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The Reign of Andrew Jackson by Frederic Austin Ogg

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A Chronicle of the Frontier in Politics




















Among the thousands of stout-hearted British subjects who decided to
try their fortune in the Western World after the signing of the Peace
of Paris in 1763 was one Andrew Jackson, a Scotch-Irish Presbyterian
of the tenant class, sprung from a family long resident in or near the
quaint town of Carrickfergus, on the northern coast of Ireland, close
by the newer and more progressive city of Belfast.

With Jackson went his wife and two infant sons, a brother-in-law, and
two neighbors with their families, who thus made up a typical
eighteenth-century emigrant group. Arrived at Charleston, the
travelers fitted themselves out for an overland journey, awaited a
stretch of favorable weather, and set off for the Waxhaw settlement,
one hundred and eighty miles to the northwest, where numbers of their
kinsmen and countrymen were already established. There the Jacksons
were received with open arms by the family of a second brother-in-law,
who had migrated a few years earlier and who now had a comfortable log
house and a good-sized clearing.

The settlement lay on the banks of the upper Catawba, near the
junction of that stream with Waxhaw Creek; and as it occupied a
fertile oasis in a vast waste of pine woods, it was for decades
largely cut off from touch with the outside world. The settlement was
situated, too, partly in North Carolina and partly in South Carolina,
so that in the pre-Revolutionary days many of the inhabitants hardly
knew, or cared to know, in which of the two provinces they dwelt.

Upon their arrival Jackson's friends bought land on the creek and
within the bounds of the settlement. Jackson himself was too poor,
however, to do this, and accordingly took up a claim six miles distant
on another little stream known as Twelve-mile Creek. Here, in the fall
of 1765, he built a small cabin, and during the winter he cleared five
or six acres of ground. The next year he was able to raise enough
corn, vegetables, and pork to keep his little household from want. The
tract thus occupied cannot be positively identified, but it lay in
what is now Union County, North Carolina, a few miles from Monroe, the
county seat.

Then came tragedy of a sort in which frontier history abounds. In the
midst of his efforts to hew out a home and a future for those who were
dear to him the father sickened and died, in March, 1767, at the early
age of twenty-nine, less than two years after his arrival at the
settlement. Tradition says that his death was the result of a rupture
suffered in attempting to move a heavy log, and that it was so sudden
that the distracted wife had no opportunity to seek aid from the
distant neighbors. When at last the news got abroad, sympathy and
assistance were lavished in true frontier fashion. Borne in a rude
farm wagon, the remains were taken to the Waxhaw burying ground and
were interred in a spot which tradition, but tradition only, is able
today to point out.

The widow never returned to the desolated homestead. She and her
little ones were taken into the family of one of her married sisters,
where she spent her few remaining years. On the 15th of March, less
than two weeks after her husband's death, she gave birth to a third
son; and the child was promptly christened Andrew, in memory of the
parent he would never know.

Curiously, the seventh President's birthplace has been a matter of
sharp controversy. There is a tradition that the birth occurred while
the mother was visiting a neighboring family by the name of McKemy;
and Parton, one of Jackson's principal biographers, adduces a good
deal of evidence in support of the story. On the other hand, Jackson
always believed that he was born in the home of the aunt with whom his
bereaved mother took up her residence; and several biographers,
including Bassett, the most recent and the best, accept this
contention. It really matters not at all, save for the circumstance
that if the one view is correct Jackson was born in North Carolina,
while if the other is correct he was born in South Carolina. Both
States have persistently claimed the honor. In the famous proclamation
which he addressed to the South Carolina nullifiers in 1832 Jackson
referred to them as "fellow-citizens of my native state"; in his will
he spoke of himself as a South Carolinian; and in correspondence and
conversation he repeatedly declared that he was born on South Carolina
soil. Jackson was far from infallible, even in matters closely
touching his own career. But the preponderance of evidence on the
point lies decidedly with South Carolina.

No one, at all events, can deny to the Waxhaw settlement an honored
place in American history. There the father of John C. Calhoun first
made his home. There the Revolutionary general, Andrew Pickens, met
and married Rebecca Calhoun. There grew up the eminent North
Carolinian Governor and diplomat, William R. Davie. There William H.
Crawford lived as a boy. And there Jackson dwelt until early manhood.

For the times, young Andrew was well brought up. His mother was a
woman of strong character, who cherished for her last-born the desire
that he should become a Presbyterian clergyman. The uncle with whom he
lived was a serious-minded man who by his industry had won means ample
for the comfortable subsistence of his enlarged household. When he was
old enough, the boy worked for his living, but no harder than the
frontier boys of that day usually worked; and while his advantages
were only such as a backwoods community afforded, they were at least
as great as those of most boys similarly situated, and they were far
superior to those of the youthful Lincoln. Jackson's earlier years,
nevertheless, contained little promise of his future distinction. He
grew up amidst a rough people whose tastes ran strongly to
horse-racing, cockfighting, and heavy drinking, and whose ideal of
excellence found expression in a readiness to fight upon any and all
occasions in defense of what they considered to be their personal
honor. In young Andrew Jackson these characteristics appeared in a
superlative degree. He was mischievous, willful, daring, reckless.
Hardly an escapade took place in the community in which he did not
share; and his sensitiveness and quick temper led him continually into
trouble. In his early teens he swore like a trooper, chewed tobacco
incessantly, acquired a taste for strong drink, and set a pace for
wildness which few of his associates could keep up. He was
passionately fond of running foot races, leaping the bar, jumping,
wrestling, and every sort of sport that partook of the character of
mimic battle--and he never acknowledged defeat. "I could throw him
three times out of four," testifies an old schoolmate, "but he would
never _stay throwed_. He was dead game even then, and never _would_
give up." Another early companion says that of all the boys he had
known Jackson was the only bully who was not also a coward.

Of education the boy received only such as was put unavoidably in his
way. It is said that his mother taught him to read before he was five
years old; and he attended several terms in the little low-roofed log
schoolhouse in the Waxhaw settlement. But his formal instruction never
took him beyond the fundamentals of reading, writing, geography,
grammar, and "casting accounts." He was neither studious nor
teachable. As a boy he preferred sport to study, and as a man he chose
to rely on his own fertile ideas rather than to accept guidance from
others. He never learned to write the English language correctly,
although he often wrote it eloquently and convincingly. In an age of
bad spellers he achieved distinction from the number of ways in which
he could spell a word within the space of a single page. He could use
no foreign languages; and of the great body of science, literature,
history, and the arts he knew next to nothing. He never acquired a
taste for books, although vanity prompted him to treasure throughout
his public career all correspondence and other documentary materials
that might be of use to future biographers. Indeed, he picked as a
biographer first his military aide, John Reid, and later his close
friend, John H. Eaton, whom he had the satisfaction in 1829 of
appointing Secretary of War.

When the Revolution came, young Andrew was a boy of ten. For a time
the Carolina backwoods did not greatly feel the effect of the change.
But in the spring of 1780 all of the revolutionary troops in South
Carolina were captured at Charleston, and the lands from the sea to
the mountains were left at the mercy of Tarleton's and Rawdon's bands
of redcoats and their Tory supporters. Twice the Waxhaw settlement was
ravaged before the patriots could make a stand. Young Jackson
witnessed two battles in 1780, without taking part in them, and in the
following year he, a brother, and a cousin were taken prisoners in a
skirmish. To the day of his death Jackson bore on his head and hand
the marks of a saber blow administered by a British lieutenant whose
jack boots he refused to polish. When an exchange of prisoners was
made, Mrs. Jackson secured the release of her two boys, but not until
after they had contracted smallpox in Camden jail. The older one died,
but the younger, though reduced to a skeleton, survived. Already the
third brother had given up his life in battle; and the crowning
disaster came when the mother, going as a volunteer to nurse the
wounded Waxhaw prisoners on the British vessels in Charleston harbor,
fell ill of yellow fever and perished. Small wonder that Andrew
Jackson always hated the British uniform, or that when he sat in the
executive chair an anti-British feeling colored all of his dealings
with foreign nations!

At the age of fourteen, the sandy-haired, pockmarked lad of the
Waxhaws found himself alone in the world. The death of his relatives
had made him heir to a portion of his grandfather's estate in
Carrickfergus; but the property was tied up in the hands of an
administrator, and the boy was in effect both penniless and homeless.
The memory of his mother and her teachings was, as he was subsequently
accustomed to say, the only capital with which he started life. To a
natural waywardness and quarrelsomeness had been added a heritage of
bitter memories, and the outlook was not bright.

Upon one thing the youth was determined: he would no longer be a
charge upon his uncle or upon any one else. What to turn to, however,
was not so easy to decide. First he tried the saddler's trade, but
that was too monotonous. Then he undertook school-teaching; that
proved little better. Desirous of a glimpse of the world, he went to
Charleston in the autumn of 1782. There he made the acquaintance of
some people of wealth and fell into habits of life which were beyond
his means. At the race track he bet and swaggered himself into notice;
and when he ran into debt he was lucky enough to free himself by
winning a large wager. But the proceeds of his little inheritance,
which had in the meantime become available, were now entirely used up;
and when in the spring the young spendthrift went back to the Waxhaws,
he had only a fine horse with elegant equipment, a costly pair of
pistols, a gold watch, and a fair wardrobe--in addition to some
familiarity with the usages of fashion--to show for his spent

One other thing which Jackson may have carried back with him from
Charleston was an ambition to become a lawyer. At all events, in the
fall of 1784 he entered the law office of a certain Spruce Macay in
the town of Salisbury, North Carolina; and, after three years of
intermittent study, he was admitted to practice in the courts of the
State. The instruction which he had received was not of a high order,
and all accounts agree that the young man took his tasks lightly and
that he learned but little law. That he fully sustained the reputation
which he had gained in the Waxhaws is indicated by testimony of one of
Macay's fellow townsmen, after Jackson had become famous, to the
effect that the former student had been "the most roaring, rollicking,
game-cocking, card-playing, mischievous fellow that ever lived in

Upon his admission to the bar the irresponsible young blade hung out
his shingle in Martinsville, Guilford County, North Carolina, and sat
down to wait for clients. He was still less than twenty years old,
without influence, and with only such friends as his irascible
disposition permitted him to make and hold. Naturally business came
slowly, and it became necessary to eke out a living by serving as a
local constable and also by assisting in a mercantile enterprise
carried on by two acquaintances in the town. After a year this
hand-to-mouth existence began to pall. Neither then nor in later life
did Jackson have any real taste or aptitude for law. He was not of a
legal turn of mind, and he was wholly unprepared to suffer the
sacrifices and disappointments which a man of different disposition
would have been willing to undergo in order to win for himself an
established position in his profession. Chagrin in this restless young
man was fast yielding to despair when an alluring field of action
opened for him in the fast-developing country beyond the mountains.

The settlement of white men in that part of North Carolina which lay
west of the Alleghanies had begun a year or two after Jackson's birth.
At first the hardy pioneers found lodgment on the Watauga, Holston,
Nolichucky, and other streams to the east of modern Knoxville. But in
1779 a colony was planted by James Robertson and John Donelson on the
banks of the Cumberland, two hundred miles farther west, and in a
brief time the remoter settlement, known as Nashville, became a Mecca
for homeseeking Carolinians and Virginians. The intervening hill and
forest country abounded in hostile Indians. The settler or trader who
undertook to traverse this region took his life in his hands, and the
settlements themselves were subject to perennial attack.

In 1788, after the collapse of an attempt of the people of the
"Western District" to set up an independent State by the name of
Franklin, the North Carolina Assembly erected the three counties
included in the Cumberland settlement into a superior court district;
and the person selected for judge was a close friend of Jackson, John
McNairy, who also had been a law pupil of Spruce Macay in Salisbury.
McNairy had been in the Tennessee region two years, but at the time of
receiving his judicial appointment he was visiting friends in the
Carolinas. His description of the opportunities awaiting ambitious
young men in the back country influenced a half-dozen acquaintances,
lawyers and others, to make the return trip with him; and among the
number was Jackson. Some went to assume posts which were at McNairy's
disposal, but Jackson went only to see the country.

Assembling at Morganton, on the east side of the mountains, in the
fall of 1788, the party proceeded leisurely to Jonesboro, which,
although as yet only a village of fifty or sixty log houses, was the
metropolis of the eastern Tennessee settlements. There the party was
obliged to wait for a sufficient band of immigrants to assemble before
they could be led by an armed guard with some degree of safety through
the dangerous middle country. As a highway had just been opened
between Jonesboro and Nashville, the travelers were able to cover the
distance in fifteen days. Jackson rode a fine stallion, while a pack
mare carried his worldly effects, consisting of spare clothes,
blankets, half a dozen law books, and small quantities of ammunition,
tea, tobacco, liquor, and salt. For defense he bore a rifle and three
pistols; and in his pocket he carried one hundred and eighty dollars
of the much valued hard money. On the second day of November the
emigrant train made its appearance in Nashville bringing news of much
interest--in particular, that the Federal Constitution had been
ratified by the ninth State, and that the various legislatures were
preparing to choose electors, who would undoubtedly make George
Washington the first President of the Republic.

Less than ten years old, Nashville had now a population of not over
two hundred. But it was the center of a somewhat settled district
extending up and down the Cumberland for a distance of eighty or
ninety miles, and the young visitor from the Waxhaws quickly found it
a promising field for his talents. There was only one lawyer in the
place, and creditors who had been outbid for his services by their
debtors were glad to put their cases in the hands of the newcomer. It
is said that before Jackson had been in the settlement a month he had
issued more than seventy writs to delinquent debtors. When, in 1789,
he was appointed "solicitor," or prosecutor, in Judge McNairy's
jurisdiction with a salary of forty pounds for each court he attended,
his fortune seemed made and he forthwith gave up all thought of
returning to his Carolina home. Instead he took lodgings under the
roof of the widow of John Donelson, and in 1791 he married a daughter
of that doughty frontiersman. Land was still cheap, and with the
proceeds of his fees and salary he purchased a large plantation called
Hunter's Hill, thirteen miles from Nashville, and there he planned to
establish a home which would take rank as one of the finest in the
western country.

The work of a frontier solicitor was diverse and arduous. A turbulent
society needed to be kept in order and the business obligations of a
shifty and quarrelsome people to be enforced. No great knowledge of
law was required, but personal fearlessness, vigor, and
incorruptibility were indispensable. Jackson was just the man for the
business. His physical courage was equaled by his moral strength; he
was passionately devoted to justice; he was diligent and
conscientious; and, as one writer has remarked, bad grammar, incorrect
pronunciation, and violent denunciation did not shock the judges of
that day or divert the mind of juries from the truth. Traveling almost
constantly over the wretched roads and through the dark forests,
dodging Indians, swimming his horse across torrential streams,
sleeping alone in the woods with hand on rifle, threatened by
desperate wrongdoers, Andrew Jackson became the best-known figure in
all western Tennessee and won at this time a great measure of that
public confidence which later became his chief political asset.

Meanwhile the rapid growth of population south of the Ohio River made
necessary new arrangements for purposes of government. In 1790 the
region between the Ohio and the present States of Alabama and
Mississippi, having been turned over to the Nation by its earlier
possessors, was erected into the "Southwest Territory," and in 1791
the northern half became the State of Kentucky. In 1793 the remainder
of the Territory set up a Legislature, and three years later delegates
from the eleven counties met at Knoxville to draw up a new frame of
government with a view to admission to statehood. Jackson was a member
of this convention, and tradition has it that it was he who brought
about the selection of the name Tennessee, an Indian term meaning "The
Great Crooked River," as against Franklin, Washington, and other
proposed designations for the new State. At all events, upon the
admission of the State in 1796, he was chosen as its sole
representative in the lower branch of Congress.

In the late autumn of that year the young lawmaker set out for the
national capital at Philadelphia, and there he arrived, after a
journey of almost eight hundred miles on horseback, just as the
triumphs of the Democrats in the recent presidential election were
being duly celebrated. He had not been chosen as a party man, but it
is altogether probable that his own sympathies and those of most of
his constituents lay with the Jeffersonians; and his appearance on the
floor of Congress was an omen of the fast-rising tide of western
democracy which should never find its ultimate goal until this rough
but honest Tennesseean should himself be borne into the presidential

Jackson's career in Congress was brief and uneventful. After a year of
service in the House of Representatives he was appointed to fill the
unexpired term of William Blount in the Senate. But this post he
resigned in 1798 in order to devote his energies to his private
affairs. While at Philadelphia he made the acquaintance not only of
John Adams, Jefferson, Randolph, Gallatin, and Burr, but of his future
Secretary of State, Edward Livingston, and of some other persons who
were destined to be closely connected with his later career. But
Jackson was not fitted for a legislative body either by training or by
temperament. He is recorded as speaking in the House only twice and in
the Senate not at all, and he seems to have made no considerable
impression upon his colleagues. Gallatin later described him as "a
tall, lank, uncouth-looking personage, with long locks of hair hanging
over his face, and a queue down his back tied in an eel-skin; his
dress singular, his manners and deportment those of a rough
backwoodsman." And Jefferson is represented as saying of Jackson to
Webster at Monticello in 1824: "His passions are terrible. When I was
president of the Senate he was Senator, and he could never speak on
account of the rashness of his feelings. I have seen him attempt it
repeatedly, and as often choke with rage."

Return to Tennessee meant, however, only a transfer from one branch of
the public service to another, for the ex-Senator was promptly
appointed to a judgeship of the state supreme court at a salary of six
hundred dollars a year. The position he found not uncongenial and he
retained it for six years. Now, as earlier, Jackson's ignorance of law
was somewhat compensated by his common sense, courage, and
impartiality; and while only one of his decisions of this period is
extant, Parton reports that the tradition of fifty years ago
represented them as short, untechnical, unlearned, sometimes
ungrammatical, but generally right. The daily life of Jackson as a
frontier judge was hardly less active and exciting than it had been
when he was a prosecuting attorney. There were long and arduous
horseback journeys "on circuit"; ill-tempered persons often
threatened, and sometimes attempted, to deal roughly with the author
of an unfavorable decision; occasionally it was necessary to lay aside
his dignity long enough to lend a hand in capturing or controlling a
desperate character. For example, on arriving once in a settlement
Jackson found that a powerful blacksmith had committed a crime and
that the sheriff dared not arrest him. "Summon me," said the judge;
whereupon he walked down from the bench, found the culprit, led him
into court, and sentenced him.

In 1804 Jackson resigned his judgeship in order to give exclusive
attention again to his private affairs. He had fallen badly into debt,
and his creditors were pressing him hard. One expedient after another
failed, and finally Hunter's Hill had to be given up. He saved enough
from the wreck, however, to purchase a small plantation eight miles
from Nashville; and there, after several years of financial
rehabilitation, he erected the handsome brick house which the country
came subsequently to know as "The Hermitage." In partnership with two
of his wife's relatives, Jackson had opened a store in which, even
while still a member of the highest tribunal of the State, he not
infrequently passed tea and salt and calico over the counter to his
neighbors. In small trading, however, he was not adept, and the store
failed. Nevertheless, from 1804 until 1813 he successfully combined
with planting and the stock-raising business enterprises of a larger
sort, especially slave and horse dealing. His debts paid off, he now
became one of the most prosperous, as he already was one of the most
influential, men of the Cumberland country.

But it was not given to Andrew Jackson to be a mere money-maker or to
dwell in quietness. In 1804 he was denied the governorship of the New
Orleans Territory because he was described to Jefferson as "a man of
violent passions, arbitrary in his disposition, and frequently engaged
in broils and disputes." During the next decade he fully lived up to
this description. He quarreled with Governor John Sevier, and only the
intervention of friends prevented the two from doing each other
violence. He broke off friendly relations with his old patron, Judge
McNairy. In a duel he killed Charles Dickinson, who had spoken
disparagingly of Mrs. Jackson, and he himself suffered a wound which
weakened him for life. He publicly caned one Thomas Swann. In a
rough-and-tumble encounter with Thomas Hart Benton and the latter's
brother Jesse he was shot in the shoulder and one of his antagonists
was stabbed. This list of quarrels, threats, fights, and other violent
outbursts could be extended to an amazing length. "Yes, I had a fight
with Jackson," Senator Benton admitted late in life; "a fellow was
hardly in the fashion then who hadn't."

At the age of forty-five Jackson had not yet found himself. He was
known in his own State as "a successful planter, a breeder and racer
of horses, a swearer of mighty oaths, a faithful ami generous man to
his friends, a chivalrous man to women, a hospitable man at his home,
a desperate and relentless man in personal conflicts, a man who always
did the things he set himself to do." But he had achieved no
nation-wide distinction; he had not wrought out a career; he had made
almost as many enemies as friends, he had cut himself off from
official connections; he had no desire to return to the legal
profession; and he was so dissatisfied with his lot and outlook that
he seriously considered moving to Mississippi in order to make a fresh

One thread, however, still bound him to the public service. From 1802
he had been major general of militia in the eleven counties of western
Tennessee; and notwithstanding the fact that three calls from the
Government during a decade had yielded no real opportunity for action,
he clung both to the office and to the hope for a chance to lead his
"hardy sons of the West" against a foe worthy of their efforts. This
chance came sooner than people expected, and it led in precisely the
direction that Jackson would have chosen--toward the turbulent,
misgoverned Spanish dependency of Florida.



Every schoolboy knows and loves the story of the midnight ride of Paul
Revere. But hardly anybody has heard of the twenty-day,
fifteen-hundred-mile ride of "Billy" Phillips, the President's express
courier, who in 1812 carried to the Southwest the news that the people
of the United States had entered upon a second war with their British
kinsmen. William Phillips was a young, lithe Tennesseean whom Senator
Campbell took to Washington in 1811 as secretary. When not more than
sixteen years old he had enjoyed the honor of riding Andrew Jackson's
famous steed, Truxton, in a heat race, for the largest purse ever
heard of west of the mountains, with the proud owner on one side of
the stakes. In Washington he occasionally turned an honest penny by
jockey-riding in the races on the old track of Bladensburg, and
eventually he became one of a squad of ten or twelve expert horsemen
employed by the Government in carrying urgent long-distance messages.

After much hesitation, Congress passed a joint resolution at about
five o'clock on Friday, June 18, 1812, declaring war against Great
Britain. Before sundown the express couriers were dashing swiftly on
their several courses, some toward reluctant New England, some toward
Pennsylvania and New York, some southward, some westward. To Phillips
it fell to carry the momentous news to his own Tennessee country and
thence down the Mississippi to New Orleans. That the task was
undertaken with all due energy is sufficiently attested in a letter
written by a Baptist clergyman at Lexington, North Carolina, to a
friend, who happened to have been one of Jackson's old teachers at the
Waxhaws. "I have to inform you," runs the communication, "that just
now the President's express-rider, Bill Phillips, has tore through
this little place without stopping. He came and went in a cloud of
dust, his horse's tail and his own long hair streaming alike in the
wind as they flew by. But as he passed the tavern stand where some
were gathered he swung his leather wallet by its straps above his head
and shouted--'Here's the Stuff! Wake up! _War! War with England!!
War!!!'_ Then he disappeared in a cloud of dust down the Salisbury
Road like a streak of Greased Lightnin'." Nine days brought the
indefatigable courier past Hillsboro, Salisbury, Morganton, Jonesboro,
and Knoxville to Nashville--a daily average of ninety-five miles over
mountains and through uncleared country. In eleven days more the
President's dispatches were in the hands of Governor Claiborne at New

The joy of the West was unbounded. The frontiersman was always ready
for a fight, and just now he especially wanted a fight with England.
He resented the insults that his country had suffered at the hands of
the English authorities and had little patience with the vacillating
policy so long pursued by Congress and the Madison Administration.
Other grievances came closer home. For two years the West had been
disturbed by Indian wars and intrigues for which the English officers
and agents in Canada were held largely responsible. In 1811 Governor
Harrison of Indiana Territory defeated the Indians at Tippecanoe. But
Tecumseh was even then working among the Creeks, Cherokees, and other
southern tribes with a view to a confederation which should be
powerful enough to put a stop to the sale of land to the advancing
white population. A renewal of the disorders was therefore momentarily
expected. Furthermore, the people of the Southwest were as usual on
bad terms with their Spanish neighbors in Florida and Texas; they
coveted an opportunity for vengeance for wrongs which they had
suffered; and some longed for the conquest of Spanish territory. At
all events, war with England was the more welcome because Spain, as an
ally of that power, was likely to be involved.

Nowhere was the news received with greater enthusiasm than at
Nashville; and by no one with more satisfaction than by Andrew
Jackson. As major general of militia Jackson had for ten years awaited
just such a chance for action. In 1811 he wrote fervently to Harrison
offering to come to his assistance in the Wabash expedition with five
hundred West Tennesseeans, but his services were not needed. At the
close of the year he induced the Governor of his State, William
Blount, to inform the War Department that he could have twenty-five
hundred men "before Quebec within ninety days" if desired. Again he
was refused. But now his opportunity had come. Billy Phillips was
hardly on his way to Natchez before Jackson, Blount, and Benton were
addressing a mass meeting called to "ratify" the declaration of war,
and on the following day a courier started for Washington with a
letter from Jackson tendering the services of twenty-five hundred
Tennesseeans and assuring the President, with better patriotism than
syntax, that wherever it might please him to find a place of duty for
these men he could depend upon them to stay "till they or the last
armed foe expires."

After some delay the offer was accepted. Already the fiery major
general was dreaming of a conquest of Florida. "You burn with
anxiety," ran a proclamation issued to his division in midsummer, "to
learn on what theater your arms will find employment. Then turn your
eyes to the South! Behold in the province of West Florida a territory
whose rivers and harbors are indispensable to the prosperity of the
western, and still more so, to the eastern division of our state....
It is here that an employment adapted to your situation awaits your
courage and your zeal, and while extending in this quarter the
boundaries of the Republic to the Gulf of Mexico, you will experience
a peculiar satisfaction in having conferred a signal benefit on that
section of the Union to which you yourselves immediately belong."

It lay in the cards that Jackson was to be a principal agent in
wresting the Florida, country from the Spaniards; and while there was
at Washington no intention of allowing him to set off post-haste upon
the mission, all of the services which he was called upon to render
during the war converged directly upon that objective. After what
seemed an interminable period of waiting came the first order to move.
Fifteen hundred Tennessee troops were to go to New Orleans, ostensibly
to protect the city against a possible British attack, but mainly to
be quickly available in case an invasion of West Florida should be
decided upon: and Jackson, freshly commissioned major general of
volunteers, was to lead the expedition.

The rendezvous was fixed at Nashville for early December; and when
more than two thousand men, representing almost every family of
influence in the western half of the State, presented themselves,
Governor Blount authorized the whole number to be mustered. On the 7th
of January the hastily equipped detachment started, fourteen hundred
infantrymen going down the ice-clogged Cumberland in flatboats and six
hundred and seventy mounted riflemen proceeding by land. The Governor
sent a letter carrying his blessing. Jackson responded with an
effusive note in which he expressed the hope that "the God of battles
may be with us." Parton says with truth that the heart of western
Tennessee went down the river with the expedition. In a letter to the
Secretary of War Jackson declared that his men had no "constitutional
scruples," but would, if so ordered, plant the American eagle on the
"walls" of Mobile, Pensacola, and St. Augustine.

After five weeks the troops, in high spirits, reassembled at Natchez.
Then came cruel disappointment. From New Orleans Governor James
Wilkinson, doubtless moved by hatred of Jackson quite as much as by
considerations of public policy, ordered the little army to stay where
it was. And on the 15th of March there was placed in the commander's
hands a curt note from the Secretary of War saying that the reasons
for the undertaking had disappeared, and announcing that the corps
under the Tennesseean's command had "ceased to exist."

Jackson flew into a rage--and with more reason than on certain other
occasions. He was sure that there was treachery somewhere; at the
least, it was all a trick to bring a couple of thousand good Tennessee
volunteers within the clutches of Wilkinson's recruiting officers. He
managed to write to the President a temperate letter of protest; but
to Governor Blount and to the troops he unbosomed himself with
characteristic forcefulness of speech. There was nothing to do but
return home. But the irate commander determined to do it in a manner
to impress the country. He kept his force intact, drew rations from
the commissary department at Natchez, and marched back to Nashville
with all the _eclat_ that would have attended a returning conqueror.
When Wilkinson's subordinates refused to pay the cost of transporting
the sick, Jackson pledged his own credit for the purpose, to the
amount of twelve thousand dollars. It was on the trying return march
that his riflemen conferred on him the happy nickname "Old Hickory."

The Secretary of War later sought to appease the irascible major
general by offering a wholly plausible explanation of the sudden
reversal of the Government's policy; and the expenses of the troops on
the return march were fully met out of the national treasury. But
Jackson drew from the experience only gall and wormwood. About the
time when the men reached Natchez, Congress definitely authorized the
President to take possession of Mobile and that part of Florida west
of the Perdido River; and, back once more in the humdrum life of
Nashville, the disappointed officer could only sit idly by while his
pet project was successfully carried out by General Wilkinson, the man
whom, perhaps above all others, he loathed. But other work was
preparing; and, after all, most of Florida was yet to be won.

In the late summer of 1813 the western country was startled by news of
a sudden attack of a band of upwards of a thousand Creeks on Fort
Minis, Alabama, culminating in a massacre in which two hundred and
fifty white men, women, and children lost their lives. It was the most
bloody occurrence of the kind in several decades, and it brought
instantly to a head a situation which Jackson, in common with many
other military men, had long viewed with apprehension.

From time immemorial the broad stretches of hill and valley land
southwards from the winding Tennessee to the Gulf were occupied, or
used as hunting grounds, by the warlike tribes forming the loose-knit
Creek Confederacy. Much of this land was extremely fertile, and most
of it required little labor to prepare it for cultivation.
Consequently after 1800 the influx of white settlers, mainly cotton
raisers, was heavy; and by 1812 the great triangular area between the
Alabama and the Tombigbee, as well as extensive tracts along the upper
Tombigbee and the Mobile, was quite fully occupied. The heart of the
Creek country was the region about the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers,
which join in central Alabama to form the stream which bears the
State's name. But not even this district was immune from encroachment.

The Creeks were not of a sort to submit to the loss of their lands
without a struggle. Though Tecumseh, in 1811, had brought them to the
point of an uprising, his plans were not carried out, and it remained
for the news of hostilities between the United States and Great
Britain to rouse the war spirit afresh. In a short time the entire
Creek country was aflame. Arms and ammunition the Indians obtained
from the Spaniards across the Florida border, and Colonel Edward
Nicholls, now stationed at Pensacola as provisional British Governor,
gave them open encouragement. The danger was understood not only among
the people of the Southwest but in Washington. Before plans of defense
could be carried into effect, however, the war broke out, and the
wretched people who had crowded into the flimsy stockade called by
courtesy Fort Mims were massacred.

Hardly had the heap of ruins, ghastly with human bodies, ceased to
smolder before fleet riders were spreading the news in Georgia, in
Louisiana, and in Tennessee. A shudder swept the country. Every
exposed community expected to be attacked next. The people's demand
for vengeance was overmastering, and from north, west, and east
volunteer armies were soon on the march. Tennessee sent two quotas,
one from the eastern counties under General John Cocke, the other from
the western under Andrew Jackson. When the news of the disaster on the
Mobile reached Nashville, Jackson was lying helpless from wounds
received in his fight with the Bentons. But he issued the necessary
orders from his bed and let it be known with customary vigor that he,
the senior major general, and no one else, would lead the expedition;
and though three weeks later he started off with his arm tightly
bandaged to his side and a shoulder so sore that it could not bear the
pressure of an epaulette, lead the expedition he did.

About the middle of October the emaciated but, dogged commander
brought his forces together, 2700 strong, at Huntsville and began
cutting his way across the mountains toward the principal Creek
settlements. His plan was to fall suddenly upon these settlements,
strike terror into the inhabitants, and force a peace on terms that
would guarantee the safety of the frontier populations. Supplies were
slow to arrive, and Jackson fumed and stormed. He quarreled
desperately, too, with Cocke, whom he unjustly blamed for
mismanagement. But at last he was able to emerge on the banks of the
Coosa and build a stockade, Fort Strother, to serve as a base for the

During the months that followed, the intrepid leader was compelled to
fight two foes--his insubordinate militiamen and the Creeks. His
command consisted partly of militia and partly of volunteers,
including many men who had first enlisted for the expedition down the
Mississippi. Starvation and disease caused loud murmurings, and after
one or two minor victories had been won the militiamen took it into
their heads to go back home. Jackson drew up the volunteers across the
mutineers' path and drove them back to the camp. Then the volunteers
started off, and the militia had to be used to bring them back! At one
time the furious general faced a mutinous band single-handed and,
swearing that he would shoot the first man who stirred, awed the
recalcitrants into obedience. On another occasion he had a youth who
had been guilty of insubordination shot before the whole army as an
object lesson. At last it became apparent that nothing could be done
with such troops, and the volunteers--such of them as had not already
slipped away--were allowed to go home. Governor Blount advised that
the whole undertaking be given up. But Jackson wrote him a letter that
brought a flush of shame to his cheek, and in a short time fresh
forces by the hundreds, with ample supplies, were on the way to Fort
Strother. Among the newcomers was a lank, angular-featured
frontiersman who answered to the name of Sam Houston.

After having been reduced for a short period to one hundred men,
Jackson by early spring had an army of five thousand, including a
regiment of regulars, and found it once more possible to act. The
enemy decided to make its stand at a spot called by the Indians
Tohopeka, by the whites Horseshoe Bend, on the Tallapoosa. Here a
thousand warriors, with many women and children, took refuge behind
breastworks which they believed impregnable, and here, in late March,
Jackson attacked with a force of three thousand men. No quarter was
asked and none given, on either side, and the battle quickly became a
butchery. Driven by fire from a thicket of dry brush in which they
took refuge, the Creek warriors were shot down or bayoneted by the
hundreds; those who plunged into the river for safety were killed as
they swam. Scarcely a hundred survived. Among the number was a youth
who could speak a little English, and whose broken leg one of the
surgeons undertook to treat. Three stalwart riflemen were required to
hold the patient. "Lie still, my boy, they will save your life," said
Jackson encouragingly, as he came upon the scene. "No good," replied
the disconsolate victim. "No good. Cure um now, kill um again!"

The victory practically ended the war. Many of the "Red Sticks," as
the Creek braves were called, fled beyond the Florida border; but
many--among them the astute half-breed Weathersford, who had ordered
the assault on Fort Mims--came in and surrendered. Fort Jackson, built
in the river fork, became an outpost of American sovereignty in the
very heart of the Creek district. "The fiends of the Tallapoosa,"
declared the victorious commander in his farewell address to his men,
"will no longer murder our women and children, or disturb the quiet of
our borders."

Jackson returned to Tennessee to find himself the most popular man in
the State. Nashville gave him the first of what was destined to be a
long series of tumultuous receptions; and within a month the news came
that William Henry Harrison had resigned his commission and that
Jackson had been appointed a major general in the army of the United
States, with command in the southwestern district, including Mobile
and New Orleans. "Thus did the frontier soldier, who eighteen months
earlier had not commanded an expedition or a detachment, come to
occupy the highest rank in the army of his country. No other man in
that country's service since the Revolution has risen to the top quite
so quickly."[1]

By his appointment Jackson became the eventual successor of General
Wilkinson, with headquarters at New Orleans. His first move, however,
v as to pay a visit to Mobile; and on his way thither, in August,
1814, he paused in the Creek country to garner the fruits of his late
victory. A council of the surviving chiefs was assembled and a treaty
was presented, with a demand that it be signed forthwith. The terms
took the Indians aback, but argument was useless. The whites were
granted full rights to maintain military posts and roads and to
navigate the rivers in the Creek lands; the Creeks had to promise to
stop trading with British and Spanish posts; and they were made to
cede to the United States all the lands which their people had claimed
west and southeast of the Coosa River--more than half of their ancient
territories. Thus was the glory of the Creek nation brought to an end.

Meanwhile the war with Great Britain was entering a new and
threatening phase. No notable successes had been achieved on land, and
repeated attempts to reduce Canada had signally failed. On the Great
Lakes and the high seas the navy had won glory, but only a handful of
privateers was left to keep up the fight. The collapse of Napoleon's
power had brought a lull in Europe, and the British were free to
concentrate their energies as never before on the conflict in America.
The effects were promptly seen in the campaign which led to the
capture of Washington and the burning of the Federal Capitol in
August, 1814. They were equally manifest in a well-laid plan for a
great assault on the country's southern borders and on the great
Mississippi Valley beyond.

The last-mentioned project meant that, after two years of immunity,
the Southwest had become a main theater of the war. There was plenty
of warning of what was coming, for the British squadron intended for
the attack began assembling in the West Indies before the close of
summer. No one knew, however, where or when the blow would fall. To
Jackson the first necessity seemed to be to make sure of the defenses
of Mobile. For a time, at all events, he believed that the attack
would be made there, rather than at New Orleans; and an attempt of a
British naval force in September to destroy Fort Bowyer, at the
entrance to Mobile Bay, confirmed his opinion.

But the chief attraction of Mobile for the General was its proximity
to Florida. In July he had written to Washington asking permission to
occupy Pensacola. Months passed without a reply. Temptation to action
grew; and when, in October, three thousand Tennessee troops arrived
under one of the subordinate officers in the recent Creek War, longer
hesitation seemed a sign of weakness. Jackson therefore led his forces
against the Spanish stronghold, now in British hands, and quickly
forced its surrender. His men blew up one of the two forts, and the
British blew up the other. Within a week the work was done and the
General, well pleased with his exploit, was back at Mobile.

There he found awaiting him, in reply to his July letter, an order
from the new Secretary of War, James Monroe, forbidding him to touch
Pensacola. No great harm was done, for the invaded territory was no
longer neutral soil, and the task of soothing the ruffled feelings of
the Spanish court did not prove difficult.

As the autumn wore on, signs multiplied that the first British
objective in the South was to be New Orleans, and no efforts were
spared by the authorities at Washington to arouse the Southwest to its
danger and to stimulate an outpouring of troops sufficient to repel
any force that might be landed at the mouth of the Mississippi. On the
21st of November, Jackson set out for the menaced city. Five days
later a fleet of fifty vessels, carrying ten thousand veteran British
troops under command of Generals Pakenham and Gibbs, started from
Jamaica for what was expected to be an easy conquest. On the 10th of
December the hostile armada cast anchor off the Louisiana coast. Two
weeks later some two thousand redcoats emerged from Lake Borgne,
within six or seven miles of New Orleans, when the approach to the
city on that side was as yet unguarded by a gun or a man or an

That the "impossible" was now accomplished was due mainly to Jackson,
although credit must not be withheld from a dozen energetic
subordinate officers nor from the thousands of patriots who made up
the rank and file of the hastily gathered forces of defense. Men from
Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee--all
contributed to one of the most remarkable military achievements in our
history; although when the fight was over it was found that hundreds
were still as unarmed as when they arrived upon the scene.

A preliminary clash, in a dense fog, on the second evening before
Christmas served to inspire each army with a wholesome respect for the
other. The British decided to postpone further action until their
entire force could be brought up, and this gave Jackson just the time
he needed to assemble his own scattered divisions, select lines, of
defense, and throw up breastworks. By the end of the first week of
January both sides were ready for the test.

The British army was a splendid body of seven thousand trained
soldiers, seamen, and marines.

There were regiments which had helped Wellington to win Talavera,
Salamanca, and Victoria, and within a few short months some of these
same regiments were to stand in that thin red line which Ney and
Napoleon's guard could never break. Their general, Pakenham,
Wellington's brother-in-law, was a distinguished pupil of his
illustrious kinsman. Could frontiersmen who had never fought together
before, who had never seen the face of a civilized foe, withstand the
conquerors of Napoleon? But two branches of the same stubborn race
were represented on that little watery plain. The soldiers trained to
serve the strongest will in the Old World were face to face with the
rough and ready yeomanry embattled for defense by the one man of the
new world whose soul had most iron in it. It was Salamanca against
Tohopeka, discipline against individual alertness, the Briton of the
little Isle against the Briton of the wastes and wilds. But there was
one great difference. Wellington, "the Iron Duke," was not there; "Old
Hickory" was everywhere along the American lines.[2]

Behind their battery-studded parapets the Americans waited for the
British to make an assault. This the invaders did, five thousand
strong, on January 8, 1815. The fighting was hard, but the main attack
failed at every point. Three British major generals, including
Pakenham, were killed early in the action, and the total British loss
exceeded two thousand. The American loss was but seventy-one. The
shattered foe fell back, lay inactive for ten days, and then quietly
withdrew as they had come. Though Jackson was not noted for piety, he
always believed that his success on this occasion was the work of
Providence. "Heaven, to be sure," he wrote to Monroe, "has interposed
most wonderfully in our behalf, and I am filled with gratitude when I
look back to what we have escaped."

By curious irony, the victory had no bearing upon the formal results
of the war. A treaty of peace had been signed at Ghent two weeks
before, and the news of the pacification and of the exploit at New
Orleans reached the distracted President at almost the same time. But
who shall say that the battle was not one of the most momentous in
American history? It compensated for a score of humiliations suffered
by the country in the preceding years. It revived the people's
drooping pride and put new energy into the nation's dealings with its
rivals, contributing more than any other single event to make this war
indeed a "second war of independence." "Now," declared Henry Clay when
the news reached him in Paris, "I can go to England without
mortification." Finally, the battle brought Andrew Jackson into his
own as the idol and incarnation of the West, and set the western
democracy decisively forward as a force to be reckoned with in
national affairs.



The victory at New Orleans made Jackson not only the most popular man
in the United States but a figure of international interest.
"Napoleon, returning from Elba to eke out the Hundred Days and add the
name Waterloo to history, paused now and then a moment to study
Jackson at New Orleans. The Duke of Wellington, chosen by assembled
Europe to meet the crisis, could find time even at Brussels to call
for 'all available information on the abortive expedition against

While his countrymen were sounding his praises, the General, however,
fell into a controversy with the authorities and people of New Orleans
which lent a drab aspect to the closing scene of an otherwise
brilliant drama. One of his first acts upon arriving in the
defenseless city had been to declare martial law; and under the decree
the daily life of the inhabitants had been rigorously circumscribed,
citizens had been pressed into military service, men under suspicion
had been locked up, and large quantities of cotton and other supplies
had been seized for the soldiers' use. When Pakenham's army was
defeated, people expected an immediate return to normal conditions.
Jackson, however, proposed to take no chances. Neither the sailing of
the British fleet nor the receipt of the news of peace from Admiral
Cochrane influenced him to relax his vigilance, and only after
official instructions came from Washington in the middle of March was
the ban lifted.

Meanwhile a violent quarrel had broken out between the commander and
the civil authorities, who naturally wished to resume their accustomed
functions. Finding that the Creoles were systematically evading
service by registering as French citizens, Jackson abruptly ordered
all such people from the city; and he was responsible for numerous
other arbitrary acts. Protests were lodged, and some people threatened
judicial proceedings. But they might have saved their breath. Jackson
was not the man to argue matters of the kind. A leading Creole who
published an especially pointed protest was clapped into prison, and
when the Federal district judge, Hall, issued a writ of _habeas
corpus_ in his behalf, Jackson had him also shut up.

As soon as he was liberated, the irate judge summoned Jackson into
court to show why he should not be held in contempt. Beyond a blanket
vindication of his acts, the General would not plead. "I will not
answer interrogatories," he declared. "I may have erred, but my
motives cannot be misinterpreted." The judge thereupon imposed a fine
of one thousand dollars, the only question being, he declared,
"whether the Law should bend to the General or the General to the
Law." Jackson accepted the sentence with equanimity, and to a group of
admirers who drew him in a carriage from the court room to one of the
leading coffeehouses, he expressed lofty sentiments on the obligation
of citizens of every rank to obey the laws and uphold the courts.
Twenty-nine years afterwards Congress voted reimbursement to the full
amount of the fine with interest.

For three weeks after the arrival of the treaty of peace Jackson
lingered at New Orleans, haggling by day with the contractors and
merchants whose cotton, blankets, and bacon were yet to be paid for,
and enjoying in the evening the festivities planned in his honor by
grateful citizens. His pleasure in the gala affairs of the time was
doubled by the presence of his wife, who one day arrived quite
unexpectedly in the company of some Tennessee friends. Mrs. Jackson
was a typical frontier planter's wife--kind-hearted, sincere,
benevolent, thrifty, pious, but unlettered and wholly innocent of
polished manners. In all her forty-eight years she had never seen a
city more pretentious than Nashville. She was, moreover, stout and
florid, and it may be supposed that in her rustic garb she was a
somewhat conspicuous figure among the fashionable ladies of New
Orleans society.

But the wife of Jackson's accomplished friend and future Secretary of
State, Edward Livingston, fitted her out with fashionable clothes and
tactfully instructed her in the niceties of etiquette, and ere long
she was able to demean herself, if not without a betrayal of her
unfamiliarity with the environment, at all events to the complete
satisfaction of the General. The latter's devotion to his wife was a
matter of much comment. "Debonair as he had been in his association
with the Creole belles, he never missed an opportunity to demonstrate
that he considered the short, stout, beaming matron at his side the
perfection of her sex and far and away the most charming woman in the
world."[4] "Aunt Rachel," as she was known throughout western
Tennessee, lived to see the hero of New Orleans elected President, but
not to share with him the honors of the position. "I have sometimes
thought," said Thomas Hart Benton, "that General Jackson might have
been a more equable tenant of the White House than he was had she been
spared to share it with him. At all events, she was the only human
being on earth who ever possessed the power to swerve his mighty will
or soothe his fierce temper."

Shortly before their departure the Jacksons were guests of honor at a
grand ball at the Academy. The upper floor was arranged for dancing
and the lower for supper, and the entire building was aglow with
flowers, colored lamps, and transparencies. As the evening wore on and
the dances of polite society had their due turn, the General finally
avowed that he and his bonny wife would show the proud city folk what
_real_ dancing was. A somewhat cynical observer--a certain Nolte, whom
Jackson had just forced to his own terms in a settlement for war
supplies--records his impression as follows: "After supper we were
treated to a most delicious _pas de deux_ by the conqueror and his
spouse. To see these two figures, the General, a long haggard man,
with limbs like a skeleton, and Madame la Generale, a short fat
dumpling, bobbing opposite each other like half-drunken Indians, to
the wild melody of _Possum up de Gum Tree_, and endeavoring to make a
spring into the air, was very remarkable, and far more edifying a
spectacle than any European ballet could possibly have furnished." But
Jackson was only less proud of his accomplishments as a dancer than as
a fighter, and it was the part of discretion for a man of Nolte's
critical turn to keep a straight face on this occasion.

In early April the General and his wife started homeward, the latter
bearing as a parting gift from the women of New Orleans the somewhat
gaudy set of topaz jewelry which she wears in her most familiar
portrait. The trip was a continuous ovation, and at Nashville a series
of festivities wound up with a banquet attended by the most
distinguished soldiers and citizens of Tennessee and presided over by
the Governor of the State. Other cities gave dinners, and legislatures
voted swords and addresses. A period of rest at the Hermitage was
interrupted in the autumn of 1815 by a horseback trip to Washington
which involved a succession of dinners and receptions. But after a few
months the much feted soldier was back at Nashville, ready, as he
said, to "resume the cultivation of that friendly intercourse with my
friends and neighbors which has heretofore constituted so great a
portion of my happiness."

After Jackson had talked over his actions at New Orleans with both the
President and the Secretary of War, he had received, as he says, "a
chart blank," approving his "whole proceedings"; so he had nothing
further to worry about on that score. The national army had been
reorganized on a peace footing, in two divisions, each under command
of a major general. The northern division fell to Jacob Brown of New
York, the hero of Lundy's Lane; the southern fell to Jackson, with
headquarters at Nashville.

Jackson was the last man to suppose that warfare in the southern half
of the United States was a thing of the past. He knew that the late
contest had left the southern Indians restless and that the existing
treaties were likely to be repudiated at any moment. Florida was still
in the hands of the Spaniards, and he had never a doubt that some day
this territory would have to be conquered and annexed. Moreover
Jackson believed for some years after 1815, according to General
Eaton, that Great Britain would again make war on the United States,
using Florida as a base. At all events, it can have caused the General
no surprise--or regret--to be called again into active service on the
Florida border before the close of 1817.

The hold of the Spaniards upon Florida had been so far weakened by the
War of 1812 that after the restoration of peace they occupied only
three important points--Pensacola, St. Marks, and St. Augustine. The
rest of the territory became a No Man's Land, an ideal resort for
desperate adventurers of every race and description. There was a
considerable Indian population, consisting mainly of Seminoles, a
tribe belonging to the Creek Confederacy, together with other Creeks
who had fled across the border to escape the vengeance of Jackson at
Tohopeka. All were bitterly hostile to the United States. There were
Spanish freebooters, Irish roustabouts, Scotch free lances, and
runaway slaves--a nondescript lot, and all ready for any undertaking
that promised excitement, revenge, or booty. Furthermore there were
some British soldiers who had remained on their own responsibility
after the troops were withdrawn. The leading spirit among these was
Colonel Edward Nicholls, who had already made himself obnoxious to the
United States by his conduct at Pensacola.

At the close of the war Nicholls and his men built a fort on the
Apalachicola, fifteen miles from the Gulf, and began again to collect
and organize fugitive slaves, Indians, and adventurers of every sort,
whom they employed on raids into the territory of the United States
and in attacks upon its inhabitants. The Creeks were falsely informed
that in the Treaty of Ghent the United States had promised to give up
all lands taken from them during the late war, and they were thus
incited to rise in vindication of their alleged rights. What Nicholls
was aiming at came out when, in company with several chieftains, he
returned to England to ask for an alliance between the "mother
country" and his buccaneer state. He met no encouragement, however,
and in reply to an American protest the British Government repudiated
his arts. His role was nevertheless promptly taken up by a misguided
Scotch trader, Alexander Arbuthnot, and the reign of lawlessness

After all, it was Spain's business to keep order on the frontier; and
the United States waited a year and a half for the Madrid Government
to give evidence of intent to do so. But, as nothing but vain promises
were forthcoming, some American troops engaged in building a fort on
the Apalachicola, just north of the boundary line, marched down the
river in July, 1816, bombarded Nicholls's Negro Fort, blew up its
magazine, and practically exterminated the Negro and Indian garrison.
A menace to the slave property of southern Georgia was thus removed,
but the bigger problem remained. The Seminoles were restive; the
refugee Creeks kept up their forays across the border; and the rich
lands acquired by the Treaty of Fort Jackson were fast filling with
white settlers who clamored for protection. Though the Monroe
Administration had opened negotiations for the cession of the whole
Florida country to the United States, progress was slow and the
outcome doubtful.

Matters came to a head in the closing weeks of 1817. General Gaines,
who was in command on the Florida border, had tried repeatedly to get
an interview with the principal "Red Stick" chieftain, but all of his
overtures had been repulsed. Finally he sent a detachment of soldiers
to conduct the dignitary and his warriors from their village at
Fowltown, on the American side of the line, to a designated parley
ground. In no mood for negotiation, the chief ordered his followers to
fire on the visitors; whereupon the latter seized and destroyed the

The fight at Fowltown may be regarded as the beginning of the Seminole
War. General Gaines was directed to begin operations against the
Indians and to pursue them if necessary into East Florida; but before
he could carry out his orders, Jackson was put in personal command of
the forces acting against the Indians and was instructed to
concentrate all of the troops in his department at Fort Scott and to
obtain from the Governors of Georgia and Tennessee such other
assistance as he should need.

Jackson received his orders at the Hermitage. Governor Blount was
absent from Nashville, but the eager commander went ahead raising
troops on his own responsibility. Nothing was so certain to whet his
appetite for action as the prospect of a war in Florida. Not only did
his instructions authorize him to pursue the enemy, under certain
conditions, into Spanish territory, but from the first he himself
conceived of the enterprise as decidedly more than a punitive
expedition. The United States wanted Florida and was at the moment
trying to induce Spain to give it up.

Here was the chance to take it regardless of Spain, "Let it be
signified to me through any channel (say Mr. J. Rhea)," wrote the
Major General to the President, "that the possession of the Floridas
would be desirable to the United States, and in sixty days it will be

This "Rhea letter" became the innocent source of one of the most
famous controversies in American history. Jackson supposed that the
communication had been promptly delivered to Monroe, and that his plan
for the conquest of Florida had the full, if secret, approval of the
Administration. Instructions from the Secretary of War, Calhoun,
seemed susceptible of no other interpretation; besides, the conqueror
subsequently maintained that he received through Rhea the assurance
that he coveted. Monroe, however, later denied flatly that he had
given any orders of the kind. Indeed he said that through a peculiar
combination of circumstances he had not even read Jackson's letter
until long after the Florida campaign was ended. Each man, no doubt,
thought he was telling the truth, and historians will probably always
differ upon the merits of the case. The one thing that is perfectly
certain is that Jackson, when he carried his troops into Florida in
1818, believed that the Government expected him to prepare the
territory for permanent American occupation.

In early March, Jackson was at Fort Scott, on the Georgia frontier,
with about two thousand men. Though he expected other forces, Jackson
found that scarcity of rations made it inadvisable to wait for them,
and he therefore marched his army on as rapidly as possible down the
soggy bank of the Apalachicola, past the ruins of Negro Fort, into
Florida, where he found in readiness the provisions which had been
sent forward by way of Mobile. Turning eastward, Jackson bore down
upon the Spanish settlement of St. Marks, where it was rumored that
the hostile natives had assembled in considerable numbers. A small
fleet of gunboats from Mobile and New Orleans was ordered to move
along the coast and intercept any fugitives, "white, red, or black."
Upwards of two thousand friendly Indians joined the land expedition,
and the invasion became from a military standpoint a sheer farce. The
Seminoles were utterly unprepared for war, and their villages were
taken possession of, one by one, without opposition. At St. Marks the
Indians fled precipitately, and the little Spanish garrison, after a
glimpse of the investing force, asked only that receipts be given for
the movable property confiscated. The Seminole War was over almost
before it was begun.

But Jackson was not in Florida simply to quell the Seminoles. He was
there to vindicate the honor and establish the sovereignty of the
United States. Hence there was further work for him to do. The British
instigators of lawlessness were to be apprehended; the surviving
evidences of Spanish authority were to be obliterated. Both objects
Jackson attained with characteristic speed and thoroughness. At St.
Marks he made Arbuthnot a prisoner; at Suwanee he captured another
meddler by the name of Ambrister; and after a court-martial he hanged
one and shot the other in the presence of the chieftains whom these
men had deceived into thinking that Great Britain stood ready to come
to the red man's relief. Two Indian chiefs who were considered
ringleaders he likewise executed. Then, leaving St. Marks in the
possession of two hundred troops, Jackson advanced upon Pensacola, the
main seat of Spanish authority in the colony.

From the Governor, Don Jose Callava, now came a dignified note of
protest; but the invader's only reply was an announcement of his
purpose to take possession of the town, on the ground that its
population had encouraged the Indians and given them supplies. On May
24, 1818, the American forces and their allies marched in, unopposed,
and the commander coolly apprised Callava that he would "assume the
government until the transaction can be amicably adjusted by the two
governments." "If, contrary to my hopes," responded the Spanish
dignitary, "Your Excellency should persist in your intention to occupy
this fortress, which I am resolved to defend to the last extremity, I
shall repel force by force; and he who resists aggression can never be
considered an aggressor. God preserve Your Excellency many years." To
which Jackson replied that "resistance would be a wanton sacrifice of
blood," and that he could not but remark on the Governor's
inconsistency in presuming himself capable of repelling an army which
had conquered Indian tribes admittedly too powerful for the Spaniards
to control.

When the Americans approached the fort in which Callava had taken
refuge, they were received with a volley which they answered, as
Jackson tells us, with "a nine-pound piece and five eight-inch
howitzers." The Spaniards, whose only purpose was to make a decent
show of defending the place, then ran up the white flag and were
allowed to march out with the honors of war. The victor sent the
Governor and soldiery off to Havana, installed a United States
collector of customs, stationed a United States garrison in the fort,
and on the following day set out on his way to Tennessee.

In a five months' campaign Jackson had established peace on the
border, had broken the power of the hostile Indians, and had
substantially conquered Florida. Not a white man in his army had been
killed in battle, and not even the most extravagant eulogist could
aver that the war had been a great military triumph. None the less,
the people--especially in the West and South--were intensely pleased.
Life in the frontier regions would now be safer; and the acquisition
of the coveted Florida country was brought appreciably nearer. The
popular sentiment on the latter subject found characteristic
expression in a toast at a banquet given at Nashville in honor of the
returning conqueror: "Pensacola--Spanish perfidy and Indian barbarity
rendered its capture necessary. May our Government never surrender it
from the fear of war!"

It was easy enough for Jackson to "take" Florida and for the people to
rejoice in the exploit. To defend or explain away the irregular
features of the act was, however, quite a different matter; and that
was the task which fell to the authorities at Washington. "The
territory of a friendly power had been invaded, its officers deposed,
its towns and fortresses taken possession of; two citizens of another
friendly and powerful nation had been executed in scandalously summary
fashion, upon suspicion rather than evidence." The Spanish Minister,
Onis, wrathfully protested to the Secretary of State and demanded that
Jackson be punished; while from London Rush quoted Castlereagh as
saying that English feeling was so wrought up that war could be
produced by the raising of a finger.

Monroe and his Cabinet were therefore given many anxious days and
sleepless nights. They wanted to buy Florida, not conquer it. They had
entertained no thought of authorizing the things that Jackson had
done. They recognized that the Tennesseean's crude notions of
international law could not be upheld in dealings with proud European
States. Yet it was borne in upon them from every side that the nation
approved what had been done; and the politically ambitious might well
think twice before casting any slur upon the acts of the people's
hero. Moreover the irascibility of the conqueror himself was known and
feared. Calhoun, the Secretary of War, who was specially annoyed
because his instructions had not been followed, favored a public
censure. On the other hand, John Quincy Adams, the Secretary of State,
took the ground that everything that Jackson had done was "defensive
and incident to his main duty to crush the Seminoles." The
Administration finally reached the decision to surrender the posts but
otherwise to back up the General, in the hope of convincing Spain of
the futility of trying longer to hold Florida. Monroe explained the
necessities of the situation to Jackson as tactfully as he could,
leaving him under the impression--which was corrected only in
1830--that Crawford, rather than Calhoun, was the member of the
Cabinet who had held out against him.

But the controversy spread beyond the Cabinet circle. During the
winter of 1818-19 Congress took it up, and a determined effort was
made to carry a vote of censure. The debate in the House--with
galleries crowded to suffocation, we are informed by the _National
Intelligencer_--lasted four weeks and was notable for bringing Clay
for the first time publicly into opposition to the Tenneseean. The
resolutions containing the censure were voted down, however, by a
majority of almost two to one. In the Senate a select committee, after
a laborious investigation, brought in an unfavorable report, but no
further action was taken.

When the discussion in Congress was at its height, Jackson himself
appeared in Washington. Certain friends at the capital, fearing that
his outbursts of temper would prejudice his case, urged him to remain
at home, but others assured him that his presence was needed. To his
neighbor, Major Lewis, Jackson confided: "A lot of d---d rascals, with
Clay at their head--and maybe with Adams in the rear-guard--are
setting up a conspiracy against me. I'm going there to see it out with

Until vindicated by the House vote, he remained quietly in his hotel.
After that he felt free to pay and receive calls, attend dinners, and
accept the tokens of regard which were showered upon him. It was now
that he paid his first visit to a number of the larger eastern cities.
Philadelphia feted him four days. In New York the freedom of the city
was presented by the mayor on a delicately inscribed parchment
enclosed in a gold box, and Tammany gave a great dinner at which the
leading guest, to the dismay of the young Van Buren and other
supporters of Crawford, toasted DeWitt Clinton, the leader of the
opposing Republican faction. At Baltimore there was a dinner, and the
city council asked the visitor to sit for a picture by Peale for the
adornment of the council room. Here the General was handed a copy of
the Senate committee's report, abounding in strictures on his Seminole
campaign. Hastening back to Washington, he filled the air with
threats, and was narrowly prevented from personally assaulting a
member of the investigating committee. When, however, it appeared that
the report was to be allowed to repose for all time on the table,
Jackson's indignation cooled, and soon he was on his way back to
Tennessee. With him went the news that Adams and Onis had signed a
treaty of "amity, settlements, and limits," whereby for a
consideration of five million dollars the sovereignty of all Florida
was transferred to the United States. This treaty, as Jackson viewed
it, was the crowning vindication of the acts which had been called in
question; and public sentiment agreed with him.

Dilatory tactics on the part of the Madrid Government delayed the
actual transfer of the territory more than two years. After having
twice refused, Jackson at length accepted the governorship of Florida,
and in the early summer of 1821 he set out, by way of New Orleans, for
his new post. Mrs. Jackson went with him, although she had no liking
for either the territory or its people. On the morning of the 17th of
July the formal transfer took place. A procession was formed,
consisting of such American soldiers as were on the spot. A ship's
band briskly played _The Star Spangled Banner_ and the new Governor
rode proudly at the fore as the procession moved along Main Street to
the government house, where ex-Governor Callava with his staff was in
waiting. The Spanish flag was hauled down, the American was run up,
the keys were handed over, and the remaining members of the garrison
were sent off to the vessels which on the morrow were to bear them on
their way to Cuba. Only Callava and a few other officials and
merchants stayed behind to close up matters of public and private

Jackson's governorship was brief and stormy. In the first place, he
had no taste for administrative routine, and he found no such
opportunity as he had hoped for to confer favors upon his friends. "I
am sure our stay here will not be long," wrote Mrs. Jackson to a
brother in early August. "This office does not suit my husband....
There never was a man more disappointed than he has been. He has not
the power to appoint one of his friends." In the second place, the new
Governor's status was wholly anomalous, since Congress had extended to
the territory only the revenue and anti-slave-trade laws, leaving
Jackson to exercise in other matters the rather vague powers of the
captain general of Cuba and of the Spanish governors of the Floridas.
And in the third place, before his first twenty-four hours were up,
the new executive fell into a desperate quarrel with his predecessor,
a man of sufficiently similar temperament to make the contest a source
of sport for the gods.

Jackson was prepared to believe the worst of any Spaniard, and his
relations with Callava grew steadily more strained until finally, with
a view to obtaining possession of certain deeds and other legal
papers, he had the irate dignitary shut up overnight in the calaboose.
Then he fell upon the judge of the Western District of Florida for
issuing a writ of habeas _corpus_ in the Spaniard's behalf; and all
parties--Jackson, Callava, and the judge--swamped the wearied
officials at Washington with "statements" and "exhibitions" setting
forth in lurid phraseology their respective views upon the questions
involved. Callava finally carried his complaints to the capital in
person and stirred the Spanish Minister to a fresh bombardment of the
White House. Monroe's Cabinet spent three days discussing the subject,
without coming to a decision. Many were in honest doubt as to the
principles of law involved; some were fearful of the political effects
of any stand they might take; all were inexpressibly relieved when,
late in the year, word came that "Don Andrew Jackson" had resigned the
governorship and was proposing to retire to private life at the



On a bracing November afternoon in 1821 Jackson rode up with his
family to the Hermitage free for the first time in thirty-two years
from all responsibility of civil and military office. He was now
fifty-four years old and much broken by exposure and disease; the
prospect of spending the remainder of his days among his hospitable
neighbors on the banks of the Cumberland yielded deep satisfaction.
The home-loving Mrs. Jackson, too, earnestly desired that he should
not again be drawn into the swirl of public life. "I do hope," she
wrote plaintively to a niece soon after her return to the Hermitage,
"they will leave Mr. Jackson alone. He is not a well man and never
will be unless they allow him to rest. He has done his share for the
country. How little time has he had to himself or for his own
interests in the thirty years of our wedded life in all that time he
has not spent one-fourth of his days under his own roof. The rest of
the time away, traveling, holding court, or at the capital of the
country, or in camp, or fighting its battles, or treating with the
Indians; mercy knows what not."

The intent to retire was honest enough but not so easy to carry out.
The conqueror of the Creeks and Seminoles belonged not merely to
Tennessee but to the entire Southwest; the victor of New Orleans
belonged to the Nation. Already there was talk--"talk everlastingly,"
Mrs. Jackson tells us in the letter just quoted--of making the hero
President. Jackson, furthermore, was not the type of man to sit idly
by while great scenes were enacted on the political stage. When he
returned from Florida, he faced the future with the weary vision of a
sick man. Rest and reviving strength, however, put the old vim into
his words and acts. In two years he was a second time taking a seat in
the United States Senate, in three he was contesting for the
presidency, and in seven he was moving into the White House.

The glimpses which one gets of the General's surroundings and habits
during his brief interval of repose create a pleasing impression.
Following the winding turnpike westward from Nashville a distance of
nine or ten miles and rumbling across the old wooden bridge over Stone
River, a visitor would find himself at Hermitage Farm. The estate
contained at that time somewhat more than a thousand acres, of which
four hundred were under cultivation and the remainder luxuriant
forest. Negro cabins stood here and there, and in one corner was a
little brick church which the proprietor had built for the solace of
his wife. In the center of a well-kept lawn, flanked with cedars and
oaks, stood the family mansion, the Hermitage, whose construction had
been begun at the close of the Seminole War in 1819. The building was
of brick, two stories high, with a double wooden piazza in both front
and rear. The rooms were small and simply furnished, the chief
adornment being portraits of the General and his friends, though later
was added the familiar painting of Mrs. Jackson. Lavasseur, who as
private secretary of La Fayette visited the place in 1825, was greatly
surprised to find a person of Jackson's renown living in a structure
which in France would hardly suffice for the porter's lodge at the
chateau of a man of similar standing. But western Tennessee afforded
nothing finer, and Jackson considered himself palatially housed.

Life on the Hermitage estate had its full share of the charm of the
old South. After breakfasting at eight or nine, the proprietor spent
the day riding over his broad acres, giving instructions to his
workmen, keeping up his accounts, chatting with neighbors and
passers-by, and devouring the newspapers with a zeal born of
unremitting interest in public affairs. After the evening meal the
family gathered on the cool piazza in summer, or around the blazing
hearth of the great living room in winter, and spent the hours until
the early bedtime in telling stories, discussing local and national
happenings, or listening to the news of distant localities as retailed
by the casual visitor. The hospitality of the Jackson home was
proverbial. The General's army friends came often to see him.
Political leaders and advisers flocked to the place. Clergymen of all
denominations were received with special warmth by Mrs. Jackson.
Eastern men of distinction, when traveling to the West, came to pay
their respects. No foreigner who penetrated as far as the Mississippi
Valley would think of returning to his native land without calling
upon the picturesque figure at the Hermitage.

Chief among visitors from abroad was La Fayette. The two men met in
Washington in 1824 and formed an instant attachment for each other.
The great French patriot was greeted at Nashville the following year
with a public reception and banquet at which Jackson, as the first
citizen of the State, did the honors. Afterwards he spent some days in
the Jackson home, and one can imagine the avidity with which the two
men discussed the American and French revolutions, Napoleon, and the
late New Orleans campaign.

Jackson was first and last a democrat. He never lost touch with the
commonest people. Nevertheless there was always something of the grand
manner about him. On formal and ceremonial occasions he bore himself
with becoming dignity and even grace; in dress he was, as a rule,
punctilious. During his years at the Hermitage he was accustomed to
ride about in a carriage drawn by four spirited iron-gray horses,
attended by servants in blue livery with brass buttons, glazed hats,
and silver bands. "A very big man, sir," declared an old hotel waiter
to the visiting biographer Parton long afterwards. "We had many big
men, sir, in Nashville at that time, but General Jackson was the
biggest man of them all. I knew the General, sir; but he always had so
many people around him when he came to town that it was not often I
could get a chance to say anything to him."

The question as to who first proposed Jackson for the presidency will
probably never be answered. The victory at New Orleans evidently
brought the idea into many minds. As the campaign of 1816 was
beginning, Aaron Burr wrote to his son-in-law that, if the country
wanted a President of firmness and decision, "that man is Andrew
Jackson." Not apparently until 1821 was the suggestion put forward in
such a way as to lead Jackson himself to take note of it. Even then he
scoffed at it. To a friend who assured him that he was not "safe from
the presidency" in 1824, he replied: "I really hope you don't think
that I am d---- fool enough to believe that. No sir; I may be pretty
well satisfied with myself in some things, but am not vain enough for
that." On another occasion he declared: "No sir; I know what I am fit
for. I can command a body of men in a rough way; but I am not fit to
be President."

It really mattered little what the General himself thought. His
Tennessee friends had conceived the idea that he could be elected, and
already they were at work to realize this vision. One of the most
active was John H. Eaton, who had lately written the hero's biography
down to the return from New Orleans. Another of his friends was
Governor Blount. John Rhea, Felix Grundy, and half a dozen more
helped. But the man who really made Jackson President was his near
neighbor and his inseparable companion of later years, William B.

In a day of astute politicians Major Lewis was one of the cleverest.
He knew Jackson more intimately than did any other man and could sway
him readily to his purposes in all matters upon which the General's
mind was not absolutely made up. He had a wide acquaintance over the
country; he was possessed of ample means and leisure; he was an adept
at pulling judiciously laid and well-concealed political wires; he
fully understood the ideas, aspirations, and feelings of the classes
whose support was necessary to the success of his plans. In the
present juncture he worked on two main lines: first, to arouse
Jackson's own State to a feverish enthusiasm for the candidacy of its
"favorite son," and, second, to start apparently spontaneous Jackson
movements in various sections of the country, in such a manner that
their cumulative effect would be to create an impression of a
nation-wide and irresistible demand for the victor of New Orleans as a

Tennessee was easily stirred. That the General merited the highest
honor within the gift of the people required no argument among his
fellow citizens. The first open steps were taken in January, 1822,
when the _Gazette_ and other Nashville papers sounded the clarion
call. The response was overwhelming; and when Jackson himself, in
reply to a letter from Grundy, diplomatically declared that he would
"neither seek nor shun" the presidency, his candidacy was regarded as
an established fact. On the 20th of July, the Legislature of the State
placed him formally in nomination. Meanwhile Lewis had gone to North
Carolina to work up sentiment there, and by the close of the year
assurances of support were coming in satisfactorily. From being
skeptical or at best indifferent, Jackson himself had come to share
the enthusiasm of his assiduous friends.

The Jackson managers banked from the first upon two main assets: one
was the exceptional popularity of their candidate, especially in the
South and West; the other was a political situation so muddled that at
the coming election it might be made to yield almost any result. For
upwards of a generation the presidency and vice presidency had been at
the disposal of a working alliance of Virginia and New York,
buttressed by such support as was needed from other controllable
States. Virginia regularly got the presidency, New York (except at the
time of the Clinton defection of 1812) the vice presidency. After the
second election of Monroe, in 1820, however, there were multiplying
signs that this affiliation of interests had reached the end of its
tether. In the first place, the Virginia dynasty had run out; at all
events Virginia had no candidate to offer and was preparing to turn
its support to a Georgian of Virginian birth, William H. Crawford. In
the second place, party lines had totally disappeared, and the
unifying and stabilizing influences of party names and affiliations
could not be counted on to keep down the number of independent
candidacies. Already, indeed, by the end of 1822 there were a
half-dozen avowed candidates, three of whom had seats at Monroe's
Cabinet table. Each was the representative of a section or of a
distinct interest, rather than of a party, and no one was likely to
feel under any compulsion to withdraw from the race at a preliminary

New England offered John Quincy Adams. She did so with reluctance, for
the old Federalist elements had never forgiven him for his desertion
to the Republican camp in the days of the embargo, while the back
country democracy had always looked upon him as an alien. But he was
the section's only available man--indeed, the only promising candidate
from any Northern State. His frigid manner was against him. But he had
had a long and honorable diplomatic career; he was winning new
distinction as Secretary of State; and he could expect to profit both
by the feeling that the North was entitled to the presidency and by
the fact that he was the only candidate from a non-slave State.

Crawford, Secretary of the Treasury, was the heir apparent of the
Virginia dynasty. Formerly this would have meant a clear road to the
White House. Even now it was supposed to be a tremendous asset; and
notwithstanding the Georgian's personal unpopularity in most parts of
the country, his advantages as the "regular candidate," coupled with
the long and careful campaign carried on in his behalf, were expected
by many keen observers to pull him through.

A third candidate within the Cabinet circle was Calhoun, Secretary of
War. Like Crawford, he could expect to reach the presidency only by
winning the support of one or more of the greater Northern States. For
a while he had hopes of Pennsylvania. When it appeared that he had
nothing to look for in this direction, he resigned himself to the
conclusion that, since he was yet hardly forty years of age, his time
had not yet come.

For the first time, the West now put forward candidates--two of them,
Clay and Jackson. Clay was a Kentuckian, of Virginian birth and
breeding, in whom were mingled the leading characteristics of both his
native and his adopted section. He was "impetuous, wilful,
high-spirited, daring, jealous, but, withal, a lovable man." For a
decade he had been the most conspicuous figure in the national House
of Representatives. He had raised the speakership to a high level of
importance and through its power had fashioned a set of issues,
reflective of western and middle-state ideas, upon which the politics
of the country turned for more than a quarter of a century. As
befitted a "great conciliator," he had admirers in every corner of the
land. Whether his strength could be sufficiently massed to yield
electoral results remained to be discovered.

But what of Jackson? If, as one writer has said, Clay was one of the
favorites of the West, Jackson was the West itself. "While Clay was
able to voice, with statesmanlike ability, the demand for economic
legislation to promote her interests, and while he exercised an
extraordinary fascination by his personal magnetism and his eloquence,
he never became the hero of the great masses of the West; he appealed
rather to the more intelligent--to the men of business and of
property."[5] Jackson, however, was the very personification of the
contentious, self-confident, nationalistic democracy of the interior.
He could make no claim to statesmanship. He had held no important
legislative or administrative position in his State, and his brief
career in Congress was entirely without distinction. He was a man of
action, not a theorist, and his views on public questions were, even
as late as 1820, not clear cut or widely known. In a general way he
represented the school of Randolph and Monroe, rather than that of
Jefferson and Madison. He was a moderate protectionist, because he
believed that domestic manufactures would make the United States
independent of European countries in time of war. On the Bank and
internal improvements his mind was not made up, although he was
inclined to regard both as unconstitutional.

Jackson's attitude toward the leading political personalities of the
time left no room for doubt. He supported Monroe in 1816 and in 1820
and continued on friendly terms with him notwithstanding the
President's failure on certain occasions to follow his advice. Among
the new contenders for the presidency the one he disliked most was
Crawford. "As to Wm. H. Crawford," he wrote to a friend in 1821, "you
know my opinion. I would support the Devil first." Clay, also, he
disliked--partly out of recollection of the Kentuckian's censorious
attitude during the Seminole debates, partly because of the natural
rivalry between the two men for the favor of the western people. Clay
fully reciprocated by refusing to believe that "killing 2,500
Englishmen at New Orleans" qualified Jackson for the "various
difficult and complicated duties of the chief magistracy." Toward
Adams, Jackson was not ill disposed; before he decided to permit his
own name to be used, he said that he would give his support in 1824 to
the New Englander--unless one other person should be brought forward.
That person was Calhoun, for whom, among all the candidates of the
day, he thus far had the warmest regard.

Among so many aspirants--and not all have been mentioned--how should
the people make up their minds? In earlier days the party caucuses in
Congress would have eliminated various candidates, and the voters
would have found themselves called upon to make a choice between
probably but two opponents. The caucus was an informal, voluntary
gathering of the party members in the two houses to canvass the
political situation and decide upon the men to be supported by the
rank and file of the party for the presidency and vice presidency. In
the lack of other nominating machinery it served a useful purpose, and
nominations had been commonly made in this manner from 1796 onwards.
There were obvious objections to the plan--chiefly that the authority
exercised was assumed rather than delegated--and, as the campaign of
1824 approached, opposition flared up in a very impressive manner.

Crawford, as the "regular" candidate, wanted a caucus, and his
adherents supported him in the wish. But all his rivals were opposed
to it, partly because they felt that they could not gain a caucus
nomination, partly because their followers generally objected to the
system. "King Caucus" became the target of general criticism.
Newspapers, except those for Crawford, denounced the old system;
legislatures passed resolutions against it; public meetings condemned
it; ponderous pamphlets were hurled at it; the campaigns of Jackson
and Clay, in particular, found their keynote in hostility toward it.
Failing to perceive that under the changed circumstances a caucus
nomination might become a liability rather than an asset, the Crawford
element pushed its plans, and on February 14, 1824, a caucus--destined
to be the last of the kind in the country--was duly held. It proved a
fiasco, for it was attended by only sixty-six persons. Crawford was
"recommended to the people of the United States" by an almost
unanimous vote, but the only effect was to infuse fresh energy into
the campaigns of his leading competitors. "The caucus," wrote Daniel
Webster to his brother Ezekiel, "has hurt nobody but its friends."

For the first time in eight years the country witnessed a real
presidential contest. The campaign, none the less, was one in which
the candidates themselves took but little active part. The days of
"swinging around the circle" had not yet dawned in our national
politics, nor had even those of the "front-porch" campaign. Adams made
no effort either to be nominated or to be elected, retaining
throughout the contest that austere reserve in public manner which
contrasted so singularly with his amiability and good humor in private
life. Jackson remained quietly at the Hermitage, replying to
correspondents and acknowledging expressions of support, but leaving
to his managers the work of winning the voters. Clay, whose oratorical
gifts would have made him an invincible twentieth century campaigner,
contented himself with a few interviews and speeches. The candidate
who normally would have taken most active personal part in the
campaign was Crawford. But in August, 1823--six months before the
caucus nomination--he was stricken with paralysis and rendered
speechless, almost blind, and practically helpless. For months he
hovered between life and death in a "mansion" on the outskirts of
Washington, while his friends labored to conceal the seriousness of
his condition and to keep his canvass going. Gradually he rallied; but
his powerful frame was shattered, and even when the caucus discharged
its appointed task of nominating him, the politicians were
cold-heartedly speculating upon who would receive the "old republican"
support if he should die. He recovered and lived ten years; but his
chances of the presidency were much diminished by his ill fortune. "He
had fallen with his face toward the goal, with his eyes and his heart
fixed upon it."

As the canvass progressed, Jackson steadily gained. His election to
the United States Senate, in the autumn of 1823, over a stanch
supporter of Crawford showed that his own State was acting in good
faith when it proposed him for the higher position. Clever propaganda
turned Pennsylvania "Jackson mad"; whereupon Calhoun, with an eye to
the future, sought an alliance with his competitor. The upshot was
that a convention held at Harrisburg in March, 1824, nominated Jackson
almost unanimously and named Calhoun for the vice presidency.
Hostility to the caucus became also a great asset. Tariff, internal
improvements, and foreign policy were discussed in the campaign, but
the real issue was the manner of selecting the President. Should he
continue to be chosen by a combination of Congressmen, or should the
people take matters into their own hands? Impatience with the caucus
system showed itself in numerous nominations of Clay, Adams, and
Jackson by sundry state conventions, legislatures, and other more or
less official bodies. The supporters of Jackson, in particular, made
"down with the caucus" their rallying cry and found it tremendously
effective. In the earlier stages of the campaign the politicians,
aside from Lewis and his coworkers, were unwilling to believe that
Jackson could be elected. Later, however, they were forced to
acknowledge his strength, and at the end the fight was really between
Jackson and the field, rather than between Crawford and the field as
had been anticipated.

At the beginning of November, Jackson, accompanied by his wife and
traveling in a handsome coach drawn by four of the finest Hermitage
thoroughbreds, set out for Washington. Hostile scribblers lost no time
in contrasting this display of grandeur with the republican simplicity
of Jefferson, who rode from Monticello to the capital on the back of a
plantation nag without pedigree. But Jackson was not perturbed. At
various points on the road he received returns from the elections, and
when after four or five weeks the equipage drew up in the capital
Jackson knew the general result. Calhoun had been elected vice
president with little opposition. But no one of the presidential
candidates had obtained an electoral majority, and the task of
choosing among the highest three would, under the terms of the
Constitution, devolve upon the House of Representatives. When, by the
middle of December, the returns were all in, it was found that Jackson
would have 99 votes in the electoral college, Adams 84, Crawford 41,
and Clay 37.

The country awaited the 9th of February--the day of the official
count--with great interest. Clay was, of course, eliminated. Crawford
likewise, by reason of his poor showing and the precarious state of
his health, could not expect to do more than hold his own. The contest
had narrowed to Jackson and Adams, with Clay holding the balance.
There were twenty-four States in the Union; the successful candidate
must command the votes of thirteen.

The choice that Clay now had to make was distasteful, although not
really difficult. Jackson had obtained a substantial plurality of the
electoral votes; he probably had a plurality of the popular vote,
although in the six States in which the electors were chosen by the
Legislature the popular vote could not be computed; the Legislature of
Clay's own State called upon the Congressmen from the State to give
the Tenneseean its support. But Clay had felt very bitterly about the
candidacy of "this military chieftain." Furthermore, he knew that if
Jackson were to be elected, the country would not be disposed to take
his successor from the West. Besides, Calhoun had put himself in line
for the Jacksonian succession. On the other hand, Clay was not without
grievances against Adams. The New Englander had captured the coveted
Secretaryship of State in Monroe's Cabinet; he had taken no pains to
conceal his dislike of the Kentucky "gamester in politics"; his
foreign policy had been the target of many of Clay's keenest
oratorical thrusts. But the country would be safe in his hands; and a
popular westerner might well hope to become his successor. The
decision in favor of Adams was reached with little delay and was
confided to intimates almost two months before the House balloted.
Though Clay's choice did not insure the election of Adams, it made
that outcome extremely probable.

As the weeks passed, the situation became more tense. All the
principals in the drama were at the capital--Adams as Secretary of
State, Crawford as Secretary of the Treasury, Clay as Speaker of the
House, Jackson as Senator--and the city was filled with followers who
busied themselves in proposing combinations and making promises which,
for the greater part, could not be traced to the candidates
themselves. O'Neil's Tavern--graced by the vivacious "Peggy," who, as
Mrs. John H. Eaton, was later to upset the equilibrium of the Jackson
Administration--and other favorite lodging houses were the scenes of
midnight conferences, intimate conversations, and mysterious comings
and goings which kept their oldest and most sophisticated frequenters
on the alert. "_Incedo super ignes_--I walk over fires," confided the
straitlaced Adams to his diary, and not without reason. A group of
Clay's friends came to the New Englander's room to urge in somewhat
veiled language that their chief be promised, in return for his
support, a place in the Cabinet. A Missouri representative who held
the balance of power in his delegation plainly offered to swing the
State for Adams if the latter would agree to retain a brother on the
federal bench and be "reasonable" in the matter of patronage.

By the last week of January it was rather generally understood that
Clay's strength would be thrown to Adams. Up to this time the Jackson
men had refused to believe that such a thing could happen. But
evidence had been piled mountain-high; adherents of both allies were
openly boasting of the arrangements that had been made. The
Jacksonians were furious, and the air was filled with recriminations.
On January 28, 1825, an anonymous letter in the _Columbian Observer_
of Philadelphia made the direct charge that the agents of Clay had
offered the Kentuckian's support to both Jackson and Adams in return
for an appointment as Secretary of State, and that, while the friends
of Jackson would not descend to "such mean barter and sale," a bargain
with the Adams forces had been duly closed. Clay's rage was
ungovernable. Through the columns of the _National Intelligencer_ he
pronounced his unknown antagonist "a base and infamous calumniator, a
dastard and a liar," called upon him to "unveil himself," and declared
that he would hold him responsible "to all the laws which govern and
regulate men of honor."

Two days later an obscure Pennsylvania Congressman by the name of
George Kremer tendered his respects to "the Honorable H. Clay," avowed
his authorship of the communication in question, offered to prove the
truth of his charges, and closed sententiously by affirming that as a
representative of the people he would "not fear to 'cry aloud and
spare not' when their rights and privileges are at stake." The matter
was serious, but official Washington could hardly repress a smile.
Kremer was a thoroughly honest but grossly illiterate rustic busybody
who thus far had attracted the capital's attention mainly by reason of
his curiously cut leopard-skin overcoat. The real author of the charge
seems to have been James Buchanan, and Kremer was simple-minded and
credulous enough to be made the catspaw in the business. Clay was
taken aback. Kremer significantly made no reference to the "code of
honor"; and since a duel with such a personage would be an absurdity,
Clay substituted a request that the House make an immediate
investigation of the charges. A committee of seven was appointed. But
when it summoned Kremer to give his testimony, he refused to appear,
on the ground--which in the present instance was a mere pretext--that
the House had no jurisdiction over the conduct of its members outside
the chamber.

The truth of the matter is that Kremer was only a tool in the hands of
the Jackson managers. He admitted privately to members of the
committee that he did not write the letter in the _Observer_, and it
was plain enough that he did not understand its purport. His promise
to substantiate its contents was made in a moment of surprise, because
somebody had neglected to coach him on the point.

Finding that it could make no headway, the committee reported the
fact, on the 9th of February, and the investigation was dropped. This
was precisely what the Jackson managers wanted. Whatever happened,
Jackson would be the gainer. "If Clay transferred his following to
Adams, the charge would gain credence with the masses; if he were not
made Secretary of State, it would be alleged that honest George Kremer
(an ardent Jacksonian) had exposed the bargain and prevented its

Was this charge of a "corrupt bargain" well founded? For a generation
every public man had views on that subject for which he was ready to
fight; mid-century and later historians came to conclusions of the
most contradictory nature. The pros and cons are too complicated to be
presented here, but certain things are fairly clear. In two elaborate
speeches Clay marshaled evidence that before leaving Kentucky he
decided to support Adams in preference to Jackson and Crawford. This
evidence did not convince the Jacksonians; but it could hardly have
been expected to do so, and nowadays it looks to be unimpeachable. It
is certain that the friends of Clay approached the Adams managers with
a view to a working agreement involving the Secretaryship of State;
but it is equally clear that the Jackson and Crawford men solicited
Clay's support "by even more unblushing offers of political reward
than those alleged against Adams." Finally it is known that Adams gave
some explicit preelection pledges, and that by doing so he drew some
votes; but on the subject of an alliance with Clay he is not known to
have gone further than to say to a delegation of Clay supporters that
if elected by western votes he would naturally look to the West for
much of the support which his Administration would need. At noon, on
the 9th of February, the Senate and House met in joint session to
witness the count of the electoral vote. Spectators packed the
galleries and overflowed into every available space. The first acts
were of a purely formal nature. Then the envelopes were opened; the
votes were counted; Calhoun was declared elected to the vice
presidency; and it was announced that no candidate for the presidency
had received a majority. Then the senators withdrew, and the
representatives addressed themselves to the task which the
Constitution devolved upon them. The members of each delegation took
their seats together; the vote of each State was placed in a separate
box on a table; and Daniel Webster and John Randolph, acting as
tellers, opened the boxes and tabulated the results. No one expected
the first ballot to be decisive; indeed the friends of Crawford, who
were present in large numbers, were pinning their hopes to the
possibility that after repeated ballotings the House would break the
deadlock between Jackson and Adams by turning to their candidate. A
hush fell upon the expectant assemblage as Webster rose to announce
the result; and seasoned politicians could hardly trust their ears
when they heard: Adams, thirteen votes; Jackson, seven; Crawford,
four. An eleventh-hour change of mind by a New York representative had
thrown the vote of that State into the Adams column and had thereby
assured the triumph of the New Englander.

That evening Jackson and Adams came face to face at a presidential
levee, Jackson with a lady on his right arm. Each man hesitated an
instant, and spectators wondered what was going to happen. But those
who were looking for a sensation were disappointed. Reaching out his
long arm, the General said in his most cordial manner: "How do you do,
Mr. Adams? I give you my left hand, for the right, as you see, is
devoted to the fair; I hope you are very well, sir." The reply came in
clear but icy tones: "Very well, sir; I hope General Jackson is well."
It is the testimony of an unprejudiced observer that of the two, the
defeated Tenneseean bore himself more graciously than the victorious
New Englander.

Two days later Adams, following a conference with Monroe, invited upon
his head the fires of heaven by announcing that he had decided to
appoint Clay Secretary of State, "considering it due to his talents
and services to the western section of the United States, whence he
comes, and to the confidence in me manifested by their delegations."



Monroe's Administration drew to a close in a mellow sunset of popular
approval. But no prophetic genius was required to foresee that clouds
of discontent and controversy would hang heavy about the head of his
successor. Adams certainly did not expect it to be otherwise.
"Prospects are flattering for the immediate issue," he recorded in his
diary shortly before the election, "but the fearful condition of them
is that success would open to a far severer trial than defeat." The
darkest forebodings were more than realized. No one of our chief
executives, except possibly Andrew Johnson, was ever the target of
more relentless and vindictive attacks.

Adams was, in the first place, a minority President. Jackson's popular
vote was probably larger; his electoral vote was certainly so; and the
vote in the House of Representatives was at the last moment swung to
Adams only by certain unexpected and more or less accidental
developments. By thus receiving his office at the hands of a branch of
Congress, in competition with a candidate who had a wider popular
support, the New Englander fell heir to all the indignation that had
been aroused against congressional intrigue, and especially against
the selection of a President by Congressmen.

There was, in addition, the charge of a "corrupt bargain." It mattered
not greatly whether the accusation was true or not. The people widely
accepted it as true, and the Administration had to bear the stigma.
"The coalition of Blifil and Black George, of the Puritan and the
black-leg," John Randolph called the new alliance; and while Clay
sought to vindicate his honor in a duel with the author of the phrase,
nothing that he or Adams could do or say was able to overcome the
effect upon the public mind created by the cold fact that when the
Clay men turned their support to Adams their leader was forthwith made
Secretary of State.

A further source of difficulty in the situation was the temperament of
Adams himself. There was no abler, more honest, or more patriotic man
in public life; yet in the presidency he was, especially at this
juncture of affairs, a misfit. He was cold and reserved when every
consideration called for cordiality; he was petulant when tolerance
and good humor were the qualities most needful. He could neither
arouse enthusiasm nor win friends. He was large visioned and adept at
mapping out broad policies, but he lacked the elements of leadership
requisite to carry his plans into effect. He scorned the everyday arts
of politics, and by the very loftiness of his ideals he alienated
support. In short, as one writer has remarked, he was "a weigher of
scruples and values in a time of transition, a representative of
old-school politics on the threshold of triumphant democracy. The
people did not understand him, but they felt instinctively that he was
not one of themselves; and, therefore, they cast him out." Nobody had
ever called him "Old Hickory" or any other name indicative of popular

Clay's appointment as Secretary of State was thoroughly typical of the
independent, unyielding attitude of the new Administration. Adams had
not the slightest sympathy with the idea of rotation in public
position: such a policy, he said, would make government "a perpetual
and unremitting scramble for office." He announced that there would be
no removals except such as complaint showed to be for the good of the
service, and only twelve removals took place during his entire term.
The spoilsmen argued and fumed. The editor of an administration
newspaper warmly told the President that in consequence of his policy
he would himself be removed as soon as the term for which he had been
elected had expired. But entreaties and threats were alike of no
avail. Even Clay could not get the removal of a naval officer guilty
of unbecoming conduct. In his zeal for nonpartizanship Adams fairly
leaned backwards, with the result that incompetents were shielded and
the offices were left in the hands of men who, in a very large number
of cases, were openly hostile to the President and to his policies.

"Less possessed of your confidence in advance than any of my
predecessors," wrote Adams in his first message to Congress, "I am
deeply conscious of the prospect that I shall stand more and oftener
in need of your indulgence." In the principles and measures which he
urged upon the legislative branch, none the less, he showed small
regard for moderation or expediency. He defined the object of
government to be the improvement of the condition of the people, and
he refused to recognize in the federal Constitution restrictions which
would prevent the national authorities from fulfilling this function
in the highest degree. He urged not only the building of roads and
canals but the establishment of a national university, the support of
observatories, "the light-houses of the skies," and the exploration of
the interior and of the far northwestern parts of the country. He
advocated heavy protective duties on goods imported from abroad, and
asked Congress to pass laws not alone for the betterment of
agriculture, manufactures, and trade but for the "encouragement of the
mechanic and of the elegant arts, the advancement of literature, and
the progress of the sciences, ornamental and profound." He thought
that the public lands should be sold at the highest prices they would
bring and that the money should be used by the Government to promote
the general welfare. He had no doubt of either the power or the duty
of the Government to maintain a national bank.

Since the War of 1812 the Republicans, with whom Adams had been

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