November 3, 2009

Andy "Hit Man" Jackson

I'm rereading Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison's Oxford History of the American People. The second volume was fairly dull until the democratic age arrives with Andrew Jackson, after which it's consistently comic. For example, here's a bit on the 1836 campaign by Vice President Richard Johnson, whose supporters chanted in answer to William Henry Harrison's claim to be the Hero of Tippecanoe:
Rumpsey dumpsey, rumpsey dumpsey
Colonel Johnson killed Tecumseh!

But this slogan, never surpassed for electioneering imbecility, failed to give him a majority in the Electoral College.

Morison's description of Andrew Jackson, entering office at age 62, is striking:
Six feet one in height and weighing 145 pounds, slim and straight as a ramrod, his lean, strong face lit up by hawk-like eyes and surmounted a mane of thick gray hair.

That's really skinny for a 62-year-old. Boxer Tommy "Hit Man" Hearns, who was famous for his long reach, was also 6'1". He won the 147 pound welterweight championship, but he typically fought at heavier weights. Of course, Hearns was packing more muscle, but still 145 pounds? My freshman year in college I was 6'4" and 168 pounds, and I looked like a sapling.

In The Birth of the Modern, Paul Johnson finds Jackson's failure to put on weight as he aged alarming, comparing him to Simon Bolivar as the kind of successful but unsatisfied man who maintains a dangerously lean and hungry look as he gets old. I never know how much credence to give to these body-shape-drives-personality theories associated with William Sheldon.

Morison points out that although Jackson is often thought of today as a sort of Jethro Bodine of American history, a purely American sort, his right-hand man Martin Van Buren, when ambassador to Britain, "found Jackson's likeness in the 'Iron Duke,' Wellington."

I was once showing my nephew around the Art Institute of Chicago. I got to four early 19th Century English portraits of important aristocrats. The first was fat, the second was fat and alcoholic-looking, the third fat, alcoholic-looking, and gouty, and the fourth ... the fourth was a raptor, the most hawk-like visage I'd ever seen. Of course, it was the Duke of Wellington, the Northern Irishman Britain needed.

I wonder if Jackson's rather brawl-filled Presidency had anything to do with him still carrying two slugs in his body from his duels. Was he suffering from lead-poisoning, which tends to lower inhibitions?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

39 comments:

anony-mouse said...

Maybe he kept himself so thin so as to make himself harder to hit in all those duels.

Anonymous said...

Body-shape theories/ William Sheldom. In their 1989 book,
THE CAUSES AND CURES OF CRIMINALITY, H. J. Eysenck and
G. H. Gudjonsson make brief review of Sheldon's work and suggest the flaws of Sheldon's research do not
establish that somatyping is devoid of promise. It's the political voltage in such research focus that accounts for the failure to make salvage attempts upon the speculations of Hooton, (unsuitably formulated by Sheldon)

Anonymous said...

Skinny President? The Ulster Scots , of which Jackson was an exemplar, have a high incidence of wiry, thin, close-to-the bone males. Presumably this tendency traces back to the "lean and mean" survival values in their specific British origins ("Born Fighting" as Jim Webb's book title ) Too, as John D. Rockefeller used to point out repeatedly, excess weight of any amount likely detracts from whatever longevity is programmed into one's genes. Maybe just an applicaton of high "g" ? (Aaron Burr, among others, had a favorable regard for Jackson's native brain power.)

Bill said...

In The Birth of the Modern, Paul Johnson finds Jackson's failure to put on weight as he aged alarming, comparing him to Simon Bolivar as the kind of successful but unsatisfied man who maintains a dangerously lean and hungry look as he gets old. I never know how much credence to give to these body-shape-drives-personality theories associated with William Sheldon.

Isn't that from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar?

"Let me have men about me that are fat;
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o' nights:
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous."

Dennis Mangan said...

In the old days, well before the obesity epidemic, people generally weighed *less* as they aged, because one loses muscle with aging. Jackson also was a soldier, unlike those gouty, drunk aristos. Dickens describes in, I think, "David Copperfield" how the old woman who kept her wedding dress could no longer fit in it, because it was now too loose.

ironrailsironweights said...

J. Robert Oppenheimer, the leader of the atomic bomb development program, was 6'0" and never weighed over 125 pounds. During times of stress he would drop as low as 115.

The weights of Hearns and other boxers are misleading, as they drastically cut weight to meet the weigh-ins. Their "walking-around" weights are generally at least 10% higher than their fighting weights, often much higher.

Peter

TGGP said...

Regarding the lead poisoning hypothesis, I'm reminded of a quote from King of the Hill:
"They say he fried his brains out staring at the sun. Of course, he couldn't have been too bright to be doing that in the first place."

Anonymous said...

We call this "GSP" in the poker world, or "Good Solid Poker", and it is often enough to win. Good post.

Simon said...

I'd say Jackson's sort was pretty common in the Carrickfergus, Antrim area of Northern Ireland where his parents hailed from - and where he was conceived, according to the local 'Andy Jackson Ancestral Home & Airborne Rangers Museum' I visited some years back. Classic Scots Irish.

Anonymous said...

it was the Duke of Wellington, the man Northern Irishman Britain needed.




Maybe I have not had enough coffee yet, but I don't get it. What is "Northern Irishman Britain"?

Billy said...

Jimmy Stewart had to put on weight to enlist in the military. As a university student, he was a reported 130lbs at 6'3".

Slampo said...

Finally, someone's discerned the true nature of the Andy Jackson-Hitman Hearns-Jethro Bodine connection! Who says real scholarship is dead?

The Jackson-Hearns connection goes beyond mere body type, since AJ was a documented stone killer who most likely was our actual first black president, predating Clinton by a good 160 years, if not our first actual gangsta president, OG variety (although G. Washington was a true badass in his younger days). Andy's status as a role model for today's youth was cemented by his appearance on modern America's favorite denomination of paper currency.

A "combination of Jacksons," as Lincoln supposedly despaired and Charles Portis wrote, for time everlasting ...

Luke Lea said...

Jackson's brawl-filled biography long precedes the slugs. His mother's dying words to him were to the effect that he should be a good boy but never settle matters of personal honor through the courts: those you settle yourself. This was typical of the Scots-Irish.

The best short biography of Jackson by far in my opinion is Rimini's paperback abridgment of his 3 volume Life. Get it used:

http://www.amazon.com/Life-Andrew-Jackson-Perennial-Classics/dp/0060937351/ref=ed_oe_p

Luke Lea said...

I should also mention that an important part of Jackson's military success as a general was the same as Caesar's and Napoleon's: he pushed his troops to march further and faster than the opposition thought possible.

Marc B said...

Thanks for writing about my favorite President, Andrew Jackson. I would bet his leadership, battle readiness, leanness, and lack of inhibition could be all be attributed in large part to being High T.

How many true "statesman" has this country produced since Old Hickory?

Keyser Söze said...

Maybe he just didn't like assholes. How can you not admire a man who wrestles someone who tried to assassinate him to the ground and then pommels him repeatedly with a cane? We could do with more presidents like that these days.

Keyser Söze said...

Oh, and he hated bankers in general, and a central bank in particular. What's not to like? There's quite a few of those around today who could do with a good caning.

Middletown Girl said...

"I wonder if Jackson's rather brawl-filled Presidency had anything to do with him still carrying two slugs in his body from his duels. Was he suffering from lead-poisoning, which tends to lower inhibitions?"

I doubt it. Jackson was tough fighter from a young age. During British capitivity, he defied an officer and was twacked across his face, suffering a life-long scar as a result.

He also came from the 'poor side of town' and so had tougher survival and fighting instincts than the traditional elite who ruled America prior to his ascendancy.

Whiskey said...

Jackson himself Steve did not brawl. He survived an assassination attempt on the Capitol Steps and tried to beat his assailant to death with a cane, when the man's single shot pistol misfired (Davy Crockett and other cronies dragged Jackson off and subdued the nutcase who shot at him).

Jackson was derided and loathed for his marriage to Rachel Jackson, after her typical backwoods shoe-leather divorce from her first husband and failure to get a notarized/legal divorce. A lot of rumor mongering and cruel gossip led Jackson to blame that for her ill-health and death shortly before he took office (in a vengeful mood).

Jackson was an angry and vengeful man (who died in not very good financial posture) for good reason -- as a poor backwoods boy he was the target of the British (in the Revolutionary War), various Southern Coastal aristos, the Mid-Atlantic and New England aristocracy, the Spanish (in and around Florida) and various rivals. He was orphaned (and left without siblings) at an early age and grew up fighting.

Anonymous said...

Your 6'4" Steve. Believe me your life would have been a lot different if you were my height (5'3").

albertosaurus said...

Once I was only 6'1" and I weighed 167 pounds. I had begun that year at 5'8" and 167 pounds. I had to be careful when I stood up - I passed out a lot.

If the arrow of causation was from the body type to the personality then that year that I grew five inches would have also been the year my personality changed. I went from being a short fat kid (endomorph) to being a tall thin kid (ectomorph).

Things did change in that I was a target for bullies at 5'8" but not at 6'1". However Sheldon at least according to Wikipedia claims that endomorrphs are jolly and ectomorphs are fearful. I had just the opposite experience. When I was little and fat I was fearful or being beaten up and when I became an ectomorph I became a lot happier.

BTW my cousin Willy ("Little Willy") grew to be 6'1" but was never more than 135 pounds. He was very skinny but he looked great in a suit.

BTW II the Web is full of pictures of the new skinny Obama.

Dutch Boy said...

The average Union civil war soldier was 67" tall and weighed 136 lb.. This increased to a whopping 141 lb. for WW I. Previous generations of Americans were a lean lot.

Ross said...

"the Duke of Wellington, the man Northern Irishman Britain needed. "

Wellington was from somewhere around Dublin, not what is now Northern Ireland.

Anonymous said...

Dutch Boy:"Previous generations of Americans were a lean lot."

That's because they often didn't get enough fat and protein to eat and often survived on bread/wheat, corn, and other empty carbs.

Anonymous said...

Fun fact about Wellington - he fought a duel (with pistols) while serving as Prime Minister.

That's a political class worth having.

Anonymous said...

Recent article about the region of the USA where Jackson came from, the Carolina Piedmont: http://www.newgeography.com/content/001113-southern-piedmont-where-nascar-meets-nasdaq

Anonymous said...

The Wellesley's (Wellingtons actual family name) were from southern Ireland and had been there since the Norman invasion in the 12th century.

Irish, yes, Northern Irish, no.

Bill said...

Wellington looks like "give peace a chance" John Lennon.

Kinda funny.

Kevin B said...

The Jacksonian majority:

A principal explanation of why Jacksonian politics are so poorly understood is that Jacksonianism is less an intellectual or political movement than an expression of the social, cultural and religious values of a large portion of the American public. And it is doubly obscure because it happens to be rooted in one of the portions of the public least represented in the media and the professoriat.

http://denbeste.nu/external/Mead01.html

Matra said...

Irish, yes, Northern Irish, no

Anglo-Irish is more apt. They were different from both the 'native' Catholic Irish and the Ulster-Scots in the north.

The Anglo-Irish

Anonymous said...

"That's really skinny for a 62-year-old."

Steve, it's amazing how skinny people were before supersized portions made us so fat. When you look at old photos from the early 20th Century or earlier, it is striking how slight everybody was. The weight differences in the past were even more striking than height differences. (For instance, as a recent paper by Koepke and Baten shows, the average male height in Europe from the 1st to 18th centuries was pretty constant around 5’7”, varying regionally and over time from between about 5’5.5” and 5’8.5”, except for in the 17th and 18th centuries when colder temperatures and overpopulation combined to put heights at their nadir.)

Even as recently as the 1970s, US non-Hispanic white males in their 20s averaged 5’10.1” and weighed 163lbs. Today the average height is barely taller (5’10.4”), but the average weight is over 190 lbs. Going back to the Civil War, Union and Confederate soldiers averaged 5’8.25” and weighted 146 and 143 lbs., respectively. British and French soldiers in the Napoleonic Wars were even slighter. The Brits averaged 5’6.5” and 132 lbs. and the French only 5’4” and 110 lbs.

Looking at other prominent 18th and 19th Century American figures, it is also striking how skinny they were. Abraham Lincoln as a young man stood 6’4” and weighed only 180 lbs. As President, he was still around this weight. As a young man in his 20s, George Washington stood 6’2” and weighed 175 lbs. and was considered a large man for the time. Later as President he fattened up to about 205. Thomas Jefferson was also very tall and thin (6’2.5” and around 160 lbs. or less even in middle age). You can see why when they introduced weight classes to boxing, anyone over 175 lbs. was a heavy weight. Fit people over 185 lbs. were very rare back then.

Ivy League Bastard said...

> Paul Johnson finds Jackson's
> failure to put on weight as he aged
> alarming, comparing him to Simon
> Bolivar as the kind of successful
> but unsatisfied man who maintains
> a dangerously lean and hungry
> look as he gets old.

I used to attend a lot of Noam Chomsky's lectures in Cambridge.
Quite a few people there (and they were his fans and sympathizers!) made literally the same observation, about the aging professor having the "lean and hungry look".

Anonymous said...

Anglo-Irish is more apt.



From your link.


The "Anglo-Irish" landed elite replaced the Catholic aristocracies of the Old English and Gaelic Irish in the course of the 17th century as the ruling class in Ireland. At this time, they were usually called the New English to distinguish them from the "Old English," who were descendants of medieval Hiberno-Norman settlers.

By this definition the Wellesley's were not Anglo-Irish, being themselves "descendants of medieval Hiberno-Norman settlers".

Anonymous said...

Arthur Wellesley's thoughts on being Irish: "Just because one is born in a stable does not make one a horse."

Anonymous said...

"Anglo-Irish is more apt.



From your link.


The "Anglo-Irish" landed elite replaced the Catholic aristocracies of the Old English and Gaelic Irish in the course of the 17th century as the ruling class in Ireland. At this time, they were usually called the New English to distinguish them from the "Old English," who were descendants of medieval Hiberno-Norman settlers.

By this definition the Wellesley's were not Anglo-Irish, being themselves "descendants of medieval Hiberno-Norman settlers"."

They were a protestant Ascendancy family, which is what makes the difference between the Catholic and Protestant upper classes of Ireland.

liamascorcaigh said...

Wellington aka Arthur Wellesley aka "Old Nosey" was born in Dublin or maybe Athy Co. Kildare. He was at any rate a Leinsterman and not of Ulster or Ulster-Scots provenance. Regarding his Irish nativity he is said to have observed - cue posh English accent - "Because one is born in a stable it does not necessarily mean one is a horse". Just a jackass!

The borderline blasphemy of this metaphor indicates that Obama was not the first cult figure to nurse a Jesus complex.

As Prime Minister - a very mediocre one, another Obama parallel - he fought bitterly against granting the full rights of citizenship to Catholics. For this, as you can imagine, he is remembered fondly in Ireland. In short he was a bigotted oul' bastard like most of his kind and one of the many "Irishmen" who had no love for the mere country of their birth and only hatred and contempt for its people.

Bad cess to him.

PS - The unconfined admiration which I so frequently find on right of centre blogs for such imperialistic tulips as Wellington and Churchill suggests to me that the disease of Empire is eating away at the American soul, a horrifying and profoundly sad development.

The coupling of the likes of Wellesley with such as Andrew Jackson amounts almost to an immoral act. Jackson was a democrat and a man of the people, a leader of a free constitutional republic that was the inspiration for and the refuge of those in Europe who rose up against the tyranny of such aristocratic hegemonists as the abovementioned by-products of Eton and Harrow.

David said...

> "Just because one is born in a stable does not make one a horse." <

There a good overlap of the two, though.

James Kabala said...

Actually, it was Wellington who pushed Catholic Emancipation through Parliament (albeit reluctantly and after having first opposed it).

liamascorcaigh said...

Wellington "pushed through" Catholic Emancipation only as a result of Daniel O'Connell's campaign of mass democracy in Ireland in the 1820s, culminating in a Monster Meeting of one million. George IV signed the Bill while weeping bitterly and dashing the accursed quill from his hand. The Jews' Relief Act was passed with considerably less theatrics in 1858.

BTW, to this day no Catholic by law can succeed to the throne of England. Nor can any Catholic accede to the office of Prime Minister under the present dispensation without a Constitutional crisis ensuing. Disraeli was baptized an Anglican aged 12; Blair waited till he resigned to become a Catholic. Some democracy they got there!