The Advice Andrew Jackson’s Mother Gave Him Before She Died

Andrew Jackson said that these were his mother’s last words to him:

“Andrew, if I should not see you again, I wish you to remember and treasure up some things I have already said to you: in this world you will have to make your own way. To do that you must have friends. You can make friends by being honest, and you can keep them by being steadfast. You must keep in mind that friends worth having will in the long run expect as much from you as they give to you. To forget an obligation or be ungrateful for a kindness is a base crime-not merely a fault or a sin, but an actual crime. Men guilty of it sooner or later must suffer the penalty. In personal conduct be always polite but never obsequious. None will respect you more than you respect yourself. Avoid quarrels as long as you can without yielding to imposition. But sustain your manhood always. Never bring a suit in law for assault and battery or for defamation. The law affords no remedy for such outrages that can satisfy the feelings of a true man. Never wound the feelings of others. Never brook wanton outrage upon your own feelings. If you ever have to vindicate your feelings or defend your honor, do it calmly. If angry at first, wait until your wrath cools before you proceed.”

Jackson took his mother’s advice  to heart by ever so calmly defending his honor in at least 13 duels, one of which he allowed the other man to shoot him first, took the bullet in his ribs without quivering, and then shot his opponent dead.

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris November 15, 2011 at 2:57 pm

It’s unfortunate that not a single one of the thousands and thousands and thousands of Indians he was complicit in the butchery of hadn’t found him in THEIR crosshairs. One of the worst “heroes” of American history, and presider over one of its darkest chapters, in my opinion.

Bob November 15, 2011 at 5:25 pm

I assume you mean the Trail of Tears (as opposed to those who died during various wars). Allowing Georgia to evict peaceful settled tribes after the discovery of gold was certainly the worst thing he did and no account should ignore it. Just like they should not ignore the many things he did well in uniform and in office.

ram November 15, 2011 at 7:15 pm


There have been slaughters and genocide for as long as there has been mankind. Get off your high-horse, Jackson was ten million times the man you will ever be. As a founder of the USA, he helped build what turned out to be the greatest civilization in human history. Those guys had it right. After all, it is no coincidence that basically every modern invention in the world comes from the USA, or is based on American technology.

Jackson was everything. You are nothing.

Nathan November 16, 2011 at 5:42 am

Have we forgotten how to take advice so soon? Never wound the feelings of others (SEE ABOVE). Let’s focus on the fact that the advice AJ’s Mother gave him was sound advice. Have you listened to your late mothers advice lately?

Cocktailsfor2 November 16, 2011 at 9:13 am

Note to Editor: your “duel” link results in a “page not found.”

“ram,” I suggest you heed Nathan’s advice. Slagging someone on the internet is typically pretty pointless, and using phrases like “Jackson was everything. You are nothing.” does little to sway others toward your POV.

I also suggest you take a look at Wikipedia’s page on Jackson:
[ ]

Good day.

While he did a great many things, he was also deeply flawed (as are we all)

Rob November 16, 2011 at 11:43 am

I find these comments humorous. I will evoke Godwin’s Law and say that everyone in this comment thread is Hitler. There, are we done fighting yet?

Daniel November 16, 2011 at 12:51 pm

I hope so, Rob.

I was going to post a reaction but then I re-read “If you ever have to vindicate your feelings or defend your honor, do it calmly. If angry at first, wait until your wrath cools before you proceed.”

Question. I’m in my twenties and would like to hear from some of the older readers on this site who have the experience to speak to this: has society gotten way more reactionary* in the past twenty or so years, or is it just me? And why do you think that is?

*by this I mean, I’ve noticed that as I have gotten older, I’m more inclined talk first, think later, rather than step back and consider something before responding. Anyone else?

Tynee November 16, 2011 at 1:06 pm

I think you make an excellent observation, but it may not be that society as a whole has changed so much as you are growing up and beginning to notice these things. I would take it as a sign of maturation.

BTW, I’ve only got about 15 years on you…

Anthony November 17, 2011 at 12:15 am

This is a great post, with advice that needs to fall on more ears these days.

Daniel, perhaps things will always appear more reactionary when you are browsing online forums. When you are anonymous it is easy to say your first reaction and not worry about the repercussions of your words as you probably will never see that person again. One could also argue that people are beginning to communicate in real life as they would online. if that is so, than I think proper manners, as well as the English language are in trouble

John November 17, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Andrew Jackson had a serious problem with anger. His mother knew this. For all of this poor decisions, for whatever reason, his mother knew what to say and what he should have done. Andrew Jackson treated his wife in an exemplary fashion, from what I understand, he challenged a man to a duel on her honour. He took a bullet in the torso, and to the astonishment of his opponent, raised his gun and killed the man. By the values of the day, he was a man to be respected.

Personally, I think his treatment of native americans forever puts him in the list of men who had a negative effect on the development of a just world.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn lessons from them, though.

Bill November 17, 2011 at 4:44 pm

I understand your feelings, but you have to understand the context and era AJ was living in. .. During the French and Indian War the Native Americans sided with the French.. During the Rev. War they sided with the British. During the War of 1812 they again sided with the British committing many atrocities … He was a significant participant in the latter two wars and against the Seminoles. … Revisionist history is 20/20 hindsight.

Bill November 17, 2011 at 4:50 pm

With all respect, my post is also for you. ..History and people who lived back then should not be measured with a 21st century stick. …

John November 17, 2011 at 5:46 pm

True enough, Bill. Old Hickory is a giant of American masculinity, and I don’ t want to come off as diminishing that… My point wasn’t to drag him down, but merely to humanize him. All have faults, and in order to glean proper lessons from any given figures life, we need to be aware of all facets.

By that logic, we can learn similar lessons from that masculine feminist, Genghis Khan, or that absolutist man of virtue, Frederick the Great.

Good points, overall, Bill.

Randy November 17, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Bill, you have it right. Jackson was the right man for his time and should not be judged through the lens of 21st century political correctness and historical revisionism. His admonitions from his mother were shaped by her knowledge of his personality and served him as ideals for him to follow. I carry ideals for which I strive, but sometimes I fall short, only to do better later.

I think that his greatest contribution to the nation was something he did as president: the abolition of the Bank of the United States. If only we had a man today who would do the same to the Federal Reserve.

Jeffery November 18, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Great essay about Jackson’s mothers’ advice, but I find the discussion just as worthy. All of this to say that I’m very glad I’ve found AOM and recommend it to every aspiring man I know. Thanks, gentlemen.

Jeffery November 18, 2011 at 2:06 pm

After reading up on Mr. Jackson, I was surprised to find that after the Creek war, he and his wife Rachel adopted an orphaned Creek indian boy named Lyncoya. Hmm.

Bill November 18, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Good point… That’s what reading history does to a person. It makes him informed, and able to give a sound defense in a debate. …

bj November 18, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Daniel – To address your question, I don’t think the world has gotten more “reactionary”, but I think the reactions have gotten less focused. I do believe it has gotten easier to react and respond to situations, ideas and thoughts in a virtual world than IRL. The current Occupy movement is in stark contract to the anti-war movement of 40 years ago. The clear “peace” message has been replaced by a fragmented “the world is not fair” message. Not sure that is progress.

Andrew November 19, 2011 at 11:10 pm

A rich slave owner and genocide proponent. The man seems to have been a bit of a Viking — cool when you’re ten but a bit of a wanton brute later on.

War of 1812 was an attempt to steal land from those who owned it.

War of Independence was won in no small part by the French.

Whoever you’re fighting, it’s no excuse for genocide.

bill November 20, 2011 at 9:37 am

Well Andrew, I guess that settles the debate. There is no need for further posts.

Chris November 21, 2011 at 10:11 pm

As the owner of the initial comment, it was an error not to first recognize the value of Jackson’s mother’s advice. There’s no debating the soundness of her words. I shouldn’t have overlooked them and it was wrong. Andrew Jackson is one of those historical persons who press all the wrong buttons, and I shouldn’t have made a comment that could be construed as an attack on folks who think differently without first at least a nod to the actual POINT of the original post.

But I stand by my comments regarding my opinion of the man. Personally, I don’t think the guy really lived up to those words. My knowledge of the man certainly isn’t exhaustive, but it’s enough to feel justified in my measure of him, regardless of whether it seems to be based on the “rose-colored glasses of modern political correctness.” Perhaps he has some manly virtues; I can’t see beyond the things I don’t like. No man is without flaw. I just choose to fine my archetypes elsewhere.

I apologize if my initial comment offended anyone (except “ram” of course; he hasn’t earned the respect of an apology); it was directed at no one other than Jackson himself. I’d happily duel the salty bastard if I could, provided it was over a more politically correct arena like the arm wrestling table.

T.M. August November 30, 2011 at 10:01 pm

You duel Jackson, you do it with a pistol. Shoot the summabitch; he’d respect you for it.
Since its pretty likely that he didn’t intend for things to end as terribly as they did for southeastern nations, he might even have let you get a shot off.

Jay February 1, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Where would we be if he hadn’t moved the indians?… You think about that

Patrick February 26, 2012 at 7:05 pm

“Memory is a veil that blurs historical reality, and filters the past through
a flimsy cloth for the wearers preferences, or the dictates of fashion . ”

Historical monday morning quarterbacking is to easy, so safe and sound in the 21st century. It’s almost a certainty that anyone who reads a little about Andrew Jackson and develops a distaste for the man by what is mostly negative biased info, and had they the opportunity to actually live back then in the environs he personally experienced, they would be commenting a lot differently.

In Defense of Andrew Jackson:

mickey d April 1, 2012 at 10:42 pm

I once worked for a man from Arkansas on his ranch in South Tx. Although wealthy and well connected (friends with dale earnhardt before he passed, bush, and reagan) he is among the most humble men I have ever met. Anyhow, he had this letter framed in the hallway outside of my room. There is no doubt he took this advice to heart when he read it, and that it helped him earn his success.
-in this world you will have to make your own way

Rebecca September 23, 2012 at 8:52 pm

First of all, Andrew Jackson did like Native Americans. He fought side by side with them in warfare and he adopted a Native American boy.

Secondly, it is because he did care about the Native Americans, that he signed the Removal Act of 1830. We have to understand what the Southeast was like in early 1800s. The prejudice towards Native Americans was extremely horrific. Native Americans were being kidnapped, beaten, and hung left and right by extremely prejudice whites. Segregation was the best choice to make at the time; Native Americans would have been far worse off if they had stayed in the Southeast.

Third, the Removal Act was greatly mishandled and should not be condoned. But the way it was handled was not the doings of Andrew Jackson. Jackson only signed the Act. The Act was taken into effect when Martin Van Buren became President in 1837. And it was Van Buren who misused federal troops to march about 20,000 Native Americans.

a Native American and an aspiring historian.

subash January 14, 2014 at 10:32 am

for the isiont up there who said that all the greatest tech is based in USA… the best comes from germany.. the nazis beat your sorry asses off the planet … andrew jackson killed the relationship with england.. he killed the relationship with spain.. he killed not only the relationships with the indians but the indians themselves.
he was an illiterate impulsive stupid human being..

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Southern Sage March 16, 2014 at 9:07 pm

Oh, please. Drop the “poor Native Americans” nonsense. The Indians would laugh at you with contempt. Jackson and Americans of that time understood that “diversity” is not strength. It is a fatal weakness in a country. The war between the Americans and the Indian tribes was a war to the death and both sides knew it. One or the other would win.
Cruel, yes, but it has always been that way. The strong survive, something our silly Millenials with their crappy music and pointless lives are going to learn soon enough.

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