Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Devil and Andrew Jackson

A friend was recently railing against Old Hickory as evil incarnate. I therefore particularly enjoyed Tim Alan Garrison's essay "The Devil and Andrew Jackson: Historians and Jackson's Role in the Indian Removal Crisis" (found in Congress and the Emergence of Sectionalism), which includes this wonderful quote by James Parton, Andrew Jackson's first biographer, illustrating "that perceptions of Jackson [are] often so contradictory that they nearly thwart[] useful evaluation of his life":
If any one, at the end of a year even, had asked what I had yet discovered respecting General Jackson, I might have answered thus: "Andrew Jackson, I am given to understand, was a patriot and a traitor. He was one of the greatest of generals, and wholly ignorant of the art of war. A writer brilliant, elegant, eloquent, without being able to compose a correct sentence, or spell words of four syllables. The first of statesmen, he never devised, he never framed a measure. He was the most candid of men, and was capable of the profoundest dissimulation. A most law-defying, law-obeying citizen. A stickler for discipline, he never hesitated to disobey his superior. A democratic autocrat. An urbane savage. An atrocious saint." So difficult is it to attain information respecting a man whom two thirds of his fellow-citizens deified, and the other third vilified, for the space of twelve years or more.
A critical commentary on the press's treatment of Andrew Jackson, and on the practice of nominating candidates by caucus during the presidential race of 1824. The cartoon pointedly attacks Republican nominee William Crawford and his powerful supporter Martin Van Buren. Jackson, in military uniform, stands amid a pack of snarling dogs labeled with the names of various critical newspapers. He rests his right hand upon a sword inscribed "Veni Vidi Vici." One dog, named "Richmond Whig," is whipped by a nude black boy who says, "Mas Andra I earry say dis eah jew dog blongst to Tunis, bark loud, somebody tief way ee paper & show um one ghose, wite like Clay; dat mak um feard. Name o' God! nobody gwine feard now for Crawfud ghose! look pon dat sleepy dog; jumbee da ride um, can't bark no mo for Crawfud." In the lower left corner a dog named "Democratic Press" is ridden by a skeletal Death figure holding aloft a tract with the words "Immortal memory Revd. James Quigley basely sacrificed conscience Avaunt!" On the dog's side appear the words, "Good sprite, In mercy lash me with a dry corn stalk; I'm so jaded by stable swooning smoke house steams & Hog Cellar sweats!" A five-headed dog named "Hartford Convention" also appears at lower left. In the left background, before a building marked "Uncle Sam's Treasury Pap House / Amalgamation-Tool Department," Treasury Secretary William Crawford offers a bowl of dollars to a befeathered woman, saying "Here's a bowl full of solid pappose [sic] meat. that's a good Girl better marry our wild, Indians than Foreigners good or bad." She says, "O! stuff your mouth you brat! Treasury pap is better than rum." An Indian beside her says, "Rum for de baby." Below the image is a text from Shakespeare's Coriolanus: "What would you have, you Curs, that like not peace, nor war? / Who deserves Greatness, deserves your hate; and your affections are a sick man's appetite. / With every minute you do change a mind: and call him noble that was now your hate. / Him vile that was your Garland!"

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