Today, the Andrew Jackson Presidential $1 Coin tells some of the stories about Jackson’s actions against bullies.
On April 7, 1860, the Providence Daily Post ran a short article excerpted from Parton’s Life of Jackson entitled “General Jackson and the Bully:”
On his return from legislating, Jackson was elected a Judge of the Supreme Court of the State, and his conduct in that capacity gave rise to various myths one of which, known apparently in the States as “the Russel Bean anecdote,” (under the name of our hero,) has assumed, after many variations, the following shape, which is amusing enough to deserve to be authentic:
Once during court, a great hulking fellow, armed with pistol and bowie knife, took it upon himself to parade before the shanty court house, and cursed the judge, jury and all there assembled, in set terms.
“Sheriff,” sang out the Judge, “arrest that man for contempt of court and confine him.”
The sheriff found it impossible.
“Summon a posse,” said the Judge.
The posse did not like the job, as the fellow threatened “to shoot the first skunk that came within ten feet of him.”
“Mr. Sheriff,” said the Judge, “summon me.”
“Very well, Judge,” said the Sheriff, “I suppose I must.”
Jackson walked up with his pistols, and said, “Now surrender, you infernal villain, this very instant, or I’ll blow you through.”
The man put up his pistols, with the word, “There Judge it’s no use; I give in.”
A few days afterwards, being asked his reason, he said, “Why, when he came up I looked him in the eye, and I saw shoot, and there wasn’t shoot in nary other eye in the crowd; and so I says to myself, says I, boss; it’s about time to sing small, and so I did.”
Similarly, in his 1892 book, Life of General Jackson (Old Hickory), Oliver Dyer also included Jackson’s aversion to bullies:
Being Public Prosecutor (District Attorney), as well as Solicitor, it became Andrew Jackson’s duty to suppress the lawlessness which was so general, and to bring the offenders to justice. This part of his practice was not only exciting, but dangerous.
Scores of desperate men were in the habit of openly defying the courts and insulting the judges on the bench. The moral tone of the community was so low as to such matters, and the belligerent customs of the people were so barbarous, that offences which would now excite horror in Nashville, or in any enlightened community, were then looked upon as trivial.
If men fought with deadly weapons, it was expected that both parties would be wounded, and one of them killed. What did men fight for, if not to wound or to kill? The idea of fighting with deadly weapons without adequate results, was looked upon with contempt.
When men fought only with the weapons with which nature supplied them, they used all their natural weapons — hands, feet, claws and teeth. They pummeled each other; they kicked each other; they stamped on one another; they gouged and bit one another.
If a man lost an eye, or an ear, or a part of his nose in a rough-and-tumble fight, it was looked upon as a natural consequence of the skirmish; and the eye- gouger, the ear-biter, the nose-mangier was not considered blameworthy by the fighting portion of the community.
Among these people, the biting off of a part of a man’s ear or nose, “in fair fight,” so far from being looked upon as a misdemeanor, was not even thought to be a breach of etiquette.
It must not be supposed that all the inhabitants of the settlement relished such barbarous customs. On the contrary, a majority of the people disrelished them exceedingly, and longed to have a stop put to them.
Andrew Jackson was the man to satisfy these civilized longings. Regardless of his personal safety, he assailed the violators of the law with all the legal weapons he possessed; he brought them to the bar for trial; he had them convicted, sentenced and punished.
On one occasion, a formidable gang of ruffians who had long defied the law, having been indicted at Jackson’s procurement, came into court in a blustering manner and insolently refused to be tried.
Quick as lightning, Jackson drew his pistols from his saddle-bags, covered the ringleaders with them, and called upon the law-abiding citizens in the court-room to stand by him and have the law respected and enforced.
Brave men instantly responded to his ringing call, and rallied to his side. The ruffians, awed by his commanding attitude, wilted before the consuming blaze of his eyes. They surrendered, were tried, convicted and punished in accordance with their ill deserts.
On another occasion, a stalwart, raging bully and ruffian, who was determined to thrash and maim Jackson, began by trampling on his toes so as to provoke him to offer resistance, and thereby give the aggressor a seeming reason for putting his detestable purpose in execution.
It is needless to say that his effort to provoke Andrew Jackson was completely successful. He provoked him not only to resistance but to unspeakable rage.
Seizing a rail from the top of a fence close at hand, and using it as a battering-ram, Jackson dealt the ruffian a blow with the end of it in the pit of the stomach which doubled him up and felled him to the earth.
The enraged young man trampled on the brute and then permitted him to rise. He made a feint to attack Jackson, but quailed before the power of his eye.
Physically, he was much larger than Jackson and had twice his strength. But —
” Though so tall to reach the pole, Or grasp the ocean with my span; I must be measured by my soul, The mind’s the standard of the man.”
In bodily capacity the bully far outmeasured Jack son but in the measurement of soul the young hero towered above him like Chimborazo above an ant hill.
And that towering soul was ablaze with just indignation, and the bully’s vulgar, brutal courage shriveled when brought within the flame of a great soul on fire.
The Andrew Jackson Presidential $1 Coin shows against a circa 1834 artistic view of a fracas in Nashville involving General Jackson.