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Andrew Jackson's 250th Birthday

On March 15, 1767 (250 years ago today) Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States, was born somewhere in the Waxhaws border region between The Carolinas. The exact location is not universally agreed upon and both Carolinas claim him as their own native son. His parents emigrated to America in 1765. They probably landed in Philadelphia and traveled down through the Appalachian Mountains to the Scots-Irish community in the Waxhaws region, straddling the border between North and South Carolina. They brought two of Andrew's older siblings with them from Ireland, Hugh (born 1763) and Robert (born 1764). In 1824, Andrew Jackson wrote a letter saying that he was born at an uncle's plantation in Lancaster County, South Carolina, but he may have claimed to be a South Carolinian because the state was considering nullification of the Tariff of 1824, which Jackson opposed. In the mid-1850s, second-hand evidence indicated that he may have been born at a different uncle's home in North Carolina. Jackson's father died in an accident in February 1767, at the age of 29, three weeks before Andrew was born. His exact birth site is unclear because he was born about the time his mother was making a difficult trip home from burying Jackson's father. The area was so remote that the border between North and South Carolina had not been officially surveyed.



During the American Revolutionary War, 13 year old Andrew Jackson joined a local militia as a courier. His eldest brother Hugh died from heat exhaustion during the Battle of Stono Ferry, on June 20, 1779. Jackson and his brother Robert were captured by the British and held as prisoners, and they nearly starved to death in captivity. When Jackson refused to clean the boots of a British officer, the officer slashed at the youth with a sword, leaving Jackson with scars on his left hand and head. While imprisoned, the brothers contracted smallpox. Robert Jackson died on April 27, 1781, a few days after their mother Elizabeth secured the brothers' release. After being assured Andrew would recover, Elizabeth Jackson volunteered to nurse prisoners of war on board two ships in Charleston harbor, where there had been an outbreak of cholera. She died from the disease in November 1781, leaving Andrew Jackson an orphan at age 14. Following the deaths of his brothers and mother during the war, Jackson blamed the British for their deaths.

In 1781, Jackson worked for a time in a saddle-maker's shop. Later, he taught school and studied law in Salisbury, North Carolina. In 1787, he was admitted to the bar, and moved to Jonesborough, in what was then the Western District of North Carolina. This area later became part of the state of Tennessee. Based in frontier Tennessee, Jackson was a politician and in 1801 he became commander of the Tennessee state militia. Rising to the rank of General, he defeated the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814. (The 200th anniversary of that battle happens later this month, when I'll journal about it as part of our Presidents at war series). He also defeated the British at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.

A polarizing figure, he lost the presidential election of 1824, even though he finished first in the popular vote and electoral college. But since he failed to secure a majority of the electoral votes, the election was decided by the House of Representatives, who chose John Quincy Adams. Angered but undaunted, Jackson won the next two presidential elections in 1828 and 1832. As president he dismantled the Second Bank of the United States and initiated forced relocation and resettlement of Native American tribes from the Southeast to west of the Mississippi River with the Indian Removal Act of 1830. The 1830–1850 period later became known as the era of Jacksonian democracy.

Jackson was nicknamed Old Hickory because of his toughness and aggressive personality. He fought in duels, some fatal to his opponents. (He carried the remnants of bullets that he was on the receiving end of for the remainder of his life.) He became a wealthy slaveholder. He was a very vocal opponent of what he considered to be a closed, undemocratic aristocracy, and he expanded the spoils system during his presidency to strengthen his political base.

Jackson supported a small and limited federal government. He strengthened the power of the presidency. He believed that the President was a spokesman for the entire population. He was supportive of states' rights, but during the Nullification Crisis, he declared that states do not have the right to nullify federal laws. Strongly against the Second Bank of the United States, he vetoed the renewal of its charter and ensured its collapse. Many denounced his aggressive enforcement of the Indian Removal Act, which resulted in the forced relocation of thousands of Native Americans to Indian Territory in modern day Oklahoma. Historians acknowledge his protection of popular democracy and individual liberty for American citizens, but criticize his support for slavery and his role in Indian removal.

brady-jackson

On January 30, 1835, Jackson survived what is believed to be the first attempt to kill a sitting President of the United States, which occurred just outside the United States Capitol. When Jackson was leaving through the East Portico after the funeral of South Carolina Representative Warren R. Davis, Richard Lawrence, an unemployed house-painter from England, aimed a pistol at Jackson, which misfired. Lawrence pulled out a second pistol, which also misfired. Historians believe the humid weather caused the double misfiring. Lawrence was restrained, and according to lore, Jackson attacked Lawrence with his cane.

Jackson enjoyed eight years of retirement until his death at The Hermitage on June 8, 1845, at the age of 78, of chronic tuberculosis, dropsy, and heart failure.

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