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Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson


Andrew JacksonAndrew Jackson was the pioneer of the masses of the American people in their progress toward political power. The traditions of the past, sanctioned by law and custom, and the established arrangement of society, had prevented the full appreciation of the liberty guaranteed by the new constitutions of the American States. Until Jackson arose, the people had been practically treated as a sovereign in his minority, and the government was administered in its name by a regency, variously chosen; by the efforts and example of this leader from the wilderness, the legitimate sovereign was declared to be of full age and capable of conducting the government according to his own will.


Andrew Jackson was born March IS, 1767, at Waxhaw, a Scotch. Irish settlement just on the boundary between the two Carolina's, yet he always claimed to belong by birth to South Carolina. His father, who had arrived in 1765, died a few days before Andrew's birth, leaving a widow and three sons to struggle with poverty. At the age of thirteen Andrew with his brothers joined Sumter's partisan corps, and afterwards while a prisoner was harshly treated. His mother and brothers died of hardships of the Revolutionary War, and Andrew, who narrowly escaped, ever retained vindictive feelings against the British. In 1785 he entered a law office at Salisbury, N. C., but devoted his time chiefly to gaming and horse-racing. In 1788 he removed to the frontier settlement at Nashville, and was soon appointed public prosecutor for the Western District of North Cardina, now Tennessee.


At the age of twenty-four Jackson married Mrs. Rachel Robards, daughter of Col. John Donelson, who had gone from Virginia to Tennessee. Her former husband, Capt. Lewis Robards, madly jealous of the inoffensive attention shown her by others, had left her. Jackson, whose conduct was ever marked by a chivalrous homage toward women, took her part. Robards, removing to Kentucky, obtained permission from the Virginia legislature to sue for divorce, and Jackson, hearing a report that the divorce had been granted, married her at Natchez. No divorce, however, was obtained until late in 1793. and Jackson, as the best way out of the difficulty, was married again in January, 1794. From these circumstances his enemies at .various times found material to make malignant attacks on his character, while he lo vindicate his honor fought several duels. The first was with Charles Dickinson, in which Jackson had a rib broken and Dickinson was killed.


Jackson took part in framing the Constitution of Tennessee and when that State was admitted to the Union in June, 1796, he was elected its representative in Congress. In the next year he was elected to the United States Senate, but resigned in the following April, and was appointed Judge of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, and as his military ability was recognized he was made commander of the State militia in 1801. His private affairs demanding his attention, he resigned his judicial position in 1804, moved into a log-house and was for some years an enterprising trader in Indian corn, wheat, horses and cattle.


In 1812 when war was declared against Great Britain, Jackson was forty-five years old. In December he gathered 2,500 militia at Nashville and led them to Natchez but as there was then no prospect of war in the Southwest, he was ordered to disband them. Before obeying the order he led them back to Tennessee, and afterwards had difficulty in getting his accounts for transportation allowed. Col. Thomas H. Benton, who effected this by his influence at Washington, was soon drawn into a quarrel with Jackson, and in an affray at Nashville the latter was so severely wounded in the left shoulder that the physicians advised amputation of the arm. The patient refused, and took the field for an Indian campaign, while still carrying his fractured arm in a sling. Tile Creek Indians, roused by the famous Tecumseh, and led by the halfbreed, Weatherford, had surprised Fort Mimms, in Alabama, and massacred 300 men, women and children. Jackson led 2,000 volunteers through a wilderness and severely punished the Indians at Talladega, November 9, 1813' His men often mutinied for want of food, and were restrained from returning home only by their leader's imperious will. The campaign was closed by a decisive battle at the Horseshoe Bend of the Tallapoosa River on March 27, 1814. This victory was even of greater importance than it seemed at the time, for it enabled the militia of the Southwest to be gathered wherever they should be needed. Jackson's unflinching endurance of hardships in this campaign won for him the sobriquet of "Old Hickory.


On May 31, 18 14, Jackson was made major-general in the regular army and appointed to command the Department of the South. Pensacola, in the Spanish territory of Florida, was then freely used by the British as a base of operations against the United States. In July Jackson occupied Mobile, and asked authority from the government at Washington to march against Pensacola. No answer came for six months, and meantime the bold commander determined to take the responsibility of invading the Spanish territory. He stormed Pensacola all November 6th, and the British, after blowing up the fort in the harbor, withdrew the fleet. He next hastened to New Orleans, arriving December 2d, and when the British fleet captured five American gunboats declared martial Jaw on the 15th. A British force of 14,000 veterans, commanded by Sir Edward Pakenham, approaching through Lake Borgue, made their way to the Mississippi. On December 22d, when nine miles from the city, they were attacked by jackson's troops with the aid of a schooner, and suffered so much that their advance was continued very cautiously. Jackson's chief defense was at a ditch, four miles below the city, extending from the Mississippi to an impassable swamp. Here were earthworks, 1,700 yards long and mounting twelve guns. On January 8, 1815. under cover of a fog, Pakenham tried to carry these works by direct assault but the artillery was so effectively handled that in three attacks the British loss was 2,600 men, including the chief commander, while the American loss was but eight killed and thirteen wounded. This battle was remarkable, not only for this unprecedented disparity of loss, but for the fact that it was fought after the treaty of peace had been signed at Ghent, December 25, 1814. In enforcing martial law at New Orleans General Jackson had arrested Judge Hall, and was afterwards fined $1,000 for contempt of court. He paid the fine without assistance from others j but nearly thirty years later Congress ordered the amount to be returned with interest.


In April, 1815, Jackson returned to Nashville, the hero of the war and idol of the populace. Florida continued to be a place of refuge for troublesome Indians and runaway Negroes. In 18I5 Jackson raised troops in Tennessee and Georgia, invaded Florida, captured St. Mark's and severely chastised the Seminoles. He also executed a trader, Arbuthnot, and Lieutenant Ambrister, convicted by court-martial of inciting the Indians to war. These violent acts excited great indignation in England, which was appeased by the explanation offered by J. Q. Adams, then Secretary of State, that these men were virtually outlaws. Pensacola, which had been seized, was restored to Spain. By the treaty of 1819 Florida was purchased, and Jackson was appointed its first governor in 182I, but resigned the post within a year. At the age of fifty-five he was ready to retire from public life, when a new and grander career opened before him. General dissatisfaction had arisen with the method of nominating presidential candidates by a Congressional caucus, and in 1822 the legislature of Tennessee nominated Jackson two years before the election. In 1823 he was elected to the United States Senate.


A year later four presidential candidates, all professedly of the same party, were presented. Jackson obtained the highest electoral vote, but not a majority, and the choice devolved upon the Representatives voting by States. Clay being ex· eluded, his friends voted for Adams, who was thus elected. When Clay accepted the office of Secretary of State, Jackson's friends raised the cry of "Bargain and corruption," and their leader believed the charge. The masses of the people, now awaking to a fuller sense of their political power, were easily persuaded that Congress had cheated the popular hero, and they determined to put the result of the next election beyond dispute. Hence in 1828 Jackson had 178 electoral votes against 83 for Adams.


The most prominent person in President jackson's cabinet was Martin Van Buren, afterwards President himself but his most trusted advisers were a few newspaper editors, who moulded the public opinion of their States. Of this 14 Kitchen Cabinet" Amos Kendall, of Kentucky, was the chief, and he was the inspirer of much of jackson's policy. One of the most striking features of this policy was the removal of post. masters and other officials and filling their places with his party friends. Within a year after his inauguration nearly two thousand changes were made, while in the previous forty years there had been only seventy·four removals.


A question having arisen as to the character and social standing of the wife of the Secretary of War, Jackson remembering the attacks on his own wife, took the part of the one now attacked, and went so far as to insist that the wives of his other cabinet officers should recognize her socially. This social ukase caused the disruption of his first cabinet. The second was composed chiefly of abler men, among them being Edward Livingston, Lewis Cass and Roger B. Taney. Martin Van Buren was nominated Minister to Great Britain; but after he had gone abroad his confirmation was defeated in the Senate by the casting vote of Calhoun, who was now openly opposed to Jackson. Calhoun was the advocate of extreme Southern views of State sovereignty, and was the trusted leader of South Carolina. The antagonism between Jackson and Calhoun had been first developed at a banquet on Jeffersons son's birthday in 1830, when the regular toasts having shown favor to nullification, the President surprised the company by giving a volunteer toast: The Federal Union-It must be Preserved," and Calhoun attempted to break its force by another: "Liberty-Dearer than the Union.


Congress readjusted the tariff in 1832, but carefully retained its protective features. A convention in South Carolina, therefore, On November 24th, adopted an ordinance of nullification of the tariff laws. President Jackson in December issued a proclamation which, after argument on the questions at issue, declared his firm determination to execute the laws and preserve the Union. The Governor of the State issued a counter-proclamation, but the legislature suspended the execution of nutification until Congress should take action. Under the leadership of Ciay that body adopted a Compromise Tariff Act, which provided for a gradual reduction of all duties until 1842, when they should be uniformly 20 per cent. ad valorem. Jackson's firmness was evidently approved by the people, and the South Calrolina Convention in March, 1833, repealed the ordinance of nullification.


'While the nullification controversy was agitating the public mind, another dispute attracted no less attention. The charter of the United States Bank would expire in 1836, and some of Jackson's partisans charged that this institution was hostile to his interests, and easily excited his prejudice against it. In 1832 he vetoed the bill to renew the charter, and Clay, Jackson's chief rival for the next Presidential nomination, made the continuance of the bank the leading issue in the campaign. The party nominations were made for the first time by the present system of national conventions, which was adopted to give the people more direct influence on the choice of a candidate. Jackson's victory was overwhelming; out of 286 electoral votes he received 218.


The President had in his first term used the veto power more freely than any of his predecessors, but the elections had given him a Congress more in accordance with his political and economical views. He therefore had reason to regard his administration as fully approved by the people, and deter· mined to crush the bank as their enemy. Yet a Congressional investigation of its affairs, which he had recommended, resulted in a majority report in its favor. He then resolved to remove the government deposits; but the Secretary of the treasury thought the law forbade that course. A new secretary also refused; but a third, R. B. Taney, ordered that deposits of public money should no longer be made in the United States Bank, but in selected State banks. In the next session of the Senate, Clay introduced a resolution of censure of the President for this usurpation of authority, and after prolonged debate it was passed. Col. Benton Jackson's most resalute defender, insisted that the resolution should be expunged, and after a severe contest, which reached into several State elections, was able to win a new triumph for the veteran by having the censure expunged all January 16, 1837.


In foreign affairs Jackson's administration won renown by the enforcement of claims for the French spoliation in Napoleon's wars. In 183! France, by treaty, agreed to pay $5,000,000 in six annual installments. When payment was evaded, President Jackson recommended to Congress to pass a law authorizing the capture of French vessels, sufficient to make up the amount due. Though the French Government protested against the President's language, it was induced by the mediation of Great Britain to pay the claims. Spain, Naples and Portugal also paid indemnities for similar claims. As Jackson desired the currency to consist largely of specie, he caused these payments to be made in gold and silver, and this influx of money gave an immediate prosperity, which was most gratifying to the whole nation-especial!y when the national debt was extinguished in January, 1835.


Though his administration was a time of constant strife among statesmen and politicians, Jackson retained and even increased his favor with the people, and was able to secure the election of his favorite, Martin Van Buren, as his successor. He issued a farewell address to his countrymen, and On the 4th of March, 1837, retired from public life. Returning to the "Hermitage," as he called his mansion, near Nashville, Tennessee, he still continued to take a lively interest in public affairs. He died on the 8th of June, 1845.


The life of this popular hero has furnished a theme for many biographers, and his public career is an essential part of the history of the United States. Judgments differ according to the party proclivities of the writers, as to the preponderance of good or in in the various events and results yet all accept the man himself as perhaps the most picturesque figure among American leaders, and a most important factor in directing the destinies of the nation. The first President from beyond the Alleghenies, he was a typical product of the new region and the new era-bold, fearless, independent, thoroughly honest, accustomed to decide everything by a few simple maxims, and by his strong will defying and overpowering all opposition.




At one o'clock on the morning of this memorable day January 8th, I815, all a couch in a room of the McCarty Mansion-house, General Jackson lay asleep, in his worn uniform. Several of his aids slept upon the floor in the same apartment, all equipped for the field, except that their sword belts were unbuckled, and their swords and pistols laid aside. A sentinel paced the adjacent passage, sentinels moved noiselessly about the building, which loomed up large, dim, and silent in the foggy night, among the darkening trees ....


The suspense was soon over. Daylight struggled through the mist. About six o'clock both columns were advancing at the steady, solid, British pace to the attack; the Forty-Fourth nowhere, straggling in the rear with the fascines and ladders. The column soon came up with the American outposts, who at first retreated slowly before it, but soon quickened their pace, and ran in, bearing their great news, and putting every man in the works intensely on the alert; each commander anxious for the honor of first getting a glimpse of the foe, and opening fire upon him. Lieutenant Spotts, of battery number six, was the first man in the American lines who descried through the fog the dim, red line of General Gibbs's advancing column, far away down the plain, close to the forest. The thunder of his great guns broke the dead stillness. Then there was silence again; for the shifting fog, or the altered position of the enemy, concealed him from view once more, The fog lifted again, and soon revealed both divisions, which, with their detached companies, seemed to cover two-thirds of the plain, and gave the Americans a repetition of the splendid military spectacle which they had witnessed on the 28th or December. Three cheers from Carroll's men three cheers from the Kentuckians behind them; cheers continued from the advancing column, not heard yet in the American lines.


Steadily and fast the column of General Gibbs marched toward batteries numbered six, seven, and eight, which played upon it, at first with but occasional effect, often missing, Sometimes throwing a ball right into its midst, and causing it to reel and pause for a moment. Promptly were the gaps filled up; bravely the column came on. As they neared the lines, the well-aimed shot made more dreadful havoc, ., cutting great lanes in the column from front to rear," and tossing men and parts of men aloft, or hurling them far on one side. At length, still steady and unbroken, they came within the range of the small-arms, the rifles of Carroll's Tennesseans, the muskets of Adair's Kentuckians, four lines of sharpshooters, one behind the other. General Carroll, coolly waiting for the right moment, held his fire till the enemy were within two hundred yards, and then gave the word-FIRE! At first, with a certain deliberation, afterwards in hottest haste, always with deadly effect, the riflemen plied their terrible weapons.


The summit of the embankment was a line of spurting lire, except when the great guns showed their liquid, belching flash. The noise was peculiar, and altogether indescribable a rolling, bursting, echoing noise, never to be forgotten by a man that heard it. Along the whole line it blazed and rolled; the British batteries showered rockets over the scene, Patterson's batteries on the other side of the river joining in the hellish concert.


The column of General Gibbs, mowed by the fire of the riflemen, still advanced, Gibbs at its head. As they caught sight of the ditch, some of the officers cried out, "Where are the Forty-Fourth? If we get to the ditch, we have no means of crossing and scaling the lines! "-" Here come the Forty Fourth I" shouted the general; adding in an undertone, for his own private solace, that if he lived till to-morrow, he would hang Mullens on the highest tree in the cypress· wood. Reassured, these heroic men again pressed an, in the face of that murderous, slaughtering fire. But this could not last. With half its numbers fallen, and all its commanding officers disabled except the general, its pathway strewed with dead and wounded, and the men falling ever faster and faster, the column wavered and reeled so the American riflemen thought like a red ship on a tempestuous sea. At about a hundred yards from the lines, the front ranks halted, and so threw the column into disorder, Gibbs shouting in the madness of vexation for them to re-form and advance. There was no re-forming under such a fire. Once checked, the column could not but break and retreat in confusion.


Just as the troops began to falter, General Pakenham rode up from his post in the rear, toward the head of the column. Meeting parties of the Forty-Fourth running about distracted, some carrying fascines, others firing, others in headlong flight. their leader nowhere to be seen, Pakenhum strove to restore them to order, and to urge them on the way they were to go. "For shame!" he cried bitterly; "recollect that you arc British soldiers. This is the road you ought to take," pointing to the flashing and roaring scene in front. Riding on, he was soon met by General Gibbs, who said, "I am sorry to have to report to you that the troops will not obey me. They will not follow me." Taking off his hat, General Pakenham spurred his horse to the very front of the wavering column, amid a torrent of rifle-balls, cheering on the troops by voice, by gesture, by example. At that moment a ball shattered his right arm, and it fell powerless at his side. The next, his horse fell dead upon the field. His aid, Captain McDougal, dismounted from his black creole pony and Pakenham, apparently unconscious of his dangling arm, mounted again, and followed the retreating common, still calling upon them to halt and re-form. A few gallant spirits ran in toward the lines threw themselves into the ditch, plunged across it, and fell scrambling up the sides of the soft and slippery breastwork.


Once out of the reach of those terrible rifles, the column halted, and regained its self-possession. Laying aside their heavy knapsacks, the men prepared for a second and more resolute advance. They were encouraged, too, by seeing the superb Highlanders marching up in solid phalanx to their support, with a front of a hundred men, their bayonets glittering in the sun, which had then begun to pierce the morning mist. Now for an irresistible onset! At a quicker step, with General Gibbs all its right, General Pakenhaut on the left, the Highlanders in clear and imposing view, the column again advanced into the fire. Oh! the slaughter that then ensued! There was one moment, when that thirty-two-pounded, loaded to the muzzle with musket-balls, poured its charge directly, at point-blank range, right into the head of the column, literally levelling it with the plain laying low, as was afterwards computed, two hundred men. The American line, as one of the British officers remarked, looked like a row of fiery furnaces.


The heroic Pakenham had not far to go to meet his doom. He was three hundred yards from the lines when the real nature of his enterprise seemed to flash upon him, and he turned to Sir John Tilden and said: "Order up the reserve." Then, seeing the Highlanders advancing to the support or General Gibbs, he, still waving his hat, but waving it now with his left hand, cried out: I Hurrah! brave Highlanders!" At that moment a mass of grape-shot, with a terrible crash, struck the group of which he was the central figure. One of the shots tore open the general's thigh, killed his horse, and brought horse and rider to the ground. Captain :McDougal caught the general in his arms, removed him from the fallen horse, and was supporting him from the field, when a second shot struck the wounded man in the groin, depriving him instantly of consciousness. He was borne to the rear, and placed in the shade of an old live-oak, which still stands; and there, after gasping a few minutes, yielded up his life without a word, happily ignorant of the sad issue of all his plans and toils.


A more painful fate was that of General Gibbs. A few moments after Pakenham fell, Gibbs received his death-wound, and was carried off the field, writhing in agony, and uttering fierce imprecations. He lingered all that day and the succeeding night dying in torment on the morrow. Nearly at the same moment General Keane was painfully wounded in the neck and thigh, and was also borne to the rear. Colonel Dale, of the Highlanders, fulfilled his prophecy, and fell at the head of his regiment. The Highlanders, under Major Creagh, wavered not, but advanced steadily, and too slowly, into the very tempest of General Carroll's fire, until they were within one hundred yards of the lines. There, for some cause unknown, they halted and stood, a huge and glittering target, until five hundred and forty -four of their number had fallen, then broke and fled, in horror and amazement, to the real. The column of General Gibbs did not advance after the fall of their leader. Leaving heaps of slain behind them, they, too, forsook the bloody field, rushed in utter confusion out of the fire, and took refuge at the bottom of wet ditches and behind trees and bushes on the borders of the swamp.


The whole was like a dream. How long a time, does the reader think, elapsed between the fire of the first American gun and the total rant of the attacking columns? Twenty five minutes! Not that the American fire ceased. or even slackened at the expiration of that period. The riflemen on the left, and the troops on the right, continued to discharge their weapons into the smoke that hung over the plain for two hours. But in the space of twenty-five minutes, the discomfiture of the enemy in the open field was complete. The battery alone still made resistance. It required two of a tremendous cannonade to silence its great guns, and drive its defenders to the rear.-J. PARTON.


Andrew Jackson

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