The Andrew Jackson Presidential Dollar honors one of the best-known American presidents. Jackson was the seventh president, serving two terms from 1829 to 1837. His presidency was a very controversial one in its time. Jackson took on the most powerful men in America, both in politics and business, and almost always came out on top through sheer force of will when deal-making and political bargaining wasn't enough. Jackson was also a quick-tempered, hot-blooded man who fought 13 duels during his lifetime to defend his own and his wife's honor. This article tells about some of the highlights of the man behind the Jackson Presidential Dollar.
Andrew Jackson's Early Years
Andrew Jackson was born in the South Carolina back-country on March 15, 1767. His childhood was very hard; his mother was widowed three weeks before Jackson's birth, and he would lose his entire family by the age of 14. Jackson joined a local regiment at 13, serving as a courier in the Revolutionary War, only to be captured by the British. His mother and both older brothers died of hardships suffered during the American Revolution.
Andrew Jackson's early education was spotty and poor, but through hard work and diligence he learned enough to become a schoolteacher. By the time he was 20, he had passed the bar and began practicing law on the frontier, where lawyers were few and a good education wasn't necessarily a requirement. Hard work, guts, and a clever mind earned Jackson various frontier government appointments, culminating with his first foray into politics as a delegate to the Tennessee constitutional convention in 1796.
Jackson's Pre-Presidential Career
Andrew Jackson was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as Tennessee's first congressman in 1796, and then to the U.S. Senate in 1797, where he resigned within a year to take a seat on the Tennessee Supreme Court. (26 years later, he would be elected to the Senate again, only to resign again before half the term was up!) For most poorly-educated frontier lawyers, a seat on a State Supreme Court would be the culmination of a spectacular career, but Andrew Jackson was just getting started!
By 1797, at the age of 30, Jackson was a seasoned real estate speculator, owned 15 slaves, and had built some of the area's first general stores. He prospered in this business initially, but barely averted bankruptcy when a deal went bad, only to recover to the point that he purchased his plantation and permanent home, the Hermitage, in 1804. Through additional land acquisitions, the Hermitage plantation would eventually reach 1,000 acres and hold up to 150 slaves.
As Jackson's star continued to rise, he became Commander of the Tennessee Militia in 1801. When the War of 1812 broke out, Andrew Jackson distinguished himself for bravery and leadership, earning a nickname that would stick with him the rest of his life: "Old Hickory." Soldiers under his command, with whom Jackson was popular, claimed that he was "tough as old hickory wood." Jackson spent the next 10 years as a military leader, gaining numerous high-profile victories against the British, Spanish, and American Indians. He became a nationally-known war hero by 1821.
Andrew Jackson For President
Andrew Jackson was nominated for U.S. President by the Tennessee legislature in 1822. In the 1824 Presidential election, Jackson ran in a 4-way race against John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, and William Crawford, earning both the highest electoral vote count and the most popular votes. However, since no candidate won a majority of the electoral votes, the election was decided by the House of Representatives, which chose Adams in what Jackson called the corrupt bargain.
Jackson finally prevailed in the election of 1828, winning election as President of the United States by a wide margin, but his moment of greatest triumph was also to be his moment of greatest tragedy.
Jackson's Triumph and Tragedy
Andrew Jackson met the love of his life in 1788, at the age of 21. Her name was Rachel Donelson Robards, and she was the wife of another man. Trapped in an unhappy and abusive marriage, Rachel finally obtained a separation from her husband, Captain Lewis Robards, in 1790. Shortly thereafter, the Captain sent word that he had completed the necessary legal paperwork to divorce Rachel, and she was free to remarry. In a mistake that Jackson was sure to regret the rest of life, the aspiring lawyer failed to verify the legal records, and married Rachel in 1791. Two years later, the happy couple learned that the Captain had deceived them, and Rachel's divorce had never been completed! Jackson undertook to set the matter aright, and they remarried legally in 1794, but for the rest of his life, Jackson's detractors would use this purported bigamy against him to slur his and Rachel's names.
Andrew and Rachel never had any children of their own, but they legally adopted two children and served as guardians for eight more! Rachel was a quiet, religious woman, not given to the fashionable and social activities her husband thrived on. She preferred evenings at home with her family, and had plenty of them as Andrew traveled extensively during their marriage. Although they seem to be opposites in most ways, these opposites enjoyed a powerful attraction, and they were deeply devoted to each other throughout their lives.
Andrew Jackson was elected President of the United States in December of 1828, during a heated campaign that saw he and his wife's virtue attacked continuously, with their ill-fated first marriage as the target. Rachel didn't handle this public pressure well, and she became ill and depressed. Even as her husband gained his greatest victory in life by being elected to the White House, Rachel became weaker. She died on December 22, 1828, and was buried on Christmas Eve. Andrew Jackson's wife of 37 years would never become his First Lady.