

 

The war with Great Britain was complicated with an Indian war which could not in any case have been avoided. The westward progress of the white settlers toward the Mississippi river was gradually driving the red man from his hunting-grounds; and the celebrated Tecumseh had formed a scheme, quite similar to that of Pontiac fifty years earlier, Of uniting all the tribes between Florida and the Great Lakes in a grand attempt to drive back the white men. This scheme was partially frustrated in the autumn of 1811 while Tecumseh was preaching his crusade among the Cherokees, Creeks, and Seminoles. During his absence his brother, known as the Prophet, attacked General Harrison at Tippecanoe and was overwhelmingly defeated. The war with Great Britain renewed Tecumseh's opportunity, and his services to the enemy were extremely valuable until his death in the battle of the Thames. Tecumseh's principal ally in the south was a half-breed Creek chieftain named Weathersford. On the shore of Lake Tensaw, in the southern part of what is now Alabama, was a stockaded fortress known as Fort Mimms. There many of the settlers had taken refuge. On 30 August, 1813, this stronghold was surprised by Weathersford at the head of 1,000 Creek warriors, and more than 400 men, women, and children were massacred. The news of this dreadful affair aroused the people of the southwest to vengeance.

Men and money were raised by the state of Tennessee, and, before he had fully recovered from the wound received in the Benton affray, Jackson took the field at the head of 2,500 men. Now for the first time he had a chance to show his wonderful military capacity, his sleepless vigilance, untiring patience, and unrivalled talent as a leader of men. The difficulties encountered were formidable in the extreme. In that frontier wilderness the business of the commissariat was naturally ill managed, and the men, who under the most favorable circumstances had little idea of military subordination, were part of the time mutinous from hunger. More than once Jackson was obliged to use one half of his army to keep the other half from disbanding. In view of these difficulties, the celerity of his movements and the force with which he struck the enemy were truly marvellous. The Indians were defeated at Talluschatches and Talladega. At length, on 27 March, 1814, having been re-enforced by a regiment of United States infantry, Jackson struck the decisive blow at Tohopeka, otherwise known as the Horseshoe Bend or the Tallapoosa river. In this bloody battle no quarter was given, and the strength of the Creek nation was finally broken. Jackson pursued the remnant to their place of refuge called the Holy Ground, upon which the medicine-men had declared that no white man could set foot and live. Such of the Creek chieftains as had not fled to Florida now surrendered. The American soldiers were ready to kill Weathersford in revenge for Fort Mimms; but Jackson, who was by no means wanting in magnanimity, spared his life and treated him so well that henceforth he and his people remained on good terms with the white men.

 

Among the officers who served under Jackson in this remarkable campaign were two who in later years played an important part in the history of the southwest--Samuel Houston and David Crockett. The Creek war was one of critical importance. It was the last occasion on which the red men could put forth sufficient power to embarrass the United States government. More than any other single battle that of Tohopeka marks the downfall of Indian power. Its immediate effects upon the war with Great Britain were very great. By destroying the only hostile power within the southwestern territory it made it possible to concentrate the military force of the border states upon any point, however remote, that might be threatened by the British. More specifically, it made possible the great victory at, New Orleans. Throughout the whole of this campaign, in which Jackson showed such indomitable energy, he was suffering from illness such as would have kept any ordinary man groaning in bed, besides that for most of the time his left arm had to be supported in a sling. The tremendous pluck exhibited by William of Orange at Neerwinden, and so justly celebrated by Macaulay, was no greater than Jackson showed in Alabama. His pluck was equaled by his thoroughness. Many generals after victory are inclined to relax their efforts. Not so Jackson, who followed up every success with furious persistence, and whose admirable maxim was that in war "until all is done, nothing is done."

On 31 May, 1814, Jackson was made major-general in the regular army, and was appointed to command the Department of the South. It was then a matter of dispute whether Mobile belonged to Spain or to the United States. In August, Jackson occupied the town and made his headquarters there. With the consent of Spain the British used Florida as a base of operations and established themselves at Pensacola. Jackson wrote to Washington for permission to attack them there; but the government was loth to sanction an invasion of Spanish territory until the complicity of Spain with our enemy should be proved beyond cavil. The letter from Sec. Armstrong to this effect did not reach Jackson. The capture of Washington by the British prevented his receiving orders and left him to act upon his own responsibility, a kind of situation from which he was never known to flinch. On 14 September the British advanced against Mobile; but in their attack upon the outwork, Fort Bowyer, they met with a disastrous repulse. They retreated to Pensacola, whither Jackson followed them with 3,000 men. On 7 November he stormed the town.

 

His next move would have been against Fort Barrancas, six miles distant at the mouth of the harbor. By capturing this post he would have entrapped the British fleet and might have forced it to surrender; but the enemy forestalled him by blowing up the fort and beating a precipitate retreat. By thus driving the British from Florida--an act for which he was stupidly blamed by the Federalist press--Jackson now found himself free to devote all his energies to the task of defending New Orleans, and there, after an arduous journey, he arrived on 2 December The British expedition directed against that city was more formidable than any other that we had to encounter during that war. Its purpose was also more deadly. In the north the British warfare had been directed chiefly toward defending Canada and gaining such a foothold upon our frontier as might be useful in making terms at the end of the war.

The burning of Washington was intended chiefly for all insult and had but slight military significance; but the expedition against New Orleans was intended to make a permanent conquest of the lower Mississippi valley and to secure for Great Britain the western bank of the river. The fall of Napoleon had set, free Some of Wellington's finest troops for service in America, and in December a force of 12,000 men, under command of Wellington's brother-in-law, the gallant Sir Edward Pakenham, was landed below New Orleans. To oppose these veterans of the Spanish peninsula, Jackson had 6,000 of that sturdy race whose fathers had vanquished Ferguson at King's Mountain, and whose children so nearly vanquished Grant at Shiloh. After considerable preliminary maneuvering and skirmishing, Jackson entrenched himself in a strong position near the Bienvenu and Chalmette plantations and awaited the approach of the enemy. His headquarters, the McCarte mansion, is shown below.

The Hermitage Sketch © Stan Klos
Click Here for Larger View
Copyright © 2001 by Virtualology®.


On 8 January, Pakenham was unwise enough to try to overwhelm him by a direct assault. In less than half an hour the British were in full retreat, leaving 2,600 of their number killed and wounded. Among the slain was Pakenham. The American loss was eight killed and thirteen wounded. Never, perhaps, in the history of the world has a battle been fought between armies of civilized men with so great a disparity of loss. It was also the most complete and overwhelming defeat that any English army has ever experienced. News traveled so slowly then that this great victory, like the three last naval victories of the war, occurred after peace had been made by the commissioners at Ghent. Nevertheless, no American can regret that the battle was fought. The insolence and rapacity of Great Britain had richly deserved such castigation. Moreover, if she once gained a foothold in the Mississippi valley, it might have taken an armed force to dislodge her in spite of the treaty, for in the matter of the western frontier posts after 1783 she had by no means acted in good faith.

Jackson's victory decided that henceforth the Mississippi valley belonged indisputably to the people of the United States. It was the recollection of that victory, along with the exploits of Hull and Decatur, Perry and McDonough, which caused the Holy Alliance to look upon the Monroe doctrine as something more than an idle threat. All over the United States the immediate effect of the news was electric, and it was enhanced by the news of peace which arrived a few days later. By this "almost incredible victory," as the "National Intelligencer" called it, the credit of the American arms upon land was fully restored. Not only did the administration glory in it, as was natural, but the opposition lauded it for a different reason, as an example of what American military heroism could do in spite of inadequate support from government. Thus praised by all parties, Jackson, who before the Creek war had been little known outside of Tennessee, became at once the foremost man in the United States. People in the north, while throwing up their hats for him, were sometimes heard to ask: "Who is this General Jackson? To what state does he belong?" Henceforth until the civil war he occupied the most prominent place in the popular mind.

 

After his victory Jackson remained three months in New Orleans, in some conflict with the civil authorities of the town, which he found it necessary to hold under martial law. In April he returned to Nashville, still retaining his military command of the southwest. He soon became involved in a quarrel with Mr. Crawford, the secretary of war, who had undertaken to modify some provisions in his treaty with the Creeks. Jackson was also justly incensed by the occasional issue of orders from the war department directly to his subordinate officers; such orders sometimes stupidly thwarted his plans. The usual course for a commanding general thus annoyed would be to make a private representation to the government; but here, as ordinarily, while quite right in his position, Jackson was violent and overbearing in his methods. He published, 22 April, 1817, all order forbidding his subordinate officers to pay heed to any order from the war department unless issued through him.

Mr. Calhoun, who in October succeeded Crawford as secretary of war, gracefully yielded the point; but the public had meanwhile been somewhat scandalized by the collision of authorities. In private conversation General Scott had alluded to Jackson's conduct as savoring of mutiny. This led to an angry correspondence between the two generals, ending in a challenge from Jackson, which Scott declined on the ground that dueling is a wicked and unchristian custom.

Affairs in Florida now demanded attention. That country had become a nest of outlaws, and chaos reigned supreme there. Many of the defeated Creeks had found a refuge in Florida, and runaway Negroes from the plantations of Georgia and South Carolina were continually escaping thither. During the late war British officers and adventurers, acting on their own responsibility upon this neutral soil, committed many acts which their government would never have sanctioned. They stirred up Indians and Negroes to commit atrocities on the United States frontier. The Spanish government was at that time engaged in warfare with its revolted colonies in South America, and the coasts of Florida became a haunt for contraband traders, privateers, and filibusters. One adventurer would announce his intention to make Florida a free republic; another would go about committing robbery on his own account; a third would set up an agency for kidnapping Negroes on speculation.

 

The disorder was hideous. On the Appalachicola river the British had built a fort, and amply stocked it with arms and ammunition, to serve as a base of operations against the United States. On the departure of the British, the fort was seized and held by Negroes. This alarmed the slave-owners of Georgia, and in July, 1816, United States troops, with permission from the Spanish authorities, marched in and bombarded the Negro fort. A hot shot found its way into the magazine, three hundred Negroes were blown into fragments, and the fort was demolished. In this case the Spaniards were ready to leave to United States troops a disagreeable work, for which their own force was incompetent. Every day made it plainer that Spain was quite unable to preserve order in Florida, and for this reason the United States entered upon negotiations for the purchase of that country. Meanwhile the turmoil increased. White men were murdered by Indians, and United States troops, under Colonel Twiggs, captured and burned a considerable Seminole village, known as Fowltown. The Indians retorted by the wholesale massacre of fifty people who were ascending the Appalachicola river in boats; some of the victims were tortured with firebrands.

Jackson was now ordered to the frontier, he wrote at once to President Monroe: "Let it be signified to me through any channel (say Mr. John Rhea) that the possession of the Floridas would be desirable to the United States, and in sixty days it will be accomplished." Mr. Rhea was a representative from Tennessee, a confidential friend of both Jackson and Monroe. The president was ill when Jackson's letter reached him, and does not seem to have given it due consideration. On referring to it a year later he could not remember that he had ever seen it, before. Rhea, however, seems to have written a letter to Jackson, telling him that the president approved of his suggestion. As to this point the united testimony of Jackson, Rhea, and Judge Overton seems conclusive. Afterward Mr. Monroe, through Rhea, seems to have requested Jackson to burn this letter, and an entry on the general's letter-book shows that it was accordingly burned, 12 April, 1819. There can be no doubt that, whatever the president's intention may have been, or how far it may have been correctly interpreted by Rhea, the general honestly considered himself authorized to take possession of Florida on the ground that the Spanish government had shown itself incompetent to prevent the denizens of that country from engaging in hostilities against the United States. Jackson acted upon this belief with his accustomed promptness.

He raised troops in Tennessee and neighboring states, invaded Florida in March, 1818, captured St. Marks, and pushed on to the Seminole headquarters on the Suwanee river. In less than three months from this time he had overthrown the Indians and brought order out of chaos. His measures were praised by his friends as vigorous, while his enemies stigmatized them as high-handed. In one instance his conduct was open to serious question. At St. Marks his troops captured an aged Scotch trader and friend of the Indians, flamed Alexander Arbuthnot; near Suwanee, some time afterward, they seized Robert Ambrister, a young English lieutenant of marines, nephew of the governor of New Providence. Jackson believed that these men had incited the Indians to make war upon the United States, anti were now engaged in aiding and abetting them in their hostilities. They were tried by a court-martial at St. Marks. On very insufficient evidence Arbuthnot was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. Appearances were somewhat more strongly against Ambrister. He did not make it clear what his business was in Florida, and threw himself upon the mercy of the court, which at first condemned him to be shot, put on further consideration commuted the sentence to fifty lashes and a year's imprisonment. Jackson arbitrarily revived the first sentence, and Ambrister was accordingly shot. A few minutes afterward Arbuthnot was hanged from the yardarm of his own ship, declaring with his last breath that his country would avenge him. In this lamentable affair Jackson doubtless acted from a sense of duty, as he himself said, "My God would not have smiled on me, had I punished only the poor ignorant savages, and spared the white men who set them on." Here, as elsewhere, however, when under the influence of strong feeling, he showed himself utterly incapable of estimating evidence the ease against both the victims was so weak that a fair-minded and prudent commander would surely have pardoned them; while the interference with the final sentence of the court, in Ambrister's ease, was an act that can hardly be justified. Throughout life Jackson was perpetually acting with violent energy upon the strength of opinions hastily formed and based upon inadequate data. Fortunately, his instincts were apt to be sound, and in many most important instances his violent action was highly beneficial to his country; but a man of such temperament is liable to make serious mistakes.

On his way home, hearing that some Indians had sought refuge in Pensacola, Jackson captured the town, turned out the Spanish governor, and left a garrison of his own there. He bad now virtually conquered Florida, but he had moved too fast for the government at Washington. He had gone further, perhaps, than was permissible in trespassing upon neutral territory; and his summary execution of two British subjects aroused furious excitement in England. For a moment we seemed on the verge of war with Great Britain and Spain at once. Whatever authority President Monroe may have intended, through the Rhea letter, to confer upon Jackson, he certainly felt that the general had gone too far. With one exception, all his cabinet agreed with him that it would be best to disavow Jackson's acts and make reparation for them. But John Quincy Adams, secretary of state, felt equal to the task of dealing with the two foreign powers, and upon his advice the administration decided to assume the responsibility for what Jackson had done. Pensacola and St. Marks were restored to Spain, and an order of Jackson's for the seizing of St. Augustine was countermanded by the president. But Adams represented to Spain that the American general, in his invasion of Florida, was virtually assisting the Spanish government in maintaining order there; and to Great Britain he justified the execution of Arbuthnot and Ambrister on the ground that their conduct had been such that they had forfeited their allegiance and become virtual outlaws.

Spain and Great Britain accepted the explanations; had either nation felt in the mood for war with the United States, it might have been otherwise. As soon as the administration had adopted Jackson's measures, they were for that reason attacked in congress by Clay, and this was the beginning of the bitter and lifelong feud between Jackson and Clay. In 1819 the purchase of Florida from Spain was effected, and in 1821 Jackson was appointed governor of that territory. In 1823 he was elected to the United States senate. Some of his friends, under the lead of William 13. Lewis, had already conceived the idea of making him president. At first General Jackson cast ridicule upon the idea. "Do they suppose," said he, "that I am such a damn fool as to think myself fit for president of the United States? No, sir, I know what I am fit for. I can command a body of men in a rough way, but I am not fit to be president." Such is the anecdote told by H. M. Brackenridge, who was Jackson's secretary in Florida.

In 1821 the general felt old and weak, and had made up his mind to spend his remaining days in peace on his farm. Of personal ambition, as ordinarily understood, Jackson had much less than many other men. But he was, like most men, susceptible to flattery, and the discovery of his immense popularity no doubt went far to persuade him that he might do credit to himself as president. On 20 July, 1822, he was nominated for that office by the legislature of Tennessee. On 22 February, 1824, he was nominated by a Federalist convention at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and on 4 March following by a Republican convention at the same place, the regular nominee of the congressional caucus was W. H. Crawford, of Georgia. The other candidates were J. Q. Adams and Henry Clay. There was a general agreement upon Calhoun for the vice presidency. All the candidates belonged to the Republican party, which had kept the presidency since Jefferson's election in 1800.

The Federalists were hopelessly discredited by their course in the war of 1812-'15. Of the four candidates, Adams and Clay were loose constructionists, while Crawford and Jackson were strict constructionists, and in this difference was foreshadowed a new division of parties. At the election in November, 1824, there were 99 electoral votes for Jackson, 84 for Adams, 41 for Crawford, and 37 for Clay. As none of the candidates had a majority, it was left for the house of representatives to choose a president from the three highest names on the list, in accordance with the twelfth amendment to the constitution. As Clay was thus rendered ineligible, there was naturally some scheming among the friends of the other candidates to secure his powerful co-operation. Clay and his friends quite naturally supported the other loose-constructionist candidate, Adams, with the result that 13 states voted for Adams, 7 for Jackson, and 4 for Crawford. Adams thus became president, and Jackson's friends, in their disappointment, hungered for a "grievance" upon which they might vent their displeasure, and which might serve as a "rallying cry" for the next campaign. Benton, who was now one of Jackson's foremost supporters, went so far as to maintain that, because Jackson had a greater number of electoral votes than any other candidate, the house was virtually "defying the will of the people" in choosing any name but his. To this it was easily answered that in any case our electoral college, which was one of the most deliberately framed devices of the constitution, gives but a very indirect and partial expression of the "will of the people"; and furthermore, if Benton's argument was sound, why should the constitution have provided for an election by congress, instead of allowing a simple plurality in the college to decide the election?

The extravagance of Benton's objection, coming from so able a source, is an index to the bitter disappointment of Jackson's followers. The needed "grievance" was furnished when Adams selected Clay as his secretary of state. Many of Jackson's friends interpreted this appointment as the result of a bargain whereby Clay had made Adams president in consideration of obtaining the first place in the cabinet, carrying with it, according to the notion then prevalent, a fair prospect of the succession to the presidency. It was natural enough for the friends of a disappointed candidate to make such a charge. It was to Benton's credit that he always scouted the idea of a corrupt bargain between Adams and Clay. Many people, however, believed it. In congress, John Randolph's famous allusion to the coalition between Blifil and Black George --"the Puritan and the blackleg" -- led to a duel between Randolph and Clay, which served to impress the matter upon the popular mind without enlightening it; the pistol is of small value as an agent of enlightenment. The charge was utterly without support and in every way improbable. The excellence of the appointment of Clay was beyond cavil, and the sternly upright Adams was less influenced by what people might think of his actions than any other president since Washington. But the appointment was no doubt ill-considered. It made it necessary for Clay, in many a public speech, to defend himself against the cruel imputation. To mention the charge to Jackson, whose course in Florida had been censured by Clay, was enough to make him believe it; and he did so to his dying day.It is not likely that the use made of this "grievance" had much to do with Jackson's victory in 1828.

The causes at work lay far deeper. The population west of the Alleghenies was now beginning to count for much in politics. Jackson was our first western president, and his election marks the rise of that section of our country. The democratic tendency was moreover a growing one. Heretofore our presidents had been men of aristocratic type, with advantages of wealth, or education, or social training. A stronger contrast to them than Jackson afforded cannot well be imagined. A man with less training in statesmanship would have been hard to find. In his defects he represented average humanity, while his excellences were such as the most illiterate citizen could appreciate. In such a man the ploughboy and the blacksmith could feel that in some essential respects they had for president one of their own sort. Above all, he was the great military hero of the day, and as such he came to the presidency as naturally as Taylor and Grant in later days, as naturally as his contemporary Wellington became prime minister of England. A man far more politic and complaisant than Adams could not have won the election of 1828 against such odds. He obtained 83 electoral votes against 178 for Jackson. Calhoun was re-elected vice president. Jackson came to the presidency with a feeling that he had at length succeeded in making good his claim to a violated right, and he showed this feeling in his refusal to call on his illustrious predecessor, who he declared had got the presidency by bargain and sale.

In Jackson's cabinet, as first constituted, Martin Van Buren, of New York, was secretary of state; Samuel D. Ingham, of Pennsylvania, secretary of the treasury; John H. Eaton, of Tennessee, secretary of war; John Branch, of North Carolina, secretary of the navy; John M. Berrien, of Georgia, attorney-general; William T. Barry, of Kentucky, postmaster-general. As compared with earlier cabinets--not merely with such men as Hamilton, Madison, or Gallatin, but with Pickering. Wolcott, Monroe, or even Crawford--these were obscure names. The innovation in the personal character of the cabinet was even more marked than the innovation in the presidency. The autocratic Jackson employed his secretaries as clerks. His confidential advisers were a few intimate friends who held no important offices. These men--W. B. Lewis, Amos Kendall, Duff Green, and Isaac Hill--came to be known as the "kitchen cabinet." Lewis had had much to do with bringing Jackson forward as a candidate for the presidency in 1821. Green and Hill were editors of partisan newspapers. Kendall was a man of considerable ability and many good qualities, but a "machine politician" of the worst sort. He was on many occasions the ruling spirit of the administration, and the cause of some of its most serious mistakes. Jackson's career as president cannot be fully understood without taking into account the agency of Kendall; yet it is not always easy to assign the character and extent of the influence which he exerted.

A yet more notable innovation was Jackson's treatment of the civil service. The earlier presidents had proceeded upon the theory that public office is a public trust, and not a reward for partisan services. They conducted the business of government upon business principles, and as long as a postmaster showed himself efficient in distributing the mail they did not turn him out of office because of his vote. Between 30 April, 1789, and 4 March, 1829, the total number of removals from office was seventy-four, and out of this number five were defaulters. Between 4 March, 1829, and 22 March, 1830, the number of changes made in the civil service was about 2,000. This was the inauguration upon a national scale of the so-called "spoils system." The phrase originated with William L. Marcy, of New York, who in a speech in the senate in 1831 declared that "to the victors belong the spoils."

The system had been perfected in the state politics of New York and Pennsylvania, and it was probably inevitable that it should sooner or later be introduced into the sphere of national politics. The way was prepared in 1820 by Crawford, when he succeeded in getting the law passed that limits the tenure of office to four years. This dangerous measure excited very little discussion at the time. People could not understand the evil until taught by hard experience. Jackson did not understand that he was laying the foundations of a gigantic system of corruption, which within a few years would develop into the most serious of the dangers threatening the continuance of American freedom, he was very ready to believe ill of political opponents, and to make generalizations from extremely inadequate data. Democratic newspapers, while the campaign frenzy was on them, were full of windy declamation about the wholesale corruption introduced into all parts of the government by Adams and Clay. Nothing was too bad for Jackson to believe of these two men, and when the fourth auditor of the treasury was found to be delinquent in his accounts it was easy to suppose that many others were, in one way or another, just as bad. In his wholesale removals Jackson doubtless supposed he was doing the country a service by "turning the rascals out."

The immediate consequence of this demoralizing policy was a struggle for control of the patronage between Calhoun and Van Buren, who were rival aspirants for the succession to the presidency. A curious affair now came in to influence Jackson's personal relations to these men. Early in 1829 Eaton, secretary of war, married a Mrs. Timberlake, with whose reputation gossip had been busy. It was said that he had shown her too much attention during the lifetime of her first husband. Jackson was always slow to believe charges against a woman. His own wife, who had been outrageously maligned by the Whig newspapers during the campaign, had lately died, and there was just enough outward similarity between Eaton's marriage and his own to make him take Mrs. Eaton's part with more than his customary vehemence. Mrs. Calhoun and the wives of the secretaries would not recognize Mrs. Eaton. Mrs. Donelson, wife of the president's nephew, and mistress of ceremonies at the White House, took a similar stand. Jackson scolded his secretaries and sent Mrs. Donelson home to Tennessee; but all in vain. He found that vanquishing Wellington's veterans was a light task compared with that of contending against the ladies in an affair of this sort.

Foremost among those who frowned Mrs. Eaton out of society was Mrs. Calhoun. On the other hand, Van Buren, a widower, found himself able to be somewhat more complaisant, and accordingly rose in Jackson's esteem. The fires were fanned by Lewis and Kendall, who saw in Van Buren a more eligible ally than Calhoun. Presently intelligence was obtained from Crawford, who hated Calhoun, to the effect that the latter, as member of Monroe's cabinet, had disapproved of Jackson's conduct in Florida. This was quite true, but Calhoun had discreetly yielded his judgment to that of the cabinet led by Adams, and thus had officially sanctioned Jackson's conduct. These facts, as handled by Eaton and Lewis, led Jackson to suspect Calhoun of treacherous double-dealing, and the result was a quarrel which broke up the cabinet.

In order to get Calhoun's friends--Ingham, Branch, and Berrien--out of the cabinet, the other secretaries began by resigning. This device did not succeed, and the ousting of the three secretaries entailed further quarrelling, in the course of which the Eaton affair and the Florida business were beaten threadbare in the newspapers, and evoked sundry challenges to deadly combat. In the spring and summer of 1831 the new cabinet was formed, consisting of Edward Livingston, secretary of state; Louis McLane, treasury; Lewis Cass, war; Levi Woodbury, navy; Roger B. Taney, attorney-general; in post office no change. On Van Butch's resignation, Jackson at once appointed him minister to England, but there was a warm dispute in the senate over his confirmation, and it was defeated at length by the casting-vote of Calhoun. This check only strengthened Jackson's determination to have Van Buren for his successor in the presidency. The progress of this quarrel entailed a break in the "kitchen cabinet," in which Duff Green, editor of the "Telegraph" and friend of Calhoun, was thrown out. His place was taken by Francis Preston Blair, of Kentucky, a man of eminent ability and earnest patriotism. To him and his sons, as energetic opponents of nullification and secession, our country owes a debt of gratitude which can hardly be overstated. Blair's indignant attitude toward nullification brought him at once into earnest sympathy with Jackson. In December, 1830, Blair began publishing the "Globe," the organ henceforth of Jackson's party. For a period of ten years, until the defeat of the Democrats in 1840, Blair and Kendall were the ruling spirits in the administration. Their policy was to re-elect Jackson to the presidency in 1832, and make Van Buren his successor in 1836.

During Jackson's administration there came about a new division of parties. The strict constructionists, opposing internal improvements, protective tariff, and national banks, retained the name of Democrats, which had long been applied to members of the old Republican party. The term Republican fell into disuse. The loose constructionists, under the lead of Clay, took the name of Whigs, as it suited their purposes to describe Jackson as a kind of tyrant; and they tried to discredit their antagonists by calling them Tories, but the device found little favor. On strict constructionist grounds Jackson in 1829 vetoed the bill for a government subscription to the stock of the Maysville turnpike in Kentucky, and two other similar bills he disposed of by a new method, which the Whigs indignantly dubbed a "pocket veto."

Continued


Photo by: National Statuary Hall Collection



Start your search on Andrew Jackson.


America's Four United Republics Exhibit - Click Here


Unauthorized Site: This site and its contents are not affiliated, connected, associated with or authorized by the individual, family, friends, or trademarked entities utilizing any part or the subject's entire name. Any official or affiliated sites that are related to this subject will be hyper linked below upon submission and Evisum, Inc. review.

Copyright© 2000 by Evisum Inc.TM. All rights reserved.
Evisum Inc.TM Privacy Policy

Search:

About Us

 

 

Image Use

Please join us in our mission to incorporate America's Four United Republics discovery-based curriculum into the classroom of every primary and secondary school in the United States of America by July 2, 2026, the nation’s 250th birthday. , the United States of America: We The People Click Here

 

Childhood & Family

Click Here

 

Historic Documents

Articles of Association

Articles of Confederation 1775

Articles of Confederation

Article the First

Coin Act

Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence

Emancipation Proclamation

Gettysburg Address

Monroe Doctrine

Northwest Ordinance

No Taxation Without Representation

Thanksgiving Proclamations

Mayflower Compact

Treaty of Paris 1763

Treaty of Paris 1783

Treaty of Versailles

United Nations Charter

United States In Congress Assembled

US Bill of Rights

United States Constitution

US Continental Congress

US Constitution of 1777

US Constitution of 1787

Virginia Declaration of Rights

 

Historic Events

Battle of New Orleans

Battle of Yorktown

Cabinet Room

Civil Rights Movement

Federalist Papers

Fort Duquesne

Fort Necessity

Fort Pitt

French and Indian War

Jumonville Glen

Manhattan Project

Stamp Act Congress

Underground Railroad

US Hospitality

US Presidency

Vietnam War

War of 1812

West Virginia Statehood

Woman Suffrage

World War I

World War II

 

Is it Real?



Declaration of
Independence

Digital Authentication
Click Here

 

America’s Four Republics
The More or Less United States

 
Continental Congress
U.C. Presidents

Peyton Randolph

Henry Middleton

Peyton Randolph

John Hancock

  

Continental Congress
U.S. Presidents

John Hancock

Henry Laurens

John Jay

Samuel Huntington

  

Constitution of 1777
U.S. Presidents

Samuel Huntington

Samuel Johnston
Elected but declined the office

Thomas McKean

John Hanson

Elias Boudinot

Thomas Mifflin

Richard Henry Lee

John Hancock
[
Chairman David Ramsay]

Nathaniel Gorham

Arthur St. Clair

Cyrus Griffin

  

Constitution of 1787
U.S. Presidents

George Washington 

John Adams
Federalist Party


Thomas Jefferson
Republican* Party

James Madison 
Republican* Party

James Monroe
Republican* Party

John Quincy Adams
Republican* Party
Whig Party

Andrew Jackson
Republican* Party
Democratic Party


Martin Van Buren
Democratic Party

William H. Harrison
Whig Party

John Tyler
Whig Party

James K. Polk
Democratic Party

David Atchison**
Democratic Party

Zachary Taylor
Whig Party

Millard Fillmore
Whig Party

Franklin Pierce
Democratic Party

James Buchanan
Democratic Party


Abraham Lincoln 
Republican Party

Jefferson Davis***
Democratic Party

Andrew Johnson
Republican Party

Ulysses S. Grant 
Republican Party

Rutherford B. Hayes
Republican Party

James A. Garfield
Republican Party

Chester Arthur 
Republican Party

Grover Cleveland
Democratic Party

Benjamin Harrison
Republican Party

Grover Cleveland 
Democratic Party

William McKinley
Republican Party

Theodore Roosevelt
Republican Party

William H. Taft 
Republican Party

Woodrow Wilson
Democratic Party

Warren G. Harding 
Republican Party

Calvin Coolidge
Republican Party

Herbert C. Hoover
Republican Party

Franklin D. Roosevelt
Democratic Party

Harry S. Truman
Democratic Party

Dwight D. Eisenhower
Republican Party

John F. Kennedy
Democratic Party

Lyndon B. Johnson 
Democratic Party 

Richard M. Nixon 
Republican Party

Gerald R. Ford 
Republican Party

James Earl Carter, Jr. 
Democratic Party

Ronald Wilson Reagan 
Republican Party

George H. W. Bush
Republican Party 

William Jefferson Clinton
Democratic Party

George W. Bush 
Republican Party

Barack H. Obama
Democratic Party

Please Visit

Forgotten Founders
Norwich, CT

Annapolis Continental
Congress Society


U.S. Presidency
& Hospitality

© Stan Klos

 

 

 

 


Virtual Museum of Art | Virtual Museum of History | Virtual Public Library | Virtual Science Center | Virtual Museum of Natural History | Virtual War Museum