Andrew Jackson: Cotton, Cock Fights
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Andrew Jackson would grow up to be a President of the United States of America and the founder of the Democratic Party. Along the way he would murder many of his fellow men and live a life of depravity unmatched, so far as we know, by any other American President.
How much cotton did Andrew Jackson's slaves cultivate? After the Louisiana Purchase (1803) he wanted to speculate in newly available lands west of the Mississippi River. That year his partner, John Hutchings, loaded over 56,000 pounds of Jackson's cotton onto a boat bound for New Orleans. Better still, Jackson aspired to be appointed Governor of the new territory, but was beat out by William Claiborne. The cotton brought little in New Orleans. Financially desperate, Jackson resigned his position as superior court judge. He sold his home and slave plantation, Hunter's Hill.
To forget his troubles Jackson continued to engage in cock fighting. "He owned a bird named Bernadotte." He would challenge: "Twenty dollars on my Bernadotte! Who'll take me up?" [p. 98]
Andrew and Rachel moved to the Hermitage, over six-hundred acres nearer to Nashville than their mansion at Hunter's Hill, but possessing only a blockhouse as a residence. With his small chain of trading posts and partner John Hutchings (one of Rachel's nephews), Jackson traded as best he could, mostly buying goods in Philadelphia, marking up by a factor of three (not altogether unwarranted, given the cost of transport), and selling in Tennessee. The profits were then used to buy "cotton, tobacco, pork, pelts and negroes" which were in turn sold at a profit in New Orleans.
Before he had traded his way out of debt, in 1805, Jackson started speculating again. He bought a two-thirds interest in a horse racing track and built a tavern beside it, then booths for traveling traders, and a boat yard. Still, slave-grown cotton was his mainstay. He sought to improve the situation by eliminating cotton middlemen, or threatening them.
Aaron Burr had been elected Vice-President in 1800 and served from 1801 to 1805. He had killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804, something Jackson would have admired. Burr then embarked on a vague scheme to create a western empire apart from the United States but possibly including Tennessee and Kentucky as well as the new Louisiana territory and even Texas. Among the many men he met to further this purpose was Andrew Jackson, who knew Burr from his time spent in the U.S. Senate. They met on May 29, 1805. Jackson was supportive of a plan to create a settlement in Texas and use it as a pretext for war with Spain. Burr then visited New Orleans, then Jackson again in August. Little really materialized before 1807, when Burr was indicted for treason. Although he was acquitted, his career was over.
Jackson's financial difficulties continued. The buyer of Hunter's Hill fell behind in his payments. Jackson still had much land and many slaves, but little cash to pay his own creditors. Usually a winner at gambling and horse racing, his Indian Queen had lost to the horse Greyhound. Jackson gambled more by buying Truxton, a horse he thought could beat Greyhound with proper training.
In the last race of the Tennessee season of 1805 Truxton beat Greyhound, winning Jackson $5000 cash on the spot. Had he lost he might have been jailed for debt and sunk into poverty. His training of the horse had made the difference. Truxton also became a good source of revenue from stud fees.
Thus Andrew Jackson became the best known horse trainer, racer and gambler in Tennessee.
Main source: The Life of Andrew Jackson by Marquis James, Bobbs-Merrill company, 1938.
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