Thursday, March 15, 2007

Today's Birthday: Ol' Hickory

For what it's worth ...

It's the birthday of the seventh president of the United States, Andrew Jackson, born in 1767.

Joey Porter's Pit Bulls have always been fascinated by this character, arguably a pivotal figure in American history as a rough-and-tumble president, borderline-illiterate, swashbuckling miltary leader, electoral reformist, and developer/advocate of a form of "Jacksononian Populism" still discussed today. In fact, Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., decorated U.S. Marine veteran, author and former Republican Secretary of the U.S. Navy under President Ronald Reagan, cited Jackson in his response to this year's State of the Union Address:

"In the early days of our republic, President Andrew Jackson established an important principle of American-style democracy ­ that we should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base. Not with the numbers that come out of Wall Street, but with the living conditions that exist on Main Street. We must recapture that spirit today."

The Writer's Almanac makes the point that, until Jackson, all U.S. presidents had come from distinguished or aristocratic families along the East Coast. Jackson, on the other hand, was born into poverty in the backwoods "frontier," and he received almost no formal education.

As noted, "The Battle of New Orleans turned him into a national hero, and when he ran for president in 1828, he portrayed himself as a champion of the common man and appealed to working-class voters, especially frontiersmen who were settling in the West. The election drew more than three times as many voters to the polls as the previous election, and Jackson won in a landslide."

Jackson opened the White House during his inauguration "to the people," who by news accounts of the time, numbered 20,000 drunks who turned the occasion into utter chaos.