Who: Andrew Jackson
What: 7th President of the United States, General in the War of 1812
Where: Born somewhere between the Carolinas; died Nashville, Tennessee
Why: First Democrat, first (and only) President to have killed in a duel, first President to be an assassination target.
When: Born March 15, 1767; died June 8, 1845 (aged 78)
“There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses.”
Andrew Jackson was born to Scots-Irish colonists who had emigrated from Ireland two years earlier. Three weeks before Andrew was born, his father died in an accident. He helped the local militia as a courier during the Revolutionary War, aged thirteen. His eldest brother died at the Battle of Stono Ferry in June 1779, and Jackson and his brother Robert were captured by the British. Jackson was maimed when he refused to clean a British officer’s boots; the officer slashed at Jackson with his sword, scarring his hand and head. Robert died in April 1781, just after their release. Jackson’s mother died of cholera in November 1781, leaving Jackson an orphan at 14. He married Rachel Donelson Robarts, a divorcee, in 1791. He served in the military in the War of 1812, notably commanding during the decisive American victory at the Battle of New Orleans, and fought in the First Seminole War.
Bolstered by his everyman demeanour and war service, he was nominated for President in 1822 by the Tennessee legislature, losing the highly controversial election to John Quincy Adams despite winning the popular vote, before defeating Adams in 1828. He signed the Indian Removal Act, violently expelling Native Americans from their lands and forcing them west. Jackson vetoed more bills than all previous presidents, and vetoed the Second Bank of the United States’ charter. He returned to his home, the Hermitage in Nashville, Tennessee, where he died in 1845.
Facts about Andrew Jackson
Because of the ambiguity regarding his birthplace – the remote Waxhaws had not at that point been surveyed – both North and South Carolina claim to be his birthplace.
Jackson also holds the distinction of having won the popular vote three times in a presidential election – despite only winning twice, on account of the ‘Corrupt Bargain’ that elected Adams.
Jackson is the first president to have survived an assassination attempt. Richard Lawrence pointed two derringers at him in 1835, but they both misfired, a 1 in 125,000 chance. Jackson then chased Lawrence with his walking stick. The would-be assassin was found not guilty on grounds of insanity.
Despite his notoriety in leading campaigns against the Native Americans, first militarily in the Seminole War and then politically with the Indian Removal Act, he adopted two Native American boys in 1813 and 1814.
Despite being opposed to the issuance of paper money by national banks in favour of the more reliable gold and silver, he appears on the $20 bill, and has also appeared on the $5, $10, $50 and $10,000 denominations in the past, as well as the Confederate $1,000.
It is estimated that Jackson participated in as many as 100 duels, and challenged Charles Dickinson when the former called Jackson ‘a worthless scoundrel, a poltroon and a coward’ in the newspaper in 1806. Dickinson fired first, hitting Jackson in the chest and missing his heart by less than an inch. Jackson shot Dickinson dead. He carried the bullet, plus another from another duel, in his body for the rest of his life.
He unknowingly married Rachel Donelson Robards before her divorce was finalised in 1791, making the marriage bigamous and invalid – they remarried in 1794. To complicate things further, Robards was living with Jackson and referred to herself as Mrs. Jackson before the petition for divorce was made.
When Rachel died of a heart attack two weeks after Jackson’s victory in the 1828 election, his niece Emily Donelson served as First Lady of the United States, along with his daughter-in-law Sarah Yorke Jackson.
Jackson is one of only nine presidents to have never attended college.