American Monster: Get to Know Andrew Jackson
“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 hangs in the Oval Office, and the 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. Inspired by his older brother’s grizzly death, his mother made him join the local militia at the age of 13. He was almost immediately captured, and was held as a prisoner of war. Though his military incarceration was quite brief, he nearly died of small pox. Shortly afterward, he lost his remaining brother and mother to disease, for which he always blamed the British. This Anglo grudge led him to a life of military service and a deep, festering sense of vengeance.
Donald Trump Comparison!:
A young, wealthy, athletic Trump graduated college and avoided compulsory military service in the Vietnam War because of a dubious diagnosis of having “bone spurs”. Consequently, he has never served in the military. And he once had this to say: “I like people who weren’t captured.”
Lawyer, Slave Owner, Cotton Mogul, and Stain on the Soul of Humanity
As an orphan, Jackson was still really poorly educated until he 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.
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.
Donald Trump Comparison!:
Yeah, he’s had five children by three women and two divorces. One of his marriages ended after a very public affair with an actress, and there’s the whole Access Hollywood tape. Gah. He’s just way beyond bigamy concerns. And the female honor thing isn’t big on his priority list. Ah, but he does have a bad temper! So there’s that.
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 participated in, allegedly, 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 had a posse with him though, and the men proceeded to stab 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.
After a lengthy military career, Jackson decided to run for President in 1824…and lost. To John Quincy Adams. Four years later, in 1828 they had a brutal rematch, which was as ugly as Donald Trump’s tighty-whities. Adams was falsely accused of using public funds for gambling, and selling off servant girls to international leaders.
And Jackson? Yeah, Rachel may have come up. Well, that and the fact that he was considered an abhorrent slave trader, 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 election. She never did get to live in the White House. He considered Adams’s supporters 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….his supporters became the new appointees. Whoops.
Donald Trump Comparison!:
Ivanka. Jared. Yeah. The spoils system has been taken to an all new extreme. Makes you wonder what Jackson would have thought? “Bitch, let’s duel!” Yeah, that’s probably it.
Native Slaughterer and Ethnic Cleanser
Okay, dude was nicknamed, in his own time, “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. Imagine a terrorist attack that claimed so many lives.
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, 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
His theory was plausible and even likable: 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. (You go, girl!) 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.
Donald Trump Comparison!:
Not so much “of the people”. He was born into enormous wealth, and every gilded stick he owns is based on family fortunes earned by another.
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 in to the White House, 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.