Andrew Jackson, Slavery and Slave stories from the Hermitage

Slaves of "the Hermitage" 

     " Established in 1804, The Hermitage is an 1,120-acre National Historic Landmark located just east of Nashville, Tennessee... “Home of President Andrew Jackson,” this historic cotton plantation was also home to over 200 enslaved men, women, and children, whose histories have been largely recovered through archaeological research conducted on the property over the past 40 years. In addition to the Hermitage mansion, the property includes a kitchen, smokehouse, and three log slave cabins that date to Jackson’s occupation of the property from 1804 to his death in 1845. An additional ten slave dwellings have been discovered through archaeological excavation." "The Other Hermitage: The Enslaved at Jackson's Hermitage."   source

Slaves on OH's plantation

Hannah, Andrew Jackson's Slave 

Detail of La Mulata, a painting attributed to Velázquez.

      "During Parton’s visit, Hannah gave him a tour of Jackson’s Nashville home, The Hermitage, which had fallen into disrepair. Parton recorded in his research notebook that Hannah thought highly of her former owner. He “was more a father to us than a master,” Parton recorded her saying, “and many’s the time we’ve wished him back again, to help us out of our troubles.” Hannah became “fired up” when she believed that Jackson was being spoken about “disrespectfully.” “We black folks is bound to speak high for old Mawster,” she reportedly said. “He was good to us. You know what he was to you, and must speak accordin’. But we is bound to speak high for him.”
           ..."In June 1863, Sarah Jackson reported that Hannah had “gone over to the Yankees,” having “been very insolent for some time.” Rachel Jackson Lawrence, Jackson’s granddaughter, announced that Hannah was “making 20 dollars a month” and blamed her abandonment of the Jacksons on “the Yankees.” Having emancipated herself, Hannah worked as a midwife and lived with family in Nashville until her death in 1895."
            "Historians have mostly overlooked the slave experience at The Hermitage. It is possible, however, to outline generally what it was like to live there. Some slaves lived in yard cabins, as close as ninety feet away from the main house. One of those slaves, for example, was a man named Charles, who served as Jackson’s personal slave and carriage driver. Other slaves lived much farther away, in quarters close to the fields in which they worked. Like on many Southern plantations, these slaves would have labored at the plantation’s main focus: agricultural production, primarily cotton, but also corn, hemp, and tobacco. Additionally, slaves raised livestock and ran the cotton gin and grain mill on the property. One final responsibility was tending to Jackson’s stable of racehorses. Jackson had a longtime trainer, an enslaved man named Dinwiddie, who trained Old Hickory’s equestrian stock. As an elite Southern planter, Jackson recognized the importance of slave property to his financial security and, when he could, sought to increase the number of slaves he owned. Between 1812 and 1820, Jackson’s enslaved population increased from twenty to forty-four. By the time he was president, he owned nearly one hundred slaves; an estate inventory following Jackson’s death counted 161 slaves, split between The Hermitage and a Mississippi plantation.
       "Ignored in Hannah’s recollections was the violence visited upon The Hermitage slave community, such as when Jackson ordered runaway male slaves whipped upon capture. In 1804, for example, Jackson placed a newspaper advertisement describing a runaway slave named Tom Gid. He promised “ten dollars extra, for every hundred lashes any person will give him, to the amount of three hundred” if Tom were captured outside of the state. (Tom does not appear to have been captured.) In the case of one repeat offender named Gilbert, running away cost him his life. In August 1827, Jackson’s overseer, Ira Walton, determined to whip Gilbert in front of the other slaves to send a message; instead, the slave fought back and ended up dead from a knife wound.
        Female slaves were not immune to violence either. In 1815, one of Jackson’s nephews informed him that “[y]our wenches as usual commenced open war” against the overseer. This familiar behavior stopped after the slave women were “brought to order by Hickory oil,” a reference to being whipped. In 1821, the Jacksons were living in Florida while Andrew served as territorial governor. During one of his absences, Rachel wrote to her husband that her slave, Betty, “has been putting on some airs, and been guilty of a great deal of impudence.” Her sin was washing clothes for individuals in the neighborhood without Rachel’s “express permission.” Jackson instructed several of the men who formed part of their Pensacola household to punish Betty with fifty lashes at “the public whipping post” if she refused to obey his wife. Betty was “capable of being a good & valluable servant,” he wrote one of the men, “but to have her so, she must be ruled with the cowhide.”  From the NEH Humanities Article:  "Hannah, Andrew Jackson's Slave"  source:

Slaves from the Hermitage

In all reality, slavery was the source of Andrew Jackson’s wealth.

The Hermitage was a 1,000 acre, self-sustaining plantation that relied completely on the labor of enslaved African American men, women, and children. They performed the hard labor that produced The Hermitage’s cash crop, cotton. The more land Andrew Jackson accrued, the more slaves he procured to work it. Thus, the Jackson family’s survival was made possible by the profit garnered from the crops worked by the enslaved on a daily basis.
    When Andrew Jackson bought The Hermitage in 1804, he owned nine enslaved African Americans. Just 25 years later that number had swelled to over 100 through purchase and reproduction. At the time of his death in 1845, Jackson owned approximately 150 people who lived and worked on the property.

What Andrew Jackson Did To One of His Slaves

The overseer, Ira Walton, wanted to punish Gilbert, but Jackson had forgiven the slave every time.  Walton testified later at his trial that this "had made him (Gilbert) much worse and more difficult to be controlled," adding that "Gilbert was the most insolent slave he owned."

    Jackson finally agreed that Gilbert should be whipped, though "moderately with small rods [sticks]." Walton tied Gilbert up and walked him through the woods to whip him in front of the other slaves. Something happened during that walk that resulted in Gilbert’s death.

Walton claimed that Gilbert slipped out of the ties and attacked him.  In the fight that ensued, Gilbert was stabbed and collapsed.  Jackson summoned a doctor, but Gilbert died from his wounds. 
Jackson then sent this note to the coroner.  The note says:

    “An unfortunate occurrence has taken place today on my farm, between my overseer, & one of my negro men, which terminated in the death of the latter.  Notwithstanding I believe the fatal stab was given in Self Defense, still as I wish justice to be done, I request a coroner inquest over him.”
A seven member jury was quickly assembled, several of whom were Jackson's relatives by marriage.  The jury heard from Walton, and saw the bruises on his body.  A slave boy who witnessed the fight also said Gilbert attacked Walton.  The jury decided not to indict Walton because it was self-defense.
   Despite the ruling of the jury, Jackson fired Walton.  Jackson then got in touch with Andrew Hays, the state prosecutor.  Jackson said he considered himself "the guardian of my slave, [and] it is my duty to prosecute the case so far as justice to him [the slave] may require it." Source:

Letter To His Son Re: Slaves

"... the negroes appear as tho they were entirely abandoned by their owners, and in a state of despair. These considerations will make it necessary, as I cannot go – that you should, and remain at least a while, to encourage & convince them that we are constantly watching over them, and their good treatment, and will not permit them to be ill treated or misused." 

Over the course of the 66 years that the Hermitage was a thriving farm, the Jackson family owned more than 300 slaves, with a maximum of 150 working there at any one time. His slaves were encouraged to live in “family units” of five to ten and were housed in 20-square-foot cabins – lodgings larger than the average slave dwellings of the time. The family unit setting encouraged procreation, which discouraged escape. American historians, as late as 1923, still viewed General Jackson as “…an ideal slave-owner. He called the force at the Hermitage, numbering about a hundred, ‘the family;’ and relations between the bond and the free were marked with instances of genuine and reciprocal attachment,”(Andrew Jackson: Portrait of a President, James). 

Andrew Jackson, Slavery and Historians

Andrew Jackson, Slavery, and Historians
Mark R. Cheathem - Cumberland University

From an Abstract:
"In contrast to Bassett’s edited collection, the editors of the Papers of Andrew Jackson
have gone  to  great  lengths  to  examine  lesser-known  aspects  of  Jackson’s  life  and  the  lives  of those  around  him,  including  slaves.  The  ongoing  series  began  publication  with  its  first volume in 1980; the recently published eighth volume, extends the published correspondence  to  the  end  of  1830.  Via  their  calendaring  of  Jackson’s  correspondence  and  their explanatory  footnotes,  Sam  Smith  and  Harriet  Owsley,  Harold  Moser,  and,  now,  Dan Feller and their editorial teams have given historians a wealth of evidence to use in evaluating Jackson the slave owner. Even with this valuable resource available, historians need to  get  dirty  in  the  archives  and  other  public  and  private  repositories  to  uncover  other facets of Jackson’s life not yet covered by the project...

Jon Meacham was able to do this in American Lion: He gained access to unpublished papers, owned by Donelson descendants, that addressed Jackson’s slaveholding. When it comes to uncovering new primary sources on nineteenth-century presidents, there may not be many of these opportunities available for historians, but even if they are lacking, there are other possibilities.

For example, there is Jackson correspondence, particularly post-1837, in the Library of Congress and on the microfilm supplement produced by Scholarly Resources, Inc., that likely has not been looked at in decades except by the editors of the Papers of Andrew Jackson project. (16)

... Archaeologists and material culture scholars, including Larry McKee, Brian Thomas, and Whitney Battle-Baptiste, have examined aspects of slavery at the Hermitage; however, the lives of the slaves themselves have been ignored by academic historians.  This oversight is all the more telling given the Hermitage staff’s extensive work to make the slave community that resided there more visible during tours of the historic site. A comparative history of the two plantations would make it possible to examine the similarities and differences, if any, between the administration of an Upper South and a Lower South plantation owned by the same person.

Taking the Hermitage and its slaves, overseers, and crops in isolation offers a longitudinal case study of a southern plantation, which could then be situated within the context of plantations of the Upper South or the region writ large. Additionally, there has been no scholarly examination of life at the Hermitage after Jackson’s death.

What happened to Jackson’s slaves, some of whom ran away, some of whom stayed until death? How did Andrew, Jr., and his wife, Sarah, treat slaves as they faced bankruptcy in the mid-1850s, finally ceding control of the Hermitage to the state of Tennessee? Finally, there were dramatic instances during Jackson’s presidency that compelled him to confront the institution of slavery and its effect on individual African Americans. One example is the case of John Arthur Bowen, a Washington, D.C., slave convicted in 1835 of trying to kill his owner, Anna Marie Thornton, widow of Dr William Thornton, the architect of the United States Capitol. Jackson pardoned him after the widow Thornton and prominent Washington politicians and elites petitioned for mercy.

Was Bowen’s case unique? If so, what was Jackson’s reasoning for the pardon; if not, what does an examination of his pardons of free blacks and slaves tell us? How, if at all, did the abolitionist campaign of 1835 and the presidential election of 1836 factor into his decision? (17)

Narrated by Martin Sheen - Published on Apr 17, 2015
US History - Jacksonian Democracy - youtube

Jackson's Historical Position on Slavery

"Historical scholarship has either ignored or minimized the reality that Jackson possessed all of the characteristics attributed to his western identity—his independence, violent temper, and hatred of Indians—before he arrived on the Tennessee frontier. Biographer John Spencer Bassett remarked that Jackson’s “ideals were absorbed from the frontier environment . . . He voiced the best thought of the frontier . . . Arthur Schlesinger Jr. failed to address his background at all. Richard B. Latner, whose study of Jackson’s presidency explicitly linked Old Hickory to the West, acknowledged that “one would be hard-pressed . . . to fit slaveholding, tough-minded politicians like Jackson . . . into Turner’s conception of western democratic idealism,” yet he failed to elucidate from where Old Hickory’s views on slavery originated and how they influenced his political decisions. [2]
 ....American democracy in the early republic paid scant attention to Jackson’s slaveholding and land speculation, both of which marked his entry into the planter class. While recognizing the importance of slavery to Jacksonian Democrats, Daniel Walker Howe’s equally behemoth examination of the Jacksonian period treated Jackson’s southern identity with similar brevity... [3]
   ...Jackson opposed disunion in 1832 and 1833, yet his longtime pursuit and support of Manifest Destiny helped drive a wedge between northerners and southerners and exacerbated the slavery debate. He supported the annexation of Texas, which, when accomplished, set off a chain of events that made slavery the crucial issue in the congressional debates over westward expansion and led to the nation’s division.
    ...Although Jackson died without witnessing the bloody conflict that began in 1861, his influence as the “patriot slaveholder” was obvious during the secession crisis of 1860–1861." source  Mark Cheathem

Andrew Jackson, Slavery and Historians (also by Mark Cheathem)
"Historians have neglected to give full consideration to the place of slavery in Andrew Jackson’s private and public life. They rarely move beyond a few well-known examples of Jackson’s treatment of slaves that have been referenced since James Parton’s biography first appeared in the mid-nineteenth century. Recent research by historians has identified Jackson’s commitment to slavery and its effect on United States politics, but more work remains to be done on his own slave communities in Tennessee and Mississippi and the ramifications for his public actions. This article also argues that historians have failed to examine slavery’s role in Jackson’s life because of an overreliance on the Correspondence of Andrew Jackson volumes edited by John Spencer Bassett and a lack of archival research in the collections of Jackson papers held by the Library of Congress and Scholarly Resources, Inc..." source

Andrew Jackson on Broadway
"In 1804, Jackson, then a major general in the Tennessee militia, posted a notice in the newspaper offering $50 for the return of a runaway slave named Tom Gid and “ten dollars extra, for every hundred lashes any person will give him, to the amount of three hundred.”
   Two years later, Jackson challenged Charles Dickinson to a duel after Dickinson called Jackson’s wife, Rachel, a bigamist and accused him of cheating on a horse racing bet. In the duel, Dickinson fired first, striking Jackson in the chest. Jackson’s gun misfired, and according to the rules of dueling, upheld among the slave owners, the score was settled.
  But Jackson re-cocked his weapon and fired again, killing Dickinson. In the eyes of his contemporaries, Jackson had broken the code of the duel and committed nothing less than murder." source

Eight US Presidents Owned Slaves

Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Tyler, Polk and Taylor. source

Jackson brought slaves with him to the White House
Book Excerpt: ‘The Invisibles’
By Jesse Holland
Cover of "The Invisibles"
President Jackson, like his predecessors, brought a full set of slaves to work inside the President’s House as the domestic staff.
One of them was George, his faithful body servant. He had been with Jackson for years, the son of longtime Hermitage slave “Old” Hannah. Born in 1800, he was one of Jackson’s most trusted slaves, accompanying Andrew Jackson Donelson to Transylvania University as his body servant and eventually being promoted to serving as the general’s postwar body servant, the man who dressed the president, helped him get ready for bed and get dressed each morning. As such, George probably knew the president’s secrets in ways no other human being did during his time in the White House, and watched his decline as the days in the capital passed by slowly. George knew of his pain and his sadness, and was a constant companion who gave the old president comfort in his loneliness and sadness after his wife’s death. At night, one of the things that would stay near Jackson would be a picture of his beloved wife.
“At night after the General’s mulatto body-servant, George, had assisted his master into a long white nightgown, Jackson would remove the picture and prop it up on a bedside table so that it might be the first thing to meet his eyes on awakening,” James said. “In bed the General would open the worn Bible which had belonged to Rachel, and read a chapter before George snuffed the candle and stretched out to take his own sleep on a pallet on the floor beside the bed of his master.”
George was a good example of how kind Jackson could be to his slaves while keeping them in human bondage. Jackson allowed his slaves to form official family units, getting married (and divorced) and never separated families by selling them apart unless asked to by the slaves themselves. (While this could be seen as a kindness by Jackson, it could also be seen as a clever way to keep slaves from wanting to run away from The Hermitage or the White House by giving them a wife, child, or mother who perhaps would be left behind to the tender mercies of a spurned and upset slave master.)
Regardless, George is an example of a Hermitage slave who was allowed to get married. After Jackson returned home from the presidency, George married a slave from another nearby plantation, Manthis, who was owned by Albert Ward. And to help out his newly married slave, Jackson bought Manthis from his neighbor for one thousand dollars. George would spend the rest of Jackson’s days as a driver for the Jackson family, including Sarah Jackson.
George would also be a good example of the limits of the love even “good” masters had for their slaves. Despite their closeness, Jackson never released any of his slaves even after he died. He bequeathed The Hermitage to his adopted son, Donelson, along with all of his slaves, except for two boys whom he gave to his grandsons and four female slaves whom he left to Sarah.
Excerpted from the book THE INVISIBLES by Jesse Holland. Copyright © 2016 by Jesse Holland. Reprinted with permission of Lyons Press. source

How Jackson went from Revered to Reviled

(CNN) Getting rich off slavery
Jackson's legendary status appears quite tarnished when you consider his involvement and position on slavery.
"Slavery was the source of Andrew Jackson's wealth," according to The Hermitage organization, which maintains Jackson's plantation home near Nashville, Tennessee.
Presidential Places: Andrew Jackson's Hermitage
Presidential Places: Andrew Jackson's Hermitage 02:17
He owned hundreds of slaves whose labor produced the cash crops from the 1,000-acre Hermitage and his plantation in Alabama. Enslaved African-Americans also ran nearly every aspect of everyday life at these large plantations.
Jackson actively supported pro-slavery policies during his presidency in an attempt to keep the nation together. At one point, he even ordered the postmaster general to destroy abolitionist pamphlets mailed to the Southern states, fearing the newsletters could fuel discontent around slavery and spark a civil war. source

Uncle Alfred: Andrew Jackson's slave 
A photograph of Alfred Jackson, also called Uncle Alfred, sitting in his cabin located on property belonging to the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson's home.  Alfred was born into slavery and served as Jackson's man servant until Jackson's death.  Alfred Jackson continued living at the Hermitage until his death in 1901. 
An Enslaved Man

Alfred, was the son of Betty, Andrew Jackson’s enslaved cook for 50 years.  Betty, inherited the job of cook from her mother, Old Hannah.  Alfred, was born at the Hermitage and he lived on the plantation longer than anyone on record.  He was responsible for maintaining the wagons and farm equipment, and he tended the horses.  He married Gracy and they had two children.  Alfred also served as Andrew Jackson’s personal man servant.
The right side was Alfred's cabin.
The right side was Alfred’s cabin – 
located just aside the back of the mansion

Hannah Jackson, courtesy Hermitage
Alfred's Question - from the Hermitage
Alfred Jackson (Hermitage)

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