Where am I?
Hi there! Before I get into the "where," you should be aware that the "when" is just as important. I don't want to get into a whole lot of boring science stuff so, long story short, you've traveled through time and ended up ... somewhere and somewhen. As for when specifically, look around you, because context here is everything. Are there horse-drawn carriages? Are there roads? What about slavery, is that still happening in a big way? These details will really help place you on the timeline of American history, though you should only really dwell on them if you want to satiate your own curiosity. There's kind of a bigger issue to deal with.
Is it this wild-haired, crazy-eyed guy staring at me?
It is indeed. That "guy" is former president of the United States of America Andrew Jackson, and you have pissed him off something fierce. I don't know if it was the time traveling or some other stupid thing you did, but the point is he is furious and cannot be reasoned with. Any attempts to calm him down will just aggravate the situation. You can't ask for help because you time traveled alone, and you can't call the cops because, what are you, a pussy? Bottom line: You are about to fight Andrew Jackson.
How did I get here?
That's not really any of my business and, frankly, it shouldn't be your biggest concern. How you ended up face-to-face with a dead president (and how you've subsequently pissed him off) is your thing, and I'm not here to judge. Admittedly, it's interesting, but you've got much more pressing matters.
Did I use a machine like in Back to the Future, or is it more of a Quantum Leap-type deal?
I would really appreciate it if you focused on the upcoming fight.
Well, sure, but I'd still really like to know ...
Look, guy, I don't need to be here. I'm not doing this for me, because I'm not the asshole who time traveled and ruined Andrew Jackson's day. That's you. You're that guy. I'm the guy who's trying to help you. And even though your mastery of the space-time continuum is intriguing, the bottom line is that Andrew Jackson's swinging a cane over his head like a lunatic. Do you really want to spend your last 10 minutes arguing about wormholes and nonlinear timelines?
No, I suppose I don't.
I mean, does it even matter at this point?
No, I suppose it doesn't.
No, it doesn't. Maybe if you had Stephen Hawking answering your questions, you two could go on and on about the mysteries of the universe and parallel dimensions or whatever, but you've got me, and all I know is dead-president-fighting, and there are worse guides for a person in your position to have right now. You should start asking the right questions now, while you still can.
What could I have done to piss Andrew Jackson off?
A number of things. You could have insulted his wife, threatened America or been an Indian. Or, and here's where it gets muddy, you could have done none of those things and he'd still be angry. It all sort of blends together for Jackson.
This is as honest-to-God political cartoon about Andrew Jackson. What could this possibly represent if not madness?
See, Andrew Jackson was a whole lot of things, and all of them were crazy. He wasn't always crazy, of course, he aged into it, like a fine wine, fermented with poison in, like, an angry toilet. Stirred with an axe, or something.
About that wife thing ...
Right. When Jackson married his wife, Rachel Donelson Robards, in the late 1700s, she was still, unbeknownst to both, technically married to her first jealous, awful husband, as the paperwork on their divorce had not yet been finalized. When Jackson did find out about the previous marriage, he waited for the divorce to legally go through and they remarried in 1794, their love now being officially too legit to quit. No scandal there.
Jackson clearly didn't mind her previous marriage and the brief confusion of paperwork, but his 1828 political opponents most certainly did, and they attacked her relentlessly during Jackson's entire campaign in an election that is still considered to be one of the meanest in history. The opposing party, supporting John Quincy Adams, did not let the scandal that wasn't actually a scandal drop, and the campaign was seasoned with personal assaults on Rachel's character. She's a "convicted adulteress" unfit to sit in the "highest offices of this free and Christian land," said the Cincinnati Gazette. Rachel is "a dirty black wench," cried a member of Adams' camp, and "bitch ain't shit," reported a local respected doctor.
"And furthermore I submit that the young woman in question is both a ho AND a trick. Verily!"
Jackson won the election by a wide margin, but Rachel's disposition didn't handle the constant public "slut calls" well (for some reason) and she passed away just days before the inauguration. Experts and doctors didn't know what exactly got her in the end, but lunatic and soon-to-be-president Jackson sure did. He was convinced without a doubt that the vicious words being hurled at her for months killed her, and he further believed that everyone who had said a bad word about Rachel was, indirectly, a murderer and should be handled properly. To that end, Jackson said at her burial, "I can and do forgive all my enemies. But those vile wretches who have slandered her must look to God for mercy." Since he's letting his enemies slide, you'll know that, if Andrew Jackson is mad at you, it's because he thinks you're responsible for his beloved wife's death and should be dealt with accordingly. And Andrew Jackson is a man of his word.
That's absurd, can I just talk to him about this?
Goodness, no. Jacksonian scholar Robert Remini wrote, "When Andrew Jackson hated, it often became grand passion. He could hate with a biblical fury and would resort to petty and vindictive acts to nurture his hatred and keep it bright and strong and ferocious."
"And he hates you," Remini didn't add, but would have had he been writing this article.
Does he have previous fighting experience?
Oh yeah. This is a doozy. Jackson was born without a father, and his mother died when he was 14. As a result, he anticipated death all around him and was prepared to fight at any moment, which he did, all through school. Often picked on by very misguided bullies, it wasn't uncommon for Andrew Jackson to come home with bruises, scars and scrapes. At 13 years old, having bested every available schoolyard bully in a three-state radius, Jackson decided to fight the British in the Revolutionary War. You know, back when you were gleefully discovering your genitals for the first time, Jackson was tackling fully grown British soldiers with equal gusto.
That's a weird thing to bring up. I mean every 13-year-old gets --
In 1780, Jackson was captured by British soldiers and taken as a prisoner of war, along with his brother. There he was ordered to shine the shoes of his captors and, like the tiniest badass ever, refused, which earned him a long gash down his cheek at the sword of his captors. He was then forced to march shoeless, wound undressed, without food or water and full of bright and shiny hatred for 40 miles from one prison camp to another, all while suffering from smallpox. The smallpox killed his brother but was just terrified enough of Jackson to back off quietly. He lost his brother, beat smallpox, fought in a war, marched miles barefoot and got stabbed in the fucking face, all before you reached high school.
I know, right? And that's just adolescence. He also fought in the War of 1812 and the First Seminole War and, when he ran out of wars, he just went duel crazy. Jackson's been in 13 duels that we know of. While some historians dispute this number, everyone agrees that he loved him a duel. Every other day, Jackson was out dueling. Dueling this, dueling that. He was one dueling motherfucker.
Does he have any weaknesses?
In 1806, Andrew Jackson engaged Charles Dickinson in a duel that was chiefly over gambling debts, but also over an insult to Jackson's wife (probably). Though Dickinson was widely known as a good shot, Jackson allowed him to fire first. Dickinson fired, nailed Jackson almost in the heart and started to reload. Before he could finish, Jackson shot him dead. The man plays "Punch-for-Punch" with bullets.
Sort of sounds like a strength ...
No, no, no, you're thinking about it wrong. While Jackson is indisputably badass, the man does have an ego. If he thinks you're a pussy, he'll get cocky, he'll want to show off. So, as far as strategy goes, you need to act like such a wimp that Jackson, in all of his arrogance, gives you the advantage. Maybe he'll let you shoot first, like Dickinson, or maybe he'll give you two guns, or maybe he'll fight you blindfolded. It all depends on how sure of his victory he is, which all depends on how pathetic you appear as a fighter. Make him believe you're terrified. Whimper, beg to be let out of the fight and, if your threshold for shamelessness is as high as your will to live, see if you can muster up some pants-wetting. Your best bet will be to convince Andrew Jackson that you are a scared little baby who does not want to fight.
I can't imagine that'll be too hard.
Yeah, you ... Are you already pissing yourself? Good man.
What kind of fight will this be?
Have you been paying attention? This will be a duel with pistols at either dawn or whenever-the-fuck-Andrew-Jackson-wants o'clock. The man lived to duel, and you know there's only one way you can participate in multiple duels: you're really, really good at them. Losing a duel isn't like losing at soccer (unless your soccer league is really hardcore); you get shot and then you die.
Of course, there is a possibility that he'll choose to fight you with his trademark cane, in which case you will also lose. In 1835, a lunatic named Richard Lawrence made the first documented assassination attempt on a president's life when he pulled a gun on Andrew Jackson. The gun misfired, so he pulled out a second gun, which also misfired. Later, upon inspection both guns fired without error. Some historians blamed the weather for the temporary misfiring, but it's pretty clear that the bullets, having previously consulted the other bullets rattling around Jackson's body, had no interest in getting involved in what would end up being a futile suicide mission, as every bullet knows that Jackson doesn't believe in getting shot to death. When Jackson was tired of watching his would-be assassin pull out gun after terrified gun, he beat the shit out of Lawrence with his cane until presidential aides had to restrain Jackson.
Jackson's not just badass by presidential standards. He's not just badass by human standards. He stacks up against John McClane and Shaft; the man is badass by fictional hero standards. He's badass enough to be entirely made up, except he's terrifyingly real and wants to kick your ass.
Do I stand a chance?
God no. Nope. No way. No. Here is what you need to know about Andrew Jackson: He is a man followed by tragedy. He lost friends, family members and his beloved wife. He never remarried after Rachel passed, and so America became his replacement family. And this was one family Andrew Jackson was determined not to lose. He loved, lived and worshiped America -- it completed him.
Additionally, as the first popularly elected president, Jackson saw himself as both the physical embodiment of America and its sworn protector. If Jackson was one thing in his life, it was extra strength, shit-hurlingly crazy. But if he was two things, it was crazy and loyal. If he thought someone wanted to hurt America, he'd react like a father protecting his children, or a son responding to a particularly vicious "Yo' mamma" joke. He viewed every attack on America like the attacks that he suspected killed his late wife, and this time, he was going to make sure he stopped the attackers before they could kill America.
So do you see where this is going? Jackson obsessively loved America, and he considered himself the manifestation of America, the embodiment of the only constant in his life that loved him back. An attack on Jackson is an attack on America, and he will defend his country with the fervor and intensity of a rabid dog. And, trust me, you have never loved anything as much as Jackson loves America.
OK, we're clearly about to duel now. Anything else?
He's been shot so many times that according to Chris Wallace's Profiles in Presidential Courage, he "rattled like a bag of marbles" when he walked as a result of all of the never-removed bullets chilling in his body. The pieces of shrapnel that he carries around like internal medals of honor are about 10 times larger than your balls and infinity times as armored.
Was that your pep talk?!
Happy President's Day weekend!
Daniel O'Brien is Cracked.com's Senior Writer (ladies), and he has an entire book about fighting presidents sitting in his computer (publishing houses). Also, Daniel will be performing sketches and stand-up Friday (2/17) and Saturday (2/18) in Beloit, Wisconsin. Follow him here for details.
For more from Dan, check out 7 Great Men in History (And Why You Should Hate Them) and 5 Famous Inventors (Who Stole Their Big Idea).
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