Few figures have a legacy as complex as our seventh president, Andrew Jackson. Always a polarizing figure, Jackson claims a pendulous legacy that has swung back and forth between admiration and condemnation in the two hundred–plus years since he rose from obscurity.
The man is often lost in the legacy. But in this 1815 letter to the war office, we can see the man. Of particular note is Jackson’s handwriting. It is not the clear, elegant, looping script of a nineteenth-century gentleman with a long, formal education. It is a scrawl more befitting a grocery list. While Jackson was well-educated, he had minimal formal schooling, and this, along with his rough, frontier ways, distinguished him from many of his political adversaries. This was particularly evident during Jackson’s campaign against Harvard-educated President John Quincy Adams, who lost re-election to Jackson in 1828. Jackson—the fish out of water, the self-made man surrounded by the elite—could not hide the lack of schooling evident in his handwriting. However, one need only look to the end of the letter to see an individual who knew how far he could rise. The man who would, for good or ill, redefine the American presidency during his two terms in office, finished with a large, brash, ostentatious signature that cannot be ignored.
Citation 1: 
January 3, 1815
Accession #: 
64-2-L; MSS 200 f.4
George Schindler IV, Docent