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07.01.03 Andrew Jackson, The Life of, a biography by Marquis James, made up of Vol. 1, The Border Captain (1933) and Vol. 2, Portrait of a President (1937)

Notes Concerning the Author:

Marquis James (1891-1955) was born in Springfield, Missouri to parents Houstin James, a lawyer, and Rachel Leo Marquis James, a schoolteacher.  The family migrated to Enid, Oklahoma in 1894, when Marquis was only 3 years old.  There he spent his childhood, graduating from Enid High School in 1910.  Although his father had died two years earlier, Marquis managed to spend one year at Phillips University before feeling that he needed to set out on his own finding work as a reporter for “various newspapers across the country.”  He married “fellow reporter Bessie Williams Rowland in 1914.”  During The First World War, James was an Army captain in France (1917-1919).  Leaving the Army at the age of 28, James spent the following 9 years as “the National Publicity Director for the American Legion and worked on the staff at the American Legion Monthly.”

So, like many historians whose work is on our Society’s Recommended Reading List, Marquis James was neither an historian by profession nor an academic.  But history and writing were obviously his passions and it is likely that wife Bessie was helpful.  Two important biographies by Marquis James are on our Recommended Reading List.  The first published (1929) was a biography of Sam Houston, titled, “The Raven,” and for that biography James received a Pulitzer Prize the following year.  The second published was a biography of Andrew Jackson, initially presented in two volumes: volume 1, The Border Captain, 1934, and volume 2, The Portrait of a President, 1937.  Then, in 1938 the two Jackson volumes were combined into one book, titled, The Life of Andrew Jackson.  For the Jackson biography, James also received a Pulitzer Prize.

Between 1923 and 1954 Marquis James wrote many other histories, often histories of large corporations or major business leaders (DuPont, Metropolitan Life, W. R. Grace, Texaco and others).

In 1955 James “died suddenly at the age of 64 of a cerebral haemorrhage.”     


Andrew Jackson (1867-1845) was born to Elizabeth Jackson at her sister’s home in the Waxhaw region, which straddled the border that separated North Carolina from South Carolina.  The baby, a third son, was named for his father who had died a month earlier.  Sadly, the father had “‘strained himself lifting a log,’ it was said, ‘and took to bed in great pain’,” and died a few days later.  Fortunately, Elizabeth found support in the home of her sister Jane and her brother-in-law James Crawford.  Both families — of Scottish ancestry and recent immigrants from County Antrim, Northern Ireland — had come as pioneers to the Waxhaw region to be neighbors to what was left of the Native American Nation of that name.  The focal point of the community, located south of Charlotte, North Carolina, was the Waxhaw Church.

By the age of 9 years, young Andrew Jackson could read rather well and displayed a confident and commanding voice.  When a man arrived at his uncle Captain James Crawford’s house with a copy of the new nation’s July 4, 1776 Declaration of Independence, “30 or 40” arrived to hear it being read.  The chosen reader was young Andy.  The lad was even then committed to the cause of independence from Great Britain, as were most recent immigrants from Northern Ireland and Scotland.  Not just committed in the normal sense of the word — committed to the extreme sense of the word. 

For four years the fight to defend American independence was confined to the northern States while peace prevailed in the Carolinas — that is until the fall of Charleston in May 1780.  Jackson’s uncle, now Major Robert Crawford, “was captured but released on parole.”  But Crawford would not let a legal “parole” paper stop him from resuming the fight.  He broke “parole” and “reformed his shattered command as mounted militia.”  Colonel Thomas Sumter arrived in the Waxhaw region with other militia and “the distracted community rallied about him.” Brothers Robert and Andrew Jackson, mere boys, hung around the camps helping where they could — helping Elizabeth tend to wounded and moving about carrying messages.

Then, in April 1781, Robert and Andrew Jackson were captured and imprisoned.  Robert died of smallpox, contracted while imprisoned.  Andrew suffered a horrible cut upon his arm and head from an abusive sword strike by a Tory, leaving scars that would forever ensure his unmitigated hated of British rule.  There would be a third “scar.”  Elizabeth would go to Charleston to nurse Patriots who were imprisoned in the holes of ships anchored in Charleston Harbor.  In that act of mercy, she would succumb to the plague and die in November 1781.   At this point Andrew was 14 years, 8 months old.

But Andrew Jackson was no ordinary teenager.  By age 18 he was in Salisbury, North Carolina, clerking in law and making a decided impression.  One inhabitant recalled, “Andrew Jackson was the most roaring, rollicking, game-cocking, horse-racing, card-playing, mischievous fellow that ever lived in Salisbury . . . the head of the rowdies hereabouts . . . more in the stable than in the office.”  But he was not destined to remain there long.

“In September of 1788 the Cumberland Road was opened across the Cumberland range and 180 miles of Cherokee country,” linking [what is now eastern Tennessee] to the Cumberland River Valley and what is now Nashville.  Jackson “joined the first immigrant train to use the new trail.”  Of his arrival, Marquis James would write:

“On Sunday, October 26th, the wagons climbed to the crest of a bluff overlooking the Cumberland.  Inside a shambling fence built to keep the browsing buffalo at a distance, stood, in order of importance, two taverns, two stores, one distillery, one court-house and a fringe of cabins, bark tents and ‘wagon camps.’  Andrew Jackson had reached the theatre of his labors.”

He was 21 years old.

Space in this abstract does not permit telling about Andrew Jackson’s military leadership over militia engaged in fighting Native Americans (mostly Creeks, some Cherokees); his military leadership over the defense of New Orleans, the final amazing triumph of America over the British in the War of 1812, or his military and political leadership over the acquisition of West Florida;  Nor does time permit reporting on his marriage to Rachel, his law practice in Nashville, his political life, his home and farm named “The Hermitage,” and his magnificent race horses.  You already know that Andrew Jackson was elected President of the United States.  When was that?  That was during a very, very important time in the life and history of our nation. 

If you want to know our history and if you want to live it through the lives of our major leaders, then you must include Andrew Jackson in your reading list (second only to George Washington).  You will be amply rewarded in the narrative telling of his life by Marquis James.  James writes for the ordinary reader, not for other historians.  His writing style is neither verbose nor academically analytical.  He simply gives you the very best narrative of the life of one of America’s greatest leaders — a great Nation Builder — Andrew Jackson of Tennessee.

This work was a very fitting choice for a Pulitzer Prize. 

In seeking to experience and understand the southern culture through it leaders, five men are recommend for your consideration.  Live their lives through the biographies recommended by the Society — witness their family and faith, their options and choices made, their struggles and sufferings, their sadness and happiness, their defeats and triumphs.  Observe how those life experiences molded their character and made them magnificent leaders of their people.  Here are the five: 

George Washington of Virginia: Father of our Country — a study of determination.

Thomas Jefferson of Virginia: Exceptional President — a study of intelligence and wisdom.

Andrew Jackson of Tennessee: Military Leader and Exceptional President — a study of leadership.

Sam Houston of the Republic of Texas: Military Leader and Exceptional President — a study of courage.

Jefferson Davis of Mississippi: President of the Confederate States of America — a study of devotion.

Availability of this Book

Marquis James’ biography of Andrew Jackson is widely available as a used book for under $10.00.  Recommend order from Amazon or other used book seller.   Choose James’ over Remini, who wrote a more recent biography of Jackson.  With James you live the life of Andy Jackson as it ought to be experienced.  This ought to be a Kindle e-book, but, alas, not yet. 

For a companion resource, readers are also encouraged to obtain a reprint of the 1878, 362-page book, The Complete Memoirs of Andrew Jackson, Seventh President of the United States, Containing a Full Account of His Military Life and Achievements, with His Career as President, written by John Henry Eaton and Jerome Van Crowninshield (see Amazon).