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Oh, do not cry – be good children and we will all meet in heaven. ~~ Andrew Jackson, US President, d. 1845

To say that Andrew Jackson was a rebel is to totally under sell him. He was a man who was, like many other national leaders, larger than life. He had many desirable attributes, but the negative ones were monumental. One fiercely poor decision was the near total annihilation of the Indian nation. Not a proud time or action on the country’s part. However, on the other side of the spectrum, Jackson is the only president to have the national debt paid-in-full. No small feat, my friends, but I shudder to think of at what cost.

Reading a will is a fairly foolproof method of having an intimate look at someone’s soul. It peels back the veneer and allows witnessing of a person’s true values and an assessment of what they feel is of worth. Andrew Jackson’s will offers you no less than that.    This link should lead you to his last will and testament. Please contact me if there is a dead link, pun intended.

http://documents.jdsupra.com/a30fc6ee-deb9-47e7-a969-fddecbff7138.pdf

Much like the beloved President James Madison, Jackson’s financial affairs were in a total shambles due to the fiscal frolicking of his adopted son. Both presidents married women who took them as their second spouse and entered the marriage with a son. Dolley’s husband had the good graces to die due to natural causes prior to her meeting James. The same can’t be said about Mrs. Jackson’s first.  It seems that a good year after her wedding with Andrew Jackson, Rachel’s first husband surfaced with the incomplete divorce papers Mrs. Jackson had served on him. Being called a bigamist was a cross she bore for the rest of her marriage. Perhaps it is why she was so dedicated to her church as it acted as a remedy and gave her solace.

At an event at Nashville area race track, Jackson met his contentious neighbor, Charles Dickenson, and once again faced off.  Dickenson called the future president “a scoundrel, coward, and an equivocator” and Rachel a bigamist.  Back then, as they say “them’s fightin’ words”.  And those statements were insult enough, but the real injury took place when Dickenson ensured that the comments were published in the National Review. Not being able to withstand this level of attack, Jackson challenged Dickinson to a duel.  Dickenson fired and hit Jackson in the chest. Jackson fired and missed Dickenson. Then, setting aside protocol of the match, Jackson decided to exceed his permitted allotment of a single shot and fired again, killing Dickinson.  Oddly enough, that didn’t have an impact on his presidential race later in his life. It would be interesting to see how that would fly in today’s political arena.

As mentioned before, Jackson’s finances were in sad straights because he had indulged his adopted son’s habits of acquiring land he couldn’t afford. Although he didn’t mortgage The Hermitage, he did borrow huge sums of money from well-heeled friends in Washington, DC and New Orleans, LA.   These amounts are among the first mentioned in the will. Jackson wanted them paid before any other disbursement of his worth.

As I researched his life, his will became even more interesting to me. Rachel and Andrew Jackson never had any children of their own.  Rachel’s brother, Sovern Donaldson and his wife Elizabeth, offered their three children to the Jackson’s to raise. (One reference mentioned ill health on the part of Elizabeth, but no other reason was listed.) Twin brothers, and another sibling, came to live at The Hermitage.  I am surmising that the younger sibling and one of the twins died during childhood as no mention is made of them in Jackson’s will.

Jackson took an interest in one of the boy twins named Andrew Jackson Donaldson, going as far as adopting him. He was renamed Andrew Jackson, Junior, and was treated as if he was Jackson’s biological son.  There were many other children living at  The Hermitage because Jackson was a favorite to be declared guardian  of children of family and friends by the Nashville court system. Through the years  these children all benefited from many privileges; but, it was his “adopted” son Andrew who received the bulk of his attention and finances.

Andrew “Junior” was named as “Senior’s” executor even though he was the benefactor of any real property. Aside from The Hermitage and the associated land, the only items cited specifically awarded others were decorative swords from various battle campaigns, dueling pistols once owned by Pierre L’Enfant, and additional personal items. “The true intent and meaning of this my last will and testament is, that all my estate, real, personal, and mixed…”

The “mixed” portion was the most egregious part of his will by today’s terms. Jackson detailed that “all the appurtenances thereto belonging or in any wise appertaining, with all my negroes that I may die possessed of”.

Jackson specifically willed selected slaves to certain family members. Additionally, he extended it to include “and all their issue forever” to his heirs. An incredible note realizing that, as president, he upheld the Constitution and its certain inalienable rights.  Something tells me the slaves willed to his descendents may have had life; but their liberty and pursuit of happiness was greatly hampered.

For all his incredible damage against the Indian nations, a strange action on Jackson’s part was sending home an orphaned Indian infant boy who he found next to the baby’s dead mother on the battlefield. He raised him with the other children at The Hermitage which seems to go against all his other beliefs regarding those nations.  Lyncoya lived to be about 17 years old. Jackson was determined to send him to West Point, but the application was declined. So, he sent him to school to become a saddle maker, certainly not a close second to the West Point degree and education.

Generally, my view of Andrew Jackson is that of a very proud, independent leader who was also a very loose canon. He was kind and generous to a fault on one level and absolutely criminal and lethal on the other. A real study in human contrasts.

If you are ever in the Nashville area, stop at The Hermitage. You’ll be impressed that his “mixed” legacy is still living on.

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2 Responses

  1. Great job, Ruth. Very interesting. Who’s next on your hit parade?

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