But it was not given to Andrew Jackson to be a mere money-maker or to dwell in quietness. In 1804 he was denied the governorship of the New Orleans Territory because he was described to Jefferson as “a man of violent passions, arbitrary in his disposition, and frequently engaged in broils and disputes.” During the next decade he fully lived up to this description. He quarreled with Governor John Sevier, and only the intervention of friends prevented the two from doing each other violence. He broke off friendly relations with his old patron, Judge McNairy. In a duel he killed Charles Dickinson, who had spoken disparagingly of Mrs. Jackson, and he himself suffered a wound which weakened him for life. He publicly caned one Thomas Swann. In a rough-and-tumble encounter with Thomas Hart Benton and the latter’s brother Jesse he was shot in the shoulder and one of his antagonists was stabbed. This list of quarrels, threats, fights, and other violent outbursts could be extended to an amazing length. “Yes, I had a fight with Jackson,” Senator Benton admitted late in life; “a fellow was hardly in the fashion then who hadn’t.”
At the age of forty-five Jackson had not yet found himself. He was known in his own State as “a successful planter, a breeder and racer of horses, a swearer of mighty oaths, a faithful ami generous man to his friends, a chivalrous man to women, a hospitable man at his home, a desperate and relentless man in personal conflicts, a man who always did the things he set himself to do.” But he had achieved no nation-wide distinction; he had not wrought out a career; he had made almost as many enemies as friends, he had cut himself off from official connections; he had no desire to return to the legal profession; and he was so dissatisfied with his lot and outlook that he seriously considered moving to Mississippi in order to make a fresh start.
One thread, however, still bound him to the public service. From 1802 he had been major general of militia in the eleven counties of western Tennessee; and notwithstanding the fact that three calls from the Government during a decade had yielded no real opportunity for action, he clung both to the office and to the hope for a chance to lead his “hardy sons of the West” against a foe worthy of their efforts. This chance came sooner than people expected, and it led in precisely the direction that Jackson would have chosen—toward the turbulent, misgoverned Spanish dependency of Florida.
THE CREEK WAR AND THE VICTORY OF NEW ORLEANS