I was born for a storm and a calm does not suit me.
Andrew Jackson's youth was like the Carolina frontier where he grew up – wild, unpredictable, and continually changing. He could be hot-tempered, brash, and violent but had a solid work ethic and was able to apply himself when it counted. He made, and fought, a lot of enemies, but he also made life-long friends.
Andrew Jackson never met his father, who died before the boy was born in 1767 in a frontier region along the North and South Carolina border. When, later, his mother and two brothers died during the Revolutionary War, the 15-year-old was on his own. Too young to be a soldier, Jackson fought with American irregulars and was captured by the British. One day when his British captor demanded that Jackson polish his boots, the boy refused and was slashed with a sword, scarring him for life. After the war, the high-spirited teenager moved to Salisbury, North Carolina, where he studied law by day and developed a reputation as a hooligan at night.
"Andrew Jackson was the most roaring, rollicking, game-cocking, horse-racing, card-playing, mischievous fellow that ever lived in Salisbury."
—A resident of Salisbury, North Carolina
At age 20, Jackson jumped at the chance to become a public prosecutor in the new frontier town of Nashville, and the rough, unpredictable life of the Tennessee wilderness suited the young man. He quickly received a law license and his persistence and hard work made him in great demand as an attorney. As his business prospered, he bought property, horses, and slaves, as he thought any "gentleman" should. Ever the hothead, he fought several duels when he felt his honor was questioned. He also fell in love.
Rachel Donelson Robards was married but separated from her husband when she first met Jackson. Though the couple would claim that they married in 1791, they were not legally married until after her divorce three years later. These circumstances would come back to haunt Jackson in his presidential campaigns, when opponents charged him with wife stealing and bigamy.
"He could never speak on account of the rashness of his feelings. I have seen him attempt it repeatedly and, as often, choke with rage... he is a dangerous man."
—Thomas Jefferson (on Senator Jackson)
In quick succession, Jackson served as delegate to Tennessee's constitutional convention, Tennessee's first congressman, and a senator. But the impetuous, often angry young Congressman was not well-equipped for life in the Capital - he detested time spent in committee meetings and the corruption he saw in the requisite backroom deals. After one frustrating year in the Senate, in which he was outmatched by his older and more esteemed colleagues, he resigned.
Returning to Tennessee, Jackson became a superior court judge and was later elected major general of the Tennessee militia.
"There was lots of merriment and fun of a homely sort, pleasant to recall, in the Hermitage, while the famous couple were still young, which would have made a real hermit hold up his hands in horror but which the inmates greatly enjoyed."
—Cyrus Townsend Brady, from The True Andrew Jackson (1906)
In 1804, Jackson paid $3,400 for a 420-acre farm ten miles from Nashville and moved in with his wife Rachel and nine slaves. In the coming years, he expanded the farm, which he named "Hermitage,"Jackson's estate located outside Nashville, Tennessee. into a 1,000-acre plantation, constructed a Federal-style, two-story brick house, and added a library, farm office, large dining room, pantry, smokehouse, kitchen, and brick slave dwellings. After Rachel died in 1828, he had a Grecian-style temple built for her on the Hermitage grounds; he was later buried under the tomb next to her. By 1845, the year he died, 161 African-American slaves operated the 1050-acre plantation.