The Future Presiden’ts Duel

May 30, 1806

Remember the scandal of Seamus, the Irish Setter, during the last presidential election? And Mitt Romney having to defend himself by declaring “My dog likes fresh air?” The whole incident (whether you were appalled at the dog riding on the roof or appalled that anyone was making an issue of it) gives cause to question whether or not some of our nation’s early elected presidents would survive today’s media.

Andrew Jackson, our nation’s 7th president (and first Democratic president), is remembered for many reasons. He joined the local militia at age 13 and moved on from there. With little education, he became a country lawyer in Tennessee. He was appointed to the Tennessee Supreme Court while maintaining multiple careers. Jackson served as major general of the Tennessee militia and is well known for his service against the British in the War of 1812, particularly for his victory during the Battle of New Orleans.

President Jackson led the nation from 1829 through 1837. As president, he was extremely supportive of states’ rights, though declared that individual states do not have the right to nullify federal laws. He relocated thousands of Native Americans to modern-day Oklahoma as a result of his Indian Relocation Act. The relocation process along with his pro-slavery stance earn him a great deal of criticism today.

Over three decades prior to his presidency, Andrew Jackson met and married Rachel Donelson Robards. The scandal began when it was discovered that Rachel’s divorce was not actually final at the time Jackson married her; and so upon completion of the legalities, Jackson officially married her in 1794. In 1806, local newspaperman Charles Dickinson published details surrounding their “scandalous” marriage which prompted a duel challenge from Jackson.

On May 30, 1806, Dickinson and Jackson met at Harrison’s Mills on the banks of the Red River in Logan, Kentucky. Dickinson fired first, wedging a bullet so close to Jackson’s heart that it would remain lodged there until his death in 1845. Jackson fired the next shot, and Dickinson’s “second” claimed that there was a misfire, which would (under dueling rules) mean the end of the duel. Jackson fired another shot at Dickinson, this time taking his life.

Because dueling was an honorable tradition in the South (although his opposition countered, calling him a cold-blooded murderer), Jackson was not tried for murder, nor did the altercation have any effect on his run for presidency in 1828. Rachel passed away just before Jackson took office, and the couple’s final resting place is together on their plantation, The Hermitage, in Nashville, Tennessee (the address is 4580 Rachel’s Lane).

Perhaps when “digging up the dirt” on presidential candidates, the idea of “dueling” on the banks of a Kentucky river could help keep things in perspective.

Sorghum Glazed Turnips

2 pounds small turnips (about 2 inches long)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sorghum

Garnish: fresh thyme sprigs


Peel turnips, and cut in half.

Place turnips in a single layer in a 12-inch heavy skillet; add water to reach halfway up turnips (about 1 1/2 cups). Add butter and next 3 ingredients. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring often, 8 minutes or until turnips are tender and water has evaporated. Cook, stirring often, 5 more minutes or until turnips are golden. Stir in sorghum and 3 Tbsp. water; toss turnips to coat. Serve immediately. Garnish, if desired.

*This recipe was created by Tyler Brown, chef at The Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. Click here to visit The Hermitage Hotel.

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