Feb

9

 The Big Lie about Andrew Jackson is that he made his money as a slave owner and producer of cotton. Wrong. Jackson's plantation, The Hermitage, like Washington's Mount Vernon, is, at best, mediocre cotton land. So, generally, is Tennessee except for Shelby, Fayette, Hardeman, Haywood, and Madison Counties in the southwestern corner of the state around Memphis. Memphis, not Nashville, is where Jackson made his fortune; Nashville is where he displayed it. The fortune itself came from land speculation and development, not from actually growing cotton. Jackson's slaves in Nashville grew corn to feed themselves and the livestock; what kept the plantation from being hopelessly unprofitable was the sale of meat. Jackson did grow cotton at the Hermitage but only in the same way Washington continued to grow small amounts of tobacco; it was a declaration of cultural solidarity, not a business decision.

The comparison of Trump with Jackson fails utterly when you measure their lives in terms of their experiences with death and destruction. But that has been, for the last century, a largely pointless comparison. If you exclude Teddy Roosevelt's showboating in Cuba (his being awarded the Medal of Honor is as much of a joke as calling John Kerry's a war hero) and John McCain's crash injuries and imprisonment, the last President or Presidential candidate who actually saw the splatter up close was McKinley. Among our current public figures, we do have a number of Congressman who have been to the sand pile; but, among broadly known public figures, there are only two who have been seriously wounded - General Petraeus (whose injury came at a rifle range) and Senator Duckworth.

What is useful is to compare Trump and Jackson's attitudes towards official Washington. When Jackson arrived in Washington, even his fellow Democrats in Congress were wary of him. Jackson was a proud Mason; and the anti-Masonic Party was, at that time, the only remaining stub of what the historians call the Federalists. (The Federalists never were an organized political organization but they had been the banner of the Adams family.) When John Quincy Adams ran against Jackson for his second term, Adams ran as an anti-Mason. Jackson's response to what was the 19th century equivalent of the current accusation of "racism" was exactly what Trump's has been; for every insult he and the Masons received, Jackson returned twice as much vitriol. Anyone who expects Trump to leave off with Twitter and to become less publicly contentious will be disappointed.

At least one public commentator agrees with me that Old Hickory is an appropriate historical analogy:

"Trump and his people know exactly what they are doing, and they are doing it the only way it can be done in the post-Obama environment: ostensibly ham-handed and tone-deaf, but really crazy as a fox and wise as an owl. Obama may have taken steps to remove Andrew Jackson from the currency, but no former President's portrait could have been more fitting for Trump to have moved into the Oval Office."


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