He makes it clear that he was called to office, and did not run for it
He speaks of “My desire once more to return to that peaceful abode, from which you know I was reluctantly drawn by the call and partiality of my country; and where I can with truth say I enjoyed the only happy hours allotted to me to enjoy on earth, and where, if...
He speaks of “My desire once more to return to that peaceful abode, from which you know I was reluctantly drawn by the call and partiality of my country; and where I can with truth say I enjoyed the only happy hours allotted to me to enjoy on earth, and where, if I am permitted to survive my present official term, I will joyfully return, although it has lost, by the death of my dear Mrs. J., its better charms.”
He longs for “My peaceful Hermitage, where I was in the full fruition of rural and domestic happiness. What situation of life can be compared to that of a farmer? What so independent? What so happy?”
James Alexander Hamilton was the third son of famed Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, and named after Alexander’s father. During the War of 1812, he served as Aide de Camp to General Morgan Lewis. Although always solicitous of his father’s memory, he was an active member of the Democratic Party. In late 1827 he was sent as a delegate of the Tammany Society to the celebration of the anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans. He travelled to Andrew Jackson’s home near Nashville and stayed there a few days before going on with him to New Orleans. During this trip he gained Jackson’s confidence and friendship, and began the discussions that resulted in Jackson’s nomination and election to the presidency. Hamilton served as a member of Jackson’s Appointing Council, and drafted Jackson’s inaugural address. In March 1829, Hamilton served as acting Secretary of State, until Martin Van Buren could enter the office. Jackson thereafter named Hamilton U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, a post he held from 1830-1833. In the crisis over rechartering the Bank of the United States, which Alexander Hamilton had been instrumental in bringing into being, the younger Hamilton sided with Jackson, opposing the recharter. It meant a lot to Jackson that Alexander Hamilton’s son was on his side on that issue. In 1835 Hamilton erected an estate called Nevis in the village of Ardsley in Westchester County, The house was square, in the style of a Greek temple, and sat on over 60 acres. Hamilton wrote to his friend Jackson telling him the news of his new estate.
Rachel Jackson was Andrew’s wife, and she lived with him at their home at the Hermitage. She died there in December 1828, just weeks after his election as President, and before his inauguration in March 1829. Their marriage had become the subject of attack during the presidential campaign. When Jackson first met Rachel, she mistakenly believed her first husband, whom she married as a teenager, had divorced her. So when Jackson married her in 1791, there was a question about whether they were legally married. The legal situation of the marriage was resolved, and the Jacksons were remarried in 1794, to remove all doubt about whether that their marriage was legal. But Jackson’s political opponents knew of the confusion, and he was accused of adultery and vilified for running off with another man’s wife; and Rachel was accused of bigamy. Jackson was bitter to say the least about the attacks on his wife, and he blamed his run for office, and the ensuing attacks, as being responsible for Rachel’s early death.
By late 1835 Jackson had served 6 1/2 years of his 8 year term, and it was contentious all the way. Crises came one after the other, from the bank recharter to Native American relocation to nullification (when South Carolina undertook to nullify a Federal law, Jackson ordered armed forces to Charleston and threatened to hang nullification leader John C. Calhoun). Jackson had no intention of running again, and had begun to think longingly of retirement. All of this can be seen in this important letter to Hamilton.
Autograph letter signed, as President, Washington, September 17, 1835, to Hamilton, reminiscing about his own estate, the Hermitage, the joys he had experienced on it, including with his late lamented wife, reflecting on the presidential office, and on what really matters in life. “My Dear Sir: I have the pleasure to acknowledge the receipt of your friendly letter of the 12th instant. It brings fresh to my recollection our first acquaintance, at my peaceful Hermitage, where I was in the full fruition of rural and domestic happiness. What situation of life can be compared to that of a farmer? What so independent? What so happy? The description you have given me of your farm, your stock, and your improvements, surrounded as you are with your amiable family, brings fresh to my memory the happiness with which I was surrounded at the Hermitage, when I had first the pleasure of boing introduced to you; and increases my desire once more to return to that peaceful abode, from which you know I was reluctantly drawn by the call and partiality of my country; and where I can with truth say I enjoyed the only happy hours allotted to me to enjoy on earth, and where, if I am permitted to survive my present official term, I will joyfully return, although it has lost, by the death of my dear Mrs. J., its better charms.
“Your present situation, surrounded as you are with your amiable and promising family, enjoying all the amusements and sweets of rural life, must afford you more real enjoyment and happiness than ever has flown or can flow from official life, even of a President, and all subordinate to him in the Republic. You must be happy. In the enjoyment of your family around you, the amusement which your farm and flocks afford, and then at leisure moments in your library, what more could man ask for here below, to increase his happiness? I answer, Nothing. I sincerely congratulate you on your happy condition. May you long live and enjoy that felicity which your situation affords, and may your amiable family enjoy long life, health and happiness, and participate in all the pleasures your present situation must afford, is the sincere prayer of Your sincere friend, Andrew Jackson.” He adds a P. S.. “It will afford me much pleasure to see you at Washington before 1 retire, and still more to see you as a private citizen at the Hermitage, which I am rebuilding on its ruined walls, to bear a strict resemblance to what it was when you first saw it. I have had a full description of yours from our mutual friend, Major Lewis.” The integral address is also in Jackson’s hand.
This is the most intimate and revealing letter of Jackson relating to his home and personal life that we have ever seen. It remained with the Hamilton descendants until a few months ago, when we acquired it.
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