Andrew Jackson Donelson

Library of Congress No. 00-107983
266 pages

Hickory Tales

Andrew Jackson Donelson
Jackson's Confidant and Political Heir

by Dr. Robert Beeler Satterfield

History professor, Dr. Robert Satterfield, presents a scholarly account of the life and accomplishments of Jackson's often historically-overlooked nephew, Andrew Jackson Donelson. Donelson, the son or Rachel's deceased brother Samuel, was raised at the first Hermitage by the Jacksons and , as Jackson saw in him great potential, he was educated at West Point and Cumberland College. Did you ever wonder why our current president's advisors are called the "cabinet." Jackson's most
trusted advisors, actually met in the kitchen using the kitchen cabinets for their not taking. Donelson, whose wife was First Lady, after the death of Rachel, became one of Jackson's most trusted advisors. Although Jackson was quite literate, in spite of opinion contrary, he utilized Donelson's expertise not only in his speech writing and letters, but also sought his counsel for important decisions. In today's terminology he would also have been one of Jackson's most proficient campaign managers.

Donelson deserves a place in our history books, not just because he was Jackson's private secretary, or because he and his wife Emily had the first three children born to any First Lady in the White House. Rather he deserves it for four reasons. First, there were very few people who stood up to Jackson and lived to tell about it. When Donelson supported his wife in the Peggy Eaton affair, Donelson and Emily left Washington, but Donelson was the only one Jackson called back, when he discharged his entire cabinet. He could not get along without these two beloved relatives for emotional support and for desperately needed help with the overwhelming job of the presidency.
Secondly, Donelson sacrificed his last chance to see his Emily, dying of tuberculosis, when he put first Jackson's request to tarry a bit longer in Washington to help him compose his last State of the Union message, Thirdly, it was Donelson who succeeded where others had failed, as emissary to Texas, to fulfill last dream for our country before his death. Jackson's foresaw the need for westward expansion, by securing Texas' agreement for statehood, essentially wreching that territory away at the last minute from the eager, waiting England and France. Fourth, Donelson remained faithful to the charge that Jackson gave him in his will. Bankrupt, Jackson willed Donelson his most prized possession, the magnificent sword awarded him by his State of Tennessee for his victory leading the militia at the Battle of New Orleans.
He gave Donelson the charge to use that sword to "defend (his) country against all enemies, foreign and domestic." As editor of the Washington Union Newspaper and as vice presidential candidate with Millard Fillmore, he did his best to reconcile the differences between the North and the South. As a result he alienated himself from his own brother, Confederate General Daniel Smith Donelson, for whom the Civil War fort, Ft. Donelson, was named. He endured two of his sons dying fighting for the South, yet he himself was imprisoned for a year by the South. Public opinion forced him to move from his beloved Nashville home, Tulip Grove. When he tried to survive farming cotton in Mississippi after the war, he was beset by carpetbaggers, thieves and paucity of labor. But he always stayed true to his cause of love for his family and for his country, which he longed to see heal its scars.

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