Builders of our Country Vol. II - G. Southworth
About the time the injustice of the Stamp Act was common talk in the thirteen colonies, a poor Irish emigrant and his family set sail for America.
The father was Andrew Jackson. He and his wife and two sons, Hugh and Robert, landed in America and made a clearing on Twelve Mile Creek, a branch of the Catawba River.
After two short years of struggle to gain a living for his family, Andrew Jackson died. The wife was left to care for Hugh and Robert, and a baby boy, who was born on March 15, 1767, a few days after the father's death. The mother named her little boy after his father. And now we have come to the hero of our story, Andrew Jackson.
THE BIRTHPLACE OF ANDREW JACKSON.
On the death of her husband, Mrs. Jackson moved from the clearing and, with two of her boys, went to the home of an invalid sister. Here she did what she could to support her children.
When the boys were old enough, Mrs. Jackson sent them to school, where they learned reading, writing, and arithmetic. As Andrew's mother wished him to become a minister, he was later sent to another and better school. But school was a sort of bugbear to Andrew. He was not much of a student.
He was a thin, barefooted, freckle-faced lad, with reddish hair and eyes of a beautiful clear blue. He loved all out-of-door sports—hunting, running, jumping, and wrestling. He was so full of tricks and fun that he was called "mischievous Andy."
He was very wiry and active; and, although the stronger boys could throw him three times out of four, he was so quick in getting to his feet that they couldn't keep him down. He was never afraid of the older lads, and always took the part of the smaller and weaker boys. But Andy had his faults as well as his virtues. One of these was his quick temper, which was always ready to blaze forth. As he grew older he learned to control it; but even then it sometimes ran away, with him, and he did things for which he was very sorry afterwards.
Although still a little fellow when the Revolution began, Andrew took the liveliest interest in it; and when the campaign in the South brought the fighting near his home, he learned a lesson in British cruelty, which he never forgot.
In the summer of 1780 he and Robert attached themselves to a band of dragoons. It is hard to tell just what work was assigned to such young boys, but they saw at least one battle during that summer. This must have been an anxious time for the mother, especially as her son Hugh, who had enlisted in the American army, had already died.
The next year Robert and Andrew Jackson were captured by the British. One day, while they were prisoners, an officer ordered Andrew to clean his muddy boots. The boy's temper was up in an instant; and he, flashed out, "Sir, I'm not your slave. I am your prisoner; and, as such, I refuse to do the work of a slave."
Angered at the lad's boldness, the officer raised his sword to strike. Andrew parried the blow, but received two severe wounds, the scars of which he carried to the grave.
He and Robert were soon sent to the prison pen at Camden. This was a large yard around the jail. The poor soldiers had no shelter and hardly any food. Some of them had smallpox, and everything was as wretched as could be. Day by day the men waited for the help that did not come. Andrew's mother had been pleading for her sons' release and finally succeeded in getting them exchanged for British prisoners. When they left the prison, both boys had smallpox. Robert died, and Andrew recovered only after a long illness.
As soon as his mother could leave him, the patriotic woman went to care for the soldiers on the prison ships is Charleston Harbor. There she took a fever; and she, too, died. Poor Andrew was now left to face the world alone.
For a while after his mother's death Andrew Jackson tried his hand as saddler and school-teacher. Then he decided to study law; and for this he went to Salisbury, North Carolina.
At the age of twenty-one, after he had been admitted to the bar, young Jackson joined a party that crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains into Tennessee and settled in Nashville. The freckle-faced schoolboy had grown into, a man, six feet and one inch tall, with the same thick reddish hair and sharp blue eyes.
When he had been in Nashville a while, he was appointed by President Washington to the office of United States Attorney. This was an honor attended with much danger. In Jackson's new position it was his duty to punish horse stealing, land stealing, and to settle all kinds of quarrels. He had to go from one place to another to hold court, and on his journeys through the forests the danger from the Indians and his enemies was great.
Tennessee was the far West of that day, and many rough adventurers flocked there. These men had no respect for law, nor did they care what they did to avenge supposed wrongs. It was among such people that Jackson had to preserve order. But in spite of diflicuities, he did his utmost to fulfill the duties of his office. Once he even drew out two large pistols and laid them on his table by way of subduing a bully who had vowed he would not be tried. A fight followed, then and there. But in the end, Jackson restored order and tried the man. This is merely one incident out of many such, in his life as United States Attorney.
In 1791 Jackson married. His home during his married life was on a large plantation not far from Nashville. Here he built a house, which he called "The Hermitage." Rich and poor alike were welcome here, and "The Hermitage" was always famous for its hospitality.
On his plantation Jackson devoted much time to his horses, of which he had a goodly number. He was passionately fond of them, and none knew better than he how to raise and train thoroughbreds.
Once he had a quarrel about a horse race, with a man named Dickinson. In consequence the two fought a duel, as was the customary way of settling quarrels in those days. Dickinson was a "dead shot" and boasted that he would surely kill Jackson. They met at the appointed time. Dickinson fired. Then Jackson fired, and the boaster fell to the ground, dying soon after. Jackson, with his surgeon and a friend, had left the scene of the duel and gone some distance when his companions saw blood oozing from Jackson's clothes. He had had two ribs shattered, but had told no one that he was wounded. Such was his fearless courage and his great endurance of pain.
This same ability to endure won for him in his military life of later years the loving title of "Old Hickory." "He is as tough as hickory," his soldiers were wont to say.
A few years rolled by; and then one summer the Creek Indians attacked Fort Mimms in Alabama and massacred about five hundred men, women, and children who had taken refuge there. Jackson, who had long before been elected Major General of the Tennessee militia, took command of a detachment and marched against the Indians.
Before he had succeeded in routing them, Jackson found himself out of provisions. For days the men had but small rations. Then, because of their sufferings, and because their short terms of enlistment had come to an end, they said they were going home. It took all the patience and tact that Jackson had to keep his men together, and three different times he had to use one part of his army to keep the rest from marching away.
After this campaign, in which the power of the Creeks was broken, Jackson received the title of Major General in the United States army. His greatest triumphs were yet to come.
The War of 1812 was now in progress; and a few months after subduing the Creeks, General Jackson and his troops were ordered south to keep the British out of the Mississippi valley.
In Florida, which still belonged to Spain, the British had been allowed to land at the town of Pensacola. When Jackson heard of this he marched against the sleepy little Spanish town and drove the British back to their ships. Then he went to the defense of New Orleans, as that city was the key to the Mississippi.
The English soldiers sent to take New Orleans were veterans just from the wars with Napoleon. Their foreign victories were still fresh in their minds, and they thought what short work they would make of the backwoodsmen of America.
GENERAL JACKSON KEEPING WATCH OF THE ENEMY FROM THE ROOF OF HIS HEADQUARTERS IN NEW ORLEANS.
On the 8th of January, 1815, the British made their last advance against the city. All their previous attacks had been repelled by the vigilance and activity of General Jackson. Nor did he mean to be beaten now. "Old Hickory" was everywhere on that memorable day. "Stand to your guns!" "See that every shot tells!" were his commands. And so well did the soldiers obey, that when the battle was over they could claim an overwhelming victory. The British had lost more than twenty-five hundred men.
The saddest thing about the whole war was that the battle of New Orleans was fought after peace had been declared. The agreement was made in Europe; and just because there were no cables or fast ocean steamers in those days, the news of peace did not reach this country until after these many lives had been sacrificed.
The victory of New Orleans made Jackson very popular throughout the country. On his return home he was welcomed with great joy by the people of Tennessee.
Famous visitors now came to "The Hermitage." Among them was General Lafayette on his last visit to America. Lafayette said of Jackson, "That is a great man. He has much before him yet."
It was not long before this prophecy came true; for in 1828 Andrew Jackson was elected President of the United States. Mrs. Jackson died a short time after the election, and Jackson was heartbroken. He had now no desire to go to Washington and be President, but he faced the duty bravely.
As President, Andrew Jackson showed the same fearlessness that he had displayed in battle.
The South at this time was opposed to the law which put a high tariff, or tax, on imported goods. The northern states wanted this tariff because they were manufacturing states. They said that Americans ought to buy goods made in America, and that the way to make them support the home industries was to force a high price on foreign manufactures. The southern states were not manufacturing states, and so had to buy their finished woolen and cotton cloth from either the North or Europe. Before the tariff, they had been able to get it from Europe for less than they could buy it in the North. Now all this was changed. With the duty that must now be paid, foreign cloth was even higher in price than cloth made in the North; so the South was practically forced to buy from the North at her price. The South claimed that this was an effort to enrich the North at the expense of the South. South Carolina, especially, resented such a step and said that she would disobey the law.
Senator Hayne from South Carolina made a powerful speech in Congress, in which he set forth the right of any State to disobey the laws of the nation.
Daniel Webster answered him. Webster stated that, according to the Constitution, every state must obey the laws of Congress and no state had the right to withdraw from the Union as South Carolina had threatened to do. He ended with these memorable words: "Liberty and union, now and forever, one and inseparable."
President Jackson was a southern man, so the South thought that he would not oppose them. Imagine their surprise then, when, at a banquet of Southern sympathizers, he offered the toast, "The Federal Union. It must and shall be preserved." Jackson agreed with Webster that the Union should stand ahead of the states, and that no state had the right to withdraw from it. When he found that South Carolina was firm in her refusal to pay the tariff, he said, "Send for General Scott." Troops were immediately ordered south, and South Carolina withdrew her opposition. Jackson's firmness of decision had put off the day of secession.
At the end of his second term of office, Andrew Jackson retired to his plantation home, where he spent the few remaining years of his life in peace and quiet. He will always be remembered for his fearless devotion to what he believed to be right, and will live in the hearts of all loyal Americans as one who helped to preserve the union of our country.