HERE’S A STORY THAT STRETCHES CREDIBILITY,
BUT IS COMPLETELY TRUE.
On January 30, 1835, the 68 year-old President Jackson was attending a memorial for a late congressman which was being held in the East Portico of the Capital. He left the ceremony and walked into the Rotunda followed by several associates. Jackson wore a heavy coat draped on his shoulders and carried his customary walking stick in his hand. A younger man approached the President from the front pulling a pistol from his coat. The man fired a shot from about eight feet away but in spite of the huge explosion the gun had misfired.
The would-be assassin was a young Englishman named Richard Lawrence. He was an unemployed housepainter. Lawrence was questioned and examined by physicians who concluded that he was mentally unsound. He claimed to be the reincarnation of Richard III, King of England in the 15th Century, and that Andrew Jackson was the reincarnation of Richard’s clerk. Lawrence contended that if he killed Jackson he would be returned to the throne. He was promptly institutionalized.
Lawrence went on trial in Washington shortly after the incident. The prosecutor, and Attorney General of the District of Columbia, was the veteran lawyer Francis Scott Key; the man who wrote the “Star Spangled Banner” twenty years earlier. His contention was that an attack upon the President was an attack upon America. He argued his case with great determination.
So that’s the story. It included three famous Americans - President Andrew Jackson, the frontier hero Davy Crockett, and Francis Scott Key who wrote our national anthem. The assailant claimed to be the reincarnation of King Richard III. It also initiated a landmark legal case resulting in the establishment of the insanity defense. But most amazingly, how did Jackson survive two close range assassination attempts? Over the years since, Lawrence’s two pistols were examined many times and even test fired often. They were always found to be in perfect working order and properly loaded by Lawrence. Very strange indeed.