Sunday, March 01, 2015

ole hick'ry

This rigamarole this country is in right now over the teaching of history might come down to a debate about the relative virtues and defects of the guy on the $20 bill. 

Andy's victory over the Brits at New Orleans in 1815 touched off the nation's first period of true greatness -- the "Era of Good Feelings." His massacre of the Creek Nation at Horseshoe Bend, Alabama the year before New Orleans cleared the deep south for settlement -- my slave-owning ancestor Francis Brice was able to buy land formerly occupied by the Creek Nation as a result.

The crimes visited on the Cherokee people mentioned by Esdraelon were solely the fruit of Mr. Jackson. The Supreme Court tried to stop it, and Andy's comment was (Chief Justice) "John Marshall has made his decision -- let's see him enforce it."

We're talking about a tiny little guy of 5'6 or 7", 120# tops. He was all sucked up and skinny due to lead poisoning; carrying lead in inaccessible places in his chest and left arm, from several duels. In at least 2 of these he was shot badly, but got off the ground & coolly shot his opponent to death.

You must understand of Jackson that rage was his default setting. He had a life-long penchant for the relief provided by ragegasms. 

Jackson did away with the First Bank of the US, and had absolutely no understanding of modern  economics. The First Bank, of course, was the great-grandfather of the Federal Reserve. Was he right or was he wrong? Was he a great hero or a bloodthirsty bully? A visionary or an ignoramus? A man of the people or a racist dog?

Or was he -- and this is what I think -- all of those things simultaneously? How is that possible?

Life is strange, & very complicated. Never more so than in the US, a great and dreadful country.

All the contradictions and flaws and virtues of the young republic were wrapped up in the person of Jackson, the founder of American democracy, and the real originator of the Democratic Party.

Sometimes historical reality is too complex to be expressed in words. All I know for sure is at this stage, & quite by accident, Andrew Jackson is the perfect person to be immortalized on our primary, hence most important currency, the $20 bill.

Photograph of Andrew Jackson by Matthew Brady, 1845. Jackson died on June 8, 1845. within weeks of the photo sitting, at 78.

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