Outside Nashville, Tennessee: Andrew Jackson's Hermitage
The President of the United States Owned 140 Slaves
By: Charles Giuliano - Apr 27, 2008
During the Presidential election of 1824, a four way tie, in which Henry Clary brokered a deal in favor of John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, the frontiersman, and Indian fighter "Old Hickory" was referred to as a "Jackass." Jackson actually enjoyed the "complement" and the Jackass has endured as the symbol of the Democratic Party and tradition of Jacksonian Democracy which he founded.
There were mixed feelings while visiting the Hermitage the beautiful Greek Revival mansion and plantation of the former seventh President. While the historic home evokes the man and his era, with most of the original furnishings and period detail, including the wall papers chosen by his wife, Rachel Donelson, there were poignant and grim reminders of slavery. Jackson prospered, indeed, adjusted for inflation, he is on the short list of wealthiest American presidents, but this was accomplished through the labor of some 140 slaves at the time of his death in 1845.
Little is know about the lives of the individuals whom Jackson owned body and soul. But there are several of the duplex cabins standing on the property. These comprise, two, 20 x 20' rooms, with a single door, window, hearth and sleeping balcony, housed as many as ten individuals dwelling in each unit.
Jackson bought 640 acres in 1804 and later added another 360 acres. On this land there were some 300 acres planted with cotton. It was a labor intensive crop to cultivate, weed or "chop," and harvest by hand. The crop was bailed and taken by nearby river down to New Orleans to be sold.
Having demonstrated his military skills as commander of the Battle of New Orleans, in 1815, he was called on lead the Tennessee Volunteers in a war against the Seminole and Creek nations in 1817. Jackson's campaign, against the indians and to prevent "runaway slaves" led to his conquest of Florida under the vague approval of president Monroe.The US was not at war with Spain at the time and there were demands that Jackson be punished. Spain, which was unable or unwilling to commit military resources, was forced to cede this territory through the support of John Quincy Adams in the Adams-Onis Treaty. Adams, like Jackson, was an early exponent of "manifest destiny."
As President, Jackson called for the Indian Removal Act in his State of the Union speech on December 8, 1829. It resulted in several thousand deaths in what has been called the Longest March and the Trail of Tears.
Because of his defense of slavery and brutal Indian policy there are lots of splinters associated with the less than endearing Old Hickory. His wife, Rachel, was not legaly divorced when they married in1791 (they remaiired in 1794). Consequently, Jacoson fought 13 duels often because of insults to his wife. He was frequenly wounded in these duels and other battles. He took a shot to the ribs (never removed because it was too close to his heart) when he returned fire and killed Charles Dickinson on May 30, 1806. He also ordered the executions of two men in Florida for aiding and abetting the Indians, as well as, several men under his command.
Surely there is much to know about this former president and tough old son of a bitch. Touring the Hermitage evoked the ghost of all those dead indians and abused slaves. It is interesting to note that, today, Hillary and Obama are heirs to the party of Jackson. Good grief.