The New International Encyclopædia/Jackson, Andrew
JACKSON, Andrew (1767-1845). An American general and seventh President of the United States. He was born at the Waxhaw Settlement, Union County, N. C., March 15, 1767. His father, Andrew Jackson, a poor farm laborer of Scotch-Irish stock, emigrated from Carrickfergus, Ireland, with his wife in 1765, and settled on Twelve-Mile Creek, a branch of the Catawba River, S. C. In 1767, before his son's birth, the elder Jackson died, and his widow removed to Waxhaw Settlement, then supposed to be in South Carolina. In his boyhood Andrew was generous and resolute, and was far more fond of sports than of books, but these sports were soon exchanged for serious work. Though but eight years old when the battle of Lexington occurred, before the war was over he had taken some part, being once captured by the British. The death of his mother from a fever, caught while nursing Americans held in prison at Charleston, left him alone in the world. It is not certain what means of support he had, but after working a while at the saddler's trade, in 1784 he began to study law at Salisbury, N. C. He was a rollicking fellow, fond of horse-racing and cock-fighting, and no student, having taken up law, about which he never learned much, because it was the accepted thing for a young man to do who had some ambition. While yet under twenty he was admitted to the bar as attorney and counselor, and in 1788 was appointed public prosecutor in the region now forming the State of Tennessee. It was a new and wild country, and in the prosecution of his duties Jackson needed chiefly force and persistence, qualities which gained him strong enemies, but equally strong friends. In 1791 he married Mrs. Rachel Robards, a daughter of John Donelson, one of the pioneer settlers of Tennessee. The marriage was the cause of considerable severe comment, from the fact that the bride had been divorced under peculiar circumstances. They took what was only a legislative warrant for a trial to be an actual divorce, and were married two years before the actual divorce was granted. They were married a second time, but the unfortunate matter was a sensitive point to Jackson all his life.
In 1796 he was a member of the Convention to frame a Constitution for Tennessee. In the same year he was chosen to Congress. His political sympathies were with Jefferson, and he went so far as to incur the condemnation of being one of the twelve who opposed the address to Washington at the close of his administration. While in the House, he secured the payment of a claim which Tennessee had for expenses in an Indian war, adding thereby greatly to his popularity. In 1797 he was appointed to fill a vacancy in the Senate, but he resigned the next year, having little pleasure in political life. From 1798 to 1804 he was a ‘Judge of the Supreme Courts’ of Tennessee. In 1802 Jackson was elected major-general of the militia over ex-Governor Sevier. On the purchase of Louisiana (1803) Jackson was an unsuccessful applicant for the appointment of Governor. From 1804 to 1811 he was engaged in business, storekeeping and planting. The abuses of credit in the border State, where there was little money and much land speculation, got him into embarrassments, and his own self-centred personality caused him many quarrels. Besides a quarrel with Sevier he had two duels, in one of which he killed Charles Dickinson, who had spoken disparagingly of Mrs. Jackson, and received himself a wound which maimed him for life.
When Burr appeared in the Southwest in 1805 he received cordial support from Jackson until the latter suspected that some disloyalty to the United States was involved. Jackson gave no further help to the enterprise, though he was later convinced of the innocence of Burr's motives, for he appeared as a witness for him at his trial, and made a public speech against Jefferson relative to the matter.
The declaration of war against Great Britain in 1812 brought Jackson his opportunity. As soon as he heard the news, he offered his own services and the coöperation of 2500 militia under his control. In January, 1813, he set out under orders for New Orleans, which was regarded as a probable point of attack. In March he was at Natchez, organizing his force with great energy and skill, when suddenly he received orders to disband his forces, neither pay nor rations being furnished for these men, 500 miles from home, Jackson hired transportation on his own responsibility, and led his men home in a body. His friend Thomas H. Benton, afterwards the Missouri Senator, secured the repayment of this expense, but a slight discord which this good turn might have eased was aggravated by Jackson's standing second for another man in a duel with Jesse Benton, brother of Thomas H. After a fiery quarrel Jackson threatened to horsewhip Thomas H. Benton, and when he met the two brothers in a tavern in Nashville a bloody fracas took place, Jackson was shot twice, and Jesse Benton was badly stabbed.
Ever since the earliest attempts to remove the Georgia Indians from their territory, there had been intermittent wars. Emboldened by the war between the United States and England, the Creeks in 1813 made further trouble and committed many outrages, the chief of which was the massacre at Fort Mims (q.v.) on August 30th. Intense excitement followed, and the whole Southwest was aroused. The Tennessee Legislature called for volunteers, and resolved to exterminate the troublesome tribe. In spite of the wound which Jesse Benton had given him, Jackson was soon in the field, and with Colonel Coffee, his former partner, defeated the Indians severely at Talladega and at Tohopeka or Horseshoe Bend on the Tallapoosa River. Jackson distinguished himself in these military operations by his boundless energy. Besides the foe, Jackson had to contend with discord among the officers, insubordination among his men, and scarcity of food, and he manifested not only a sympathetic understanding of the situation, but a great decision of action. This campaign began Jackson's national career; in August, 1814, he was in command at Mobile, a major-general in the Regular Army.
The British attacked Fort Bowyer on Mobile Point, September 14th, and were repulsed. They then, entering Spanish territory, retired to Pensacola, which Jackson had already asked orders to attack; acting now on his own responsibility in default of an answer from Washington, Jackson stormed the town with 3000 men. His success was very important, for it now rendered possible the defense of New Orleans, where Jackson arrived December 2, 1814. The place was without defenses, and but for their own slowness and Jackson's almost frenzied energy, the British might easily have taken the town. Jackson proclaimed martial law, made the utmost of his means, and inspired his men with his own enthusiasm. The army was a motley one, being composed of regulars, militia from the neighboring States, a few pirates, and a battalion of negroes. On January 8, 1815, the British made their grand assault on Jackson's works, and were repulsed with great slaughter—the Americans having not only the better leadership, but remarkably good fortune due to various accidents. The British withdrew with the loss of their commander, Sir Edward Pakenham, and more than 2000 men. The American loss was only 8 killed and 13 wounded. The treaty of peace had been signed at Ghent, December 24, 1814, two weeks before the battle. This victory was the greatest American success on land during the War of 1812, and the position it gave Jackson was preëminent. Besides this personal popularity among the frontier people, whom he so thoroughly understood, he had now a national reputation. A mutiny in September, 1814, arising from a misunderstanding as to enlistment, resulted finally in the execution of six men in February, 1815. This unprecedented sternness seems to have been justified, but when an attempt was later made to manufacture out of it political capital, Jackson, contrary to his usual method of action, disavowed responsibility. For the arrest of a Judge Hall during the prevalence of martial law Jackson was fined $1000 for contempt, but thirty years later this was refunded by Congress.
In April, 1815, Jackson was appointed commander-in-chief of the Southern Division, and Congress voted thanks for his services. His next active work was in the war against the Seminoles in Florida, in the course of which occurred another of his acts which created no little excitement. He arrested and put to death, on the charge of inciting the Indians, two British subjects, an English adventurer, Ambrister, who was not proved guilty, and a Scotch trader, Arbuthnot, who seems to have been innocent. At the same time Jackson hanged two Indian chiefs, and then seized Pensacola (1818) in spite of the remonstrance of the Spaniards. These proceedings created intense excitement in England; but after much angry correspondence there was a peaceable settlement. In Congress Jackson's conduct was very generally condemned, but all attempts to pass a vote of censure failed. On the cession of Florida to the United States he was appointed Governor (1821), and during his brief term of office had some serious difficulties in consequence of the arrest of a judge for issuing a writ of habeas corpus. Efforts in Congress to pass censure for this act were not successful. In 1822 the mission to Mexico was offered to him, but he refused to accept it.
The Seminole War closed Jackson's military career, and with no inclination of his own he was again taken into political life. In 1823 the Legislature of Tennessee elected him to the United States Senate, and at the same time nominated him for President. At the election the next year there were four candidates who received electoral votes as follows: John Quincy Adams, 84; William H. Crawford, 41; Henry Clay, 37; and Jackson, 99. No one having a majority, the House of Representatives elected Adams, and Jackson retired to private life. But four years afterwards he was supported by all the opponents of the Administration, and elected by an immense majority—the vote being Jackson, 178; Adams, 83. Calhoun was reëlected Vice-President. The contest was one of the most personal and bitter in American political history, because Jackson, taking as a personal matter the party slander which accused Adams of buying Clay's support in the preceding election by the promise of the portfolio of State, threw his whole force into the struggle. Jackson was reëlected in 1832, his principal opponent being Henry Clay. In his second term Van Buren was Vice-President.
Jackson's eight years' administration of the Government meant the rise of the people to power. Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and even J. Q. Adams had also been affiliated with the Democratic-Republican Party, but they had been trained statesmen, who administered the Government in the interests of all classes. Now a man sprung from the people, relying upon them and thoroughly representing them, held the reins of power. He happened to he more or less of an autocrat, but it was inevitable that his successors would become more and more servants of the people or of the politicians who controlled the people. A new regime purely democratic had begun, and it was the people of the Union as a whole, not of the States as units, that had risen to power.
The chief feature of the new régime is to be found in the general sweeping of Government employees out of office on account of their political affiliations. Up to this time there had been few removals on such grounds, but Jackson acted upon the doctrine, enunciated by Marcy in 1831, that “to the victors belong the spoils of the vanquished.” (See Civil-Service Reform.) The leading facts of Jackson's two administrations were the scandal concerning Mrs. Eaton (see Eaton, Margaret), whereby the Cabinet was broken up; the veto of the United States Bank charter; the removal of the deposits of public money from that bank; and particularly the prompt and complete crushing of the nullification movement in South Carolina in 1832. This movement was started in opposition to a high tariff, and Jackson himself was opposed to such a tariff; but he gave South Carolinians to know that while the laws remained unrepealed they should be enforced at any hazard. Before any serious conflict had occurred the matter was settled, chiefly through the influence of Henry Clay. During his second term Jackson was engaged in the ‘bank war.’ He ordered the Secretary of the Treasury to stop making deposits of public money in the United States Bank and its branches. The Cabinet was not favorable to such a policy, and Jackson put William J. Duane at the head of the Treasury; but as he declined to do the required services, he was displaced, and Roger B. Taney was appointed. Taney obeyed Jackson's order, and, in retaliation, the Senate refused to confirm his nomination as Secretary, and he was subsequently made Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Feeling ran so high in this bank war that the Senate passed a resolution of censure on the President, a proceeding unheard of till then. In 1837 this resolution was by vote expunged from the record. The ‘bank war’ closed in 1836-37; the old bank was not rechartered; and after some time the independent treasury or ‘sub-treasury’ system was invented to take its place as a depository for public money. During Jackson's terms the national debt was entirely paid off; the Indians were removed from Georgia, and nearly all of them from Florida; and two States, Arkansas and Michigan, were admitted to the Union. The chief disturbing element was the question of slavery, and the great financial panic of 1837 was just beginning when he left the chair. His personal ascendency allowed him without opposition to name his successor, Martin Van Buren, who had skillfully won his friendship. On quitting office he published a farewell address. and retired to the Hermitage, as his home near Nashville was called, where he passed the remainder of his life, always, however, taking a deep interest in public affairs. He died June 8, 1845.
Jackson seems to have been very amiable when things were going his way, but when opposition arose his violence of temper and action was ungovernable. He was essentially a man of action and not a thinker, although in his often-assailed bank policy he seems to have been nearer right in some respects than his critics. He was, take him all in all, one of the most commanding personalities in our history; but it seems clear that many of his decisions were determined by the way of manipulation by friends—known as the ‘Kitchen Cabinet’—who shrewdly used his force and popularity. For his biography, consult: Eaton (Philadelphia, 1824); Cobbett (New York, 1834); Kendall (New York, 1844); Parton (3 vols., New York, 1860); and Sumner, in the “American Statesmen Series,” new ed. (New York, 1900); also Benton, Thirty Years' View (New York, 1854); and Peck, Jacksonian Epoch (New York, 1899).