A few months ago someone e-mailed me and mentioned that Andrew Jackson is a true American hardass who deserves to be honored on this site for his toughness and badassitude. Reading that message left me with very mixed emotions, and even as I write this I'm not entirely certain how to go about approaching the subject.
On the one hand, the man was such a fucking ballbuster that the American public knew him as "Old Hickory", a nickname brought about because he was "as tough as old hickory on the battlefield" and "better at cracking skulls than a giant baseball bat made out of old hickory with a couple of nails in it". But on the other hand, the guy was a huge proponent of Indian Removal - he broke treaties and advocated the forcible relocation of thousands of indigenous peoples from their native homes to make more room for white settlement, farmland, and gold mining. The infamous "Trail of Tears" is unequivocally one of the low points in American history, and Jackson was the motherfucker responsible for it. Sure, some Native Americans eventually got pissed and started kicking some ass, but for the most part these were a peaceful people who just wanted to be left alone, and Jackson had to go into their bases and start killin their d00dz. He took it upon himself to force these people out of their homes and into a strange new territory which was wildly different from their tribal homelands, and to this day they're (understandably) still pretty ripshit about it.
All of this leads to a rather troublesome dilemma: Is a badass still a badass if he doesn't always do the right thing? Should he be penalized badass points for not adhering to the ideals set forth in the Tome of Ultimate Righteousness? Do the individual actions make the man, or should we look at the big picture and the combined body of work when deciding these things?
I looked back at some of the previous badasses to see what the precedent was for this sort of thing. We overlooked John Wayne's rabid racism since we never saw that side of him in his movies. We put Rupert Murdoch on the list simply by virtue of the fact that he's a diabolical madman bent on world domination. George Washington was a slaveholder. Genghis Khan slaughtered unarmed civilians on several occasions. And don't even get me started on Emperor Palpatine or General Zod.
In short, it seemed like the decision had already been made. There's a difference between being badass and always doing the right thing, and it isn't my place to judge. It's my place to highlight what it is that makes them badassed.
Andrew Jackson enlisted into the Continental Army at age twelve and served as a courier in the Revolutionary War, running important packages and battle orders across the front. While he performed his job admirably, he was eventually captured and taken prisoner by the Brits, making him the only U.S. President in history to ever have been a Prisoner of War. They put him to work as a servant to a powerful British General who was a major prick. One day this cockhead General ordered Jackson to spit-shine his boots. Jackson told the guy to go fuck a donkey. The redcoat got so pissed off that he slashed Jackson in the face an hands, leaving him with a couple of badass scars. He was eventually released as part of a prisoner exchange and served the rest of the war.
After the Revolution Jackson's entire family died from illness so he moved out to Tennessee and practiced frontier law, which at the time was basically one step removed from fistfighting or wrestling hungry bears. He became a Congressman the same year that Tennessee became an official state, and also served as the commander of the Tennessee Militia and a Colonel in the U.S. Army from 1801 until war broke out with the British eleven years later.
During the early stages of the War of 1812, Jackson's militia served in the Creek War Theater out West. Jackson's militia mobilized when a group of Northern "Red Stick" Creek Indians assaulted Fort Mims, Alabama, overwhelming the small garrison station there and slaughtering over 400 men, women and children. Andrew Jackson wasn't going to let that shit fly, so he rounded up guys like Sam Houston and Davy Crockett for his militia, enlisted the help of the Southern Creek and Cherokee Indian tribes and set out to kick ass. At the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Jackson achieved a decisive victory over the Red Sticks. He sent his Creek and Cherokee soldiers to swim up river and attack the Red Stick positions from the rear, while he personally led a head-on bayonet charge (the most badass of all military maneuvers except for maybe the cavalry charge) and boxed them in from the front. The Red Sticks were soundly defeated.
Jackson's greatest success in the war came three years later, however, when he was charged with defending the crucial port city of New Orleans from a British amphibious invasion. A huge force of about 14,000 redcoats had ballknocked the American Naval forces in the Gulf of Mexico, and was swooping in to seize control of the vital Mississippi River. Well Jackson wasn't about to let this happen.
Jackson surveyed his forces and realized he was woefully outnumbered and outgunned. So he did what any badass would do -- he improvised. He scraped together a force consisting of U.S. sailors, Marines, soldiers, militiamen, Choctaw Indians, and Free Blacks. When that wasn't enough, he went out to Barataria Bay and enlisted the help of a band of MOTHERFUCKING PIRATES. He not only went to war with a company of pirate soldiers, he also had these scurvy bastards pull the cannon off of their ships and added them to the U.S. artillery batteries already stationed along the road to New Orleans in a heavily-fortified area known as "Line Jackson". All in all, Andrew managed to pull together almost 4,000 fighting men and eight artillery batteries and hunkered down to try and slow the British invasion.
On 8 January 1815 the British assault began. The Brits launched a full-scale charge with over 8,000 men, outnumbering the U.S. forces by just over a 2:1 ratio. Well it didn't fucking matter. Jackson's pirates (and maybe even ninjas and robots) went into full-on berserk mode and U.S. artillery and musketfire blasted the redcoat lines. At the end of the day the British had suffered 2,037 casualties, including the deaths of all three senior commanding officers, while the American forces only had 13 men killed and 58 wounded. The line held, and the victory was total. The British sailed away with their tails between their legs within a week.
Jackson later found out that the official peace treaty ending the war had been signed on 24 December, a full fifteen days before the battle.
Jackson would go on to battle the Seminole and Creek tribes in Florida and Georgia, eventually becoming the impetus for the Adams-Onis Treaty in which the Spanish ceded Florida to the United States. His popularity as a war hero and Indian fighter helped him with the Presidential election in 1828.
Now I won't bore you with all the details of Jacksonian Democracy... the Specie Circular, the National Bank, his ideological feud with fellow badass Thomas Jefferson, and all that other mundane bullshit. And I think I've probably made my opinion regarding Jackson's Indian Removal policy abundantly clear. No, what makes Jackson badass isn't his policy - it's his toughness as a man.
For starters, he was a hardcore duelist. Throughout his lifetime he fought 103 duels, most of them regarding his wife's honor. You see, Andrew and his wife started hooking up before her divorce had been finalized (she was separated from her husband at the time), and that sort of shit was even more frowned upon back then than it is now. So Andrew Jackson had a lot of people who thought it would be really fucking hilarious to call his wife a dirty whore, leaving him no choice but to duel them and fuck their shit up.
One such stupid motherfucker was a dumb cock named Charles Dickinson. Dickinson was a big-time gunslinger who had been credited with 26 kills in various pistol duels during his lifetime. Well this jerkwad bet against Jackson on a horse race, and Jackson won, so this guy did what any hothead douchebag would do and called Jackson's wife a voracious cockmonger. Well I've already mentioned that this was a sensitive subject for Andy, and he felt compelled by duty to defend his woman's honor so he challenged Quickdraw McDickface to pistols at dawn.
Well you don't notch 26 kills by being Slowpoke Rodriguez. When both men hit ten paces, turned, and fired, Charles Dickinson blasted a shot that drilled Andrew Jackson square in the chest. Jackson looked down at the gaping gunshot wound, touched it, licked his finger like Bruce Lee inEnter the Dragon and then shot this fucker right in his bitch throat, killing him on the spot.
The shot Jackson received in that duel hit so close to his heart that it could never be removed, due to the high probability that the surgery would puncture his aorta. It is said that as a result of all the duels he fought during his life, Jackson's entire body rattled "like a bag of marbles". He was also known to randomly go into a violent coughing fit and hack up blood, which is kind of cool in an Exorcist sort of way.
In some of his other duels his favorite tactic was to wear a huge black trenchcoat. Not only did this serve as a big-time intimidation factor (as well as the inspiration for the movie The Matrix) but Andrew Jackson was about 6'2" and 140 pounds, so the coat concealed how skinny he was and many times his opponent would end up shooting holes in his jacket and missing him completely.
Jackson was also a pretty wild dude. He frequently opened up the White House to the public, letting the unwashed masses run around and have the sort of insane house parties that would make Kid 'N Play jealous. One such party happened in 1835, when some crazy farmer dude mailed Jackson a 1,400 pound cheese wheel for some bizarre reason. Unfortunately, I can't find anything that indicates what kind of cheese it was, but whatever the answer is that's still a fucking badass present. Well Jackson was like, "dude what the fuck am I supposed to do with a motherfucking half-ton of cheese?", so he dragged it into the White House entrance hall and just left it there. For two fucking years. Finally, in 1837, when Jackson decided the cheese had "aged" enough, he opened the doors to the White House and invited people inside to eat some fucking cheese. He had his assistants pass out plastic Sporks at the door, and everybody just dug into this cheese wheel like French people on weed. Two hours later, the cheese was gone, and in it's place was a giant cheese-shaped grease stain that remained embedded in the White House carpet for several years.
"I hope you guys like cheese!"
In 1835, Jackson was walking through the Capitol just minding his own business when all of a sudden some fucking asshole ran up to him and was all like, "hey President Jackass I got something for you in my pocket here!" and whipped out a pistol. He shoved the pistol in Jackson's chest and pulled the trigger. Click. Misfire. Since this was the first time in history anyone had ever attempted to assassinate an American President, Jackson just looked this guy straight in the eyes and said in a steady tone like Clint Eastwood, "what the fuck is your problem, asshole?"
The guy threw the now-useless weapon down on the floor, reached into his coat and whipped out a second fucking pistol. Once again he jammed it into Jackson's mug and pulled the trigger. Click. Another misfire.
Jackson had seen enough. He slapped the gun out of this guy's hand and immediately cracked him in the fucking mouth with his walking cane. Then Jackson, who was 67 years old at the time, knocked this guy down and started wailing on him with his cane, hurling insults like a drunken Dennis Leary at a meeting of the Democratic Unionist Party. He was so pissed that had to be physically restrained by members of congress. Later, in true badass fashion, Jackson had a statue of himself built at the site of the incident.
His political ideology and treatment of Native Americans may be questionable at best, but it's tough to deny the badassitude of a guy who put together an Army of Pirates, fought countless duels to defend his woman's honor, and was generally just crazy and balls-out all of the time. When all is said and done, I think the ultimate testament to the badassness of Andrew Jackson lies in the following fact:
At Andrew Jackson's funeral, his pet parrot had to be removed from the church because it wouldn't stop swearing.
The Story of the Cheese Wheel