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Biography of Andrew Jackson in 1829
Edited by Robert Henderson

 

The following biography was originally published in 1829 in the United Service Journal, a British military periodical, and illustrates how Great Britain was re-introduced to Andrew Jackson when Jackson was elected President of the United States.   The correspondent attempts to tell the other side of Jackson, beyond the General that defeated the British Army at New Orleans.

This personage occupies at this moment, or will in a very few day occupy, the highest political station in the New World. The chief magistrate of ten millions of people, so intimately connected with English men by blood, by language, and above all, by similarity of manners and institutions, is of necessity an object of interest, without even taking into account the effect that may result from his temper and character on the happiness and prosperity, not only of America, but of all her allies, and all her rivals. Gen. Jackson alias, moreover, been known to us for good and for evil during the last seventeen years, long before he had any pretension to, or any chance of attaining the presidency over his countrymen. His personal history, however, is a matter which few have attended to, and which few know. We think, therefore, we shall do a service to our readers in laying before them a few of the more prominent facts regarding it. We have derived them chiefly from a little work published a week or two ago at Paris, of which we believe our own is the only copy that has reached London. The writer is D. B. Warden, Esq. formerly consul of the United States at Paris, and a corresponding member of the Royal Institute, a gentleman well known in America, and intimately conversant with his subject. We ought to observe, that Mr. Warden is a decided partizan of the General, and, therefore, his opinions are to be taken with some allowance. With these, however, we have no wish to interfere ; it is the facts he details that we purpose to use, and so far as they go, we believe Mr. W. may be safely relied on. 

Gen. Andrew Jackson is by descent an Irishman. His father and mother left that country for South Carolina, no farther back than the year 1765. Andrew was born on the 15th March, 1765, on a farm that had been purchased by his father in the district of Waxsaw, about five-and-forty miles from Camden. He had the misfortune to lose his father a short time after his birth. His mother, who from circumstances connected with her history, seems to have been a woman of great sensibility, destined her youngest son for the church ; and he had been placed for some time at a school in the neighbourhood of their residence, when the English, under Carleton, burst into the province of South Carolina. Young Jackson, though barely fifteen years of age, was smit with the general mania of his countrymen, and forsaking his books, he shouldered a musket, and set out accompanied by his two brothers older than himself, to repel the invaders. The campaign, though a glorious one for his country, was a fatal one to young Jackson, for he lost his two brothers, both of whom were slain, the one at the battle of Stoney, and the other a short time before at Camden Town ; and his mother, unable to bear up under such an accumulation of grief, died of a broken heart, soon after the melancholy news of the loss of her children became known to her. 

Young Jackson seems to have lost with his mother his relish for ecclesiastical studies ; for instead of returning to them at the close of the war, he went to Salisbury, and there studied law for a couple of years ; and being sufficiently master of a profession, which at that period of American history was far from being an abstruse one, he was called to t!ie bar in the year 1786. He practised as a barrister at Salisbury for a couple of years ; he afterwards removed along with his friend Judge M'Nair to Nashville in Tennessee, where, and in the neighbourhood of which, he has ever since resided. His talents and assiduity so recommended him to the notice of the people of Nashville, that he was in a short time elected Attorney-general for the district, an office which he filled for many years. In America, even now, there is not that nice distinction of civil and military, that is found in older and more stationary communities. 

Judges there still fight duels, and private citizens are not infrequently summoned from their peaceful labours to guide the armies of the Republic. At that early period this confusion of classes was more common; and therefore it will not appear surprising that Jackson, instead of conducting a suit, should be called on by his fellow citizens to conduct a band of soldiers against the enemies of the provinces. The Indians were then the enemies that Tennessee had most to fear ; and on one occasion, in a hostile incursion, they penetrated to the very centre of the province. Jackson, who had a bold heart as well as a ready tongue, was called on, and putting himself at the head of the local militia, he not only routed the barbarians, and drove them back to their wilds, but inflicted so signal a punishment on them, as left them without power or inclination to disturb the state for many years afterwards. 

In 1796, Tennessee, having then a population of the requisite number, was admitted as one of the States of the Union. Jackson was one of the persons to whom the draught of the constitution of the New State was entrusted, and he was the first man who represented it in Congress. He was made a Senator in 1797, which honour however he resigned in 1799, on being appointed judge of the supreme court of his adopted country, and commander-in-chief of its militia forces. The first of these appointments he is said to have accepted with some reluctance ; it is certain he soon quitted it, and retiring to his farm on the banks of lake Cumberland, about ten miles from Nashville, he passed the next ten or twelve years of his life in the quiet of rural retirement. 

When the war between Great Britain and the United States was proclaimed, a war in which, when looking back on it, the impartial observer, while he admits that in the early part of the quarrel England was not undeserving of blame, must acknowledge, that long before it terminated in an open rupture, the United States had contrived by their shuffling 
conduct, very effectually to transfer all the odium of the contest to themselves ; Jackson was called from his retreat like another Cincinnatus, to head, in a more important cause, those bands which he had led on to victory many years before. He was ordered by Congress to take the command of two thousand five hundred volunteers, part of the army of fifty thousand men ordered to be levied for the defence of the States, and to descend the Mississippi in order to defend the low country towards the south. His conduct to the troops under his command on this occasion was extremely humane. The Congress, with a fine disregard of the rights of the poor men, had ordered them to be disbanded on the 1st. Jan., while at a distance of many miles from home, and while un-provided with the means of reaching it. The object of this piece of injustice, was to induce the volunteers to enlist in the line ; it was defeated by Jackson, who provided his soldiers with every thing they required, and did not discharge them until he had conveyed them safely back to Nashville. 

The Creek Indians, stimulated, as was pretended, by two individuals who suffered severely for crimes very imperfectly proved, had begun meanwhile to molest the frontiers, and in one of their savage inroads had captured the fortress of Mimms, and slaughtered every one, men, women, and children, to the number of three hundred, that, they found in it. These marauders had received, it was said, arms and ammunition from the Spanish port of Pensacola, which had also encouraged a disembarkation of the English. On the 8th Oct., Jackson, for whose use the Congress had voted 300,000 dollars, began the campaign with an army amounting to two thousand men, and a number of the volunteers which he had led south in the winter of the previous year. He encountered the greatest possible difficulties, partly from the inefficiency of his commissariat department, which led to a mutiny among his men; and partly from the indecision of the civil authorities. He overcame them all, however ; marched to Mobile, notwithstanding the scruples of the civilians, and driving out the English and Indians from it, restored Pensacola to the Spanish authorities. 

We have no wish to enter on the vexata quaestio [disputed question] of the judgment passed on Messrs. Arbuthnot and Ambrister, nor the very doubtful justice of its execution. We believe that the general opinion now is, that the act of Jackson so mudi blamed at the time, was not inconsistent with military law, and this is the utmost that his warmest apologists can fairly allege for him. The General has displayed, not in this case alone where an enemy was concerned, but even where the civil institutions of his own country stood in his way, that he was not a man to be scared from his purpose by trifles. He had scarce taken up a position for the defence of New Orleans, when he required the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act from the magistracy, and on one -of them hesitating to comply with the requisition, he without ceremony banished him from the province, and passed the Suspension Act by means of the remainder. 

Jackson established his head-quarters at New Orleans, on the 1st Dec. 1814. His merit in the defence of that town was the greater, as not only did he make the wisest and most efficient disposition of the troops under his command, but he had almost to create the means that he so successfully employed. Of the causes of the failure of the English attack, and of the slaughter by which it was accompanied, we shall not at present speak. Had Gen. Pakenham driven Jackson from the stockade planted for the protection of the militia and Kentucky rifle men,— strong behind even the slightest defences, though inefficient in the open field,—it was generally said the latter would have fired the town. A saying is attributed to him on this occasion which is older than the foundation of the American Republic. The civil authorities requested to know, whether in the event of his losing the day, he would destroy New Orleans. " If 1 thought my hair knew what was passing in my head, I would wear a wig" is reported to have been Jackson's answer. He did not lose the day, and therefore the question remained unsolved. On the 23d, the General proceeded to the principal church of New Orleans, to return thanks to Heaven for his great and unexpected victory, where he was saluted by the preacher, Mr. Dubourg, as the " Saviour of his country." 

The news of the treaty of Ghent, which was signed previous to the engagement that cost the English so many valuable lives, arrived soon after ; martial law ceased, and the army of New Orleans was disbanded. The magistrate whom Jackson had banished resumed his functions, and summoning the ex-general before him, fined him 1000 dollars for contempt of court, and the fine was without hesitation paid. It was instantly subscribed by a thousand of his admiring countrymen. Jackson soon after returned to Nashville, whence he had been absent about eighteen months, and where he was welcomed with the greatest enthusiasm by all classes and denominations of the community. Since that time, nothing has happened to call into action the military qualifications of the " Hero of New Orleans," as the Americans term him, and he has passed, we believe, the greater part of it in the ordinary pursuits of a plain country gentleman. In 1825, he was proposed as a candidate for the Presidency, by the Southern States, between which and the older states of the North, there had long existed a jealousy which may at some future period lead to important results. Of 202 votes given on that occasion, Jackson had 99, and Adams, the present President, only 84. As neither had an absolute majority, 132, the selection devolved in consequence on the senate, which determined in favour of Adams. On the present occasion, Gen. Jackson has, we believe, 180 votes ; while Mr. Adams has no more than his original number of 84, and the return of the former is therefore matter of absolute certainty. 

General Jackson is a tall thin man, of a dried aspect, and hence his soubriquet of Hiccory. He is still extremely active and vigorous for his age, sixty-two, and, with much decision of character, is described as a person of pleasant and affable address, and of easy access to the poor est and humblest of his countrymen. Fears have been entertained in this country, lest his reign, as we may well call it, should be a turbulent one ; but we rather think they will prove unfounded. We have a bright example at home, that it is not those who are most conversant with war and its difficulties, that are most disposed to enter upon it unnecessarily.* 


* The following anecdote is told of Jackson when he was a judge : it has the merit of being characteristic at least. One day a person was placed at the bar for some pretty considerable small number of murders—a very common species of delinquency in Kentucky ; who, on being sentenced, contrived by a vigorous use of his arms and legs to get out of court and make off. The Sheriff instantly invoked the aid of the surrounding citizens to retake the criminal, and several bounded forth for that purpose. Judges in America are not encumbered with wigs and gowns; and Jackson, who had started with the rest, soon headed the chase. The fellow, finding himself hard pressed by " Hiccory," turned short round and offered fight ; when the Judge, having first summoned him to surrender, and he having refused, Jackson coolly drew one of his pistols from his pocket and shot him through the head. He then returned to court, resumed his seat, and heard with all imaginable gravity the report of the Sheriff of the attempted evasion of the criminal ; how he was pursued ; and, refusing to submit to lawful authority, was shot through the head by a certain citizen, Andrew Jackson, whose aid the Sheriff had legally called for.

 

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