Andrew Jackson is my favorite President of all time.
More so than Lincoln, Washington, and Reagan. Jackson's life story captures me more than all our other Presidents.
Unfortunately, Americans today only hear the rightful criticisms of Jackson's Indian Removal Act and his lack of opposition to slavery, while never hearing the monumental things this founder of the Democrat Party accomplished on behalf of our nation.
Forgetting to appraise people according to their culture and times will sometimes lead us to mistakenly dismiss the worthy. Caution is in order before condemning ancestors, recognizing the general darkness of former days often tainted one's personal behaviors.
Enid, Oklahoma has some very strong connections to the life story of Andrew Jackson. A 1910 graduate of Enid High School, Marquis James, wrote an award winning biography of our nation's 7th President. James' two volumes on the life of Andrew Jackson - Volume 1 The Border Captain (1933) and Volume 2 Portrait of a President (1937) - were combined into the 1938 Pulitzer Prize winning book The Life of Andrew Jackson. To this day, it remains the most colorful and interesting biography of President Jackson.
When President Jackson pushed for the Indian Removal act in 1830, the greatest opponent to the President's ambition of moving all Indians to "Indian Territory" (Oklahoma), was the erudite Cherokee Chief, a man named John Ross. Chief Ross's great-great granddaughter is an across-the-street neighbor and member of the church I pastor. Her family's story of how the Cherokees (and other tribes) were forcibly moved to Indian Territory is not one of the brighter chapters in American history, but any Oklahoman with a mixture of Indian blood is most likely directly connected with President Jackson through the land you now call home (Oklahoma).
The reason I feel a strong affinity for Andrew Jackson is the dramatic story of his conversion to faith in Jesus Christ during the later years of his life. Though raised by a mother who desired him to be a Presbyterian minister and married to a woman devout in her Christian faith, both of these women died very early in their lives, leaving Jackson to serve as President of the United States (1829-1837) without their influence. Though known to defend the Christian faith as President, Andrew Jackson had no personal experience with it until he reached the age of 75.
The Scar of Abuse
Born on the Ides of March (March 15), 1767, Andrew Jackson came into this world just three weeks after his father, Andrew Sr., died from injuries sustained attempting to move a log on their land near
Waxhaw, North Carolina. Both North Carolina and South Carolina claim Jackson as a native son, but Marquis James says Mrs. Jackson gave birth to Andrew while staying in her brother's home in South Carolina, not far from Waxhaw, North Carolina.
Andrew's devout Christian mother taught him to read at an early age, and when The Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, it was nine-year-old Andrew who stood on a chair and read the Philadelphia newspaper's account as the "town crier" to the inhabitants of Waxhaw. The Declaration of Independence meant war with the British.
An expert horseman, young Andrew Jackson eventually became a messenger boy for the Revolutionary soldiers. When Andrew was only 13 years old, he was captured by the British and imprisoned in Camden, South Carolina. While in prison, Andrew contracted small-pox. and he would have died had it not been for his mother coming to Camden to successfully negotiate her son's release. She nursed Andy back to health back, but a year later, Andy's mother would leave for Charles Town to assist in the care of other wounded Revolutionary War soldiers. While ministering to the wounded in Charleston, South Carolina, Andy's mom contracted cholera and died, leaving the future President of the United States orphaned at the age of 14.
But the event that kept Andrew Jackson from "following Christ" occurred on the day he was captured by the British soldiers. It filled his heart with hate.
Marquis James recounts the event:
The British officer in command "in a very imperious tone" directed Andy to clean his boots.
"This order he very promptly and positively refused, alleging that he expected such treatment as a prisoner of war had a right to look for."
The officer lifted his sword and aimed a violent blow. The boy threw up his left hand. It was cut to the bone, and a gash on his head left a white scar that Andrew Jackson carried through a long life that profited little to England or any Englishman."Biographer Marquis James is known as "the unqualified master of understated metaphors." The phrase "the white scar...profited little to England or any other Englishman" is an understated way of saying Andrew hated the English people and England in general. The scar on his cheek, which turned whiter as the years progressed, served as a visible reminder of this hatred.
Jackson was fueled by this hatred in his amazing defeat of the British in New Orleans to end The War of 1812. He would often skip British protocol with diplomats while President because he despised courtesy to the British. Andrew Jackson's abuse as a boy at the hands of a British officer kept him in a state of perpetual resentment towards all things British.
Until his conversion.
The Conversion of Andrew Jackson
It was in 1842, while in retirement at his homestead (the Hermitage) outside of Nashville, that Jackson came to faith in Christ. A week long series of meetings was held on his property, led by Dr. Edgar, an evangelical Presbyterian minister from Nashville.
|The Hermitage outside Nashville|
Then the preacher asked, "How can such a man pass through such scenes as these unharmed and not see in it an Omnipotent Hand?
At the close of the service the former President asked the preacher for a personal visit. However, Dr. Edgar could not do so until Sunday morning. The former President spent the greater part of Saturday night reading the Bible and in prayer. When the preacher came to the Hermitage the next morning, Andrew Jackson announced to the preacher that he had given his life to Christ and would like to "join the church." Dr. Edgar asked Jackson a series of questions about his faith, and the conversation concluded with the following dialogue.
General there is one more question which it is my duty to ask you. 'Can you forgive all your enemies?'
Jackson was silent for a good while. At length he said, "My political enemies I can freely forgive, but as for those who abused me when I was serving my country in the field, and those who attacked me for serving my country doctor that is a different case.
Dr. Edgar, however, insisted that the forgiveness must be entire and embrace the whole family of man.
After a considerable pause the candidate got so far as to say that he thought he could forgive even the men who had made his defense of his native land a pretext for assailing him.
The scene in the little church that morning was never forgotten by any who witnessed it.
Besides being crowded to the very uttermost the windows were darkened by as many black faces as could get near enough. At length the former President and his daughter stood up to make the usual public profession.
He leaned heavily upon his walking stick with both hands and his face was wet with tears. When finally he was pronounced a member of the church, the feelings of the congregation, which had been restrained during the ceremonial, burst forth in sobs and cries, and the clergyman himself was unable to speak. Some one started a familiar hymn, and in singing this the feelings of the excited company at last found both expression and relief. (General Jackson: Hero of New Orleans by Oliver Dyer, pp. 361-363).In Andrew Jackson's conversion I am reminded that the mark of genuine Christianity is the ability to forgive even one's enemies. Yes, it may take time. Yes, it isn't easy (it requires the power of God), but the evidence of the presence of God in one's life is the ability to give the same grace which God has given you.