Blog: Andrew Jackson’s Strange Story
Trump’s Hero Has A Secret Past
… the sheer craziness of this obsession by Donald Trump with Andrew Jackson and the Civil War is a carnival act unlike anything I have ever seen at the White House.
Dan Rather's Facebook Page, https://www.facebook.com/theDanRather/posts/10158607919485716
Oakland, California, May, 2017
Some years ago I delivered a lecture on J.A. Rogers’ Five Negro Presidents. Rogers had written a pamphlet that included Andrew Jackson as one of the five presidents of the United States who had Negro lineage.
The Virginia Magazine of History, Vol. 29, p. 191, says that Jackson was the son of a white woman who had “intermarried with a Negro and that his eldest brother had been sold as a slave in Carolina.” What gave an air of truth to this was that the elder Jackson died before Andrew was born. His widow went to live on the Crawford farm where there were Negro slaves and that one of these was Andrew’s father. It was stressed that Andrew was conceived after the death of his supposed father, whose name he bore.
The Five Negro Presidents USA,
However, while researching Rogers’ allegation about Andrew Jackson’s bloodline, I discovered a far stranger story than the Virginia Magazine’s charge about Jackson’s Negro ancestry. There is a scandal surrounding the biography of Andrew Jackson as significant as the one currently engulfing Donald Trump, one of Jackson’s greatest admirers.
Jackson’s Biographers Suffered Strange Fates
The Life of Andrew Jackson by John Reid and John Henry Eaton is Andrew Jackson’s first biography and covers his early life and his military exploits during the War of 1812. The Reid-Eaton biography of Andrew Jackson was first published in 1817, but was greatly revised in 1824 and 1828. The later revisions made such extensive changes to the key facts of Jackson’s life that the accuracy of these later works has been challenged by a number of scholars. The 1817 Reid-Eaton account of Andrew Jackson’s life is not only the earliest account of the general’s life but authorities recognized this work as Andrew Jackson’s official biography.
In 1814, a member of Jackson’s military staff, Colonel Arthur Haynes first proposed that David Ramsey write an account of the general’s military career. Dr. David Ramsey was a well-known and respected historian. However, immediately upon taking up the project and gathering information, a stranger, with no apparent motive shot and killed Dr. Ramsey. Colonel Haynes then consulted other potential biographers to continue the project. He chose Edward Livingston who, in the early days, was a frequent visitor at the Hermitage, Jackson’s Nashville plantation. Livingston was both a confidante of the general and a protégé of Jackson’s wife, Rachel. Livingston completed a significant amount work on the project ___ as letters between him and John Reid, Jackson’s personal secretary, demonstrate. However, unexpectedly, Livingston withdrew from the project and delivered his research and papers over to John Reid. Then Livingston disappeared. Reid claims to have ‘lost’ Livingston’s manuscript. After Edward Livingston’s ‘withdrawal’ from the project, John Reid gathered up the Ramsey and Livingston research and completed a prospectus, which he presented to Andrew Jackson for the general’s review and approval.
Actually, John Reid was the best person to author a biography of Andrew Jackson. John Reid was not just Andrew Jackson’ secretary; he was another Jackson confidante and close associate. Major John Reid accompanied Jackson on the general’s march with the Tennessee ‘volunteers’ to Natchez, Mississppi. Reid was Jackson’s aide de camp and along with Thomas Benton, the general’s most intimate confidante. Reid was General Jackson’s constant companion and wrote many of Jackson’s letters and correspondences. Andrew Jackson could not have chosen a better person to complete his biography than his aide, his confidante and his friend, Major John Reid. But in January, 1816, again, prior to the completion of Jackson’s biography, Major John Reid died from a sudden undiagnosed illness. The project had been underway for barely 18 months and already two biographers were dead and one had disappeared.
With Reid’s death, Andrew Jackson, personally, chose John Henry Eaton to finish his biography. Although there is no evidence that Andrew Jackson had ever met John Henry Eaton, a letter dated, February 9th 1816 indicates that Jackson had already chosen John Henry Eaton, a practicing lawyer in Franklin, Tennessee and a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives, to complete the project after Reid’s death. Jackson ensconced Eaton at the Hermitage and gave him access to primary materials, correspondences, documents and orders stored by Jackson at the plantation. He also gave Eaton John Reid’s still incomplete manuscript. During Eaton’s tenure at the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson read and approved every line of the manuscript. Once he was satisfied with the work, Jackson sent Eaton to Philadelphia where Eaton oversaw its final publication in March of 1817.
After publishing Jackson’s biography, John Henry Eaton returned to his law practice and the Tennessee House of Representatives ___ becoming a rising star in Tennessee politics. In 1818, despite the fact that he was but 28 years old, John Eaton was elected to the U.S. Senate from Tennessee. Eaton’s election violated the U.S. constitutional requirement that U.S. Senators be at least 30 years old. Later, John Henry Eaton served as President Andrew Jackson’s Secretary of War, though he had never served in the army nor had any military experience.
“Don’t Ever Come Back Here Again!”
Professor Michael Rogin ___ who had written the book, Fathers and Children: Andrew Jackson and the Subjugation of the American Indian ___ was considered a subject matter expert on Andrew Jackson. I decided to tell Rogin about my project, tell him what I had l discovered and ask him to help me understand the strange twistings and turnings ___ and deaths ___ associated with the production of Jackson’s 1817 biography. Rogin listened to what I had to say. But instead of offering any insights into the matter, he shouted at me, “Get out of my office and don’t ever come back here, again!” I guess conspiracy theories are not for everyone. So I was left on my own to try to figure out what to make of the information I had and what any of it had to do with Andrew Jackson’s supposed Negro ancestry.
Considering the above information, I theorized that two incidents in Andrew Jackson’s early life ___ the Secretary of War’s order to disband Jackson’s 1500 Tennessee volunteer army in Natchez and Thomas and Jessie Benton’s ‘bushwhacking’ of Andrew Jackson on a street in Nashville ___ might be linked to the general’s racial lineage. Indeed, these two events could be seen by some to form the basis of a ‘conspiracy theory.’ This theory, simply stated, asserts that because, in 1812, the entire military resources of the United States were occupied with the invasion of Canada, the only fighting force available to defend the southern United States was a volunteer army from Tennessee under the command of a Negro who had adopted two Indian children. The white racists in Washington would naturally find this circumstance disturbing. But when this Negro refused to relinquish control over his army to a white general who was the personal friend of the Secretary of War, James Monroe, plans were put in place to forcibly relieve him of his command with extreme prejudice. However, because of Jackson’s popularity with his men and his absolute control over the only army in the southern United States, the plan the President of the United States, the Secretary of War and the Governor of Tennessee concocted had to be implemented with the utmost secrecy.
From The Natchez To Nashville
In 1812, President James Madison declared war on Great Britain. Citing British trade restrictions and British support for the Native American tribes resisting U.S. Indian removal policies, Madison thought to take advantage of Britain’s preoccupation with the Napoleonic Wars to invade Canada. Britain ___ determined to prevent the U.S. from annexing the whole of Canada ____ mobilized an active defense of its Canadian colony.
Under the overall command of Major General James Wilkinson who had convinced Madison that Canada was there for the taking, the U.S. won some early victories over poorly-prepared British regulars. U.S. forces took control of Lake Erie and seized parts of Canada in 1813. But American offensives to capture Montreal failed, and, by1814, Britain had completely repulsed America’s Canadian invasion. The president found his conquest of Canada to be more difficult than he and his Secretary of War anticipated.
In April 1814, with Napoleon’s defeat, Britain had large numbers of troops available to launch offensive thrusts against the United States. But an invasion force attacking New York was defeated at Plattsburg. And, although a second British force successfully captured and burned Washington, D.C., the Americans repulsed a British attack on Baltimore. These defeats caused Britain to further reduce its defensive support of native populations as a buffer against American expansionism. As Britain reduced its support for the Indian tribes, the Americans stepped up its massacres of native Americans, ending British prospects for an independent native American confederacy in the Midwest. These battles taught Madison that militias could slaughter Indian tribes, but only a professional army could defeat British regulars.
Having engaged his entire army in the invasion of Canada, Madison realized that the southern part of the United States was defenseless if the British launched an attack on the Mississippi River region, through New Orleans. Madison called upon the Governor of Tennessee for help, promising whatever financial support he required. Tennesseans volunteered en masse. In December 1812, Tennessee Governor Willie Blount sent 1,500 troops under the command of Andrew Jackson, a major general of the Tennessee militia, to defend the lower Mississippi region. Jackson recruited, armed and marched the Tennessee Volunteers in the dead of winter, 500 miles from Nashville, Tennessee, to Natchez, Mississippi.
When the British threat to the south failed to materialize, President Madison and his Secretary of War, James Monroe, decided to eliminate Tennessee’s volunteer militia. The Secretary of War ordered General Jackson to disband his Tennessee volunteers and put them under the command of Major General James Wilkinson. James Monroe had rushed his close friend to New Orleans to form an army after Wilkinson’s unsuccessful invasion of Canada.
Major General James Wilkinson was one of the most corrupt officials in the United States. Despite his rank as a general in the army, Wilkinson was a paid agent of the Spanish Crown and kept Spain informed of Madison’s plans to annex Florida. At the time, Florida was a Spanish possession. General Wilkinson was also one of the conspirators who plotted against the United States government with Aaron Burr. When Burr’s conspiracy was discovered, Wilkinson’s friend in the War Department saved the general by allowing him to testify against Burr and the other conspirators. Andrew Jackson refused to turn over his volunteer militia to the known traitor and spy. Instead, Jackson decided to march his Tennessee volunteers back to Nashville, personally pledging to give his men the pay they were owed and to pay the merchants who supplied his army. In order for the Jackson to make good on his promises, the general sent his confidante, Thomas Benton, to Washington to plead with the War Department for the funds that the president had promised the governor of Tennessee.
Thomas Benton was Andrew Jackson’s friend. He was a trusted aide and a member of Jackson’s inner circle ___ as also was William Carroll. Both men, Benton and Carroll, were essential in the recruiting and training of Jackson’s Tennessee volunteers. The volunteers did not particularly like Thomas Benton, but they loved William Carroll almost as much as they loved Andrew Jackson. The Tennesseans even voted to install Carroll as their ‘captain.’ In November, 1812, Andrew Jackson appointed Carroll, brigade inspector, describing his aide as the best officer in the army. To Jackson, Carroll displayed the leadership and courage that Benton lacked. When President Madison commissioned Andrew Jackson as a major general in the regular U.S. Army, William Carroll took Jackson’s place as major general of the Tennessee militia’s Second Division. Andrew Jackson so greatly admired William Carroll that he agreed to back Carroll when he was challenged to a duel by Jessie Benton, Thomas Benton’s brother. Jessie Benton challenged William Carroll to this duel even while his brother, Thomas Benton, was in Washington, petitioning the War Department for the funds that Andrew Jackson urgently needed to pay his men and his creditors. Thomas Benton was able to get the funds from the War Department as the duel between Jessie Benton and William Carroll was taking place.
Though neither antagonist, neither Jessie Benton nor William Carroll, received more than a superficial wound, in the duel, the Benton brothers held a ‘grudge’ against Andrew Jackson for his support of William Carroll. News of this ‘grudge’ was spread throughout Tennessee. The Benton brothers vowed that they would get even with Andrew Jackson. On the morning of September 4, 1813, the Benton brothers arrived in Nashville to make good their vow.
The Benton brothers stood in the doorway of the Nashville Inn when they spotted Andrew Jackson and two companions walking towards them. Seeing that neither Jackson nor his companions saw them, Jesse Benton, quickly stepped into the barroom as Thomas Benton remained in plain sight. As Jackson drew nearer, he spotted Thomas Benton and shouted, “Now, defend yourself you damned rascal!” Jessie Benton slipped through a doorway behind Jackson and, raising his pistol, shot Jackson in the back. As the general pitched forward, Thomas Benton pulled his gun and fired. The general’s body hit the walkway. Jesse Benton then lunged forward and shot Jackson, again.
Jackson lay prostrate; his body gushed blood from multiple gunshot wounds. He received two gunshot wounds in his side, another slug shattered his left shoulder and a fourth lodged in his upper arm. Jackson’s companions carried the general into the Nashville Inn. Jackson’s blood soaked through two mattresses. The Benton brothers and their supporters gathered outside the Nashville Inn, shouting their elation over having ‘settled’ their score. Every physician in Nashville tried to stanch the flow of Jackson’s blood. None of them succeeded. So how did General Andrew Jackson survive?
The Andrew Jackson ‘Conspiracy Theory’
I do not believe Andrew Jackson survived Thomas and Jessie Benton’s murderous attack. General Andrew Jackson died on September 4, 1813 from multiple gunshot wounds and a total loss of blood. And another man ___ a white man ___ assumed General Andrew Jackson’s identity.
For me, the circumstances that support this conspiracy theory are overwhelming. The mystery and deaths of those involved in producing the general’s biography point to a conspiracy. The production of a ‘bogus’ Jackson biography that all the conspirators agreed to support indicates a conspiracy. General Andrew Jackson’s defiance of the President of the United States and the Secretary of War made him persona non grata with Washington’s military elite ___ a nest of spies and traitors. Jackson’s enemies would hardly flinch at assassinating a hated enemy ___ someone who might use military force to defend the native tribes they were determined to eradicate. Even the wounds that Jackson’s assassins inflicted upon the general ___ confirmed by attending physicians ____ provide evidence that Jackson did not survive. But, of course, these circumstances and ‘facts’ would hardly convince those who find ‘conspiracy theories’ preposterous and those who routinely accept dogma as truth, especially when it supports the white supremacist narrative. However, one piece of additional evidence makes it difficult for even the most confirmed skeptic to dismiss my conspiracy theory about Andrew Jackson.
There are numerous paintings and portraits of Andrew Jackson that exist prior to and after September 4, 1813. Any comparison of pictures of Andrew Jackson before and after that date reveals an astounding fact. The pictures are of two completely different men. Earlier pictures of Andrew Jackson show him to that have a thinning hairline even at a very young age. Consequently, prior pictures of Andrew Jackson show him routinely combing his hair from the side to cover the sparseness of hair on his forehead. Later pictures of Andrew Jackson show him with a massive mane of hair, a prominent ‘rooster tail’ sprouting directly up out of the front of his head. Earlier pictures of Jackson show him to have a wide nose and Negroid or perhaps native American features. The paintings of Andrew Jackson after the assassination show a white man with European features ___ a thin nose and thin lips. The most casual comparison of pictures of Andrew Jackson before and after the fateful day in 1813 will convince any skeptic that they depict two different men. Therefore, J.A. Rogers was partially correct. General Andrew Jackson who had Negroid features inherited from his slave father was, according to white people’s classification, a Negro. President Andrew Jackson, on the other hand, was a white man. A picture is worth a thousand words, and the evidence is undeniable to anyone with eyes.