Monday, December 15, 2014

Celtic Corner - December 2014


Some more stories about the Irish Immigrants

        By the time he was fourteen, Andrew Jackson, the man whose face adorns the U.S. twenty dollar bill, was an orphan.

        During the Revolutionary War, Jackson’s two brothers, who lived with Jackson and his mother at the Waxshaw settlement in South Carolina, were killed by British soldiers (Jackson himself was seriously wounded for defying a soldier and was taken prisoner). A short while later his mother an immigrant from County Antrim in Ireland, contracted cholera and died. His father had died a year after he had arrived in America in 1765.

Jackson could be described in one word: tough. As an adult, he engaged in a number of wars, and he was so tough that his troops dubbed him “Old Hickory” after the hardwood.

        In 1784 he went to Salisbury, South Carolina, and, with a legal career in mind, apprenticed himself to a law firm. In 1787 he passed the bar; then he headed west to Nashville. He was able to buy a planation and raise horses, but marauding Indians were very much a problem in the area. Jackson fought them effectively, garnering a well-deserved reputation. In 1802 he married Rachel Donelson Robards.

        Jackson was six feet one inch tall, a thin man, with reddish brown hair and a quick temper, which led him to a number of duels. His most famous, a duel over horses, occurred with a man named Charles Dickinson. Dickinson fired first, thinking with horror that he had missed because Jackson just stood there and fired back and Dickinson was mortally wounded. However, Dickinson had hit Jackson. But Jackson had worn a large, heavy coat that had caused Dickinson to misaim: The coat was so oversized that the bullet hit Jackson below the heart. He recovered from the wound after a few weeks.

        During the War of 1812 Jackson became famous for his military prowess. In 1818 President James Monroe appointed him to deal with Indians in Florida, which he did by torching Pensacola and summarily hanging two Englishmen he thought were conspiring with the Indians, and that caused an international incident.

        Gradually, he emerged as a presidential candidate. He ran in 1824 against John Quincy Adams and lost because of what he characterized as a “corrupt bargain” among various people. But in 1828 he won.

        During his two terms, Jackson increased the power of the presidency. He used the “spoils system” appointing his own political cronies to office and organizing counties into branches of the Democratic Party so they could deliver the vote more effectively. He also made good use of the presidential veto. He used it a dozen times, more than all other previous presidents combined.

        He also put the “pocket veto” to good use: If a bill came to his desk fewer than ten days before Congress adjourned, the law permitted him to put the bill “into his pocket” and turn it down without giving Congress a reason why. For example, Jackson was opposed to restructuring of the Bank of the United Sates and used the pocket veto to defeat relevant legislation. Jacksonian scholar Robert Remini wrote that Jackson created a gain in Presidential power that did not abate until the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974.

        In foreign affairs, Jackson also achieved much. He revived trade with England, exempting English goods from the harsh tariff of 1828 (the so called Tariff of Abominations. He also used his influence to help reopen trade with the British held West Indies. He also succeeded in getting payments for France for the “spoliation” attacks on American ships during the Napoleonic Wars earlier in the century.

        One great domestic triumph was the annexation of Texas. Though Jackson wanted to annex it, he did nothing while in office because he feared that the unresolved slavery question could cause problems for the election chances of his handpicked successor, Martin Van Buren. After Van Buren was elected, Jackson supported annexation, which took place in 1845, the year he died.

        Jackson liked to give parties, and he was a man of the people- everyone was welcome. At his last party as president, he had a fourteen hundred pound cheese brought in the White House and it was eaten in two hours. The White House smelled of the cheese for weeks.


Nollaig shona duit

Merry Christmas

Frank Darcy