TENNESSEE HISTORY Classroom
FULL HISTORY STORIES


President Andrew Jackson


Andrew Jackson is traditionally reported to have been born on March 15, 1767 near Waxhaw, SC. His father was an Irish immigrant, who had died shortly after his birth. Jackson’s mother, however, continued on in the true frontier fashion of the day and raised Andrew and his three brothers in the backwoods of early America. At age nine, Andrew and his family were swept into the passions of the Revolutionary War. At age 9, Jackson and his brother were captured after the Battle of Hanging Rock and sent to Prisoner of War camps.
During the time, a British officer ordered Jackson to black his boots and, when the boy refused, was slashed across the forearm with a saber leaving a scar he carried for the rest of his life. Jackson saw his brothers die in British POW Camps from smallpox and even contracted the disease himself, but survived. His mother also passed away during the Revolution while traveling to Charleston to care for wounded American prisoners. Andrew Jackson emerged from the War older, wiser, and with a loathing for all things British.
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After a stint as a schoolteacher in Charleston, Jackson began studying law in Salisbury, N.C. and eventually moved to the city of Jonesborough in frontier Tennessee where he was admitted to the Bar in November 1787. Jackson had, throughout his life, been the model frontiersmen and was capable in the rough-and-tumble world of early America. Jackson considered himself a "man of the people" and was known to be able to hold his own when it came to drinking, fighting, and gambling at the cockfights often held in the frontier communities.
In addition, he often engaged in fights and duels of honor and once shot a lawyer on the outskirts of Jonesborough in one of his first public encounters. As an attorney and jurist, however, he made a name for himself in Tennessee.
In 1789, Jackson moved to the settlement of Nashville where he established his practice and was appointed Public Prosecutor. It was this position that allowed Andrew Jackson to begin his rise towards prominence. The 1790 court records show that, out of 492 cases on the docket in Nashville, Jackson served as counsel on 424 of them and the number grew each year. Because of the high Native American population in the region, Jackson also soon became a skilled Indian fighter trying to overcome those Natives who didn’t take well to American laws being enforced on them.
During this time, he began courting Miss Rachel Robards of Natchez, Miss. In 1791, believing that the Virginia legislature had granted her a divorce from a husband who had deserted her, Andrew Jackson married her. Her former husband saw an opportunity and brought suit against Rachel Jackson where he was granted a divorce. Undaunted, Jackson got another marriage license and remarried Rachel, however, it would always be a sore spot with him that antagonists would use to anger him. In fact, he would eventually kill a Kentucky lawyer in a duel who questioned the validity of his marriage to Rachel.
In 1796, Jackson helped draft Tennessee’s first Constitution and was selected as the state’s first congressman. Jackson resigned the post in 1797 to fill a vacancy as Senator. He resigned that post a year later to take a seat on the Tennessee Supreme Court. In 1802, Jackson was elected major-general of the West Tennessee militia. Jackson continued working as a judge and maintained that post until 1804.
After Jackson stepped down from the court, he worked as a planter, trader, and merchant headquartered in his beloved Hermitage Plantation near Nashville. When war was declared in 1812 against the British, General Jackson offered his services and became the principal general in the southern front against the British. At the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Jackson and his Tennessee/Cherokee militia distinguished themselves against the "Red Stick" Creeks. Following the battle, a Native American infant was found in the rubble of the settlement and brought to General Jackson. Jackson adopted the infant named "Lincoya" and took the baby home where he raised him as his own son.
In 1814, Jackson was finally appointed major-general in the Regular Army and officially appointed to head up the Department of the South. In December of that year, General Jackson discovered where the British were planning a major attack. He and his men went on a forced march to New Orleans and, in a surprising victory, defeated the British and drove them out of the gulf port city. It catapulted Jackson to national prominence, but he was ordered back to Florida to try and quell the uprisings in the territory. Jackson’s actions in the region were controversial and began earning him some highly placed political enemies, but his actions eventually resulted in Spain’s cession of Florida to the United States. Jackson was appointed Provisional Governor of the region, but resigned the post in 1822 to return to Tennessee where he was elected back to the United State Senate.
In 1824, the Tennessean made a run for the Presidency and defeated his four opponents, but, due to lack of a majority, the race was forced into the Congress. Although ordered by the State of Kentucky to throw his support to Jackson, Representative Henry Clay, who had lost the election to Jackson, thumbed his nose at the order and threw his votes behind John Quincy Adams giving him the Presidency and Clay an immediate appointment to Secretary of State.
Jackson continued to serve as a Senator from Tennessee and, in the four years that preceded the next Presidential election, worked with his chief political advisor Martin Van Buren to change the way Presidents were elected. The foundation he and Van Buren laid became the groundwork of what would become the Democratic Party. During this time a new controversy began taking place in the national arena that would affect American politics forever.
On March 13, 1826, William Morgan of Batavia, N.Y. signed a book contract for a publication he said would expose the Freemasons’ secrets. When word got out, a rogue group of men professing to be Freemasons burned the printer’s shop and threatened Morgan. When the New York author was jailed for non-payment of debts, a benefactor bailed him out, but Morgan was kidnapped off of the streets as he left the jail and never seen again. Five men later confessed that they had taken him to the old Fort Niagara, but that he had escaped. As the arrests were made and the men brought to trial, anti Masonic sentiments were enraged when it was discovered that the local judge, sheriff, and some jurors belonged to the fraternity. Seeing a political opportunity to permanently damage Andrew Jackson, who was elected and had served as Grand Master of the Tennessee Masonic Lodge in 1822 and 23, President John Quincy Adams immediately began a campaign of written opinions denouncing the organization and calling on its members to leave the lodges, in spite of the fact that Adams’ former colleagues George Washington and other American colonial leaders were members. Adams was joined in his efforts by fundamentalist evangelists who tried to persuade the people that the Masonic fraternity was a diabolical organization. For two years, the sentiment was pushed across the country by Adams and eventually led to the formation of the Anti-Masonic Political Party.
In 1828, however, the party had no real power base to support a candidate, but kept its message alive fueled by Adams’ support. Senator Andrew Jackson’s reforms had taken effect and the Tennessean went on to become the Seventh President of the United States and the first elected by popular vote to the office.
The Tennessean was dealt a crushing blow after his victory. On December 22, 1828, his beloved Rachel passed way from what many believe to be a heart attack. The newly elected President mourned her loss and laid Rachel Jackson to rest on the grounds of their Hermitage Plantation. Following the funeral, Jackson turned his attention to matters of state and began assembling his team for the White House.
The inauguration party of President Jackson was one of the wildest D.C. had ever seen. In fact, so wild that nothing like it has ever been seen again. Cockfights, wild drunken parties and other like activities were carried on in the White House as he opened the door to the people who had elected him to office.
As President, Jackson immediately began making reforms in government that angered many. He ruled with an iron hand and, in military fashion, delegated power to a select group of men who served in the traditional secretary posts. Jackson treated them like clerks and developed a working relationship that evolved into what was nicknamed the "kitchen cabinet". Their unswerving loyalty allowed the President to introduce major reforms in government and accomplish many of his first term goals. His overriding policy and belief that the will of the American people should outweigh that of Congress and the Senate continuously posed problems among those who supported Jackson’s policies in the House.
In the 1832 Presidential election, Democrat and President Andrew Jackson, Whig candidate Henry Clay, and Anti-Masonic Party candidate William Wirt squared off in the campaign for President. The Anti-Masonic flames were fanned again at Jackson through the writings of Adams and Jackson’s record with the fraternity, but the Tennessean held onto his seat and won by a landslide. He had weathered losing his home state in the race because of his heavy-handed techniques, a full assault by his old foe Henry Clay, and the first third party movement in American history.
Jackson would go on as President to make enemies. He led the fight to kill the Second Bank of the United States, put down the nullification crisis in South Carolina, and regularly opposed internal improvements at national expense. By the time Jackson stepped down and handed over the reins to Martin Van Buren, he had accomplished what no other had before him.
The chief results of Jackson’s terms was an expansion of the powers of President, the introduction of the controversial "spoils system", the removal of the Cherokee from Southern Appalachia, and the destruction of the national banking system from a free market economy. When he departed for Nashville, many Americans had mixed feelings about his administrations. For many of the power elite of the time, he was seen as an idol of the masses that they regarded as an illiterate, backwoods, fool that should have never held the office.
When President Jackson was conferred a Doctorate of Laws by Harvard University, John Adams wrote:
"As myself an affectionate child of our Alma Mater, I would not be present to witness her disgrace in conferring her highest literary honors upon a barbarian who could not write a sentence of grammar and hardly could spell his own name."
Regardless of the political sentiments, Jackson was regarded as a national icon and was always treated with the utmost respect. In fact as the Cherokee made their way near the Hermitage, many of the old warriors, who had fought with him against the British and the Creeks, stopped by to visit with him and shake hands.
For eight years, Jackson remained at his beloved Hermitage. On June 8, 1845, the 78-year-old former President passed away signaling the end of an era. It is reported that at dusk a stained horse-drawn carriage galloped into the Hermitage and a tall commanding figure entered the home amid the confusion and approached the candle-lit couch where the deceased President lay. Few people recognized him as Sam Houston. He is said to have dropped to his knees and sobbed at seeing his friend and former commander dead. He stood next to his son, whom he had brought with him to meet the elder statesman who had never deserted him in his times of crisis.
"My son," Houston stated to the small boy, "try to remember that you have looked on the face of Andrew Jackson."
The Tennessean’s death was mourned throughout the nation. Headlines across America and Europe carried the news of his passing. Andrew Jackson was buried with the full ceremonies and honors due a President of the Untied States. He was laid to rest next to his wife Rachel on the grounds of the Hermitage.
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There is no shortage of books and material on Andrew Jackson and research on his life continues to this day. While it is often cited that he was born near Waxhaw, SC, researchers have recently come to believe that he was actually born on an immigrant ship from Ireland a few years earlier. While historians and leaders of the day often point to Jackson’s "roguish vices", one has to remember that Jackson could cultivate reliable intelligence under the most extreme conditions. Those vices were often doors into a world of information that Jackson understood and could work with confidence as both a prosecutor and military general.
There are many legends and myths about Jackson that were fitting to man who occupied such celebrity stature in the eyes of the common Americans. Though often ridiculed for having their support by government’s "upper class", he never felt that he deserted them. Being robbed of the Presidency in 1826, led him to tear down a growing parliamentary form of government that had arisen around the selection process of President of the United States and he ruled from the office in a dictatorial fashion. It wasn’t without cost and controversy and often endangered the checks and balances of representative government.
Andrew Jackson was also the last elected President that stood in violation of the 12th Amendment to the Constitution of not being native born. His successor, Martin Van Buren, was the first President of true American birth to take the office. I have withheld the controversy surrounding the Cherokee removal because of space limitations and the fact it deserves its own story.
It is a little known fact that Jackson adopted a Native American infant following the Battle of Horseshoe Bend and raised him like a son. Because of Sam Houston’s close affiliation with the President, he and the boy became close friends.
The disappearance of William Morgan was never solved, but his book was released under the title: "Freemasonry Exposed" and is still in publication today. The letters of John Adams condemning the organization were also published later in book form. The Morgan incident that led to the rise of the Anti-Masonic Party was the first third party movement in American history. While they failed and were gone from the national stage quickly, their method of nominating the President and Vice-President by convention was adopted by both the Democrats and the Republican Party and is still the method used today.
The Masonic Lodge in Tennessee has always had strong support. Among its members were men like John Sevier, James White, Sam Houston, David Crockett, and virtually every frontier leader from Tennessee. Numerous artifacts from Tennessee Freemasonry are on display in the Tennessee State Museum–including Jackson’s Masonic Apron. The Grand Lodge itself also houses numerous Masonic relics from the past. In addition, while Grand Master of Tennessee, Jackson signed the charters of Grainger County’s Rising Star Lodge in Rutledge and the Jackson Lodge in Jackson, Tenn.
Until 1945, Andrew Jackson was the only American President who had also served as Grand Master of a State Lodge. When President Harry Truman succeeded Franklin Roosevelt, he became the second–having served as Grand Master of the Missouri Lodge.
Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage Plantation in Nashville is one of Tennessee’s most popular tourist attractions.
Since formal archaeological excavations have begun on the Hermitage grounds, a new chapter on Jackson’s life has been opened and researchers are learning more about the daily life at the Hermitage as well as offering numerous opportunities for students.
The facility is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5p.m. Admission is $9.50 for adults with discounts for seniors and children under 12.