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Andrew Jackson Donelson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Andrew Donelson
Andrew J. Donelson portrait.jpg
United States Minister to Prussia
In office
July 18, 1846 – November 2, 1849
PresidentJames K. Polk
Zachary Taylor
Preceded byHenry Wheaton
Succeeded byEdward A. Hannegan
6th United States Chargé d'Affaires to Texas
In office
November 29, 1844 – August 9, 1845
PresidentJohn Tyler
James K. Polk
Preceded byTilghman Howard
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Personal details
Born(1799-08-25)August 25, 1799
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
DiedJune 26, 1871(1871-06-26) (aged 71)
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Other political
Know Nothing (1856)
Constitutional Union (1860)
Emily Donelson
(m. 1824; died 1836)

Elizabeth Martin Randolph (m. 1841)
RelativesRachel Jackson (Paternal aunt)
Daniel Smith Donelson (Brother)
EducationUniversity of Nashville
United States Military Academy (BS)
Transylvania University

Andrew Jackson Donelson (August 25, 1799 – June 26, 1871) was an American diplomat. He served in various positions as a Democrat and was the Know Nothing nominee for Vice President of the United States in 1856.

After the death of his father, Donelson was adopted[citation needed] by his aunt, Rachel Jackson, and her husband, Andrew Jackson. Donelson attended the United States Military Academy and served under his uncle in Florida. He resigned his commission and studied law, beginning his own practice in Nashville. He assisted Jackson's presidential campaigns and served as his private secretary after Jackson won the 1828 presidential election. He returned to Tennessee after the end of Jackson's presidency in 1837 and remained active in local politics.

After helping James K. Polk triumph at the 1844 Democratic National Convention, Donelson was appointed by President John Tyler to represent the United States in the Republic of Texas, where Donelson played an important role in the annexation of Texas. In 1846, President Polk appointed Donelson appointed as Minister to Prussia. He left that position in 1849 and became the editor of a Democratic newspaper, but alienated various factions in the party. In 1856, the Know Nothings chose him as their vice presidential nominee, and he campaigned on a ticket with former Whig President Millard Fillmore. The ticket finished in third place in both the electoral and popular vote behind the Democratic and Republican tickets. Donelson also participated in the 1860 Constitutional Union Convention.

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  • ✪ History Brief: Andrew and Rachel Jackson
  • ✪ The American Presidential Election of 1856
  • ✪ American History - Part 052 - Jackson Heartbroken - Rachel Dies - Jackson Inauguration -
  • ✪ General Ulysses S Grant: 'Mr Lincolns Butcher' | Civil War Journal


Throughout his life, family was important to Andrew Jackson. While much is known of his political life, Jackson’s private life was equally fascinating and turbulent. Who was Rachel Jackson, and why did her marriage to Andrew cause so much controversy? Rachel Donelson left Virginia at the age of 12. She traveled west, along with her family, aboard a flatboat for almost 1,000 miles to a new settlement called Fort Nashborough (later renamed Nashville). Settling in 1780, the Donelsons were amongst the first white settlers of Nashville. A prominent and influential family, Rachel’s relatives dominated much of the public and political power base of early Nashville. After her family moved to Harrodsburg, Kentucky, the 18-year-old Rachel married Lewis Robards. Rachel’s marriage to Lewis proved to be an unhappy one. Obnoxious and abusive, Lewis frequently accused Rachel of flirting with other men. As divorce was very difficult and unusual at the time, Rachel and Lewis separated. Rachel returned to Nashville where she met a budding young lawyer named Andrew Jackson. Rachel and Andrew instantly fell in love. During their courtship, Andrew and Rachel heard a false rumor that Rachel’s husband had obtained a divorce. The couple traveled together to Natchez, Mississippi and returned to Tennessee as a married couple in 1791. The Jacksons later discovered that a friend of Lewis Robards had intentionally printed a false statement about Rachel and Lewis’ divorce being official and that the proceedings had not been completed. By law, this made the newlywed couple adulterers and the marriage invalid. Lewis then charged Rachel with adultery, thus enabling their marriage to be terminated. Rachel and Andrew remarried in Nashville in 1794. Due to the bizarre circumstances of their weddings, Rachel’s previous marriage, and charges of bigamy and adultery, Jackson’s relationship with Rachel sparked much gossip and controversy throughout the course of his political career. Jackson’s opponents were always quick to seize upon the scandal for political fodder, and Jackson was always swift and severe in his defense of Rachel (even engaging in duels). Rachel, unlike Andrew, never enjoyed being a part of the public arena. She supported him in all endeavors, but consistently reminded her husband not to allow military victories, political achievements, and public fame to rule over him. After his victory over the British at the Battle of New Orleans, Jackson’s popularity soared to levels rivaling that of George Washington. Rachel warned her husband against pursuing personal glory over the love of his family. Although Andrew and Rachel never had their own biological children, they adopted three and provided care and guardianship for many others. During the time Rachel spent at the estate, children were a constant presence at The Hermitage. After Rachel’s sister-in-law gave birth to twins, Andrew and Rachel adopted one of the boys to raise as their own. Given the name Andrew Jackson Jr., the boy grew up at The Hermitage and went on to father five children of his own. Lyncoya Jackson became the second adopted son of the couple as a result of Andrew Jackson’s military campaign during the Creek Wars. After intense fighting, the boy was found alive on the battlefield next to his deceased mother. When the surviving women of the Creek village refused to care for the boy, he was taken to General Jackson. Jackson, an orphan himself, took sympathy on the child and sent him to The Hermitage to serve as a playmate and companion of Andrew Jackson Jr. Over time, Jackson took a strong liking to the boy and hoped to send him to West Point Military Academy, where Andrew Jackson Jr. also attended. Unfortunately, like many young people of his time, Lyncoya died a tragic death before ever reaching adulthood. The third child to be adopted by the Jacksons was Andrew Jackson Hutchings, the grandson of Rachel’s sister. Orphaned before he reached the age of five, “Little Hutchings” was raised and educated at The Hermitage alongside Andrew Jackson Jr. and Lyncoya. Hutchings went on to attend college in Virginia and marry the daughter of Andrew Jackson’s close friend John Coffee. Although far from being a traditional family, the love Jackson, his wife, and three adopted children had for one another has never been questioned. Despite the vicious attacks hurled at Rachel throughout the course of their relationship, Jackson loved his wife and children far too much to be ashamed of them. During Jackson’s first two campaigns for president, Rachel’s past became a frequent subject of political mudslinging. Opponents described her as a “fat little dumpling”, criticized her country accent and lack of education, and never backed off of their claims of adultery and bigamy. Jackson thought she was perfect.


Early life

One of the three sons of Samuel and Mary Donelson, Andrew Jackson Donelson was born in Nashville, Tennessee. His younger brother, Daniel Smith Donelson, was the Confederate brigadier general after whom Fort Donelson was named. Donelson's father died when Donelson was about five. When his mother remarried, Donelson moved to The Hermitage, the home of his aunt, Rachel Donelson Jackson, and her husband, Donelson's namesake, future President of the United States Andrew Jackson. Rachel and Andrew Jackson adopted all three Donelson sons, including Andrew.

Donelson attended Cumberland College in Nashville and then joined the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, graduating second in his class in 1820. His two years as an officer in the United States Army were spent as aide-de-camp to Andrew Jackson, by then a major general, as Jackson campaigned against the Seminoles in Florida. With the campaign over, Donelson resigned his commission and studied law at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. A year later, he started practicing law in Nashville and, less than a year after that, had married his first cousin, Emily Tennessee Donelson.

Democratic politics

Donelson assisted his uncle during the 1824 and 1828 presidential campaigns and, in 1829, he became Jackson's private secretary when his uncle was inaugurated as President of the United States. His wife Emily served as White House hostess and unofficial First Lady of the United States due to Rachel Jackson's death in December, 1828. Donelson remained Jackson's private secretary throughout his administration. During his stay in Washington, Donelson had his new home, Poplar Grove (later renamed Tulip Grove), constructed on the land he had inherited from his father, which was adjacent to the Hermitage.

In 1836, Tulip Grove was completed. Shortly afterward Emily died of tuberculosis, leaving four young children. Donelson moved back to Nashville after Jackson's retirement the following year, where he helped Jackson sustain the Democratic party in a variety of ways for the next seven years. These services included writing newspaper editorials defending Democratic principles and helping Democratic candidates campaign for state, local, and national offices. In 1841, Donelson married another cousin, Elizabeth (Martin) Randolph, with whom he would have eight more children. Elizabeth Martin Randolph was a widow of Meriwether Lewis Randolph, a son of Martha Jefferson Randolph, and a grandson of Thomas Jefferson).

A campaign ribbon for the Fillmore-Donelson ticket
A campaign ribbon for the Fillmore-Donelson ticket

In 1844, Donelson was instrumental in helping James K. Polk win the Democratic presidential nomination over Martin Van Buren and other more notable candidates. President John Tyler appointed Donelson Chargé d'Affaires of the United States mission to the Republic of Texas, probably hoping that Jackson's nephew would help persuade former Tennessee politician Sam Houston to endorse the United States' annexation of Texas. Donelson was successful in this endeavor, and Texas joined the United States on December 29, 1845. He was then made Minister to Prussia in 1846, a position he would hold until President Polk's Democratic administration was replaced by the Whig administration of Zachary Taylor in 1849. (Donelson's constant complaining about his personal finances and desire for a higher salary probably had more to do with the change than partisan differences.) Between September 1848 and November 1849, during the time of the Frankfurt Parliament, he was the U.S. envoy to the short-lived revolutionary government of Germany in Frankfurt.

Vice presidential nomination and retirement

In 1851, Donelson became the editor of the Washington Union, a Democratic newspaper. However, as sectionalism became the dominant issue of American politics, Donelson became unpopular with several factions within the Democratic party, who forced him out in 1852. In 1856, Donelson was nominated as the running mate of former President Millard Fillmore on the American Party ticket. Fillmore and Donelson managed to garner over 20 per cent of the popular vote but only the eight electoral votes of Maryland.

In 1858, Donelson sold Tulip Grove and moved to Memphis, Tennessee. He participated primarily in local politics there, although he was a delegate to the Constitutional Union party's national nominating convention, which nominated his old Tennessee nemesis, John Bell, as its presidential candidate. During the Civil War, Donelson was harassed by both sides of the conflict. He also lost two of his sons in the war. During Reconstruction, he split time between his Memphis home and his plantation in Bolivar County, Mississippi. In his correspondence with his wife, he groused about the need to pay wages to African American workers who had once been slaves. He died at the Peabody Hotel, Memphis, Tennessee and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery.


  • Mark R. Cheathem, Old Hickory's Nephew: The Political and Private Struggles of Andrew Jackson Donelson (LSU Press, 2007).
  • "Andrew Jackson Donelson's Home in Bolivar County, Mississippi". Jacksonian America: Society, Personality, and Politics blog. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
  • "The History". Historic Rock Castle. Archived from the original on March 11, 2005. Retrieved February 20, 2006.
  • Ellis, Hugo (2001-06-06). "Donelson, Andrew Jackson". Handbook of Texas Online. The Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 2006-09-03.
  • Wikisource-logo.svg Wilson, J. G.; Fiske, J., eds. (1900). "Donelson, Andrew Jackson" . Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.

External links

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Tilghman Howard
United States Chargé d'Affaires to Texas
Position abolished
Preceded by
Henry Wheaton
United States Envoy to Prussia
Succeeded by
Edward A. Hannegan
Party political offices
Preceded by
William Graham
Whig nominee for Vice President of the United States

Succeeded by
Edward Everett
Constitutional Union
Preceded by
Reynell Coates
American nominee for Vice President of the United States
Party dissolved
This page was last edited on 13 October 2019, at 16:06
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