The Untimely Death of Andrew Jackson

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The Untimely Death of Andrew Jackson

On a brilliantly clear, starry evening in late February 1837, President Andrew Jackson strolled through the White House garden, musing on his varied past. Thoughts of his recent illness, attacks on his character from congressional enemies, and the problem of Mexico weighed heavily, but when the crisp air filled his lungs, he felt all was well. He was looking forward to his retirement. His Farewell Address, warning of “the enemies who often assume the guise of friends” had been well-received, and in a few weeks, the cares of the presidency would pass into Van’s capable hands. Jackson’s thoughts had turned to spring planting at the Hermitage when five shots shattered the night. The bullets tore into Jackson’s body. The first four bounced harmlessly off of previously lodged bullets (momentos from his dueling, military life), but the fifth found his heart. Jackson crumpled to the ground, dead.

Since the murder of a president was not a federal crime in 1837, the Washington, DC Police Chief (your beloved instructor) is in charge of the investigation. My initial search of the crime scene unearthed, under a rose bush, a hastily buried satchel. Inside was a note which read, “Today’s the day, my friends. I know we can do it.” Also in the bag were some foreign coins, a pass to the Supreme Court, some gold chips, a box of Locofocos, a belt buckle from a military uniform, a copy of The Liberator, a dog-eared map with a bank on Chestnut Street marked on it, a bill of lading, a crumpled note with the symbol of a wildcat on it, and a flask of bourbon.

These clues are helpful, but much work remains. What do the clues mean? How did they get into the satchel? With so many likely suspects, the Chief of Police needs your detective help. Now, it is possible that you never heard anything about Jackson having been assassinated, but don’t let that bother you. After all, none of this actually happened. Searching for it will be a dead end (hee-hee). In real life, Jackson retired, put in his spring planting, and lived happily ever after until 1845, or the ripe old age of 78. But that hasn’t stopped us from killing him off sooner, in the interests of historical fun and frolic. Who would have conspired to kill him? What issues would have motivated a conspiracy to do him in?

How to get started:

  1. Write up a one-page background check on each of your two suspects—cited—including a brief summary of that person’s activities during the Jacksonian era, relationship with or attitudes about Jackson, AND your analysis of their potential as a suspect.

  2. Context Reading! Brinkley, Chapters 10 and 12, 10 by Wednesday latest. By next week, read Ch, 12, and also True Stories #10, and Opposing Viewpoints 23A/23B and 25A/25B . Continue next week with Gorn, ch 9 and the rest of your research.

The Likely Suspects:

Martin van Buren William L. Marcy

Elizabeth Peabody Samuel Swartwout

John C. Calhoun David Walker

Horace Mann Frank Blair, Sr.

Henry Clay Angelina Grimke

Lucretia Mott Thomas Hart Benton

Daniel Webster Nicholas Biddle

Frances Wright Edgar A. Poe

John Marshall Amos Kendall

Lydia Maria Child Rachel’s Ghost

Gen’l Winfield Scott Elias Boudinot

William H. McGuffey William Wirt

Black Hawk Robert Y. Hayne

Sylvester Graham Robert Cruikshank

Frederick Douglass Roger B. Taney

Emma Willard Catherine Beecher

Peggy Eaton Samuel Wooster

John Q Adams Bronson Alcott

Dorothea Dix Giulian Verplanck

Sam Houston Duff Green

William Garrison Hugh Lawson White

Charles G Finney Joseph Smith, Jr.

Earl Grey (PM) Louis McLane

Elizabeth C. Stanton Thomas Skidmore

Sarah Monroe & Alexis DeTocqueville

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