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Andrew Jackson: A Short Biography

Seventh President of the United States

By Doug West, Ph.D.





Andrew Jackson: A Short Biography
Seventh President of the United States

Copyright © 2018 Doug West

All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the author. Reviewers may quote brief passages in reviews.

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Table of Contents

Preface

Introduction

Chapter 1 - Early Life and Education

Chapter 2 - Early Legal and Political Career

Chapter 3 - Military Career

Chapter 4 - Post-War Political Career

Chapter 5 - President of the United States

Chapter 6 - Later Life and Death

Timeline

Biographical Sketches

References and Further Reading

Acknowledgments

About the Author





Preface

Welcome to the book Andrew Jackson: A Short Biography. This book is part of the 30 Minute Book Series and, as the name of the series implies, if you are an average reader this book will take less than an hour to read. Since this book is not meant to be an all-encompassing biography of Andrew Jackson, you may want to know more about this man and his accomplishments. To help you with this, there are several good references at the end of this book. In addition, I have included a timeline to help you link the events of his life together in time and a series of short biographical sketches of the key individuals in the story. Thank you for purchasing this book, and I hope you enjoy your time reading about one of America’s most influential presidents.

Doug West

August 2018





Introduction

A fierce personality with an iron will, Andrew Jackson was an important statesman who left a historic mark on the expansion and consolidation of the United States. Known among both his friends and his enemies as “Old Hickory,” after the hardwood tree, he rose to fame during the War of 1812, where his victories revealed the tenacity and courage that would later transform him into one of the most influential and controversial American presidents.

Andrew Jackson was a self-made man who was born on the frontier and grew up to become one of Tennessee’s first and most important political figures, before serving as the seventh president of the United States between 1829 and 1837. Although he had a successful legal career and was involved in public life for years, Jackson’s political career flourished only after his involvement in important military campaigns. His first remarkable victory was against the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, where he and his troops took control of vast territories that had been formerly occupied by the Creeks. In 1815, he and his army defeated a much larger British force at the Battle of New Orleans. The event prompted Jackson’s immediate ascent to power and transformed him into a national hero. In spite of his popularity, Andrew Jackson had to face numerous crises that threatened his reputation and the strength of the union during his presidency. From the Petticoat affair to the nullification crisis, Jackson’s ability to handle the most diverse issues allowed him to transcend any scandal or dispute with relative ease. His intuition in choosing his political allies was also a key factor that saved his administration in moments of crisis. Andrew Jackson exerted such a tremendous influence on American politics that historians often refer to his presidency as “The Age of Jackson.”

Although he was widely esteemed by Americans of his time, Jackson’s reputation has dwindled since the rise of the civil rights movement when his anti-abolitionist views and his leading role in Indian dispossession after the signing of the Indian Removal Act in 1830 were heavily criticized. He is still widely admired for creating a strong presidency, and his legacy could never be overlooked. With his independent spirit and his persistent hold on democratic principles and values, he set the country on a path that led to a stronger and more efficient democracy.





Chapter 1 – Early Life and Education

As long as our government is administered for the good of the people, and is regulated by their will; as long as it secures to us the rights of persons and of property, liberty of conscience and of the press, it will be worth defending.” – Andrew Jackson



Andrew Jackson was born on March 15, 1767, in the backwoods of the Waxhaws River, a region straddling North Carolina and South Carolina. His parents, Andrew and Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson, were Scots-Irish who emigrated from Ireland with their two boys, Hugh and Robert, in 1765. They settled in Waxhaws where they could enjoy the support of a flourishing community of fellow immigrants, but their lives were soon disrupted. Just a few weeks before Andrew’s birth, his father lost his life in a logging accident. Finding herself unable to support the family, Elizabeth and her three sons moved in with relatives.

Because historians can’t retrace with accuracy Elizabeth’s actions following her husband’s death and funeral, Andrew Jackson’s exact birthplace has remained unclear. At the time, the border area was a distant and isolated territory that only later would be properly surveyed. Despite the change of circumstances in her life, it is certain that Elizabeth raised her sons in the Waxhaws region, and the boys spent their childhood on the frontier.

Due to his modest origins, Andrew Jackson’s first years of education were guided by local priests. Frontier schools were underdeveloped, and classes were held intermittently in locations that suited the needs of the moment. Jackson acquired a basic knowledge of reading and writing but did not excel in school. He was, on the other hand, a very active and strong-willed boy.

On May 29, 1780, life in Waxhaws was shaken by a brutal massacre as the Revolutionary War reached the region, engaging South Carolina and North Carolina in the national struggle. Encouraged by their mother, Andrew and his brother Robert trained with the local militia and were later assigned to work as couriers. In 1781, both boys were taken as war prisoners by British soldiers. Andrew was only fourteen years old, but his strong personality flared up for the first time when he refused to shine the boots of a British soldier. He was severely beaten for his defiance and suffered severe wounds that left him with permanent scars. Before their mother could secure their release in a prisoner exchange, Andrew and Robert fell victim to a smallpox epidemic and almost died of starvation. Once released, the forty-mile journey back home was exceedingly difficult with only one horse and two very sick boys. Not only were the boys were very weak, they also had to fight terrible weather conditions. Robert died shortly after their return, and Andrew was so frail that he remained in bed for several weeks.



Figure - "The Brave Boy of the Waxhaws,” 1876 lithography. Depicts an incident in the childhood of Andrew Jackson, showing the young boy standing up to a British soldier.



Shortly after Andrew recovered, Elizabeth volunteered as a nurse for American soldiers who had been taken prisoner of war, but she was infected with cholera and lost her life. Since his eldest brother Hugh had died while fighting in the war, Andrew Jackson found himself with no family at the age of fourteen. “When tidings of her death reached me, I at first could not believe it,” Jackson later recalled. “When I finally realized the truth I was utterly alone, and tried to recall her last words to me.” Losing his mother and brothers was a crushing turning point in Andrew’s life and caused him to cultivate an intense hatred of the British. It was also in this period that he developed fervent patriotic and nationalistic values, which would guide him in his future political career.





Chapter 2 – Early Legal and Political Career

I am a senator against my wishes and feelings, which I regret more than any other of my life.” – Andrew Jackson



When peace was restored to the country, Jackson resumed his education at a local school and supported himself working odd jobs. In 1784, after moving to Salisbury, in North Carolina, he began to study law with several different lawyers. As a young man, Jackson had a wild streak in him; one local later recalled he was “the most roaring, rollicking, game-cocking, horse racing, card-playing, mischievous fellow that ever lived” in the town. He won admission to the North Carolina bar in 1787 and was selected for a prosecutor position that had just become vacant in Nashville, a small town in North Carolina (now Tennessee).

In 1788, Andrew Jackson relocated to Nashville and rented a room from the Donelson family, who were highly influential in the area. As a surveyor, militia leader, and member of the Virginia legislature, John Donelson had been in close contact with many powerful statesmen and political leaders. Jackson became friends with Donelson’s young married daughter, Rachel Donelson Robards. Despite appearances, they had a lot in common, as both had grown up in a backwoods environment where life was harsh and opportunities were scarce.

Since Rachel’s husband, Lewis Robards, was prone to bouts of violence and extreme jealousy, their marriage was very turbulent, and they went through several separations and reconciliations. Rachel wanted to divorce and gradually, she and Andrew began to develop feelings for each other. When Jackson met her, she had run off from her husband, fearing for her safety, and was seeking refuge with her mother. Angry, Robards started the legal proceedings for divorce on the grounds of desertion. However, getting a divorce was a complicated procedure at the time, requiring the permission of the state legislature. Robards was granted the legal permission to get a divorce, and when Jackson and Rachel received the news, they proceeded to get married in 1791.



Figure - Rachel Jackson. Portrait by Ralph E. W. Earl, 1823.



Unbeknownst to them, Robards had neglected some minor paperwork and the divorce had not been officially completed, thus Rachel’s marriage to Andrew Jackson was, from a legal standpoint, bigamous and, consequently, invalid. It took Andrew Jackson and his wife three years to discover the truth. Once he found out that Rachel had remarried, Robards renewed his divorce claim under accusations of adultery. Since the divorce was granted on these terms, Jackson’s political opponents never let Andrew or Rachel escape the stigma associated with this incident. When Rachel’s divorce was officially finalized, she and Andrew had to retake their vows. While it was clear that the incident had been caused by Robards’s neglect, Jackson’s political opponents preferred to stick to the narrative that suited them, which was that Jackson had wed a married woman, because this provided them with a weapon to undermine his future political campaigns.


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