JACKSON, Andrew. Autograph letter signed ("Andrew Jackson"), with autograph postscript signed ("A. J."), to Maj. Henry ("Black Horse Harry") Lee, Hermitage, 25 December 1826. 4½ pages, 4to, some see through, seal hole on address leaf.
NEVER APOLOGIZE: JACKSON VIGOROUSLY DEFENDS HIS BLOODY PAST AS HE READIES FOR HIS 1828 RUN FOR THE PRESIDENCY
A long, powerful letter justifying his controversial actions in the Creek War of 1812 and the seizure of Florida, and suggesting that the members of the Hartford Convention should have been hanged for disloyalty. Lee was writing a campaign biography of Jackson and the General pledges his cooperation, promising to furnish any relevant document. He modestly claims that he "cannot speak of myself, relate anecdotes of myself, which have not been recorded by others," but he feels no limitation about giving a vigorous legal, moral and patriotic defense of several controversial episodes from his past, starting with the Battle of Horse Shoe Bend--the bloody and climactic battle of the Creek War in which Jackson's men killed some 800 of the 1,000 Red Stick tribesmen that fought against them. "As to the praise bestowed upon the militia at the Horse Shoe & the complaint of Col. Williams, rumored to have been made, it will be sufficient to refer you to my communications to the commanding Genl. Pinckney, & to the Sec. of War upon that subject; also to Genl. [Sam] Houston who was an active agent in the affair & got severely wounded there. From these sources you will at once discover upon what foundation rests this charge against me." Opponents charged Jackson with excessive savagery in terms of both the number killed and the mutilation of corpses after the battle. Jackson points out that the Red Sticks, who gave no quarter in the fight, refused to surrender.
Turning to the execution of two British subjects (Robert Ambrister and James Arbuthnot) for aiding the Seminoles during Jackson's conquest of Florida in 1819, the General writes: "It is true that I wrote hastily those letters to Mr. Monroe to which you refer & that I never calculated that they would be published. The sacred confidence, however, which characterize them, served to increase the malignity of those who were anxious to destroy me...encouraged the hope that their publication would effect all that was desired. But they have been mistaken...I cannot see upon what constitutional grounds he can be refused the power of punishing all delinquents who fail to comply with the legal orders of the Government...I think it will be found written that all who aid the enemy or who hold correspondence with him directly or indirectly; or who aid and comfort him in any way whatsoever, are made punishable with death by the sentence of a court martial..."
Jackson thinks the Hartford Convention, at the close of the War of 1812, epitomized exactly the kind of disloyalty he's talking about. "If I had been placed in command in that section of the country by order of the President," he says, "I should have at once tried the strength of the powers of the government in a state of war...by punishing all concerned in combinations to aid the enemy & paralyzing our own efforts. If this course of my judgment had been condemned, all good men & patriots would have at least commended the motives."