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Jackson, President of the People
1At 11 a.m. on March 4, 1829, a bright sunny day, Andrew Jackson, hatless and dressed severely in black, left his quarters at Gadsby's Hotel. 2In the company of a few close associates, he walked up Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol. 3At a few minutes after noon, he emerged on the East Portico with the justices of the Supreme Court and other dignitaries. 4Before a throng of more than 15,000 people he delivered an almost inaudible and thoroughly commonplace address, and then he took the presidential oath. 5The first man to congratulate him was Chief Justice Marshall, who had administered the oath. 6The second was "Honest George" Kremer, who led the cheering crowd that brushed past the barricade and scrambled up the Capitol steps to wring the new president's hand.
7Jackson shouldered his way through the crush, mounted a splendid white horse, and rode off to the White House. 8A reception had been announced, to which "the officially and socially eligible as defined by precedent" had been invited. 9The day was unseasonably warm after a hard winter, and the streets of Washington were muddy. 10As Jackson rode down Pennsylvania Avenue, the crowds that had turned out to see the Hero of New Orleans followed—on horseback, in rickety wagons, and on foot. 11Nothing could keep them out of the executive mansion, and the result was chaos. 12Long tables laden with cakes, ice cream, and orange punch had been set up in the East Room, but these scarcely deflected the well-wishers. 13Jackson was pressed back helplessly as men tracked mud across valuable rugs and clambered up on delicate chairs to catch a glimpse of him. 14The White House shook with their shouts. 15Glassware splintered, furniture was turned over, women fainted.
16Jackson was a thin old man despite his toughness, and soon he was in danger. 17Fortunately, friends formed a cordon and managed to extricate him through a rear door. 18The new president spent his first night in office at Gadsby's.
19Only a generation earlier Jefferson had felt obliged to introduce pell-mell to encourage informality in the White House. 20Now a man whom John Quincy Adams called "a barbarian" held Jefferson's office, and as one Supreme Court justice complained, "The reign of King 'Mob' seemed triumphant."
Adapted from Garraty and Carnes, The American
Nation, Volume I, 10th ed., pp. 249–50