|March 15, 1767
Waxhaw area, Carolinas
|June 8, 1845
Jackson was born in a backwoods settlement to Scots-Irish immigrants in the Waxhaw area in the Carolinas. Both North Carolina and South Carolina have claimed him as a "native son." He himself always stated that he was born in South Carolina. He received a sporadic education. At age 13, he joined the Continental Army as a courier. He was captured and imprisoned by the British during the Revolutionary War. Jackson was the only U.S. President to have been a prisoner of war. The war took the lives of his entire immediate family.
During the Revolutionary War, after the surrender to the British at Charleston, Jackson was taken as a prisoner to Camden, and nearly starved. When he refused to clean the boots of a British officer, the officer slashed at Jackson, giving him scars on his left hand and head, as well as an intense hatred for the British. In addition, two of his brothers and his mother -- his entire remaining family -- died from war-time hardships that he also blamed upon the British. This anglophobia would help to inspire a distrust and dislike of Eastern "aristocrats", whom he felt were too inclined to favor and emulate their former colonial "masters".
Jackson came to Tennessee by 1787, having barely read law, but finding that enough to become a young lawyer on the frontier. Since he was not from a distinguished family, he had to make his career by his own merits; and soon he began to prosper in the rough-and-tumble world of frontier law. Most of the actions grew out of disputed land-claims, or from assaults and battery.
Jackson was elected as Tennessee's first Congressman, upon statehood in the late 1790's, and quickly became a U.S. Senator in 1797, but quit within a year. In 1798, he was appointed Judge on the Supreme Court of Tennessee.
Jackson became a colonel in the Tennessee militia, which was the beginning of his military career. In 1813, after a massacre of 400 men, women and children at Fort Mims by Northern Creek Band chieftain Peter McQueen, Jackson commanded in the campaign against the Northern Creek Indians of Alabama and Georgia, also known as the "Red Sticks".
In the Creek War, a theatre of the War of 1812, Jackson defeated the Red Stick Creeks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, aided by allies from the Southern Creek Indian Band, who had requested Jackson's aid in putting down what they considered to be the "rebellious" Red Sticks, and some Cherokee Indians, who also sided with the Americans. Although 800 Northern Creek Band "Red Sticks" Indians were killed in the battle, Jackson spared Weatherford's life from any acts of vengence. Following the victory, Jackson imposed the Treaty of Ft. Jackson upon both his Northern Creek enemy and Southern Creek allies, wresting 20 million acres from all Creeks, for white settlement.
Jackson's service in the War of 1812 was conspicuous for its bravery and success. He was a strict officer, but was popular with his troops, and was said to have been "tough as old hickory" wood on the battlefield, which gave him his nickname. The war, and particularly his command at the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815, made his national reputation; and he advanced in rank to Major General. In the battle, Jackson opposed 12,000 of the Duke of Wellington's finest troops, led by the Duke's brother-in-law Maj. Gen. Edward Pakenham; with only 6,000 of Jackson's own.
Jackson saw military service again in what would become known as the First Seminole War, when he was requested by President James Monroe in December 1817 to lead a campaign in Georgia against the Seminole and Creek Indians, and to prevent Spanish Florida from becoming a "refuge for runaway slaves". Monroe gave him orders that were purposely ambiguous, sufficient for international denials. Secretary of State John Q. Adams used Jackson's conquest, and Spain's own "weaknesses", to convince the Spanish (in the Adams-Onís Treaty) to cede Florida to the United States. Jackson was subsequently appointed territorial governor there.
During his first run for the Presidency in 1824, Jackson received a plurality of both the popular and electoral votes. Since no candidate received a majority, the election was thrown into the House of Representatives, which chose Adams instead. The election was considered dirty and, by many, "stolen." Jackson's defeat burnished his political credentials, however; since many voters believed the "man of the people" had been robbed by the "corrupt aristocrats of the East". He won a solid victory in his second presidential attempt in 1828, as the first nominee of the Democratic Party.
Jackson was the first U.S. president to come from outside the original Revolutionary War veteran circle. George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Madison had been notable figures in the War of Independence, and in the formation of the U.S. Constitution. Monroe had fought in the Revolutionary War. John Q. Adams was the son of John Adams. Jackson's election represented a significant break from that past.
He was also the first president from a state west of the Appalachian Mountains, and the first president to be elected from a state in which he was not born. This was the first election in which many states allowed people without land to vote, and they voted for Jackson.
Jackson is remembered for introducing the "spoils system", or "patronage", to American politics. Upon his election as President, a sizable number of people holding federal offices found that they had suddenly been replaced by supporters of Jackson, who had worked to ensure his election. He saw this system as "promoting the growth of democracy," because more people were involved in politics. Additionally, he pressured states to lower voting requirements to "further the expansion of democracy".
Jackson was a strong supporter of the policy of "Indian Removal", and he signed the Indian Removal Act into law in 1830. The Removal Act did not order the removal of any American Indians, but it authorized the President to negotiate treaties that would exchange tribal land in the east, for western lands that had been acquired in the Louisiana Purchase. According to biographer Robert V. Remini, Jackson favored re-locating Native American tribes outside existing states, primarily for "national security" reasons, since most American Indians had sided with the British in the Revolution and the War of 1812.
A faction of Cherokees led by Major Ridge negotiated the Treaty of New Echota with Jackson's administration, a document of dubious legality, that was rejected by most Cherokees. However, the terms of the treaty were strictly enforced by Jackson's successor, Martin van Buren, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of Cherokees along the "Trail of Tears".
Indian removal was used against the other 4 "civilized tribes" as well. The Creeks were relocated to Fort Gibson in the "Indian Territories" during this period, after Southern Creek Band Leader William McIntosh agreed to cede most of Georgia to the United States in the Treaty of Indian Springs, resulting in McIntosh's assassination by Red Stick leader Menawa. Despite the treaty's nullification one year later by Congress, it was enforced by Georgia Governor George Troup.
On January 30, 1835 an unsuccessful assassination attempt against Jackson occurred in the U.S. Capitol. This was the first assassination attempt against an American president. While Jackson was leaving a funeral, a mentally-ill unemployed house painter, Richard Lawrence, came up to him and fired a pistol at point-blank range. The pistol misfired, and before anyone could react, the assassin pulled another pistol which also misfired. Instead of running or taking cover, Jackson proceeded to physically confront Lawrence with his cane. Lawrence, who claimed Jackson had prevented him from taking his rightful claim to the British throne, was found "not guilty, by reason of insanity", and was committed to an asylum. Supporters of Jackson later accused the Whig Party of a conspiracy, but the accusation was never substantiated.
Jackson's wife, Rachel, died of a heart attack just 2 months prior to his taking office as President. She had supposedly divorced her first husband, Col. Lewis Robards; but there were "questions" about the legality of the divorce. Jackson deeply resented attacks on his wife's honor; he killed Charles Dickinson in a duel over a horse-racing debt and an insult to his wife on May 30, 1806. Jackson was also injured during the duel, and the bullet was so close to his heart that it could never be safely removed. It caused him considerable pain for the rest of his life. He blamed John Q. Adams for Rachel's death, because of the marital scandal being brought up in the election of 1828. He felt that this had hastened her death, and never forgave Adams.
Jackson had 2 adopted sons, Andrew Jackson Donelson and Lyncoya, a Creek Indian orphan adopted by Jackson after the Creek War. Lyncoya died in 1828 at age 16, probably from pneumonia or tuberculosis.
Jackson remained influential in both national and state politics after retiring in 1837. Though a slave-holder, Jackson was a firm advocate of the federal union of the states, and declined to give any support to talk of secession. At 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, he died of chronic tuberculosis, "dropsy" and heart failure. His last words were: "Oh, do not cry. Be good children, and we shall all meet in Heaven."
Jackson was one of our more sickly presidents, suffering from chronic headaches, abdominal pains, and a hacking cough that often brought up blood and sometimes even made his whole body shake. Also, he caught many colds and fevers that made his aches and pains and hacking cough even worse. He was also very nearsighted and wore glasses for most of his presidency.