by James A. McQuiston FSAScot
Despite the recent movement to replace his image on the $20 bill, Andrew Jackson is one of the most popular presidents the United States of America has ever had. He is one of the top three written about, along with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
Jackson is credited with creating the Democratic Party, and with being the first populous president in American history, giving the common man a chance to actually play a role in the election of the country’s president.
The story you are about to read has been vetted by Prof. Robert Remini, considered the world’s expert on Jackson, who authored ten books on the man. Remini was the Historian of the U.S. House of Representatives when he first read my tale of Jackson. On August 23, 2011, Prof. Remini wrote to me saying, “I congratulate you on all the work you have devoted to this project and would urge you to keep working on it and perhaps prepare it for publication. I wish you well in all your endeavors and I thank you most sincerely for sharing this with me.”
Also vetting this story for me was Prof. Rik Booream, of Rutgers University, who wrote the book Young Hickory, the best tale of Jackson’s youth. He said that not only is there nothing in this story that contradicts any known history of Andrew Jackson, but that he wished he had my material when he wrote his book.
Finally, the Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage museum and library in Nashville, accepted a copy of a report based on this story, which was read by both the curator and the CEO. I met with the CEO and emailed with the curator, who agreed that there is supporting evidence of at least some of this tale, and that she feels family tradition is nearly always based on some amount of fact, even if some areas are still shrouded in mystery or supported only by legend.
Pick up nearly any biography on Jackson (there are many) and you will quickly read how little is known of his heritage, save that he had “obscure” Scotch-Irish beginnings. Take a deeper look into the traditions of several families, whose names surround Jackson’s known history, and you will find a much different tale. These traditions tell the story of a close connection to Scotland’s Clan Donald, and Northern Ireland’s Clan McDonnell.
It is true that family traditions are often discounted as being inaccurate or, worse, puffed up with false pride. And yet, even so-called “official” documents and historical records are supported in a very large part by tradition, rather than provable fact.
For example, two of the most popular books ever published are the Bible and Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, each telling a dramatically different tale of Christ.
Again, we could ask, “Were the McGregors outlaws or freedom fighters?” “Did Robert the Bruce kill John Comyn during a heated argument, or in a planned assassination?”
There are many questions we’ll just never be able to answer. The elements that would help make a family tradition seem more plausible are its comparison to other family traditions drawing similar conclusions, to historical timelines, and to the motives of the people involved in the story. That is exactly what this tale of Andrew Jackson’s Scottish connection has to offer.
One fact broadly accepted about Jackson is that his grandfather was a resident of County Antrim, Northern Ireland, by the name of Hugh Jackson. President Jackson agreed with this fact in information he gave to various biographers.
Andrew’s oldest brother was named Hugh, in keeping with a common Scotch-Irish naming convention in which the first son was named after the paternal grandfather. Andrew, being the third son, also followed this naming convention by being his own father’s namesake. It would then follow that the second brother, Robert, would be named after the maternal grandfather, in keeping with the same naming sequence. While Cyrus Hutchinson is conjectured as the maternal grandfather of Jackson, Robert Hutchinson, seems the most common sense choice for his name. Regardless, there is no doubt that Jackson’s mother was a Hutchinson.
In researching the source for the name Hutchinson a genealogist would typically find two important men as its progenitors. The first is Hugh de Padianun, a Norman knight who came to Scotland to aid King Malcolm in defeating Somerled of the Isles, and who was instrumental in the founding of Paisley Abbey. Indeed, a parish near the abbey is called Houston, in his honor. The year of Somerled’s defeat was 1164.
The interesting thing about Paisley Abbey is that, although it was owned by the Stewart family, and later the Hamilton family, it was supported for centuries by Clan Donald.
Several Clan Donald chieftains retired from the rigors of battle and life in the Highlands to become hermits at the abbey. The last Lord of the Isles, John McDonald, is buried in the abbey, in the grave of his ancestor Robert II of Scotland. His brother, historically known as Hugh of Sleat, most likely died at the abbey, although he is buried on the island of North Uist, at a place called Sand.
Hugh of Sleat happens to be another primary source for the names Houston and Hutchinson, and also the name McQuiston. Hugh became the Chief of Clan Donald when his brother relinquished the Lord of the Isles title to King James of Scotland. The name Hugh, in Gaelic, was written as Uisdean and pronounced much like Ooshdn. From “Ooshdn” came the name Houston. From “Ooshdn’s son” came Hutchinson. From “MacOoshdn”, or “son of Uisdean” came McQuiston, a name with a handful of spellings.
Sixteenth century public records are rife with names that float somewhere between all these interpretations of Hugh’s name. The “sept” list of Clan Donald contains all three names - Houston, Hutchinson, and McQuiston.
Sept names were regulated by the Brehon laws of the Celtic race, and were generally not created lightly. However, it is also true that two or three brothers could be known by completely different surnames, when recorded by English-speaking writers or record keepers.
In the case of Hugh of Sleat, his first three sons are all recorded with a version of the Hutchinson name. The first son, John, is recorded in 1494 as John Makhuchone, the earliest known form of the McQuiston name. He is also recorded in 1497 as John Huchonsoun. Hugh’s third son is recorded as Archibald Auchonsoune. Neither John nor Archibald had any known children. However, their brother, Donald did.
Donald is recorded as Donald Hutchonsoune in an account concerning his death. Later, he is mentioned, in reference to a female descendant of his, in the words Nein Donle VickHuiston, Nein referring to “the granddaughter of” and “Vick” more commonly Vic, ‘Ic or Mhic, denoted a specific father to son relationship. In other words, the said Donle was absolutely the son of Huiston. There is little doubt that at least two of the sons of Hugh of Sleat carried versions of both the McQuiston and Hutchinson names. Four sons are listed in the Black Book of Clanranald as MacUisdean. Most importantly, the first three sons each carried a version of the Hutchinson name - the maiden name of Andrew Jackson’s mother, Elizabeth.
If we looked no further than this, it is quite obvious that the likelihood of the Hutchinson and McQuiston names being one and the same is extremely high, especially for those Hutchinsons coming out of Scotland or Northern Ireland.
What makes this significant is that Donald Hutchonsoune/MacUisdean married into the family of the McDonnells of Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. It is in Antrim where the family of Elizabeth Hutchinson is found, along with the family of Hugh Jackson.
Donald’s son, Alexander, left for Ireland in 1565, along with all of his own sons, to serve under his first cousin, Sorley Boy McDonnell. Sorley Boy is the first person in history known to have been called Scotch-Irish. This was in 1573, in a manifesto issued by Queen Elizabeth of England, which read, in part, “. . . Sorley Boy and others who are of the Scotch-Irish race.”
Among the “others” spoken of were the son and grandsons of Donald Hutchonsoune.
Donald’s son, Alexander, fought alongside Sorley until 1586, when these two men were both in their eighties.
To assume that the Hutchinson family, living in the land of Sorley Boy, would be of a different line than the Hutchinson family, which served under Sorley, would seem to fly in the face of logic.
Sorley’s son Randall McDonnell would become the first Earl of Antrim and was followed by his son, also named Randall, in 1636. This second Randall was styled Lord Dunluce, named for the McDonnell castle of Dunluce located not far from the town of Coleraine. Coleraine is one of the larger towns of the Bann Valley, which straddles counties Antrim and Londonderry. Londonderry was, in fact, originally known as County Coleraine.
Sorley Boy, and later his son and grandson, held considerable sway throughout the Bann Valley. In fact, in 1639, the second Randall, Earl of Antrim was chosen, along with Donald McDonald of Sleat, as “His Majesty’s lieutenants and commissioners in the Western Isles and Highlands of Scotland, with full power to convocate the lieges, and pursue the King’s rebellious subjects with fire and sword.”
What territory Randall II did not control through his own inheritance, he controlled by edict from the throne of Great Britain.
The road south from Coleraine leads to Aghadowey. In this short stretch of land, and in Balleymoney to the east, Dungiven to the west, and nearby Lislane and Macosquin, settled the families of McQuiston, Hutchinson, Jackson, Moody, Vance, Crawford, Craighead and many more names associated with the family traditions, and the historical records, concerning Andrew Jackson. That these families could live in the shadow of Dunluce Castle, in an area controlled by Sorley Boy’s family, in an area predominately anti-English, anti-Irish and staunchly Scottish in nature, without the consent of the McDonnells of Antrim, is highly unlikely - especially in the case of the Jackson family.
In the same year as Randall’s commission from King Charles, Richard Jackson moved to Coleraine with his wife, Mary McRandall. In an exhaustive book, written with guidance from the curator of the Andrew Jackson Centre, in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, the genealogy of Andrew Jackson is traced to Richard and Mary Jackson, of Coleraine.
The book, The Ulster Jacksons, by DJ McCartney, offers much family tradition, coming directly from the Jackson families of Antrim and Derry, as to the settlement of Richard and Mary in Coleraine, and to the descent of Andrew Jackson from this couple, just a few generations later.
The Jackson family would become so powerful in Coleraine that they would hold nearly every substantial political office, and it would take the power of the king to break their stranglehold on the area.
In the book, Scotch Irish Pioneers In Ulster and America, author Charles Knowles Bolton, one of the premier historians of the Scotch-Irish race, tells us that it was the raising of the rents in the Bann Valley by the Jackson family that was the straw breaking the camel’s back, and which led to the Scotch-Irish immigration from the Bann Valley to America.
It would seem not just unlikely, but in fact impossible for an Englishman named Jackson to establish such a dynasty under the nose of the Earl of Antrim, unless there was some kind of deal made, or some kind of family connection. You may remember that Richard’s wife was Mary McRandall. The Earl of Antrim was named Randall.
In study of the McRandall name it will be difficult to find any other origin except one of three sources coming from Clan Donald. Good King John McDonald of Islay was married, first, to his cousin, Amie McRauri. Later, he married Margaret Stewart, daughter of Robert II. King John’s father, Angus Og, had hidden Robert Bruce in his own home, and later, with the help of the Bisset family of Antrim, he would hide Bruce on Rathlin Island until the day a spider’s industry convinced Bruce to return to Scotland for one more try at the throne.
At Bannockburn, Angus Og led several thousand Highland and Island troops in helping Bruce defeat the English king. This service earned the McDonalds the honor of always serving at the right hand of the Scottish king.
By Amie, King John had a son named Randall. In Randall’s line some descendant would take the McRandall name.
King John had two sons of special note by Margaret Stewart. One son, John Mor, established Clan Donald South by marrying the Bisset heiress to Antrim. The other son, Donald, would follow King John as Lord of the Isles. This Donald was the grandfather of Hugh of Sleat and from him also came the McDonalds of Keppoch. Within the Keppoch McDonald branch several men took the McRandall name, after a Randall of their own line. The Clan Randall of Amie McRauri’s line, the Keppoch McDonalds, and the Antrim McDonnells are the only real sources of the name McRandall. In all cases, Mary McRandall, wife of Richard Jackson, would be a McDonald.
It is possible that she was of the Antrim line since her husband established a dynasty in Coleraine, just a short ride from Dunluce Castle, and the Earl of Antrim. But, also, it is stated that Richard Jackson was a horse tender for the Keppoch McDonalds. It could be that this was how he met Mary, and that the couple moved to an area where her extended family ruled. Supporting this idea is the fact that Andrew Jackson was an avid horse-lover from his earliest days, and became a courier for the Continental Army at the young age of 13 mostly because of his riding ability and knowledge of back country trails.
The McRandall family and the Hutchinson family are the earliest possible connections of President Andrew Jackson to Clan Donald.
Today, just a short distance south of Coleraine, in the Aghadowey cemetery, gravestones carrying the Hutchinson and Jackson names lay within arm’s reach of each other. In Lislane are records of the brothers, John, James and Robert Hutchinson, whose sister, Mary, was married to William McQuiston. The estate of James and Robert is listed as “considerable” in 1797.
In James Parton’s Life of Andrew Jackson, he describes the Hutchinson girls as coming to America with a “considerable” amount of wealth. In the will of one Alexander McQuiston, John Hutchinson is listed as executor. It is the McQuiston tradition that John Hutchinson was the grandfather of Elizabeth Hutchinson, and that he brought a treasure, left by Alexander McQuiston, to America to be distributed amongst the children of Jean McQuiston and her husband, Thomas Moody. One of those children was Jean Moody, mother of Elizabeth Jackson, wife of Robert Hutchinson, and daughter-in-law of John Hutchinson.
Also mentioned in the will are Mary Denny, mother of Alexander’s child who died the same day as he did, plus James Denny, who moved near the McQuiston and Jackson families. One of Alexander McQuiston’s brothers, in America, was married to Ann Denny. Ann’s husband was Robert McCuiston, from whom I descend.
The McQuiston family has a long list of circumstantial information to support this claim. However, just a quick look at the histories of the names Hutchinson, Jackson, McQuiston, Moody, and others like Craighead, Caldwell, Calhoun, Crockett, Crawford, Montgomery, Hamilton, Wilson, Nelson, Vance, Holland and Rankin, show how closely these families were to each other – they were the very embodiment of the term “kith and kin.” They were a clachan
They moved, in unison, from the Bann Valley of Ulster to southeastern Pennsylvania. Later they moved to the Carolinas. All these families fought at the Siege of Londonderry, in 1689, and their descendants fought at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, near Greenesboro, North Carolina, and in the Waxhaw region of North and South Carolina, nearly one hundred years later. At the Siege of Londonderry, they held off King James’ troops for 105 days. At the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, they put out of commission one quarter of Cornwallis’ crack troops. They were war-hardened, freedom-loving Scots families, intermarried many times over, mixing well the bloodlines of Robert the Bruce, William Wallace, and Clan Donald.
Andrew Jackson recommended the reading of the life of William Wallace, and of the Scottish chieftains, to those younger men he mentored. He spoke of how his mother would recount tales of the old country. William Wallace’s mother was a Crawford, and Jackson was raised in a Crawford family home. His mother’s best friend was Nancy Craighead, whose ancestor was Robert Craighead, the pastor at Londonderry, during the Siege. These are just a few of the many family traditions supporting this story.
During Cornwallis’ southern campaign, Jackson’s family retreated to Guilford County to stay with relatives like the Wilsons and McQuistons. Though orphaned at the age of 14, Jackson was surrounded by dozens and dozens of kith and kin whose memories still burned with thoughts of Scotland and Ireland and a long, long struggle for freedom.
For Andrew Jackson to not be a member of Clan Donald, all three connections given in this story – the McQuiston connection, the Hutchinson family line, and the McRandall ancestry – would have to be discounted. Only one story needs to be true for Andrew Jackson to be of Clan Donald.
In addition, many family traditions would have to be falsified, many family connections and histories would have to be overlooked, many motives and historical timelines would become moot in the face of three otherwise unproven, unsupported theories to replace these three.
It is popular to condemn Andrew Jackson as a slave holder and for the Trail of Tears.
In the effort to replace him on the twenty dollar bill, most of his exceptional contributions to this country are being overlooked. The twenty dollar bill is not at issue here, but the truth is.
Jackson fought in the American Revolution at the age of thirteen. His mother and two brothers died as a direct result of that war, leaving him without a family by age fourteen. He lived with lifelong scars on his forearm and forehead from a British officer’s sword. His hatred for British oppression never ceased and he proved himself again in the War of 1812. This war established America as a nation among other world powers. His brave defeat of the British at New Orleans prevented the renewal of hostilities with this foe, who had already burned Washington, DC to the ground. The British were intent on recapturing their rebel colonies and Andrew Jackson led the deciding battle to stop them.
But the British didn’t end their efforts. In the Ohio territory and down through the frontier that bordered the southern United States, the British encouraged Indian attacks on American settlements, paying for scalps and providing weaponry. The tortures committed are indescribably cruel. One disheartening example was the habit of dropping a hanging frontiersmen on to a spike, which was driven up inside of him, leaving him to bleed to death.
Jackson saw the results of these atrocities first hand, and led people like Davy Crockett and Sam Houston and hundreds of others to subdue Native Americans who were being deceived and driven by the British military, even after the war. He went on to fight Spanish interventionism in Florida and became the first governor of Florida. He even took on pirates along the Gulf Coast, expelling them from a major stronghold there.
No other president before him dared tackle the border problems of America, problems that were causing suffering and loss of life on all sides of the issue. Native Americans were suffering as much as frontier people in this endless cycle of violence. He decided to address it in a way that he felt was a win-win for both sides. Hostilities would cease and the Native Americans would receive land west of the Mississippi.
Jackson was only one man, and it took more than one man to solve this border problem. When the final evacuations took place, Jackson was no longer even the president, and yet he gets 100% of the blame for the tragedy that struck those Native Americans who refused the offer. Jackson left the presidency in 1837. The Trail of Tears took place in 1838 and 1839. He was not in power, or in control of the forces that carried out this terrible deed, and yet he takes all the criticism.
Jackson wrote extensively on the solution, the justifications for it, the suffering experienced by both sides, and the need to come up with some answer to the problem. There is an old saying that only those who do nothing escape criticism. Jackson wasn’t afraid of criticism, he simply knew the problem needed solved and he solved it as best he could. But it doesn’t end there.
His own vice-president, John C. Calhoun, was preaching state’s rights even if it meant the dissolution of the Union. Jackson traveled across the country, including the streets of Manhattan, speaking for a strong Union. This was directly in opposition to the southern slave-holding way of life, not in support of it. His writings on the subject were inspirational to Abraham Lincoln, later down the road. Jackson fought the big banks and the American aristocracy.
And here is one for the books – the ONLY time the U.S. national debt was ever eliminated was under Andrew Jackson.
His wife died due to the horrendous personal attacks of his presidential campaign. Devastated by this loss, and well into his years, Andrew Jackson continued to fight for the country he loved. He is credited with beginning the Democratic Party, and he was the first populous president in our history.
When he took office, he was the most popular man in America and 20,000 people crowded the White House grounds on his inauguration day, so much so that he had to escape out a window and spend his first night as president in a hotel room instead of the White House.
These are just some of the reasons why he appears on the twenty dollar bill in the first place. These are just some of the reasons why he is one of the most written about presidents ever, right up there with Lincoln and Washington.
To cast Andrew Jackson simply as a slave-holder and Indian persecutor does a disservice both to him and to our nation’s history. He did what he could for his country, and it was much, much more than most.