Andy "Hit Man" Jackson
November 03, 2009, 04:21 PM
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I`m rereading Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison`s Oxford History of the American People.The second volume was fairly dull until the democratic age arrives with Andrew Jackson, after which it`s consistently comic. For example, here`s a bit on the 1836 campaign by Vice President Richard Johnson, whose supporters chanted in answer to William Henry Harrison`s claim to be the Hero of Tippecanoe:
Rumpsey dumpsey, rumpsey dumpsey Colonel Johnson killed Tecumseh!

But this slogan, never surpassed for electioneering imbecility, failed to give him a majority in the Electoral College.

Morison`s description of Andrew Jackson, entering office at age 62, is striking:
Six feet one in height and weighing 145 pounds, slim and straight as a ramrod, his lean, strong face lit up by hawk-like eyes and surmounted a mane of thick gray hair.
That`s really skinny for a 62-year-old. Boxer Tommy "Hit Man" Hearns, who was famous for his long reach, was also 6`1". He won the 147 pound welterweight championship, but he typically fought at heavier weights. Of course, Hearns was packing more muscle, but still 145 pounds? My freshman year in college I was 6`4" and 168 pounds, and I looked like a sapling.

In The Birth of the Modern, Paul Johnson finds Jackson`s failure to put on weight as he aged alarming, comparing him to Simon Bolivar as the kind of successful but unsatisfied man who maintains a dangerously lean and hungry look as he gets old. I never know how much credence to give to these body-shape-drives-personality theories associated with William Sheldon.

Morison points out that although Jackson is often thought of today as a sort of Jethro Bodine of American history, a purely American sort, his right-hand man Martin Van Buren, when ambassador to Britain, "found Jackson`s likeness in the `Iron Duke,` Wellington."

I was once showing my nephew around the Art Institute of Chicago. I got to four early 19th Century English portraits of important aristocrats. The first was fat, the second was fat and alcoholic-looking, the third fat, alcoholic-looking, and gouty, and the fourth ... the fourth was a raptor, the most hawk-like visage I`d ever seen. Of course, it was the Duke of Wellington, the Northern Irishman Britain needed.

I wonder if Jackson`s rather brawl-filled Presidency had anything to do with him still carrying two slugs in his body from his duels. Was he suffering from lead-poisoning, which tends to lower inhibitions?