Tuesday, July 3, 2012

An American President as an Alpha Romance Hero?

                                               Image credit: Goodwin--123RF Stock Photo

Happy 4th of July.

As I'm feeling very patriotic today, I thought I'd share a love story of a different time. A true story, a little known story from American History. 

We often think of our nation's leaders as being made of stone, literally. We have the Mount Rushmore faces peeking out at us through time, the Lincoln memorial, and well, you get my drift. Our past presidents are all stoic leaders, pure and simple. They seem boring in their starched cravats and their white hair, posing for a historical portrait that makes them look, well....old and stuffy.

A former president.......as a romantic hero?  You're shaking your head, I can see it.
Well, let me introduce you, dear reader, to a fierce, lion of a man. A man who was so stern and tough, his nickname was Old Hickory.

Getting warmer ......now ......who knows which president was known by that name?

Andrew Jackson, yes, that's right. Jackson was a warrior before he took office, and a tough one

Jackson entered the War for Independence as a boy of fourteen, when the British invaded South Carolina. His elder brother enlisted a year before, in 1780, and was killed at the battle of Stono Ferry. Andrew and his brother Robert joined the militia in 1781, becoming guerilla fighters resisting the British who had been sent to quell the rebellion in South Carolina.  By the time the war was over, Jackson was already a scarred (due to small pox) and seasoned war veteran at the age of sixteen.

Add to that, his exploits with Jean Lafayette in defending the city of New Orleans when the British attempted to take the city during the War of 1812, and you realize Andrew Jackson was not a man to back down in a fight.

Andrew Jackson as a brave and gallant young officer.

He was a strong supporter of dueling, even though the practice was illegal. It was part of being a southern gentleman, a culture of honor. Every man of the time was expected to demonstrate their willingness to face death on the dueling grounds, to defend their reputations and to physically exhibit masculine courage. Jackson was involved in many duels as a young man and was known as a man who would not be intimidated. It would serve him well as there would soon be a young woman who would need a man of fierce reputation to aid her cause. 
Andrew Jackson became a lawyer after the Revolutionary War and moved to Nashville to practice law. He took a room at the home of an older woman named Mrs. John Donalson. He also met Mrs. Donalson's daughter, Rachel, who at that time was living in the Donalson home with her husband, Lewis Robards. The young couple was already very unhappy. Robards was reputed to be drunk and a violent sort of man. He intimidated those about him. At some point, he was asked to leave the Donalson home, while his wife, Rachel, remained with her mother. The surly man left town and moved to Kentucky.  This news was met with great relief by the Donalson household.

Rachel Donalson Jackson
 Andrew Jackson was quite taken with young Rachel. They were merely friends, not lovers. When news reached Nashville that Mr. Robards was planning to return from Kentucky and collect his wife, panic ensued. Rachel did not wish to be reunited with her violent spouse. So, mother & daughter hit upon a plan that would require the aid of a brave and gallant man. Jackson, along with another male friend of the family packed Rachel up and fled Nashville with her. They journeyed to Natchez and stayed there in hiding for months. News was sent to them after a time informing Rachel that Mr. Robards had filed for divorce. Believing herself to be free of Robards, Rachel married Andrew Jackson in Natchez and the couple returned to Nashville.

Once home again, they soon were greeted with terrible news. Robards had indeed filed for divorce but the divorce was not finalized, so it appeared that Rachel committed bigamy by marrying Andrew Jackson while still married to Robards. The scoundrel had also stated in his suit that his reason for divorcing Rachel was due to his wife deserting him to be with her lover, Jackson, when in truth, Mr. Robards had left Rachel some months earlier to live in Kentucky. It was embarassing, but soon the courts finalized the divorce and the Jacksons were able to move on as a happily married couple.

Unfortunately, this mix up would haunt President and Mrs. Jackson for the rest of their lives. Jackson's opponents would revisit the scandal time and again and use it to cast aspersions on his name in the political arena. Jackson did not deliberately commit bigamy, it was mix up in court papers being delayed and the couple being misinformed about the divorce being finalized when they did wed. Rachel Jackson was a very devout woman. She despised political life and remained on the Jackson farm in Nashville while Jackson served in public office. She smoked a pipe and enjoyed her life away from the demanding social arena of Washington. Jackson journeyed to visit her often while in office, and missed her terribly.

This is how you probably remember Andrew Jackson, in later years
We often remember the founding fathers as being old men with white wigs. We see them in paintings in middle age or later, posing and posturing for the artist to appear stoic, diffident and logical. And yet, each of these men were young and full of passion and determination when they began their journey toward greatness. They fought wars, they kissed pretty girls, they defended their honor in duels and in Jackson's case, rescued a woman who was desperate to escape her violent spouse.

Andrew Jackson may be remembered in negative terms due to his stern rule as a President of the United States from 1829-1837. In truth, some of his actions, particularly for his treatment of the Native Americans, is nothing to admire. However, he is also known as the Hero of New Orleans due to his staunch defense of that city during invasion by the British. And I hope you will also remember him as a worthy romantic hero who not only fought for our nation's freedom but also for the freedom of a woman at a time when women's legal rights were non-existent.

Happy Independence Day, and a salute to our gallant heroes in every era!

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