Andrew Jackson: Hatred of the British

From a very young age, Jackson held a deep seated, Mel Gibsonish hatred of the British.

He volunteered at the age of thirteen to be a courier in the revolutionary War. He and his brother were captured and brought in front of a British Officer who ordered Jackson to clean his boots. Jackson refused and the officer then became upset, striking Jackson in the head with the flat part of his saber and leaving a scar running the entire length of his face for the rest of his life.

In prison, he and his brother nearly starved to death and became infected with small pox from the unsanitary conditions. His brother ended up dying on the journey back home after his mother won their release.

His mother died not too long after that and even if it was not directly caused by the British, he at least somewhat blamed them.

Jackson saw the British encroachments on American sovereignty such as the capture and impressment of American sailors after independence was won and saw many of the Indian revolts in the West as evidence of British aggression (he was probably right as often as he was wrong about this)

I think that if we try and look for the root cause of all his hatred of the British, we could also look to where his parents came from, Northern Ireland. I assume that his mother (his father died before he was born) had tales to tell of British Atrocities over there as there were many at the time.

Also, the class system created by the British Empire in which well born, educated elites rose to the heights of power and the lower classes toiled away in subservient roles created an environment that held Jackson, a poor self educated orphan, back.

He was a man that saw the world in black and white, and to him, the new Zion in which he lived was good, while the old world was corrupt and evil.

Does it still make sense for people to have this view of American Exceptionalism in the world of today? Can America have the moral superiority when it's not the underdog anymore?


Stop Calling People Hitler

Politics in America has always been nasty. Even in the 'deferential' age of Jefferson, Adams and Washington, insults were thrown freely around.

But the duels and accusations of tyranny notwithstanding, it seems that the politics of the masses in this country have gone a little extreme lately.

People are being whipped up by the poor man's revolutionaries at Fox News like Glenn Beck or Shawn Hannity. Soccer moms, Nascar dads and otherwise normal individuals are going to town halls and city council meetings and shouting down politicians and their 'Nazi' health care plan. Barack Obama is portrayed with a Hitler mustache on effigies and signs by people protesting his 'socialist Nazi policies'. Never mind the fact that Hitler was a fascist, but I don't think many of these people paid attention in history class anyway.

Do they realize if they want to throw the Nazi card down that shouting down all opposition politicians was also the method of Hitler's Brown Shirts and not to mention the revolutionary guard in Iran? The only reason that you make a show of carrying assault rifles outside some political event is intimidation, not sticking up for your rights.

I'm not going to cut the liberals a break on the Nazi card either. Many of their ilk carried around the famous Bush Nazi merchandise as well. All of their leftist Hannity equivalents like Olberman and Michael Myers would have you believe that Bush stole Christmas (the secular part of course since they don't believe in religion) and was going to put everyone into concentration camps any day.

My point is that although strong words in politics are sometimes needed, I think that people need to dial it down a little bit on both the right and the left.

Adolph Hitler's insane policies of racial extermination directly or indirectly led to the deaths of between 50 to 70 MILLION PEOPLE from combat, starvation, exposure and simple mass murder. He tried to wipe an entire race of people from the planet and take Europe's historical anti semitism to its 'final solution'.

I hardly think that disagreeing with Barack Obama's Public Heath option or George W. Bush's tax policy is justification to call either one of them the name of the most infamous mass murderer that ever lived.

That seems like an unforgivable insult to the memory of the millions and millions that died in that war and also to the millions of people that were lucky enough to survive it.


Andrew Jackson: Anger Problems

from The Washington Post

Jackson duels with Charles Dickinson- getting wounded but killing him.

Andrew Jackson followed what we might call gut feelings politics. He saw black and white, and not a whole lot of nuance in between.

As our former president said, you were either with him or against him. It's not surprising therefore that he didn't take criticism or insults very well.

He had fought in two duels, one in which, recognizing that he was a bad shot, allowed his opponent to fire first, then, holding the wound to avoid passing out from the loss of blood, slowly aimed and fired killing the man.

The second duel was fought when he was a lawyer working on one of his early cases. He felt the other lawyer had insulted him in front of the judge and challenged the man to a duel right then and there in front of the judge and jury. Perhaps he had grown some wisdom by then since he and the other man decided to simply point their pistols up in the air and fire to satisfy honor.

When South Carolina threatened to secede he told the instigator that he would personally come down to the state and hang him from the tallest tree if he continued talk of the state withdrawing from the Union.

He once chased an enemy on the street with a bull whip. As a judge in Tennessee when a fugitive refused to appear in front of the court, Jackson personally hunted the man down and brought him into custody at gun point.

After an assassination attempt, he swung at his attacker with a cane and had to be restrained by his cabinet.

He was not a man to be trifled with.


Andrew Jackson: Humble Beginnings

I'll come right out and say it, I don't like Andrew Jackson and I don't like the populist era of politics that he ushered in.

However, I have to respect that he was the first American president to live what we would call the American Dream.

Previous to Jackson, all presidents had come from distinguished families. Jackson, though, was what the Romans would have called a 'new man'. He was the first in his family to do anything of real acclaim and obtain the status of the upper class.

His father died the year he was born and his mother died of a cholera epidemic when he was 14. He was raised as an orphan from the age of 14 by a not so thrilled family.

Although he had private tutors, he had none of the formal education that Jefferson, Madison and the Adams' had enjoyed. He had no family members in politics and no real connections in the professional world.

He drank excessively, gambled and fought. He wasn't what you might call presidential material.

At some point however, he decided to pursue a law degree, move to the great west (Tennessee at the time), eventually becoming a judge, general of the state Militia and eventually, President of the United States.

Whatever we might think of the man, it's still kind of amazing that he rose as far as he did.


John Quincy Adams: Rivalries

Like many of his predecessors, John Q. Adams had an intense rivalry and almost personal hatred of the man who would defeat him after one presidential term- Andrew Jackson.

Q. Adams was a Puritan, one of the last well known gentlemen from the 'deferential age', was Harvard educated and steeped in the classics.

Andrew Jackson was self taught, had not been to school, and was a frontiersman that had fought in two duels and had a bullet lodged near his chest to prove it. He was what the Romans would have called a 'new man'- someone that came from obscurity but rose to a high political rank.

Even beyond the difference in backgrounds, Jackson's political beliefs were about as different as possible from Q. Adams. Where Q. Adams saw a mob, electioneering and backwardness, Jackson saw democracy.

Jackson ran against Q. Adams when Q. Adams won his first term and lost. Jackson called it a 'corrupt bargain' and blamed Q. Adams for essentially going against democracy and making political bargains with Henry Clay to secure the presidency.

During the election after Q. Adams first term, things got very personal very fast. Jackson was called a bigamist (when he married his wife, she was technically still married to another man) Jackson took offense to this and his wife, who had a very hard time enduring these kinds of politics ended up getting sick and dying.

Jackson personally blamed Q. Adams, although it was most likely political operatives that he wasn't directly controlling that caused these accusations to be published. Q. Adams wanted to explain his position to Jackson after the election in D.C., but Jackson never bothered to 'call' on Q. Adams which was a big deal and big time snub to a gentleman of those days.

Q. Adams, like his father with Thomas Jefferson, ended up leaving D.C. in the middle of the night rather than staying in Washington to view Jackson's inaugural. There were only three presidents in all of American history to do this, and one was Q. Adams' father.

On not attending the Harvard award ceremony of an honorary degree to Jackson, Q. Adams said " As an affectionate child of our Alma Mater, I would not be present to witness her disgrace in conferring her highest honors upon a barbarian who could not write a sentence of grammar and could hardly spell his own name."


John Quincy Adams: Union Forever

John Q. Adams, like Jefferson and the presidents before him could see that the country was becoming ever more divided.

I've written before that the issue of foreign sanctions on imported goods almost made the Northeast and his home state of Massachusetts secede early in the history of the country, long before slavery became the most divisive issue of the day.

As abolitionists in the North grew more determined and pro slavery elements in the South grew more divisive, he could see that there was a rift taking place between regional factions and interests that would tear the country apart.

If he had continued Jefferson and Madison's policies on relying heavily on state funded and run militias, it would have only accelerated the rift. Most of Q. Adams policies during his presidency sought to increase the power of the federal government and thus strengthen the national identity of Americans.

After his presidency, he became ever more anti slavery and in the last years of his life, he influenced Abe Lincoln who would later be president to use War Powers to eliminate slavery in the South when Civil War broke out.

"The preservation of the Union is to me what the destruction of Carthage was to Cato, the conclusion of every discourse."


John Quincy Adams: Life Experiance

John Q. Adams lived an amazing life. At a time where most American citizens never made it out of their own county, much less state, Q. Adams traveled the world.

He had diplomatic posts in France, Britain, Russia, Germany and The Netherlands. That would be an amazing career even today in the era of jet travel! At the time, intercontinental travel by sea took months and was dangerous even on ship worthy vessels.

When most Americans were illiterate, he spoke fluent or nearly fluent French, German, Russian, Dutch as well as Greek and Latin.

He chaired the first Smithsonian committee and made great scientific advances in weights and measures as well as planting the seeds for the first Astronomical observatory.

He was one of the first Americans to have his image recorded by Daguerreotype (a precursor to the photograph).

He was born in the Revolutionary period, came of age right after America won its independence and died right before the Civil War.

He is believed to be the only American to have known all the Founding Fathers personally and also have known Abe Lincoln. Lincoln became an Illinois congressman shortly before Q. Adams died and was influenced by Q. Adams in eliminating slavery during the Civil War.

Wherever people want to rank Q. Adams' presidency, I think you'd almost certainly have to rank him first in living an interesting life.


John Quincy Adams: Foreign Policy

Q. Adams greatest lessons on international relations were likely learned when he was abroad as a young man with his father to France and Britain on diplomatic missions with the likes of Benjamin Franklin and John Jay.

It was there that he learned the massive array of languages (7 if you include Latin and Greek) and saw the terror that ambitious foreign policies could reap on countries. He saw the needless destruction of cities, towns and lives and witnessed the even bloodier revolutions (he was a critic of the French Revolution like his father) that could occur when citizens sought to unseat their rulers by force and create populist utopias.

He felt the United States had enough problems of its own, with internal divisions between the different geographies threatening to tear it apart and external enemies looking to take advantage of any weakness. The best option was to focus on security at home, improve the armed forces but deploy them only for defensive missions. Abroad, he felt the United States should maintain relations with Europe, but not enter into any military agreements or treaties for 'wars of intrigue'.

These fundamental beliefs led him as Secretary of State in the Monroe administration to work with James Monroe to craft what's now known as the Monroe Doctrine.

My favorite quote of his best sums up his beliefs "America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own."

It's sadly ironic that the Bush administration called the policy of pre emptive strikes in the Middle East extensions of the Monroe Doctrine, both Q. Adams and Monroe would roll in their graves if they heard that.