Which U.S. Presidents Owned Slaves?

Andrew Jackson (1829-1837)

Andrew Jackson bought his first slave, a young woman, in 1788.By 1794 his business included slave trading and he had purchased at least 16 slaves.(Remini,p.37, 55) 

1814: From an ad for a runaway slave: “If taken (that is, captured) out of state, the above reward ($50), and all reasonable  expenses paid – and ten dollars extra, for every hundred lashes any person will give him, to the amount of three  hundred.”  (Remini, 1984, p51)

 1814:  When New Orleans was in danger from British forces it was suggested that the free Black men of the city be invited to participate in it's defense.  Jackson, commanding the army, agreed: "They must be either for, or against, us.  Distrust them and you make them your enemies, place confidence in them, and you engage them by every dear and honorable tie to the interest of the country, who extends to them equal rights and  privileges with white men."  He told the Black men: "As sons of freedom you are now called upon to defend your most inestimable blessing.  As Americans, your country looks with confidence on her adopted children, for a valorous support, as a faithful return for the advantages enjoyed under her mild and equitable government." Unlike the Civil War fifty years later, Blacks on this occasion were offered the same pay and bounty as White soldiers - and Jackson enforced that rule.  More than 200 free Blacks enlisted, serving under White officers and Black non-coms.  (Bassett,  p156-7.)

1816: Jackson wrote to the Spanish commander:  “(In Spanish-owned Florida a) negro fort erected during our late war with Britain… is now occupied by upwards of two hundred and fifty negros many of whom have been enticed away from the service of their masters – citizens of the United States… [This] will not be tolerated by our government, and if not put down by Spanish Authority will compel us in self Defense to destroy them.”  Later that year Jackson sent a force which destroyed the fort, killing 270 Blacks.  (Remini,  1977. p344-5)

approx. 1820: Jackson reflected on the debate over whether slavery would be permitted in new states: “The Missouri question so called…will be the entering wedge to separate the union.  It is even more wicked, it will excite those who is the subject of discussion (i.e. slaves) to insurrection and massacre…  I hope I may not live to see the evils that must grow out of this wicked design of demagogues, who talk about humanity, but whose sole object is self agrandisement regardless of the happiness of the nation.” (Remini, 1977. p391)

In the 1820s Jackson owned about 160 slaves.(James,p31)

1821: Jackson threatened one of his wife’s slaves with 50 lashes, to be publicly delivered, for disobedience and insolence.  (Remini, 1977. p134)

1822:  To his slave overseer: "As far as lenity can be extended to these unfortunate creatures I wish you to do so; subordination must be obtained first, and then good treatment."  (James,  p31)

 1822:  Jackson recaptured four of his slaves who had run away:  “Although I hate chains [I was] compelled to   place two of them in irons, for safekeeping until an opportunity offers to sell or exchange them.  (Remini, 1977. p134)


1833: “I could not bear the idea of inhumanity to my poor negroes.”  (Remini,  1977. p133)

1835:  Northern abolitionists sent propaganda to the South.  Postmasters refused to deliver it and  Southern whites destroyed it in violation of the law.  President Jackson responded:  "I have read with sorrow and regret that such men live  in our country - I might have said monsters - as to be guilty of the attempt to stir up amongst the South the horrors  of a servile war - Could they be reached, they ought to be made to atone for this wicked attempt, with their lives.  But we are the instruments of, and executors of the law; we have no power to prohibit anything from being  transported in the mail that is authorized by the law... [The postmaster should] deliver to no person those  inflammatory papers, but those who are really subscribers for them...  The postmaster ought to take the names  down, and have them exposed thro the public journals as subscribers to this wicked plan of exciting the negroes to  insurrection and to massacre."  (Jackson,  V5. p360-1)

1835:  In Washington, DC Whites reacting to the abolitionist propaganda rioted and burned down houses.  Rumors spread that one of Jackson’s Black servants (not slaves) at the White House was distributing the materials and a group demanded that Jackson fire him.  “My servants  are amenable to the law if  they offend against the law, and if guilty of misconduct which the law does not take cognizance of, they are  amenable to me.  But, I would have all to understand distinctly that they are amenable to me alone, and to no one  else.  They are entitled to protection at my hands, and this they shall receive.”  (Remini, 1984, p269).

He did not free his slaves in his will.

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