Old Hickory

The President was very sick. He had been sick for
years, even when he was in office, but this was
different. Before he had always gotten better; this
time, he would not. His had been a hard life. He had
overcome many obstacles and endured many hardships and
faced every adversity with class and dignity. He
would face this one with class and dignity also, but
it would be his last.

His political enemies had been ruthless from early on
in his public life. They attacked his heritage, his
wife, his adopted home in Tennessee, and even his
military record. There wasn't much to look at, as
society-folks think, in his family background. There
was controversy in his romantic past, but not nearly
as much as his opponents would like to have believed.
And, I suppose, being extremely successful under dire
circumstances as a military leader is bound to lead
engender jealousy in those who would like to have met
with his success but were not equal to the task. He
stood up to the opposition and the circumstances and
overcame and proved himself fit for the works he
undertook.

He was an honest man, a man who valued honor and a
man who counted his word as of more value than
anything else he owned. If he said that he would do
something, you could pretty well count on it. That
often made life difficult for him, especially in the
world of politics. Though often pressured to do so,
he would not go back on his word. Compromise was
never an option where his promise was concerned.
People used every conceivable weapon against him to
make him give on a point, but Old Hickory would just
stand firm. His principles were more important than
anything else.

When the charismatic leaders of the opposition railed
against him over some issue or another, even his
closest friends feared that his resolution might be
perceived by the public as ignorance and stubbornness.
They would often prod him to say something to make
himself look better or his opponents look worse, but
he would have nothing of it. He believed in making
his case by stating the facts and then getting on with
the business at hand. Nothing would deter him.

When the good name of his wife was called into
question, he did what any old-west gentleman would be
expected to do - he challenged the chief accuser to a
duel. When his dependent over-extended the resources
of his farm, he, in the interest of saving the good
name of the family, borrowed the money needed to
extricate him from the trouble and then intensified
his efforts to train him properly. When he learned
that one of his slave-handlers was mistreating the
slaves, he dealt with him most harshly.

After his term in office had ended, he continued to
be involved in political matters; but not necessarily
by choice. He had never intended to be President - or
anything else, for that matter, save for a farmer.
When he left Washington, he wanted to do nothing more
than live out his days at the Hermitage attending to
the grave of his beloved wife; but the nations
troubles were pressing and he did what he could to
help. He believed that to be a duty - a duty shared
by every honorable American. Though his health was
worsening steadily and quickly, still he answered his
mail, most of which required much study and thought.

He was asked to contact the former President of the
Republic of Texas, Sam Houston, and press him to seek
annexation into the U.S. This he had done once before
only to have the very one who called him into the
venture back out. It was against everything Andrew
Jackson stood for, going back on one's word, and was a
great hurt to him. But now, as then, he believed in
the cause so he tried to do his part. He viewed this
as a duty.

He had known Sam Houston for many years. They both
served the U.S. in armed combat and shared a deep
respect for each other. This respect served then well
back then, and it would serve the nation well now.
One of the most poignant scenes from the eventful life
of Old Hickory came just before, and just after, his
death. His case had been made and Sam Houston,
despite efforts to the contrary by the British,
accepted the reasoning of Old Hickory and would press
for the Annexation of Texas. And he was coming to the
Hermitage to see the great man, Andrew Jackson, one
more time.

Jackson's time was nearly gone, and he knew it. His
family and servants and friends and neighbors and even
slaves had come to be with him and honor him and pay
him the respect his enemies would have taken from him.
Before his passing people were already mourning his
loss - and he knew it. He bid them be of good cheer
and spoke of meeting them again someday in heaven.
Shortly after these last words to the public, at
around six o'clock, his closed, his head bent forward,
and his heart beat no more. A little later a coach
drawn by galloping horses sped up the drive at the
Hermitage. A tired ad weary man, accompanied by a
small boy, stepped from the coach. The crowd, at
first, didn't recognize the man who had journeyed so
far to see the man so recently departed, but shortly
they did. Sam Houston dropped to his knees and, with
his head buried in his former military leaders'
lifeless chest, sobbed.

The great Texan called his young son to his side and
said, "My son, try to remember that you have looked on
the face of Andrew Jackson."

H. L. Gradowith

07-06-2002

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