NAME: Andrew Jackson. He was named after his father, who had died just before he was born.
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Long and lean, Jackson stood 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighed about 140 pounds. His narrow, angular face was topped by a mass of unruly reddish-sandy hair that had completely grayed by the time he became president. His complexion generally was pale and somewhat pockmarked. He had penetrating , steely blue eyes. He began wearing false teeth at about age 60. For many years he carried in his body two bullets from separate encounters. One fired from the pistol of the brother of Thomas Hart Benton in 1813 greatly reduced the mobility of his left arm until the lead was removed nearly 20 years later. The other from Charles Dickinson (a lawyer) in 1806 lodged dangerously near his heart, where it remained, causing him periodic discomfort for the rest of his life. Jackson outgrew a childhood habit of slobbering, which persisted into his teens. While president, he was chronically wracked by headaches, abdominal pains, and a hacking cough that often brought up blood. A gaunt figure who relied on a cane to steady his faltering gait, President Jackson was considered a likely candidate to become the first president to die in office. But he survived the fires of two contentious terms to enjoy several years of retirement. Despite his reputation as a backwoodsman, Jackson dressed fashionably while in Washington.
PERSONALITY: A charismatic figure, Jackson was combative, quick-tempered, and thin-skinned. To his friends he was generous, considerate, and above all loyal; to his enemies, mean-spirited and spiteful. “When Andrew Jackson hated,” Robert V. Remini, a modern Jacksonian scholar, has written, “it often became a grand passion. He could hate with a Biblical fury and would resort to petty and vindictive acts to nurture his hatred and keep it bright and strong and ferocious.” He at times exploded with anger, but it is believed that he never really lost his temper. Rather, he launched into tirades quite purposefully either to intimidate his opposition or to end debate on a matter that was dragging on too long. Martin Van Buren, his closest advisor, marveled at Jackson’s ability to turn his anger on and off at will. One minute he could be shrieking at the cabinet in the high register his voice invariably had whenever he was agitated; the next moment, alone with Van Buren after the others had left, he was relaxed and in good humor. At social occasions Jackson surprised many with his grace, poise, and charm. Around women he shed his backwoods manner and earthy language to engage comfortably in social discourse. He delighted in disappointing those who, he said, “were prepared to see me with a tomahawk in one hand and a scalping knife in the other.”
SOURCE: DeGregorio, William A. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents. 7th ed. Fort Lee: Barricade Books, 2009.
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