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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Iron Will of Andrew Jackson

By Levi Woodbury (1789–1851)

[Eulogy on Jackson. Delivered at Portsmouth, N. H., 2 July, 1845.—From Writings of Levi Woodbury. 1852.]

BOTH friends and foes have bestowed on him another characteristic,—of being a man of iron will. When this is meant to imply hardness of heart, nothing could be further from the truth, since no child at the sight of suffering overflowed quicker with the milk of human kindness than the stern-visaged warrior. But when it means that his sense of duty was strong, and stronger even than his feelings, the term may not have been misapplied.

His iron will was mere firmness or inflexibility in the cause he deemed right. It was an indomitable resolution to carry out what conscience dictated. Judgment and the fruits of it, opinion and corresponding conduct, it seemed to him ought to be inseparable. He knew of no compromise, or tampering, or half-way measures with what was wrong. This high moral tone, the very highest in the annals of reformers and martyrs the world over, though often imputed to him as a fault, was, in fact, the crowning glory of his character, whether as a man, or a warrior, or a politician. So far from its having proved inconsistent with seeking full advice, and weighing contradictory reasons, and adopting measures of conciliation, where justifiable and wise, it was generally preceded by the amplest inquiries and the most careful deliberation. But a conclusion having been once formed in this manner, the whole powers of his mind and heart were flung into its execution with almost resistless energy; and then, in fortitude to resist opposition, and in courage to brave all difficulties, and inflexible perseverance to carry out measures deemed right, he may well have been called a man of iron,—a man of destiny,—or the hero of the iron will. Nor did this habit, as some have imagined, make him implacable or unforgiving. For, though like others of a warm temperament, making good haters, as well as good lovers and friends, he often forgave his bitterest enemies, and reconciled differences many deemed insuperable. His custom of assuming responsibility in doubtful cases has been another topic of criticism, but was only a branch of this energetic trait of his character. Blessed with clear perceptions and careful habits of research, he came to more decisive conclusions, and in less time, than most other men; and hence it became his duty under these stronger convictions, to follow them out, and with a manly daring in behalf of what seemed to him right, to act for that right, and act with energy and without fear, whoever else might falter. This, instead of being culpable, seemed at times, amidst fainting and doubting hearts around him, heroic; and if evil was ever connected with it, such a result usually sprung from a defect in forming some opinion, and not in exhibiting the courage and want of hypocrisy to stand by it chivalrously to the last, when not conscious of error.