National Geographic : 1965 Jan
SEVENTH PRESIDENT 1829-1837 A N1)REW JACKSON's Inauguration in March, 1829, celebrated the coming into political power of a new America. Farms and plantations were spreading rapid ly westward beyond the Mississippi River; newborn cities were revolutionizingcommerce and manufacturing. Countryside and cities alike stirred with ambitious men striving to improve their lot, impatient to overthrow older, more aristo cratic political and economic institutions. In President Jackson they found their hero and their spokesman. Jackson, in his rise from a Carolina log cabin to The Hermitage, a gra cious plantation home in Tennessee (page 89), typified their aspirations; in his insistence that Americans should enjoy equality of opportu nity, he voiced their credo. More nearly than any of his predecessors, Jackson was elected by popular vote, and as President he acted as the direct representative of the common man. Nine-year-old Shows Off His Learning Jackson was born in the Waxhaws, a back woods settlement on the border between North and South Carolina, in 1767, two years after his Scotch-Irish parents had migrated from northern Ireland. His father died shortly before he was born. Jackson received scant education, but liked to recall with pride that as a 9-year-old he had read a newly arrived copy of the Declaration of Independence to a group of illiterate frontiersmen. At 13 he served as a messenger with Ameri can troops, surviving several skirmishes; cap tured, he refused to polish a British officer's boots and received a saber blow on his head that scarred him for life. His mother died when he was 14. In his late teens, he read law for about two years, but was more interested( in cockfighting, horse racing, and wrestling. Jackson and a friend joined the first party to traverse a new wagon road to the settle ment of Nashville in the fall of 1788. Remark- able for his physical courage and audlacity rather than for his legal knowledge, Jackson commanded respect on the frontier. He rapid ly established himself as one of Tennessee's outstanding young lawyers. In many respects Jackson epitomized the frontier ideal-fiercely jealous of his honor, he engaged in brawls, and, in one duel, killed a man who cast an unjustified slur on his wife Rachel (page 8S). He speculated in land and assorted busi ness ventures, losing money to banks and eastern financial interests in time of panic, but prospering sufficiently to buy slaves, plant cotton, and build a splendid mansion. He was the first man elected from his state to the House of Representatives, served briefly in the Senate, and became a judge notable for his practical approach to the law. In 1801, he was elected to be major general in the Ten nessee Militia by the field officers. Taking to the field despite a wounded arm, he punished the Creek Indians for their mas sacre of frontiersmen and in 1814 gained a commission as major general in the United States Army. Imposing an iron discipline on mutinous regiments from the southwestern frontier, he beat back seasoned British troops that had earlier won victories under Welling ton in Europe. Jackson's final triumph in the Battle of New Orleans, January ., 1815, es tablished him as the hero of a generation of Americans (pages 84-5). Inauguration Nearly Wrecks White llouse In the chaotic politics of the 1820's, as na tional party lines and issues were obliterated by sectional tensions, the increasing number of voters led to the building of new-style parties and factions in state after state. Al ready in 1824 some of these rallied around Jackson; by 1828 still more raised his standard. By proclaiming their allegiance to "Old Hickory," who had committed himself on scarcely any of the troublesome issues of Tempestuous Andrew Jackson, whose frontier reputation horrified the genteel, won the hearts of the people. John Quincy Adams remonstrated when Harvard conferred a doctorate of laws on a "barbarian who could ... hardly spell his own name." Jackson killed one man in a duel and was shot while threatening to horsewhip another. He often clashed with Congress, fought anything smacking of special privilege, an( by the force of his personality strengthened the office of the Presidency.