“His wife died. They destroyed his wife and she died. He was a swashbuckler, but when his wife died you know he visited her grave everyday? I visited her grave actually because I was in Tennessee…And it was amazing. The people of Tennessee are amazing people. They love Andrew Jackson. They love Andrew Jackson in Tennessee…I mean had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said ‘There’s no reason for this.'”
Donald Trump really idolizes Andrew Jackson. His portrait hung in the Oval Office, and the former POTUS has verbal diarrhea, apparently, just at the mention of our seventh president. So maybe we should get to know him and understand what Donald Trump really sees in the “people’s president”.
Jackson grew up dirt-poor and poorly educated in the Carolinas, and was a tween during the American Revolution. At the tender of age of 13, his mother packed him off to the local militia in honor of his older brother’s grizzly war death, whereupon he was almost immediately captured and held as a prisoner of war. During his brief incarceration little Andrew contracted small pox and nearly succumbed to the illness. The same disease claimed the lives of his remaining brother and mother shortly thereafter, for which he always blamed the British. This Anglo grudge inspired a life of military service and seething vengeance.
Lawyer, Slave Owner, Cotton Mogul, and Stain on the Soul of Humanity
After the war, teenaged Jackson fled his hometown to study law informally in modern-day Tennessee. And it turns out Tennessee, as-was, had a boatload of hookers and gambling opportunities. So that was great for him.
Within a few years he passed the bar and had friends pull a few strings to get him a gig as a government prosecutor. At age 21 he bought his first slave, which was probably his way of feeling really awesome about himself. By age 39 he was even wealthy enough to buy his own cotton plantation, the Hermitage, with nine slaves working the fields. Of course, this number went up quite a bit under Jackson’s management. Eventually, hundreds of slaves would be incarcerated at the Hermitage. Some historians think he was a relatively “kind” slave owner because he “let” the slaves bear babies and only whipped them when they really deserved it. But hell naw, the man ran a cotton plantation his entire life.
Groom of Controversy!
At the age of 24, Jackson married an already-married woman named Rachel Robards. Now, in fairness to the couple, they thought that her divorce had gone through. It hadn’t. And maybe they didn’t care so much, because they had been shacking up and Rachel had been going by “Mrs. Jackson”, since before she even filed for divorce.
Okay, maybe that was particularly shady by nineteenth century standards, but let’s face it, Jackson had already done much worse in his young life (*cough*, slaves). The problem for him, though, was this remained an extremely touchy subject, and the impugning of his wife’s honor often made him violent and irrational.
Pissed-Off Dueler and Possible Scary-Ass Cyborg
Andrew Jackson was a dude who loved duels, the way that Donald Trump loves gold furnishings and eastern European women. The guy allegedly participated in over 100 duels in the course of his lifetime and murdered quite a few men in the course of seeking satisfaction. Here are a few of the most famous:
- ADVERSARY: John Sevier, Governor of Tennessee
OFFENSE GIVEN: They were bitter political rivals over the course of years and Jackson was impulsively violent toward him on many occasions. Not surprisingly, the topic of wife Rachel came up and Sevier called Jackson an adulterer.
RESULTS: The duel fell apart when the men encountered each other on the road beforehand and started slinging such insults that Jackson pulled his gun and chased Sevier who had to hide behind a tree until the “seconds” could get Jackson calmed down. They never did officially duel, however.
- ADVERSARY: Charles Dickinson
OFFENSE GIVEN: Jackson insulted Dickinson’s father-in-law over horse racing practices, so Dickinson took out a newspaper ad calling Jackson a coward. Oh, and he flung some insults about Jackson’s bigamy with Rachel. Oops.
RESULTS: Jackson was struck by a bullet in the chest, very near the heart. It broke two ribs and left a smoking hole in his body, but the man did not fall down. Instead, he took aim and shot Dickinson in the abdomen, from which the man eventually bled out and died.
- ADVERSARY: Thomas Benton
OFFENSE GIVEN: Benton had criticized Jackson’s role as a “second” in a previous separate duel, and to that end he wrote Jackson a very strongly worded letter. This caused Jackson to pronounce that if he ever saw Benton again, he would horsewhip him on sight.
RESULTS: The two had a run-in at a hotel that turned into a duel. Jackson pulled out his horsewhip to challenge Benton. Shortly thereafter Benton went to draw, but Jackson was a bit faster. Before either could fire though, Benton’s brother, Jesse, came up behind Jackson and fired two shots into his side. Severely wounded, Jackson still managed to fire off a shot at Thomas, burning the man’s sleeve. Jackson’s posse then stabbed Thomas Benton repeatedly, their efforts to shoot him having failed. Thomas Benton was barely injured, while Jackson was taken back to his hotel where his blood soaked two mattresses. Old Hickory survived, though he was clearly the loser.
- ADVERSARY: Charles Lucas
YEAR: between 1814-1817
OFFENSE GIVEN: They were rival attorneys, and there was a lot of bad blood between Lucas, Jackson, and Jackson’s good buddy, Thomas Benton (yes, within a few years of the above duel, Benton and Jackson were best buds!).
RESULTS: Apparently they both survived. Until Benton killed Lucas in a separate duel in 1817.
Jackson ran for President in 1824 and lost to John Quincy Adams. Four years later, in 1828, they had a brutal rematch that was as ugly as Trump’s tighty-whities. Jackson falsely accused Adams of using public funds for gambling, and selling off servant girls to international leaders. Adams skewered Jackson’s marriage to Rachel and criticized his opponent’s slave-trading practices–because, yeah, he was considered abhorrent for his practices, even in 1828. EVEN IN 1828.
Poor, stressed 61 year-old Rachel suffered from heart failure, which undoubtedly was exacerbated by the bad press, and this led to a fatal heart attack right after Jackson won the 1828 election. She never did get to live in the White House. President Jackson labeled Adams’s supporters as her murderers. Why HADN’T they invented heart replacement technology???
A President Who Enjoyed Spoils
So there he is, President! Finally! Job one? Spearheading the “spoils system” of appointing political allies, supporters, family, and friends to federal office. He argued this was noble, as rotating out office-holders would avoid entrenched corruption, but….it didn’t.
Native Slaughterer and Ethnic Cleanser
Okay, in his own time, dude was nicknamed “Indian Killer” and “Sharp Knife”. As President he spearheaded ethnic cleansing by creating the “Indian Removal Act”. He ordered the military to forcibly march natives far west of their homelands to segregate them from “civilized folk”. This is what we know as the “Trail of Tears”. Along the way, the natives were forbidden to use soap of any kind, and when the decision was temporarily reversed, Jackson, sitting in his plantation at Hermitage, flew into a rage and demanded the use of soap be restricted again. Soap was the least of the concerns, of course. During the Trail of Tears, 4,000 Cherokee died. 4,000. Let that sink in.
This is the horror that Jackson is most famously known for. But really, those 4,000 souls were in addition to thousands more who had died at Jackson’s command sine 1813, when he actively acted against Creek, Cherokee, Choctaw, and Seminole natives (as well as other tribes). Jackson himself ordered the slaughter of not only the warriors, but the women and children as well. He kidnapped an infant of the Creek tribe as a “pet” for one of his adopted children, Andrew Jr. That was his word. “Pet”. This was actually a kindness, as generally the orphans on the battlefield were plucked from their dead mothers’ breasts by Jackson himself and considered trophies. Swashbuckler, indeed.
Bank Hater and Economy Crasher
As President, Jackson had an intriguing economic notion: The (now-nonexistent) federal bank was too powerful in the realm of politics and denied capital to the working class of people. So he crushed it. Crushed it like the skull of a native infant. In doing so, he even was tagged with the one and only Congressional censure of a president in American history.
Yes, dissolving the bank and deregulating state banks seemed like a great equalizing measure that would take the handcuffs off of lenders who just want to help small businesses, right? Except that this caused the great Panic of 1837, which was followed by a deep recession during which unemployment was at 25% and there wasn’t enough currency to go around, so people and merchants had trouble keeping simple trades running.
To compensate for no coinage, these “Hard Times Tokens” (below) were privately minted to use in trade as money. That’s right. There’s Jackson on the coin “taking full responsibility”. I didn’t even have to play Photoshop with this one.
The People’s President
He was thought to be one of the masses because he was the first American President not born into wealth. Plus, the man was crass and angry, just like the American electorate.
While in office, he was known as “Andy” by the people and even once invited the public in to consume a giant wheel of cheese because it was more than any twenty humans could consume in a lifetime. Apparently when the Van Burens moved into the White House shortly thereafter, they had to work quickly to remove the putrid smell of the cheese that had embedded itself in the walls and fabric of the nibbling room.
When he died in 1848, (with two bullets in his chest and a musket ball in his lung), his pet parrot squawked obscenities during the funeral and had to be rushed out of the room.
So, there you have it. He was the “people’s president” because he was vulgar, angry, and thought of people beneath him as pets to throw cheese at and teach curse words. But seriously, he was an awful human being. Sometimes we forget that humble beginnings do not make us permanently virtuous or sustain our memories of hardship. He was a man who owned, punished, divided, imprisoned, slaughtered, mutilated, and hunted humans. So while we can laugh about the bullets he sustained and how he beat a would-be assassin with his own cain (not to mention the parrot and the cheese smell), never forget that he was one horrifying asshole who was, and is, a shameful pustule on the body of American history.