FACT CHECK: Did Andrew Jackson Say, ‘One Man With Courage Makes A Majority’?
A Facebook post alleges that former President Andrew Jackson once said, “One man with courage makes a majority.”
While the saying is widely attributed to him, there is no evidence that it originated with Jackson.
Widely considered the founder of the Democratic Party, Jackson served as the seventh U.S. president. Before being elected to the Oval Office, he had a successful military career.
While the internet is replete with quotes attributed to Jackson, this particular expression appears to be apocryphal. There is no record of it in his writings.
Daniel Feller, the director of The Papers of Andrew Jackson at the University of Tennessee, debunked the quote in a 2007 article published in The Los Angeles Times.
“Here at The Papers of Andrew Jackson at the University of Tennessee, we collect and publish copies of every authenticated Jackson writing and utterance,” wrote Feller. “We have nothing to corroborate his authorship of this line.”
The misattribution likely stems from usage of a slight variation of the quote in James Parton’s 1860 three-volume biography titled “Life of Andrew Jackson,” according to Feller. The saying – “desperate courage makes one a majority” – appears on the title page of each volume in quotation marks.
However, there is no indication that Parton intended the expression to be interpreted as Jackson’s words. It was actually meant as a criticism of the seventh president because Parton, according to Feller, thought Jackson was a “headstrong ignoramus whose desperate courage overrode other men’s good sense.”
“Parton did not mean it as a compliment, and Jackson, were he alive to see it, certainly would not have taken it as such,” Feller said in the 2007 article.
The Daily Caller News Foundation reached out to two other experts, neither of whom thought the saying came from Jackson. H.W. Brands, a history professor at the University of Texas at Austin, also noted in an email to the DCNF that it did not sound like Jackson.
The origin of the saying is unknown but similar expressions have been found in the works of transcendentalist writer Henry David Thoreau and abolitionist Wendell Phillips.
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