Legends began clustering around Andrew Jackson during his lifetime and more fastened on him after his death. One that has almost certainly no basis in fact is the story of the encounter of Andrew Jackson and the Bell Witch. Supposedly poltergeist phenomena began occurring at the farm of a John Bell in 1817 in Adams, Tennessee. It is difficult to say now if any of the legend has any basis in fact or if it was all simply made up. According to the legend Andrew Jackson visited the farm in 1819 with an intent to kill the witch, or disprove the whole thing as a fraud, thought to be behind these events. According to the legend Jackson was defeated by the witch and went home. Jackson’s movements are well documented in 1819 and there is no evidence for such a trip, so the whole story is a complete fable. Besides, if there was one thing the numerous friends and foes of Jackson could agree on was that he was an expert at killing. If Old Hickory had set out to kill a witch, I would not have bet on him not being able to cut short the lifespan of the agent of the diabolical!
After the collapse of the Federalist party, James Madison ran for re-election in 1820. What a difference four years made! Like most political parties that achieve political victory over a rival party, the Republicans quickly factionalized. John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, William Crawford and Henry Clay ran. The election resulted in Jackson with 99 electoral votes, Adams 84, Crawford 41 and Clay with 37. With no candidate having a majority, for the second time in a quarter of a century, the race was decided by the House of Representatives.
Ironically, Henry Clay, Speaker of the House, was eliminated due to the Twelfth Amendment limiting the candidates that the House would vote on to the top three. For Clay it was an easy decision to decide who to support. Crawford had no hope. Clay heartily detested Jackson: “I cannot believe that killing 2,500 Englishmen at New Orleans qualifies for the various, difficult, and complicated duties of the Chief Magistracy.” Adams and Clay had similar views regarding tariffs and internal improvements. With Clay’s support, Adams was chosen as President on the first ballot in the House. (more…)
All of his life Andrew Jackson had many fervent friends and fervent enemies. Robert B. Randolph was definitely in the latter category. A Lieutenant in the Navy, he was accused of financial irregularities. Although acquitted by an examing board, he was dismissed from the service by President Jackson who believed that he had defrauded the government. On May 6, 1833, Jackson was stopped in Alexandria, Virginia, aboard a ship, on his way to the unveiling of a monument to Mary Washington, George Washington’s mother, in Fredericksburg.
Randolph boarded the ship and made his way to Jackson’s cabin. Jackson was seated, reading a book. Randolph approached him, took off his gloves and either slapped him with the gloves, or pulled his nose (accounts vary). Randolph immediately fled. Friends of Jackson, including the writer Washington Irving, chased after Randolph and apprehended him. Jackson by this time was approaching, cane in hand, swearing that, “By the Eternal!” he would deal with this assault on his person himself. Not wanting to deal with a vengeful Jackson, Randolph shook himself free from the men holding him, and took off again, this time making good his escape. (more…)
Something for the weekend. Written in 1821 by Samuel Woodworth, the song proved immensely popular and Jackson used it as a theme song in his 1828 campaign for the presidency. (more…)
In 1833 the administration of Harvard decided to bestow an honorary doctorate of laws on the President of the United States, Andrew Jackson. Many Harvard alums, looking down their noses at the rough, uncouth and ill-educated Jackson, were outraged. None was more angry than Harvard alum John Quincy Adams who had been ousted from the presidency in the election of 1828. Adams gave his cousin the President of Harvard an earful stating “as myself an affectionate child of our alma mater, I would not be present to witness her disgrace in conferring her highest literary honors upon a barbarian who could not write a sentence of grammar and hardly could spell his own name.” (more…)
One of the odder products of the Golden Age of Hollywood, The Remarkable Andrew was a comedy fantasy in which Andrew Jackson’s ghost, played by Brian Donlevy, comes back to Earth in order to aid Andrew Long, portrayed by a very young William Holden, fight political corruption. Andrew Jackson had pledged to protect the sons of one of Andrew Long’s ancestors who saved the life of Jackson at the battle of New Orleans. Virtue is triumphant, the corrupt politicians are defeated, with the help of Jackson and the ghosts of other American heroes, and Andrew Long even gets the girl.
The screenplay was written by Dalton Trumbo, a Communist. It is based on the novel of the same name written by Trumbo and published in early 1941. The novel was written before the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, and Trumbo, slavishly following the party line, has Jackson warning against American involvement in the War.
Time Magazine in its sardonic review of the novel on February 3, 1941 noted Trumbo’s rigid adherence to the Communist party line:
Its plot is about the return of the ghost of General Andrew Jackson to help an admirer. Trumbo’s General Jackson agrees with Theodore Dreiser right down the line: 1) Europe’s wars are no concern whatever of the U. S.; 2) the U. S. has little interest in the British Fleet; 3) Great Britain is not a democracy; 4) if Hitler can’t even cross the English Channel, he can’t cross the Atlantic; 5) U. S. concern with fifth columnists is hysteria; 6) Ger many is not “an international outlaw”; 7) the U. S. didn’t help Loyalist Spain, therefore shouldn’t help any other country; (8) the U. S. Government is deceiving the electorate, etc.
General Jackson’s opinions need surprise no one who has observed George Washing ton and Abraham Lincoln zealously follow ing the Communist Party Line in recent years. Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, John Marshall and Jesse James are also cast for bit parts in Trumbo’s production. If the devil can quote Scripture, surely an irritated screenwriter can dip into The Federalist. A chapter of The Remarkable Andrew is devoted to the remarkable Dalton’s attempt to outwit charges of Communism and pacifism with tedious parodies of Red-baiting. (more…)
The National Archives is really a great treasure, and it’s fantastic to have such a valuable resource so close to where I live and work. Of course I’ve set foot in the place twice in ten years, so I haven’t exactly utilized the institution as much as I should have. Then again, the first time was me and my wife’s first date, so at least it has served a useful purpose in the limited number of times I’ve used it.
Last week I had the opportunity see some of the documents that they don’t have on display. These are real treasures to behold. One such item was a petition sent to Congress in 1803 by a Tennessee farmer. This individual submitted a claim for a tax refund for taxes paid on his stills after a fire destroyed much of his supply. The petitioner: Andrew Jackson. Here is the text of that letter:
The Honourable the Senate, and House of Representatives in Congress Assembled.
The remonstrance of Andrew Jackson, of the State of Tennessee, sheweth that on the first day of December, Seventeen hundred and Ninety nine, your remonstrant, obtaind liscence, to work Two Stills, for the space of One year, from the said first day of December, One Still Capacity One Hundred & Twenty Seven Gallons, the other Seventy Gallons, that on the night of the first Monday of June Eighteen Hundred, the Still House of your remonstrant, was Consumd with fire, with upward of three Hundred Gallons of whiskey, and the said Stills rendered entirely unfit for use, and of no value, and were never made use off after in the distillery of your remonstrant, your remonstrant paid up the Tax due to the first monday in June, which was about six months, and was of opinion (and that founded on reason and Justice) that the duties would cease to exist, at the period, of time, the Stills were rendered unfit for Service, these Ideas, Corresponded, with those of John Overton Esqre, Supervisor for the District of Tennessee, thro whom your remonstrant applyd for relief, furnishing him with due proof of the distillery, being burnt, and the Stills rendered unfit for Service, (which proof is hereto annexd, and transmited) having no doubt but the Secretary of Treasury, would direct, the Account to be Credited, for the Tax becoming due, after the said first monday of June, as the Supervisor had examind the proof, and allowd a proportionate, deduction, which will appeas by the Supervisors endorsement, on the back of the (Duplicate) Affidavits, your remonstrant had no doubt, but a power to grant relief, in such Cases, was lodgd in the hands of the Secretary of the Treasury or in some other department, of the Government, he could not believe that the United States would draw Money, from the misfortunes, of her Citizens, and neglect to lodge that Necessary power in the hands of Some officer, of Government, to grant relief, where Justice required it, with these impressions, your remonstrant, rested satisfied, that the Secretary of Treasury, upon a view, of the proof, would exercise the power, which Justice so imperiously required, and have directed, a Credit as before Stated, But now So it is, that the Collector has Calld for the Tax accrued, after the first monday of June as aforesaid, with threats of distress,— your remonstrant Compelld to pay the sum demanded, which is inconsistant with Strict honesty, and Justice, and now prays that a General law, may be passd, granting relief to all persons situated as your remonstrant by Compelling the Collectors to refund, when they have Collected the duties accruing, on Stills after they have been rendered unfit for use in manner aforesaid; and your remonstrant as in duty bound, Shall &c. &c.
His petition was denied.
This letter, by the way, was found by pure happenstance. The archives hold just about every available document sent to Congress, and there are tons of letters that nobody has ever seen, and there are potentially more letters like this sent by people who would go on to great fame. After all, nobody knew at the time that Andrew Jackson would one day achieve national fame. Another letter, this one kept on display, was sent by a nine-year old Cuban boy who wrote to President Franklin Roosevelt. Among other things, the boy asked the president to send him a ten dollar bill for he had never seen one. That boy was Fidel Castro.
And now you know the rest of the story.
On July 4, 1835 Junius Brutus Booth, founder of the Booth theatrical family, sat down and penned a letter to President Andrew Jackson. Booth and Jackson knew each other and were friends, which makes the letter quite odd indeed. The text of the letter:
To His Excellency, General Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, Washington City,
You damn’d old Scoundrel if you don’t sign the pardon of your fellow men now under sentence of Death, De Ruiz and De Soto, I will cut your throat whilst you are sleeping. I wrote to you repeated Cautions so look out or damn you. I’ll have you burnt at the Stake in the City of Washington.
Your Master, Junius Brutus Booth.
You know me! Look out!
Booth was one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of his day, and he often gave unforgettable performances. However, he was often noted for his off stage escapades, usually fueled by copious amounts of alcohol. I have little doubt that when he penned this missive Booth was quite drunk. De Ruiz and De Soto had been convicted of piracy. Many Americans had asked for clemency for the men. De Soto did receive a Presidential pardon on July 6, 1835 after an interview with De Soto’s wife and defense attorney with Jackson. In 1832 De Soto had saved the lives of 70 Americans aboard the burning ship Minerva in 1831 and that made him a sympathetic figure to the American public and Jackson. De Ruiz and the other men convicted of piracy were hung. Go here for the details of the piracy trial. (more…)
One of the interesting aspects of the War of 1812 is that during that conflict several wars also were being waged, often with little connection to the main war. One of these conflicts was the Creek Civil War. The Creeks, living in what would become Alabama and in Georgia, were riven by a civil war between the Red Stick faction which promoted a return to the ways of the Creek ancestors, and other Creeks more ready to accommodate to changing times caused by the ever increasing number of whites on Creek land. By the middle of 1813 clashes were occurring between the Red Sticks and white settlers. (more…)