Andrew Jackson 1767-1845 A brief biography

Jackson as Judge and General; More East-West Feuding (1798-1804)

In 1798, right after retiring the Senate, the 31 year old Jackson was elected to the superior court of Tennessee. The superior court judges at times went (separately) on circuits throughout the state. At other times they sat together as a state supreme court. The salary, $600/year was just $150 short of the governor's salary.

Once, an accused man stormed out the courtroom cursing the judge and jury and was shortly standing outside flourishing his weapons. When no one dared to arrest the man, Jackson demanded that the sheriff "Summon me". He adjourned the court ten minutes, approached the man with two loaded pistols, and roared "surrender, you infernal villain, this very instant, or I'll blow you through." The man put down his weapons and obeyed meekly. Later the man said he "saw shoot" in Jackson's eyes. (Parton I, 228-229)

An early biographer (Parton I, 227) said that "he maintained the dignity and authority of the bench ... his decisions were short, untechnical, unlearned, sometimes ungrammatical, and generally right." Jackson's nature was to command, but wherever possible to preserve the dignity of all parties, winners and losers. A good make up for a judge.

In 1801, Jackson helped organize the Order of Freemasons in Tennessee. The Masons were a useful organization for a rising man.

On April 1 1803, Justice Jackson campaigned again to be Major General of the Tennessee militia. John Sevier had just completed 3 terms as Governor, and could not serve again for 2 years, by the Tennessee law. He too wanted to be Major General, and thought it only fitting, as he was a Revolutionary War hero. The two men represented the two political factions of Tennessee, and were on bad terms already.

Jackson achieved a tie vote through popularity with the young officers of the militia. The current governor, Roane (of the "Western" faction) swung it to Jackson. Sevier was now incensed at his defeat by such an upstart.

Sevier took some vengeance by having his friends in the state legislature pass a law dividing Tennessee into East and West districts and giving Jackson control of only the West.

More complications ensued. Jackson had, a few years before, discovered evidence of a land fraud operation based in North Carolina. He passed it to the North Carolina governor, who tried to get the Tennessee governor, Sevier, to extradite the parties involved. Sevier refused.

The evidence given Jackson also seemed to implicate Sevier in the scam. Only now did Jackson pass on the evidence against Sevier -- to the new Governor Roane, who would use it to keep himself in office, and Sevier out, in the next election.

Much name calling ensued, culminating in Sevier telling Jackson, on the street, "I know of no great service you have rendered the country, except taking a trip to Natchez with another man's wife". Jackson responded in outrage and Sevier shouted "Draw".

Then the on-and-off governor of Tennessee, and the state supreme court judge fired at each other, grazing one bystander. Jackson later challenged Sevier repeatedly until the latter agreed to a duel (after first maintaining Jackson wasn't worthy of a duel with him). Through some blundering, the two met outside the dueling ground, and wound up drawing pistols on each other again. This lead to cursing, the drawing of a cane and then a sword, a horse running away with the dueling pistols, and the seconds talking the protagonists out of the duel.

Being an officer of the militia was a part time job; there was some work involved in maintaining supplies, and keeping the men ready to fight, but much less than with a standing army. So Jackson continued for a while as Justice. Following the Louisiana Purchase by Thomas Jefferson in 1803, Jackson was ready to respond to the need to occupy the new territory. He tried to get the (appointive) job of (military or territorial) governor of Louisiana, but was very disappointed when General James Wilkinson was selected.

On July 24, 1804, Jackson resigned from judicial life, and was never a judge or lawyer again. For several years, he was involved in the militia, buying and selling land for profit, and building up a 425 acre plantation called the Hermitage, with perhaps a couple of dozen slaves. He also came near the brink of disaster due to the confusing nature of land dealings at the time.

He had a prize race-horse which made him tens of thousands of dollars. But a racing bet over the horse, Truxton, got him into his most serious duel, in which he killed his antagonist after receiving a bullet that crushed two ribs and lodged two inches from his heart (more on the duel). This duel left him somewhat of a social outcast, for a time, in western Tennessee.