Now I know that all of you are likely sick to death of hearing all about Donald Trump and the crazy kooky election year we Yanks seem to be going through down here south of the 49th parallel. We Americans are constantly surprised at how foreigners view us and your exclamations that things in America ‘just couldn’t get any crazier’. Well Mr. and Mrs foreigner, let me assure you that if you take the totality of our national election cycles from 1784 forward, we haven’t even gotten our crazy pants on yet, let alone got all dressed up in the crazy tuxedo. Oh yeah, all this could just be the warmup act for the real zany shenanigans to come!
Let me introduce you to Old Hickory (I’ll get into that nickname in a moment) or more formally, Andrew Jackson the Seventh President of the fledgling United States of America and the inventor of the American $20 bill. Okay, so he really didn’t invent the twenty dollar bill, but his picture graces it and that’s just as good.
Now rest assured that Andrew Jackson was a bona fide war hero from the War of 1812 (which gets much different press down here), or as I like to call it “The War Against Canadian Aggression”. That war hero status didn’t exactly mean that his life was all wine and roses either. He had a challenging upbringing that got a lot more challenging when he, at the age of 13, was captured by the British during our War of Immaculate Freedom (the American Revolutionary War) and in his captivity was “severely mistreated” by the godless redcoats. This instilled in him a seething anger toward all things British (others just said all things) and that lasted him all of his life, and that you could say produced “mixed results”.
General Jackson in 1828 was running a populist campaign against a corrupt (and by then quite unpopular) John Quincy Adams. As was the tradition of the day in American presidential politics, neither candidate personally campaigned, but their political followers organized many campaign events, and let’s just say that their methods did not exactly get close scrutiny by the candidates themselves. Both candidates were absolutely savaged in the press, but this reached a low point when the press accused Jackson’s wife (who was in very ill health) Rachel of bigamy (and quite possibly the accusation was true). She sadly died a few weeks after the elections.
Immediately after his election and well prior to his inauguration, his supporters decided to move things along at a less leisurely pace, and not wanting to wait a few more months for Jackson’s inauguration, they simply stormed the White House the next day causing John Quincy Adams to run for his life out the back door. Finding no future ex President they proceeded to lightly vandalize the White House. After a short period of time, the occupiers had to be lured outside to the White House lawn with all the free alcohol the White House had on hand. The trick worked! This foreshadowed the even bigger blowout that Jackson held on his inauguration day where he threw open the doors of the White House and anyone walking by on Pennsylvania Avenue could just stop in for an all-you-can-drink and eat party. Keep in mind that back then, almost everybody was armed with all manner of weapons, as was Jackson.
Jackson said he would forgive those who insulted him, but he would never forgive the ones who had attacked his wife, and he pretty much meant it. When his administration kicked off, it did so with a rage induced fury that the elites were not really expecting. Jackson was just getting started however and he was not going to stop until he extracted revenge.
To put that into today’s perspective it would be as if the current President showing up to a congressional assembly brandishing a machine gun, and a hickory staff (remember his nickname) to physically thrash various uncooperative members of congress that he felt were corrupted by northeastern moneyed interest. Very soon, they all fell into line and they became much more cooperative and a lot less corrupt as a personal visit from President Jackson was usually extremely persuasive. Having fought in and won 103 previous duals, that likely helped his persuasive argument, and if that still wasn’t enough for you, Jackson maintained “an open dual policy” while he was President. That means if you didn’t like the way he was running the country, you could just walk up and schedule a dual with the President in the Rose Garden of the White House. As near as I can tell, there were no takers to that offer, although he was the victim of an assassination attempt by an unemployed and very crazy house painter named Richard Lawrence in the House chamber of the Capitol building. The hapless assassin’s guns misfired (both of them) and not wanting to shoot a now disarmed man, Jackson simply beat him senseless with his hickory cane, and then went on with his day.
Jackson was convinced that Lawrence had been hired by his Whig Party opponents to assassinate him. At the time, Jackson’s Democrats and the Whigs were locked in battle over Jackson’s attempt to dismantle the Bank of the United States. His vice president, Martin Van Buren, was also wary and thereafter carried two loaded pistols with him when visiting the Senate.
So, when you think things just couldn’t get any crazier, just take it from this American, they sure could.