American History Stories—Volume III. - Mara L. Pratt

Jackson's Obstinacy

That Jackson was very stubborn, even his closest friends admit. His stubborness, very likely, may not have added to his agreeableness as a friend and companion. But it is one of the things we Americans need to learn—that with the personal, home disposition of our public men we have nothing to do. Their public service is all that in any way concerns us or belongs to us.

That Jackson was stubborn there is no doubt, but his stubbornness certainly rendered this country good service during his administration.

This strong, self-educated, self-respecting man had certain peculiarities of pronunciation, which he had acquired in childhood. The word development, for example, he would pronounce as though it were written devil-ope-ment.

One day, during his Presidency, he was conversing with a foreign minister. The gentleman, though not an Englishman, had been educated in England, and prided himself upon his correct pronunciation of it. "Devil-ope-ment," said General Jackson, thereby causing the minister to raise his eyebrows, and to pronounce the word correctly. The President, apparently not noticing the impolite correction, again said, "devil-ope-ment."

Again the minister repeated the word with its proper accent, saying with emphasis, "de-vel-opment."

"Excuse me, Mr. Dash. You may call it de-vel-opment if you please; but I say devil-ope-ment, and will say devil-ope-ment, as long as I revere the memory of good old Dr. Waddell!" referring to a former respected teacher.

The anecdote is a graphic illustration of two traits which marked General Jackson. He feared the face of no man, and he allowed no one to push him from a position he had taken. Few men so imperfectly educated as was General Jackson would have had the courage to adhere to a false pronunciation in the face of a scholar who corrected him.

Of course, an obstinate, wrong-headed man is liable to make serious blunders. But that risk is compensated for by this fact: no man accomplishes much who has not stubborn resolution, and having a high standard does not stubbornly endeavor to attain it.