Andrew Jackson was an interesting character. He was born to Scots-Irish immigrants (most likely landing first in Philadelphia) somewhere between the border of North and South Carolina in 1767. He was an orphan without siblings by the age of 14. His eldest brother, Hugh, died during the Revolution and his other brother, Robert, died of smallpox after he and Andrew had been held captives of the British. You can imagine how losing your family at so young an age would begin to harden the man.
Jackson may not have come from wealth, but his years as a frontier lawyer down in Tennessee certainly changed that. He would go on to have a distinguished career as a lawyer, a judge, a politician and a land speculator. His purchase of the Hermitage, his plantation near Nashville, would make him an elite member of society and own about 300 slaves. He was not known for his kindness, though the textbooks tend to describe him as a “humane slave owner,” whatever that means. He took a great deal of land away from Indians during his land speculations and executed men for aiding native Indians in Florida while invading that Spanish territory. Of course, his acquisition of Florida was in keeping with the country’s Manifest Desitiny and all, so no problem there. He was known for his bare-knuckle brawling, love of cock-fighting and was not above a duel. He actually bit the ear off of one of his opponents in a brawl! He couldn’t spell very well, didn’t like the elites (though he was one) and certainly didn’t like anyone disagreeing with him. The people loved him!
“Old Hickory” he would come to be called after his “tough as old hickory” wood performance during the War of 1812. His connection to the “common man” was well established by the time he became the 7th President of the United States. He defeated John Quincy Adams, and his supporters formed the Democratic Party from ideals set up by the old Republican party. His opponents called Jackson a jackass, but he just went and used the insult as the symbol for his party. The people that loved him were called the “Hickoryites.” They stood on chairs in their muddy boots to see him inaugurated as president in 1828. Jackson invited his fans into the White House that day to share his acheivement with the people. The problem was, the people began breaking the china, destroying the furniture with those muddy boots and basically make a wreck of the place. And what do you think was used to encourage the Hickoryites out of the White House and onto the front lawn to end their mischief? WHISKEY! At a time when this country was beginning to show early signs of a temperance movement, the government was still using whiskey to tempt their constituency! Jackson was escorted out the side door to avoid his overzealous admirers, otherwise known as the “common man”, and spent his first night as president in a nearby hotel.
Just a side note, Jackson was the first president to have an assassination attempt against him while in office. On January 30, 1835, while attending a funeral in the Capital rotunda, an unemployed house painter, named Richard Lawrence, fired a pistol point blank at Jackson, but it misfired. Andrew Jackson, who was now 60 years old, lunged at his attacker and the man attempted to fire the pistol again which miraculously misfired a second time. Jackson began beating him with his cane until the fight was broken up and then went back to the funeral as if nothing had happened.
“I have never in my life seen a Kentuckian who didn’t have a gun, a pack of cards, and a jug of whiskey.”- Andrew Jackson