In this wild and crazy campaign season of 2016, we are seeing to what lengths a man will go to protect the reputation of his wife, though I am no longer certain who is defending whom against whom else. But the battle is seen to be fierce.
Not even close.
Let us examine what happened in the early 19th century when political madman Andrew Jackson heard some things he didn’t like about his wife, Rachel. Some claim he fought 13 duels in her behalf, others claim the number was more like 103. While most of these challenges did not end in shots fired, enough of them did to earn Jackson a well-deserved ferocious reputation. It was said that he had so many bullets in his body from these confrontations that he “rattled like a bag of marbles” when he walked. One bullet lodged in his chest so close to his heart that it could never be removed and caused Jackson, for the rest of his life, to expurgate blood on frequent occasions among other unpleasant such manifestations. Worthy of mention in this particular case is that the future President was shot with the first fire, and putting a handkerchief to the considerable hole in his chest to temporarily staunch the blood, Jackson raised his gun and fired at his opponent, Charles Dickinson, known as the best shot in Tennessee, killing him with a shot in the abdomen. Dickinson died hard.
Andrew Jackson, our 7th President and known as the “President of the People,” has a history that belies truth in the telling. Born to a hardscrabble family in the Carolinas in 1767, Jackson ended up a destitute orphan at the age of 12. He then joined the Revolutionary army, where it turned out he excelled at war, eventually becoming a national military hero. Following the Revolutionary war, he trained himself to be a lawyer in his adopted state of Tennessee, yet another profession at which he excelled. He spent a wild youth defending his honor in various ways and at various venues, and though he was never a good shot, he was fearless on the dueling field. He demonstrated the level of his cleverness in various ways, one of which was appearing at all his duels wearing an overlong heavy black overcoat which effectively camouflaged his body. As he was 6’1” and 140 pounds for a large part of his life, this worked brilliantly and the majority of the bullets that came his way found themselves lodged in his coat rather than his body. (It is actually rumored that this black coat was the inspiration for the distinctive garb of the hero in the Matrix movies). He had fallen in love with Rachel Donelson, who had supposedly been married to an abusive man from whom she separated, but as it turned out there was some confusion as to the actual dates involved in one marriage ending and the other starting. As a result she was called a bigamist and an adulterer by many during the entirety of her marriage to Jackson. Andrew did not take kindly to anyone saying such a thing, and fought those casting any such aspersion on his beloved, and did so often and viciously.
Being credited with victory against the British in the War of 1812 by winning the Battle of New Orleans, Jackson found his Presidential ambitions helped a great deal by this, as well as by his moniker of “Old Hickory,” (it was determined that he was so strong he would not bend, like the wood), which added to his popular appeal tremendously. He was also the first non-American aristocrat running for the Presidency since the founding of the republic, and many Americans were enchanted by this rough frontiersman succeeding the six elegant gentlemen to the office. – he was actually the first President to be a resident of a state other than Massachusetts or Virginia. He proved himself to be the ultimate tough guy, as demonstrated for example when he was fighting the passage of a high protective tariff championed by South Carolinian John C. Calhoun, (no slouch in the tough guy department himself), Jackson ordered armed forces to Charleston and privately threatened to hang Calhoun.
A compromise was reached.
Jackson was also the first President to be assaulted while in office, and when the gun held by the perpetrator to Jackson’s chest misfired for the second time, the President wielded his walking stick and wacked the potential assassin into submission until he was subdued and could be taken away.
He continued to endear himself to the American populace by his rather charming disregard for the quite strict social norms at the time, as well. For example, he was gifted, when he was in office, by a constituent with a 1400 hundred pound wheel of cheese. Happily accepting this unusual gift, he kept it in the White House until he thought it had “properly aged” and then invited in all of America who wished to partake of some of this half ton of cheese to come to his home. It was consumed as a result of this event, though there was a large grease spot on the rug of the room in the White House in which it had been housed, and this remnant of the good time had by all remained there for many years to come.
As a final and quite apropos demonstration of his ultimate tough guy status, Andrew Jackson’s pet parrot, an entertaining creature known as Poll, had been included in the funeral services for the former President, but had to be removed after he wouldn’t stop cursing at the mourners.
On the less laudatory side, Jackson was an active slave owner and fought for the expansion of slave-owning states’ rights; he was also an aggressive pursuer of Indian tribes, and was responsible for the infamous “Trail of Tears.” Jackson was called both a “democratic autocrat” and an “atrocious saint.” He was also the founder of what is known today as the Democratic party, and created the patronage system that many consider the perfect example of corruption in politics that we see today.
So do your worst Messrs. Cruz and Trump, and Mme. Hillary! It’ll be a long time before anyone can touch “Old Hickory” for doing what is necessary to stand by his woman.
Susan Smith brings an international perspective to her writing by having lived primarily in western Europe, mainly in Paris, France, and the U.S., primarily in Washington, D.C. She authored a weekly column for Human Events on politics with historical aspects.. She also served as the Staff Director of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Children, Family, Drugs and Alcoholism, and Special Assistant to the first Ambassador of Afghanistan following the initial fall of the Taliban. Ms. Smith is a graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University and Georgetown University, as well as the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris, France, where she obtained her French language certification. Ms. Smith now makes her home in McLean, Va.