To such good purpose did the young student use his time that within two years he won his diploma. Still too young to be admitted to the bar, he spent a year studying life in Paris, listening to the debates in the Corps Legislatif, reading and debating in the radical club which he had organized, making himself ready at every point for the great opportunity which gained him a national reputation and made him the idol of the masses.
In 1868 his masterly defense of Delescluze, the radical editor, against the prosecution of the Imperial government, brought the brilliant but hitherto unknown young lawyer prominently before the public. He lost his case, but won fame. Gambetta had waited eighteen months for his first brief, and five times eighteen months for his first great case. This case proved to be the initial step that led him from victory to victory, until, after the fall of Napoleon at Sedan, he became practically Dictator of France. He was, more than any one man, the maker of the French Republic, whose rights and liberties he ever defended, even at the risk of his life. He died December 31, 1882.
Well had he fulfilled the hopes and ambitions of his loving mother, well had he answered the pathetic appeal, “Try to come home a somebody.”
“Sir, I am a prisoner of war, and demand to be treated as such,” was the spirited reply of Andrew Jackson to a British officer who had commanded him to clean his boots.
This was characteristic of the future hero of New Orleans, and president of the United States, whose independent spirit rebelled at the insolent command of his captor.
The officer drew his sword to enforce obedience, but, nothing daunted, the youth, although then only fourteen, persisted in his refusal. He tried to parry the sword thrusts aimed at him, but did not escape without wounds on head and arm, the marks of which he carried to his grave.
Stubborn, self-willed, and always dominated by the desire to be a leader, Andrew Jackson was by no means a model boy. But his honesty, love of truth, indomitable will and courage, in spite of his many faults, led him to greatness.
He was born with fighting blood in his veins, and, like other eminent men who have risen to the White House, poor. His father, an Irish immigrant, died before his youngest son was born,—in 1767,—and life held for the boy more hard knocks than soft places. His mother, who was ambitious to make him a clergyman, tried to secure him some early advantages of schooling. Andrew, however, was not of a studious disposition, nor at all inclined to the ministry, and made little effort to profit by even the limited opportunities he had.