Friday, January 18, 2019

(Photos) Andrew Jackson's Hermitage and Trump-hater Jon Meacham

Last month Mrs. Marathon Pundit and I visited Andrew Jackson's home in Nashville, the Hermitage.

"At one time in the history of the United States, General Andrew Jackson of Tennessee was honored above all living men," is the opening passage of Robert V. Remini's Andrew Jackson: The Course of American Empire, 1767-1821. Vol. 1 Later he writes, "No American ever had so powerful an impact on the minds and spirit of his contemporaries as did Andrew Jackson."

Old Hickory was a giant. And he's generally considered to be the most badass president ever. What, you don't believe me? Then Google you need to "Badass Andrew Jackson."

Sure it looks like a bus bench that I'm resting on but that's the entrance sign to the Hermitage. I am wearing a Donald Trump MAGA hat, that is of course, a Make America Great Again hat. More on Trump later.

A lot more.

It sure is dark, isn't it. When Mrs. Marathon Pundit visited it was a overcast, gloomy, and chilly, for middle Tennessee at least, December day.

That's the Hermitage from the rear. I couldn't get a good angle from the front. I'm not sure if they want guests trampling on the grass up front and I didn't have much fight in me that day. I didn't know it at the time but I was coming down with a very bad cold.

"No rules" is why I love urban exploration. Sure, I'm usually trespassing when I pursuing that hobby , but freedom is exhilarating. In the abandoned factories of Detroit, there is no one there to shout, "Don't go there, don't touch that."

Photography inside the Hermitage is forbidden. This is the selfie and Instagram age.

Why not?

Prior to seeing Old Hickory's old home we wandering through the visitors' center where we saw a twenty-minute long biography of our seventh president. There we learned that Jackson owned slaves. Oops, make that enslaved persons. American slavery was unequivocally evil, but calling those who suffered under it enslaved persons doesn't make it less so. But in the film, and on the grounds, enslaved persons is the preferred term.

Once on the grounds Mrs. Marathon Pundit and I switched on our headphones, there are no tour guides at the Hermitage. When we came across a marker we clicked on the corresponding number and listened.

That's the kitchen building for the first Hermitage. Inexplicably I didn't snap any photos of the original Hermitage, which looked similar and by all certainly have been rebuilt to look as it did during Jackson's time. You can see photos of the old Hermitage here. Old Hermitage later served as slave residences.

That slave cabin was where "Uncle" Alfred Jackson lived. He was born around 1803 and he was Old Hickory's longtime servant. He died at the age of 98. After he gained his freedom, Alfred was the first tour guide at the Hermitage. This blog suggests that Alfred may have been born in the kitchen cabin.

Jackson's life was eventful. While still in his teens he was a Revolutionary War POW then an orphan. After moving to Tennessee, Andy became a lawyer. He was a general during the War of 1812, and was the commanding general at the Battle of New Orleans, a resounding victory for the Americans which saw his British counterpart, Sir Edward Michael Pakenham, was killed in action.

After that war Jackson led an invasion of Florida, then controlled by Spain, as during the First Seminole War. He briefly served as territorial governor of Florida, was a member of the US House, then a senator.

A few years after moving to what is now Tennessee Jackson met Rachel Donelson, who was in an unhappy marriage. Rachel received a divorce, but not until after she married Jackson. They believed the divorce had already been finalized, which forced the Jacksons to go through a humiliating second marriage ceremony.

For much of his political career Jackson was called a bigamist. as was Rachel. Old Hickory believed that the stress from the insults of the 1828 presidential campaign--which Jackson won--destroyed her health. She died a few weeks after his victory but before being inaugurated. Jackson never forgave his opponent, John Quincy Adams, as well as his supporters, for Rachel's death.

Rachel and Andrew are buried on the grounds of the Hermitage, their tomb is pictured above.

Adjacent to the Jackson tomb is a small family plot. On the other side of the tomb is the grave of Alfred Jackson, which reads, "Uncle Alfred. Died Sept. 4 1901. Faithful servant on Andrew Jackson."
Yes, no surname is mentioned.

Here is one of the reminders of the evils of slavery. If you are just learning now that slavery was vile, then man, oh man, do you have problems. Very serious ones.

The signs are a bit yellowed and the plastic is somewhat opaque, so it appears they've been on the grounds for a while.

Inside the visitor's center it appears that the exhibits haven't been updated in a few years, so there is no mention, at least that I could find. of Donald J. Trump's visit to the Hermitage in 2017. Our 45th commander-in-chief was the first president to visit Old Hickory's home since Ronald Reagan did in 1982 on the occasion of Andy's 215th birthday.

The purpose of Trump's trip to the Hermitage was to honor Jackson on the 250th anniversary of his birth; while there the president, who has badass tendencies too, placed a wreath at Jackson's tomb while Taps played. Trump has a portrait of #7 in the Oval Office and is a big admirer of Old Hickory.

Cotton was the main crop, a profitable one for Jackson, unless a late frost, or an early one, struck Tennessee. There's a cotton patch at the Hermitage.

Jon Meacham is the author of the recent best-seller American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. He's also on the board of trustees of the Hermitage Foundation and his book is on sale at the Hermitage gift shop and on the Hermitage website. Meacham appears in that biographical film I mentioned earlier that plays in the visitors' center.

On his January 14 show radio host Mark Levin said of the author, "Here's Jon Meacham. He's presented as this great historian, he speaks at all of the Bush events, He's written many books. But he hates Trump. Which is why goes on MSLSD [MSNBC]. So here is on Friday night, he doesn't know more than the rest of us [about the so called Trump-Russia connection]. So he tries to give this the patina of a serious event by referencing history."

Levin then played an audio clip.

"You look at all of these different fronts," Meacham told serial fabulist Brian Williams, "and you have the sort of the emergency conversation which is deeply important and complicated, but we've really never had--and if we have, it's classified and lost to history at least so far--a president of the United States who is considered to be possibly an asset of a foreign government."

Wow, does Meacham believe that Trump could be an asset of Russia? What is this "emergency conversation" Meacham spoke of?

Above is the view from Jackson's tomb. In the distance is a herd of belted Galloway cows. While Jackson of course kept livestock, this Scottish breed of cow was not one of the varieties Old Hickory owned.

Yeah, I don't get it either.

Back to Levin and Meacham:

Levin then defended the president, "He's not considered to be 'an asset of a foreign government,' except by those who libel him. There's no evidence whatsoever that there is anything demonstrating that Trump is an asset of a foreign government."

Levin then adds that we've gone from Trump allegedly being a colluder with Russia to being instead an asset of Russia.

"Now before we go on to the genius that Meacham believes he is," Levin continued by laying out all of the actions that Trump has put forth as president to confront Russia.

Back to the genius, who is a former editor-in-chief at Newsweek, also known as Newsweak:

"This is what the Founders were worried about in the 1790s," Meacham told the man who was demoted from hosting the NBC Nightly News for exaggerating his past. "The Jeffersonians worried that Washington and Hamilton might be British agents, Washington and Adams and Hamilton worried that Jefferson might be a French agent. But that was in a kind of fevered political atmosphere. There was no FBI to investigate it."

"What is he rambling on about," the legal scholar known as the Great One retorted. "There is no parallel between that and this. None whatsoever," Besides, none of those Founding Fathers were foreign agents, Levin concluded.

Two nights ago Meacham, again on Williams' show, dismissed Trump voters such as myself and Mrs. Marathon Pundit by claiming that we "reached for more chaos."


We wanted--and still want--smaller government and a more responsive government. After all, Jackson killed the Bank of the United States because he trusted the American people, not the elites.

This stream was photographed in the field quarter section of the Hermitage grounds, and it's likely that it served as a source of drinking water for the slaves, many of whom resided nearby.

Jackson was as a hot-tempered man and as far as anyone knows, he's the only president to have killed a man, other than during battle. In a dispute over a horse racing bet, Jackson challenged Charles Dickinson to a duel. Andy strategically allowed Dickinson to shoot first, as he believed his opponent to be the better shot but suspected that in his haste, Dickinson's aim would be off. Dickinson did indeed fire first--wounding Old Hickory in the chest.

Jackson then took careful aim and then fired back--delivering a fatal wound to Dickinson.

Dickinson's musket ball was too close to Jackson's heart to be removed and the wound plagued him for the rest of his life, although Old Hickory still managed to live 78 years.

Jackson's hatred of the British began during his time as a Revolutionary War prisoner was maintained all of those years.

I'm not sure if what is pictured here is the official Hermitage field quarter trail or it is a place
where I wasn't supposed to be walking. But because there was no one there to chase me away, I took it anyway.

Besides being a slave owner, the other black mark on Jackson's life is his signing the Indian Removal Act of 1830 into law which led to the deadly Trail of Tears march by the Cherokee tribe to Oklahoma.

Above is a Trail of Tears historical route sign in southern Illinois that I photographed in 2009.

On the last day of his presidency Jackson expressed two regrets--that he "had been unable to shoot Henry Clay (one of his opponents in the 1824 presidential race) or to hang John C. Calhoun (his first vice president)."

We're a couple of centuries removed from the dueling era. Which might be something Jon Mecham is grateful for.

Earlier post:

(Photos) Andrew Jackson and Nashville

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