Thursday, January 30, 2014

Thursday in History: Attempted

Today, the President is protected by many Secret Service Agents. They make sure he’s safe while he goes about the business of running the country. But back in the days when the country was still going through puberty, things were different.
Andrew Jackson is not known for his quiet and unassuming presidency. His term in office was a lot like the man himself: bumpy, full of struggles, and sometimes dangerous. There were times when he was popular, and there were times when he wasn’t. He was the first President to be attacked by a member of the public, and the first President to be the target of an attempted assassination.
Embezzling is never a good idea, because the inevitable ending is that you’ll be caught and kicked out of the Navy. Nobody told Robert B. Randolph this, however, and he was caught and dishonorably discharged from his post by Andrew Jackson. On the way to the dedication of a monument in Virginia in May of 1833, the former sailor appeared and punched Jackson in the face. He escaped, chased by those who were traveling with the President. Ultimately, no charges were filed against Randolph.
But maybe they should have been, because on this day in history in 1835, President Jackson was leaving the Capitol building after a colleague’s funeral and was attacked by a crazy person.
After his capture, Richard Lawrence claimed that he was the king of England (Richard III, in fact. Oh, those time traveling British monarchs), that the President had caused the loss of his job as a house painter, and that money would be plentiful with Jackson gone - he had once vetoed the National Bank.
The attempted assassination failed: both Lawrence’s pistols misfired, most likely due to the high humidity that day. Subsequent tests proved the pistols to be in perfect working order, but legend says that Providence was protecting Jackson, just as it protected the country he served.
The crowd around the President, which included several United States congressmen (Davy Crockett among them), fought back, and the assassin was defeated. There’s a rumor that Jackson himself whacked Lawrence with his cane several times before he was carted off, and though there’s no way to know if that report is true, it totally sounds like something Andrew Jackson would do.
An etching of the attempted assassination
(via wikipedia)
The United States Secret Service was not founded until April 14, 1865. Abraham Lincoln signed the legislation, and it was on his desk that night when he went to Ford’s Theater. It wasn’t until 1902 that the Secret Service took charge of the President’s protection. Our Presidents are safer now, and it’s better this way: “apprehended by the Secret Service” is much more civilized than “wrestled to the ground by a United States Representative while being beaten with a cane by the President.”

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