I was born for the storm and a calm does not suit me.Andrew Jackson
Comparing Donald Trump with Andrew Jackson is currently a popular pursuit. Is the incoming 45th President of the United States similar to the 7th President, will he govern in the same style? Is that possibility a good thing or a bad thing?
We will not attempt a detailed comparison here. Our readers have already heard many, many things about Donald Trump, some probably true, some probably untrue, but, in any case, enough for these purposes. We will simply itemize some well-established (but not well-known) facts about Jackson, and our readers can decide for themselves whether The Donald is a reincarnation of Old Hickory.
Jackson started life poor, but got a hefty boost from family
Andrew Jackson was born in British America, probably in what is now South Carolina, on March 15, 1767. He was born poor, orphaned young, but came into a considerable inheritance at an early age. His father died three weeks before he was born, and his mother died when he was 14. He inherited a 200-acre farm, believed to have been debt free, when his mother died, although its value in current dollars cannot be estimated. About a year after his mother died, Hugh Jackson, Andrew’s paternal grandfather, died in Ireland, leaving him, by Jackson’s own written account, “three or four hundred pounds sterling.” That would be the equivalent of $400,000 or $530,000 in 2017 U.S. dollars. Some sources calculate it at as more than that, some at less, but, in any case, a substantial piece of money.
Jackson was a superb leader, a soldier and military commander
He fought in the American Revolution when he was 13 years of age, fired a few shots at British soldiers, and was captured in battle. While a prisoner of war, young Jackson was ordered to clean the boots of a British officer. Jackson refused in a manner the officer found insolent, and was slashed with deep cuts on his head and left arm by that British officer’s sword. He lived to fight another day, many other days.
Jackson became major-general of the Tennessee militia in 1802, at age 35. He commanded troops in the Creek war in 1812, killing about 300 Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. It was during the Creek War that Andrew Jackson probably received his famous nickname when a soldier said of him, “That old man is as tough as an old hickory.” He commanded American troops and whipped the British in the Battle of New Orleans in 1814. He commanded troops in the Seminole War of 1817 and captured much of what is now the state of Florida. He was a fierce and ruthless commander, not overly inclined to take prisoners, and did not hesitate to execute some of those taken prisoner.
Jackson was a gambler, often bankrupt
After inheriting a cash fortune from his grandfather, Jackson moved to sophisticated Charleston. He spent freely on a fine wardrobe and was known as quite a sport about town. In card games and crap games, in gambling on cock fights and horse races, he managed to lose all the money, and was broke a year later. He then won $200 dollars in a dice game called “rattle and snap” and left Charleston. His skills as a gambler improved considerably as he came into adulthood. He was ever ready to make a wager on the turn of a card, a roll of the dice or a cock-fight. It could be argued that gambling became Jackson’s most regular source of income. Bets on horse races were far and away his favorite.
Jackson was an authority on horses, trained many winners, often “bet the farm”
From the time he was 12 or 13 years old Andrew Jackson was an acknowledged authority on horses, and was often called upon to appraise the value of horses that were to be sold or traded. He was an exceptional rider, durable, graceful and adroit. He was a very active breeder and trainer of race horses.
Marquis James, whose 1938 Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Jackson is generally acknowledged as the best, said, “Jackson’s training methods were severe. He worked a horse to the limit of endurance, but somehow implanted in him a will to win, a circumstance which, as much as anything, epitomizes the character and elucidates the singular attainments of Andrew Jackson.”
During his lifetime Jackson made a great many five-figure bets on a single horse race. He was widely considered the premier turfman of his day: breeder, owner, trainer, promoter and gambler. There was no limit to his appetite for horses and horse racing. At one time Jackson’s stable had 16 horses in training at the same time. Thruxton, Sam Patch, Pacolet, Decatur were just a few of the great race horses owned and trained by Jackson. Maria, a mare owned by a Sumner County man named Jesse Haynie, was the only Thoroughbred Jackson’s horses were never able to out run.
Jackson was a gunfighter and duelist, thin-skinned and quick of temper
The number of “Affairs of Honor” in which Andrew Jackson participated is probably not as many as 50, as some have alleged, but there were more than a few. Duels were illegal, thus often performed secretly, and there is no way of knowing the number Jackson fought. How many men he may have killed or wounded is unknowable.
Jackson was thin-skinned, not known for his sense of humor, quick to take offense and grow violently angry. He himself was shot and very seriously wounded at least twice.
The one well documented instance in which Jackson killed a man in a duel occurred on May 30, 1806. A lawyer named Charles Dickinson got into a hot disagreement over a wager in a horse race. Dickinson escalated the conflict by accusing Jackson’s wife Rachel of adultery, and Jackson challenged him. The illegal contest was held near the Tennessee-Kentucky border. Dickinson fired first, striking Jackson in the chest. Jackson staggered, but did not fall. Under the rules of dueling, Dickinson was required to stand still and allow Jackson to shoot at him. Jackson supposedly held one hand over his bleeding wound, took careful, deliberate aim and shot Dickinson with the other. Dickinson died within a few hours. The bullet in Jackson’s chest is said to have missed his heart by only inches. He was expected to die, but lived another 39 years, Dickinson’s bullet still buried in his chest.
Jackson was also shot, one shoulder shattered, in a gunfight with Thomas Hart Benton and his brother Jesse in 1813. The doctor wanted to amputate, but Jackson said, “I’ll keep my arm.” Since it was actually a brawl in a Nashville tavern, the incident cannot properly be called a duel, but the dispute had to do with another duel involving Jackson and the Benton brothers at an earlier time. A Navy surgeon dug the slug from Jackson’s shoulder, without anesthetic, in January of 1832, during his first term as president.
Jackson was involved in many business enterprises, but did not enjoy long-term success.
Jackson was a lawyer and a land speculator (a form of gambling, of course) and owned title to tens of thousands of acres of land that was appropriated from various Indian tribes. He was in the mercantile business at least twice. He owned slaves, and raised cotton and livestock on his estate northeast of Nashville, called The Hermitage. However, he was not notably successful at any of these legitimate businesses. He was consumed by crop failures, bad business practices, and “hard times.” He lost the land to pay his debts and never accumulated or retained much wealth. The generosity of his friends kept him out of debtors’ prison late in life, after he had served two terms as president. Perhaps he should have concentrated more on gambling.
Jackson loved beautiful women, one in particular
Jackson loved women and they loved him. He was 6’1″, trim, athletic, courtly, had strong features, and beautiful hair. (Just look at that great hair on the $20 bill. Be quick. Sadly, his face will soon disappear from the currency.) Originally redheaded, Jackson’s hair was long, thick and luxuriant, and beautifully gray when he died at age 78.
Although he admired many women and had several relationships about which no details are known, he had one major love in his love. Judging from many paintings done from life, she was a gorgeous thing.
Her name was Rachel Donelson Robards. She was married, but separated from her husband, when they met. She returned briefly to her husband in Kentucky, but came back to Nashville, probably escorted by Andrew Jackson. Rachel’s first husband, Captain Lewis Robards, initiated divorce proceedings in Kentucky. Jackson and Rachel married in Natchez, Mississippi, in August 1891.
After a couple of years of wedded bliss, it was discovered that Captain Robards had failed to carry through the divorce action in Kentucky. It was a scandal that plagued Andrew and Rachel Jackson for the rest of their lives. The divorce was finalized, and Andrew and Rachel Jackson married again in 1894. The subsequent accusation that they had “lived in adultery” was the proximate cause of several heated disputes, one of which cost Charles Dickinson his life. They remained devoted to one another until her death on December 22, 1828, a few weeks after Jackson was elected to his first term as president. Her death undid the tough Old Hickory, and for a time it appeared he would not show up to be inaugurated in March 1929. He did take the oath, but never remarried.
Jackson held many public offices.
He was an elected major-general. He served a term in the U.S. Congress and one term in the Senate. He served as an attorney general and as judge for several years.
Jackson’s personal characteristics
He was radically honest and extraordinarily intelligent. He was our most politically incorrect president to date. He was blunt of speech and was considered crude and rude, especially by those who disagreed with him. He was not a man to be trifled with. He was a fierce opponent of the then financial and political Establishment. He never hesitated to defy the authority of courts including the U.S. Supreme Court. He NEVER backed down from a fight. He said of himself, “I was born for the storm and a calm does not suit me.”
We will conclude this brief account of some facts about Old Hickory without discussing his eight years as President of the United States. Cited here are some of the things known about Jackson’s life before becoming President, which is also what we know about Donald Trump.
When he was an old man in retirement at The Hermitage, a neighbor asked the former president and general if there was anything he had ever undertaken that he had failed to accomplish. “Nothing that I can remember,” said Old Hickory, “except Haynie’s mare, Maria. I could not beat her.”