15 March 2017 marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of one of the most significant citizens of America – Andrew Jackson, soldier, statesman and the seventh President of the United States. He strode across the American stage at a particularly tempestuous period in US history and played key roles in several national watershed events.
Born in a remote part of Carolina, he was largely self-educated, and became a well-known lawyer in Tennessee. He prospered and was able to buy a mansion, complete with slaves, near Nashville.
His military career was given a huge boost when, as a Major General in the War of 1812, his forces defeated the British at the Battle of New Orleans. This also greatly assisted in raising his public stature and he became increasingly involved in politics. Along with several of his key supporters he founded what later became the Democratic Party.
He was elected President in a landslide in 1829, becoming a bitter political enemy of Henry Clay and John Calhoun, both opponents of Jackson’s general philosophy on Congress and finance. This specifically concerned the Second Bank of the United States that Jackson ultimately dismantled. He also threatened military action against the State of South Carolina because of obstructionism over issues surrounding tariff legislation.
Jackson was a tall and lean man having a shock of red hair when young and was noted for possessing the “redheads volcanic temper”. Quick to take offence he once killed another man in a duel over a perceived insult to his wife. On the last day of his presidency, in 1837, Jackson remarked that he had two regrets – “that he had been unable to shoot Henry Clay or hang John Calhoun”.
He died in 1845 at his Tennessee plantation and, as with nearly all men who held powerful opinions, “he had many friends and many enemies”.
“Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives stop thinking and go in”- Andrew Jackson
Image: Former US President, Andrew Jackson, in April 1845, months before his death. (age 78), courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.