What You Didn't Learn: Andrew Jackson (Special President's Day Edition)

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Happy President's Day everyone. Not sure many people say "happy President's Day" like it is your birthday or another more exciting holiday, but due to the nature of this blog series, I think it makes sense today. Happy Birthday GW. 

For anyone that missed the first blogs in this series which covered the first six United States Presidents, you can check them out here. For a quick summary of what these are and will continue to be is every Monday, I'm running through what we collectively didn't learn in school about United States presidents, starting with Washington and working my way toward now. This isn’t at all about policy or politics or what laws and bills they did or did not approve of. The goal here is simply to provide you with some more information on some of the most powerful dudes to ever walk this planet that our educations left out. Maybe that will be enough, maybe it will send you on a journey to discover even more on your own time. I think I am just going to include this beginning paragraph every time for clarity, and those who have tuned in (and continue to do so thank you for your support) will know to skip it. Regardless, I’m happy you're here.

I'm actually really happy that Andrew Jackson is the guy we happen to get up next on President's Day. Why? That guy wanted to be president so, so fucking bad. Regarding Jackson and being cancelled, there is probably not a president who has dealt with more 21st century cancelling than this guy has, but once again and for (maybe) the last time in this blog, that is not what this is about. I obviously encourage everyone to read beyond these blogs and learn more about these guys for themselves when it comes to modern feelings and interpretations of their actions, but that is not this blog. Let's get into it. 

What we learned:

He is on the $20 bill (for now, reminder this blog is not about erasing history or how we feel about it particularly so moving on)

- He is responsible for starting nearly all the westward expansion in the United States and setting the path on clearing out the space, and the Native Americans occupying that space, from the East to West coasts. TLDR: Trail of Tears. 

- He is known as the original "common man" president, which was a stark contrast (as you all know) to the six POTUSes who came before him

He was involved in that absolutely WACKY election of 1824 (which we talked about last week) where he won the majority of the popular vote and electoral vote but still managed to not become president. (spoiler: he did not give up)

- He was the first president to ride on a train. (I'm not sure if everyone learned this but I did and it is still burned into my brain). 

What we didn't learn:

- He was a soldier and prisoner of war (the only POW to become president) at THIRTEEN years old during the American Revolution - Thirteen! Maybe it is due to the fact that a majority of the information we learn about the American Revolution is done during elementary and middle school which isn't really the time or place to get into gory/scary details about war, but every time I begin my deep dive into a new president I find fascinating war information that was never taught to me before. When the British invaded the backcountry of North Carolina, barely-a-teenager Andrew Jackson said fuck it to any remaining years of his untroubled youth and decided to fight. Now, let me paint a better picture of what these conflicts in the boonies of late 18th century North Carolina were. This wasn't your standard, formal line up, beat some drums and lock, load, fire type conflicts. These were sneak attacks, ambushes and full-blown massacres happening all over the place and are considered some of the most savage battles fought in any American war ever. Since Jackson and his brothers were too young for formal military fighting, they fought alongside American irregulars, essentially non-standard forces doing a ton of the dirty work. In 1781 they were captured and all promptly contracted smallpox. He survived (obviously), but his brother Robert was not so fortunate and died shortly after they were released from capture. To continue Jackson's lucky streak and delightful childhood, his mother fell ill and died shortly after, leaving him orphaned (his father died before his birth). He was fifteen at this point. 

- No one knows where he was born (but two states claim him) - It is objectively truly that Jackson was born on March 15, 1767, but in where is unknown. How is that possible? The Waxhaws wilderness, which is the DEEP backcountry area that covers both North and South Carolina, was so remote and off the grid that, even though a good amount of people lived there, it had yet to be properly surveyed. The best possible source/insight into the matter is Jackson himself writing in a letter that he had been told that he had been born in his uncle’s South Carolina home, but historians do not take this as fact and still, to this day, debate where exactly he was born.

He dueled his ass off - Alexander Hamilton gets most of the dueling credit now because of the musical, which is fair since he participated in the most famous duel in American history, BUT Jackson was also out here dueling his ass off all the time, how often? An estimated five to ONE HUNDRED times. The most famous duel is an insane story. In 1806 man named Charles Dickinson wrote in a newspaper calling Jackson “a worthless scoundrel, a paltroon and a coward,” claimed he cheated on a horse bet and insulted his wife, Jackson challenged the guy to a duel. Dickinson fired first and hit Jackson in the chest, barely missing Jackson’s heart. This simply was not enough to put Andrew Jackson down. He plugged the wound with his hand stood his ground, brought his pistol into the air and…misfired. Then, allegedly, breaching duel etiquette, cocked and fired a shot that immediately killed Dickinson. That bullet stayed in Jackson and caused him chronic pain for the rest in his life. One may think this would be enough to stop someone from fighting/dueling again, but not Jackson. Seven years later, during a hiatus in his military service in the War of 1812, Jackson fought in a Nashville street brawl, challenging two men named Jesse and Thomas Hart. He took ANOTHER bullet in this fight that nearly cost him an arm, but it did not and he kept on keeping on. Insane. 

- He won the popular vote for the presidency three times and was one of the first major political figures to call for the destruction of the electoral college (history, it repeats itself) - If we read last week (going to keep doing that) then we know that in the election of 1824, Jackson won both the most popular votes and electoral college votes, but didn't quite hit the number necessary to lock down the presidency, and got screwed over by congress and John Quincy Adams became president. Jackson was PISSED about this, especially considering a large contingency of people considered JQA's win was the result of  a “corrupt bargain” with the Speaker of the House Henry Clay, who was promptly given the position of Secretary of State by JQA. In his annual messages to Congress, for the entirety of his two terms in office, Jackson repeatedly lobbied for the abolition of the Electoral College. Jackson took home 56 percent of the popular vote in 1828 and 54 percent in 1832, beating Henry Clay and getting his final revenge in his final election, so considering the 41 percent he took home among four major candidates in 1824, it is safe to call him the most popular president to only serve two terms, and maybe the most popular president at the time we’ve ever had.

As we get closer to modern times, the information we have about the Presidents of the United States grows, but still remains largely a mystery. Jackson is a good example of this, as we don't know what state he was born in, but are privy to his personal rivalries and detailed history of his childhood. Though what he is most known for, his feature on the $20 bill (which is hilarious because he was VEHEMENTLY against paper currency bonus fact), may cease to exist quite soon, his impact on American history is, well, historic.