Elizabeth Jackson’s Words of Wisdom to Her Son

From Belyna Bentlage of Indiana, a photo taken while visiting Charleston, South Carolina:

“This stone marker, found on the campus of the College of Charleston, shows advice Elizabeth Jackson gave her son ‘Andy,’ the future 7th president of the United States: “Andy, never tell a lie, nor take what is not your own, nor sue for slander, settle those cases yourself.”

This memorial stone, not actually a grave marker, is filled with meaning, and not only because Jackson was later accused of taking Indian land that was not his own. Her reputed advice not to sue for slander, but to “settle those cases yourself” was certainly followed by Andrew Jackson, who more than once challenged men to duels over perceived insults.

His mother shepherded Jackson through his early life despite their relative poverty. She was a Scots-Irish immigrant who gave birth to Andrew in 1767. His father died shortly before Andrew was born, and the surviving family moved into another family’s household, where Elizabeth essentially became a housekeeper. She died of cholera during the American Revolution, when Andrew was just fourteen. She contracted the disease after volunteering to nurse American prisoners of war who had been held by the British at Charleston harbor; Jackson ever after regarded himself not merely as an orphan, but as a man orphaned by the British in war.

Many years later, Jackson committed an act that suggested how he felt about his mother’s death. In 1813, troops under Jackson’s command attacked a village held by Creek rebels, and killed many of them, including women and children. An infant was found in the village whose parents were killed. He was brought to General Jackson. Jackson said he felt unusual sympathy for the orphan, who reminded him of his own wartime experience. He had the baby, named Lyncoya, sent to his home at the Hermitage outside Nashville, intending him to be a playmate for Jackson’s adopted son. Although it’s not clear that this Creek boy was adopted in any formal sense into the Jackson family, Lyncoya lived at the Hermitage and was apparently part of the Jackson household until his death of disease as a teenager.