Andrew Jackson, the seventh president, has a birthday today. But how much do you know about one of the most controversial presidents?
In his lifetime, Jackson was a larger-than-life figure. He’s also the father of the modern Democratic Party, among other things. And Jackson’s legendary fight with the Second Bank of the United States had wide-ranging implications for the American economy.
Here are 10 facts about Jackson you may not know:
1. He was a Revolutionary War prisoner of war. Jackson, his mother, and two brothers were involved in the conflict. Young Andrew, who served as a courier, was the only one of the four to survive the war. He was also taken prisoner by the British and later released.
2. Jackson, like Lincoln, was a self-taught frontier lawyer. Jackson was taken in by his uncles after he was orphaned during the Revolutionary War. He studied law while still in his teens, passed the bar at age 20, and became a successful frontier lawyer. Jackson was then appointed solicitor of the western district of North Carolina.
3. He served in Congress at a young age. Jackson was Tennessee’s first representative in the House, taking office in 1796. He quit after nine months to become a senator, but quit that job after seven months and returned to Tennessee.
4. Jackson made his money in the cotton business and owned slaves. He bought a plantation in Tennessee called The Hermitage in 1804 and already owned nine slaves. When Jackson left Tennessee to become president, the plantation had more than 100 slaves.
5. Jackson was also a self-taught military leader. Jackson became involved in Tennessee’s state militia, winning an 1802 election to replace another Revolutionary War figure, John Sevier, as the militia’s leader. His victory, along with his militia at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814, led to his commission in the U.S. Army, where he defeated the British at New Orleans.
6. Jackson fought the Indians, but adopted two as children. After the War of 1812, Jackson led military forces against the Indians and was involved in treaties that led to the relocation of Indians. As president, Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, which eventually led to the Cherokee Trail of Tears. But he had two adopted sons who were Indians, and Jackson was friendly with some individual Indians.
7. Jackson was friends with Aaron Burr. The former vice president stayed for several days at The Hermitage as he apparently spoke with Jackson about his plans for an “adventure” in the Western states. Jackson also was on the witness list for Burr’s treason trial. The two men served in Congress at the same time, but in different chambers.
8. Jackson had a long history of dueling. Like Burr, Jackson killed a man in a duel, and in Jackson’s lifetime he was involved in at least a dozen duels. In 1806, Jackson survived a shot to the chest to kill Charles Dickinson in a duel over a horse-racing bet (Dickinson had also insulted Jackson's wife). Dickinson was known as the best shot in Tennessee, but Jackson prevailed. Jackson also had a famous gunfight with Thomas Hart Benton.
9. Jackson beat up his own assassin. In January 1805, President Jackson was confronted by a deranged man as he left a funeral held at the Capitol. The man fired point blank at Jackson with a pistol, but the gun misfired. Jackson then started beating the man with his cane. The assassin pulled out a second pistol, which also misfired. Several politicians, including Davy Crockett, subdued the man.
10. Jackson really did have a giant block of cheese in the White House. As we’ve reported before, Jackson received the 1,400-pound cheddar wheel as a gift in 1835 and kept it in the White House lobby for two years. Before he left office in 1837, Jackson let the public consume the giant cheddar at a reception, which stunk up the building for days.