Born to parents of modest means, Jackson tried to improve his economic condition by working for wages and fees as a soldier, attorney, judge and politician; by reselling goods like knives, files, silk hose, hats, sugar, raisins, wines and other sundries; by borrowing money to buy large tracts of cheap wilderness land that he hoped to flip for a profit; and by buying and managing a plantation. He struggled at first as a merchant and land speculator but managed to accumulate modest wealth as the owner of a fairly large, highly diversified plantation – “the Hermitage” – located near Nashville, Tennessee.
Like most planters, Jackson was asset rich but cash poor. His land and slaves were undoubtedly valuable but, scarred by losses incurred during his land speculation days, Jackson was reluctant to borrow against them. And when western bank notes depreciated after the Panic of 1819 he could not even scrape together enough money to tour the eastern states. He bred and raced horses, a very lucrative sideline. One of his horses, Truxton, won more than $20,000 in prize money and commanded $30 stud fees. Jackson also grew corn for the slaves and livestock, and wheat and cotton for sale in the market. By his presidency, he had over 100 slaves. Andrew Jr., one of Jackson’s sons, ran Jackson into debt by mismanaging the plantation during Jackson’s long absences in Washington. Political supporter Frank Blair kept the plantation together by lending Jackson $7,000 during the long recession that began in 1837.
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