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Andrew Jackson Killed Rival, Banished Indians, Stole Man's Wife

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  • Robert Schmidt
    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601088&sid=aBaJO9K8qZis&refer=muse Andrew Jackson Killed Rival, Banished Indians, Stole Man s Wife Review by Dave
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 4, 2008

      Andrew Jackson Killed Rival, Banished Indians, Stole Man's Wife

      Review by Dave Shiflett
      Enlarge Image/Details

      Dec. 31 (Bloomberg) -- If you're bored by the soporific slate of U.S.
      presidential candidates, consider watching PBS's new documentary on Andrew
      Jackson. It proves that politicians don't have to be dull.

      "Andrew Jackson: Good, Evil and the Presidency," which airs Wednesday on
      PBS at 9 p.m. New York time, tells how a man born in a log cabin and
      orphaned as a teenager grew up to be the seventh U.S. president.

      Along the way, Jackson killed a man in a gambling-related duel, ran off
      with another man' wife, led an unauthorized invasion of Spanish-ruled
      Florida, sent thousands of American Indians to their deaths on the "Trail
      of Tears" and accused John Quincy Adams of procuring a whore for a Russian

      In his spare time the slave-owning Jackson helped launch the Democratic
      Party and warned Americans of the rising power of bankers and corporations.
      Mike Huckabee, he wasn't.

      Narrated by Martin Sheen, the program explains how Jackson earned his
      nickname "Old Hickory." Jackson learned to brawl, drink whiskey and fight
      the detested British on the Carolina frontier, where he was reputed to be
      as tough as hickory wood, according to biographer Jon Meacham, one of
      several historians interviewed for the two-hour show.

      Battle of New Orleans

      Jackson became a lawyer at age 20 and signed on as a frontier prosecutor.
      He met another free spirit, Rachel Robards, in Nashville, Tennessee, around
      1788. She was married at the time but took a shine to Jackson. Their
      adulterous relationship, which led to marriage, would haunt her later in

      Jackson was a tough opponent, as British troops discovered in the 1815
      Battle of New Orleans and Adams found out during two presidential

      They first battled for the White House in 1824, a contest eventually
      decided in Adams's favor by the House of Representatives. Jackson, who
      thought the election had been stolen, challenged Adams in a nasty rematch
      four years later.

      The Adams camp got a newspaper to print Rachel's divorce proceedings, and
      soon editorialists were calling her the "American Jezebel" and Jackson
      "Western Bluebeard." Jackson's supporters struck back with a false charge
      that Adams, while serving as minister to Russia, had hired a prostitute for
      the czar.

      'Old Hickory'

      Although Jackson won the 1828 election, Rachel never accompanied him to
      Washington; she died a few weeks after her husband's victory, and Jackson
      blamed Adams for her demise.

      The program, which makes good use of lithographs, letters and documents
      from Jackson's time, reminds us that "Old Hickory" was hardly a favorite of
      high society. For his first inaugural (he served two terms), Jackson
      invited the public to the White House, and the huge crowds ended up
      trashing the building.

      "What a scene we did witness," wrote one socialite, who noted the "struggle
      to get punch" and an abundance of fainting ladies. Thomas Jefferson deemed
      Jackson to be "unfit" for his office.

      Indians, Slaves

      Jackson's harsh treatment of American Indians gets a thorough airing,
      especially his support of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 that forced tribes
      living east of the Mississippi River to move to unsettled territories in
      the West. Thousands of men, women and children died during the relocation.

      His handling of slaves also was brutal. Historian Bobby L. Lovett recounts
      that Jackson once offered a reward to anyone who administered 300 lashes to
      one of his escaped slaves -- a virtual death sentence.

      This was the same president who warned that powerful corporations and
      "unelected" bankers were a threat to the common man, or at least those of
      proper hue.

      Jackson was a powerful friend and a ferocious enemy. His first biographer,
      James Parton, may have summed him up best: "He was a democratic autocrat,
      an urbane savage, an atrocious saint."

      And never, it appears, dull.

      (Dave Shiflett is a critic for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are
      his own.)

      To contact the writer of this story: Dave Shiflett at dshifl@... .
      Last Updated: December 31, 2007 00:10 EST
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