ANDREW JACKSON, THE BORDER CAPTAINMarquis James Bobbs-Merrill ($3.75)
However hard it may be to define "American" to a foreigner, all U. S. citizens can see that the word fits like a glove such U. S. figures as Andrew Jackson. Man's man and no saint, he combines the best features of the Spirit of '76, the Wild West and a success story. His latest biographer does not carry Jackson's epic career through its Presidential conclusion but ends it with his retirement in 1821 when, full of honorable scars, Old Hickory was willing to call his day a day. More ambitious attempt than Author James's prizewinning life of Sam Houston (The Raven), Andrew Jackson is no .ess stirring a biographical achievement.
Second-generation Irish (his father emigrated from County Antrim), young Andrew was spindly of frame but hot of head. Too young to do much personal damage in the Revolution, at 13 he joined the Army, was taken prisoner. After the War, as a law-student in North Carolina, he was known as "the most roaring, rollicking, game-cocking, horse-racing, card-playing, mischievous fellow that ever lived in Salisbury." His mother's parting advice he never forgot: "Andy . . . never tell a lie. nor take what is not your own, nor sue . . . for slander. . . . Settle them cases yourself." Andy settled them, he never sued. When he courted Rachel Donelson Robards, another man's wife, and married her in all innocence before she was technically divorced, the affair became a perennial source of affronts which he was quick to resent. In his famed duel with Charles Dickinson, a crack shot. Jackson expected to be hit first but counted on his will-power to pull him through. He was hit, near the heart, but he killed Dickinson.
Jackson became the most popular judge Tennessee ever had. He got to Congress as Representative and Senator, but he liked fighting best. When the War of 1812 came he jumped at the chance to take another crack at the English. But the Government passed him over for other commanders; for a while he had to be content with mopping up the Creeks. At New Orleans his chance came. In two fierce battles he repulsed Pakenham's superior force, saved New Orleans, and became overnight the national hero. When the Government wanted a man to invade Florida (a Spanish possession) without actually declaring war, Jackson was their first choice. Thinking this his last chore, he did it. When the cession of Florida was arranged, Jackson was made Governor of the new territory but gave up the post before the end of the year and went back with a sigh to his "Hermitage," to lead his declining years (he was 55) down the quiet path of a country gentleman. When his friends urged him to run for President he exclaimed: "Do they think I am such a damned fool? No, sir; I know what I am fit for. I can command a body of men in a rough way; but I am not fit to be President."