Andrew Jackson 1767-1845 A brief biography

A Life of Andrew Jackson


Andrew Jackson's parents were Scotch-Irish folk who came to America two years before his birth in 1767. His mother was widowed while pregnant with him. The Revolutionary War that soon followed, was very bloody in the rather wild and poor country where they lived, and Jackson at 13 years, joined a regiment. Captured by the British, he was wounded and nearly killed by a sword for not polishing a British officer's boots. He and his brother, imprisoned together, contracted smallpox.

Jackson's mother got the boys released, but his brother died on the long trip home. The mother later went to tend wounded American prisoners and was fatally stricken by cholera.

Early Youth (age 15-21)

Jackson, living with neighbors and relatives, managed to finish school, then teach for a year or two. At 17 he set out to become a lawyer, acting as clerk for a lawyer in Salisbury, North Carolina, in return for access to his books (the usual "course of study" in those days).

In his first independent days, living in a tavern with other students, he gained quite a reputation for charisma, and wildness and hooliganism. 

Early Years in Tennessee

After a couple of years of practicing law in settled North Carolina, he accepted a job as public prosecutor in the , There were few lawyers in what was to be the state of Tennessee, but with land changing hands everyday, and new institutions being founded, there was plenty of legal action, and cheap, rapidly appreciating land to grab for oneself.

The ambitious 21 year old set out to cultivate the imposing bearing of a "gentleman". This entailed, in those days in the South, responding to any grave insult with a challenge to a duel (if the offender was considered a gentleman too), or otherwise with whipping or caning. Indeed Jackson was, that first year, on the dueling ground for reasons unknown. Fortunately both parties, after some discussion, agreed to fire in the air and declare the matter settled.

There were two settled areas in the Western District, the Eastern settlements, around Jonesborough and Knoxville, and the Western section around Nashville. The new public prosecutor had to regularly bushwhack through dense forest where hostile Indians might attack. He showed precocious leadership once, leading his older companions out of a trap laid by Indians.

Jackson practiced law for the next 7 years with extraordinary energy. He also married Rachel Donelson Robards, the estranged wife of an abusive husband. Jackson once threatened the husband's life for implying he (Jackson) was dishonoring his wife. Later, Robards went to Kentucky and was thought to have divorced Rachel. Jackson and Rachel were married for two years before finding that the marriage was invalid. They discovered the truth when the divorce did occur, and promptly married a second time. A shrewd lawyer should not have believed in a divorce on the grounds of hearsay, so Jackson was at least guilty of not wanting to know the truth. Despite the circumstances, Jackson was marrying into a very prominent family, and they seemed very much in love during their life together.