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Judge Andrew Jackson's Law
February 16, 2011
by William P. Meyers

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Andrew Jackson would become a President of the United States of America and the founder of the Democratic Party.

Continued from Andrew Jackson Gets Rich

Wealthy slaver and lawyer Andrew Jackson presented himself as the new Representative from Tennessee on December 5, 1796. Jackson voted against a Federalist, complementing reply to George Washington's Farewell Address to Congress. He pushed through a bill recompensing Tennessee for its illegal campaign against the Cherokee nation in 1793. He supported Jefferson over John Adams for President. He got his brother-in-law Robert Hays appointed a United States marshal. He also voted to build three frigates for the Navy. His partial term ended on March 3, 1797, and he declined to run for another.

Yet when Jackson's friend Senator Blount was expelled from the Senate for encouraging a Creek uprising against the Spanish in Florida, Jackson allowed himself to be chosen to fill out the term. When Governor Sevier and even his friend Judge John McNairy "made allusion to the ambitions of the aspirant" which Jackson deemed insulting, he sent his adversaries a note that contained "formal inquiries preliminary to a dueling summons." Both men managed replies that calmed Jackson without giving up honor.

Jackson, who hated the British, in turn loved Napoleon Bonaparte, and hoped he would defeat Great Britain. Jackson lost more money due to notes he had unwisely signed for, so in April 1798 he returned to Tennessee to shore up his fortune. He bought a cotton gin so that his slave labor would be used more efficiently, and started distilling whisky. He also challenged former Senator William Cocke to a duel, but again matters were patched up.

Apparently he still held the U.S. government in some contempt, as in the fall of 1798 he accepted (and had doubtless lobbied for) an appointment to the Superior Court of Tennessee (actually the state's Supreme Court). Jackson settled down, adding the lucrative business of making judgments to the businesses of slave trading, whiskey distilling, dog and cock fighting, and running a slave plantation. However, the slaves' lives were somewhat alleviated by the kindness of Rachel Jackson, who was neglected by Andrew in favor of his interests and ambitions.

Around 1800 Federalists were few in Tennessee. Almost every politician claimed to be a (Jeffersonian) Republican, but "to the Jackson wing belonged most of the land barons and men of wealth." White immigrants were pouring into Tennessee, driving up the price of land. But lawlessness was still common on the frontier. Judge Jackson sentenced many men to hang until dead.

Despite being a high-ranking judge with a then-enormous salary of $800 per year, in 1802 Jackson was also elected (officers only voting) major general of the Tennessee militia.

John Sevier, aka Nolichucky Jack, a genuine pioneer, was Jackson's main rival. On October 1, 1803, Judge Andrew Jackson interrupted a speech being given by Governor Sevier in Knoxville. Sevier taunted Jackson: "I know of no great service you have rendered the country except taking a trip to Natchez with another man's wife." [See Andrew Jackson: Stealing Rachel] Jackson lost it. He tried to attack Sevier with his walking stick, who in turn drew his sword. Others in the crowd drew knives and pistols, shots were fired, and at least one bystander was wounded. But the two men were kept separate by the members of the State Legislature.

Andrew then formally challenged the Governor to a duel. By then dueling was illegal in Tennessee, but of course Judge Jackson thought he was the Law, not its humble servant. However, while sentencing two men to hang to death, negotiations took place. It was generally agreed that Sevier had been in the wrong, having insulted Jackson first. Jackson published his views in the Gazette, then left with his henchmen to await Sevier in Cherokee territory. Five days later Sevier and his gang showed up. The men rushed at each other with pistols, then paused to trade insults. Jackson again rushed at Sevier with his cane raised. Sevier drew his sword, at which point his horse bolted, taking his pistols with him. Jackson, seeing Sevier now had only a sword, drew his pistol and chased Sevier, who hid behind a tree. Other members of the two gangs of capitalist, Indian-killing, slave-whipping thieves squared off against each other. Negotiations ensued, leaving the Jackson men in the field, and the Sevier men in retreat.

Next: Andrew Jackson: Cotton, Cock Fights and Aaron Burr

Main source: The Life of Andrew Jackson by Marquis James, Bobbs-Merrill company, 1938.

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