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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Case of Jacksonian Road Rage

As a 2016 election post mortem, I read Lynn Hudson Parson’s The Birth of Modern Politics to get a handle on the origins of the “outsider” in American presidential politics. In the book’s central subject—the presidential election of 1828—the outsider, Andrew Jackson (i.e., Trump’s spiritual forebear), unseated the establishment incumbent John Quincy Adams.

Like The Donald, General Jackson appealed to testosterone-inspired angels of the electorate’s nature. (The General’s border “wall” was the Mississippi. His Indian Removal Act of 1830 sent the so-called Five Civilized Tribes—the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole, and Cherokee—packing west across the great river. Before his election, Jackson had bedeviled many of them as an Indian fighter. But he was an equal opportunity exterminator:  At the Battle of New Orleans, his troops took 25 minutes to mow down over 2000 British (700 killed; 1400 wounded) in a make-shift shooting gallery.

The Battle of New Orleans elevated Jackson to national hero status. No surprise then to see the General and his cronies heading down the Mississippi in a steamboat toward the Big Easy in January of election year 1828. At their destination, anniversary gatherings celebrated the candidate and the great battle.

But before reaching New Orleans, the emotionally volatile Jackson (103 duels to his credit) had to clear the river of a pesky boat that impeded his own ship’s progress.  Having sniffed the juices of road rage, I feel blessed to share the passage below from The Birth of Modern Politics.  It works for me as a nineteenth century harbinger of the RR affliction.  Perhaps it will for you.

The voyage flirted with disaster when Jackson, annoyed at the frequent crisscrossing of another boat in front of the Pocahontas, grabbed a rifle and threatened to shoot the pilot of the offending vessel. According to Hamilton, it took Rachel’s [Jackson’s better half] intervention to calm the general down.

With that advisory, Wig & Pen wishes you a happy new year and four years of Happy Motoring!