The Civil War in North Carolina

Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians

Bookmark and Share

Jackson was born in Ireland, and brought to the United States when only two years old. This was also the opinion of Thomas Crutchfer, who came with General Jackson to Nashville, and it was the opinion of Dr. Boyd McNairy, and his elder brother, Judge McNairy, who came with him (Jackson) from North Carolina. His early education was very limited, and so defective that his orthography was almost ludicrous, and his general reading amounted to nothing. So far as his legal knowledge was concerned, at no time was he a respectable county court lawyer, so far as mere legal training was concerned. It is wonderful how the natural vigor of his mind supplied the absence of learning.

        "The triumphs of mind, unaided by education, are no more astonishing in the case of General Jackson than others," says Mr. Sparks. The great Warwick of England, "the King Maker," never knew his letters. Marshal Soult, one of France's greatest Marshals, could not write a court sentence; and Stevenson, the greatest engineer the world ever saw, the inventor of the locomotive, did not know his letters at twenty-one. The Duke of Marlborough could hardly write his own name. But Jackson was naturally great. He did not need, as says Johnson of Shakespeare, "the spectacles of books to read the great volume of human nature." As a Judge, his greatest aim was to get the facts of a case, and decide all points upon the broad principles of justice. He never seemed to reason. On the presentation of any subject to his mind, it seemed, with electrical velocity, to cut through to a conclusion, as if by intuition. He was more correct in his conclusions than any man of his age. His opinions were formed at the first glance, and rarely or never changed. He was eminently self-reliant. In all matters concerning himself he was his own counsellor; he advised with no man; cool and quick in thought, he seemed to leap at a conclusion, from which he took no backward step. His knowledge of men, from his intimate and extended intercourse with all classes of society, had so educated his faculties that in a few moment's intercourse he measured the very inmost nature of a man. That he was sometimes deceived is but natural, and when the deception was ascertained he was fierce and furious in his resentments. He was quick and irascible in his temper, and when angry was exceedingly violent in manner and words; his passion towered in proportion to the provocation, and at times he was almost savage. In the affair with Dickerson, after he had received his adversary's shot, which from his skill had been well-nigh fatal, he stood immovable, deliberately fired, and Dickerson fell dead. He is said to have remarked, "had his shot killed me, I would have, in dying, killed him." But in private and social life, and in the company of ladies especially, his manners were as urbane and polished as any knight of chivalry. This was the emanation of his great soul which marked every movement in the presence of ladies, and which brooked no indignity from men.

                         "To the froward he was as fierce as fire,
                         But to the kind as gentle as a lamb."

        In his attachments he was almost fanatical. To any one, however humble, who was his friend and had proven it, he went to any length to serve and protect him. His course toward Dr. Gwinn and thousands of others prove the devotion of his friendship. Rather than desert the good name of his Biographer and Secretary of War, Eaton, he dissolved his Cabinet--a step that no other President would ever have attempted. This devotion to his family, his friends, and to his conceived duty, was not assumed, or counterfeited, but bubbled up from his magnanimous heart as naturally as does pellucid water spring from the crystal fountain. His principles, his undaunted courage, his frank and outspoken temper, his sincerity in private as well as public life; his unsullied patriotism,
Page 288 of 471
Index - Contents
Featured Books & CD-ROMS