But if Jackson was a terrible enemy, he was also the most faithful of friends. Many men feared and hated him; many also loved him, and he himself would go as far to help a friend as to crush an enemy. One of his friends was a certain Patten Anderson, who seems always to have been getting into trouble, but whom the general never deserted. Once Anderson got into a fight at one end of a long table where a public dinner was being served, and was in great danger until Jackson, who sat at the other end, noticed the scuffle. " I'm coming, Patten," he cried, and promptly leaped on the table and strode through dinner to the rescue. Anderson was killed at last, and Jackson was a witness at the trial of his slayer. He was asked if the unfortunate Anderson was not given in his lifetime to quarrelling. " Sir," said Jackson, " my friend, Patten Anderson, was a natural enemy to scoundrels."
His friendship for Aaron Burr came very near involving him in serious difficulties. In 1805, when Burr was on his first visit to the Southwest, he went to Nashville, and was entertained most cordially at The Hermitage. He was there again on his return, and made with his host a contract for boats and supplies to be used in that mysterious enterprise which has so puzzled American historians. Burr declared he had no designs hostile to the United States, and Jackson believed him. When, a year later, the whole country was in a sort of panic over Burr's suspected treason, Jackson offered to President Jefferson the services of the militia under his command, and promptly took measures to thwart any treasonable movement that might be afoot in the West; but he was soon convinced that Burr was suspected unjustly, and never for a moment deserted him in his trouble. He went to Richmond to testify at his trial, and while there made a public speech full of bitterness against those who, as he thought, were persecuting his friend. He himself was at first strongly suspected of complicity in Burr's project, but there is absolutely no reason to believe that Andrew Jackson ever in his life looked upon an enemy of his country otherwise than as his own mortal foe. His faults were many, but he loved his country simply, and with all his heart.
It seems clear, however, that Jackson, and in fact the whole Southwest, sympathized very strongly with the design which many in that quarter at first thought Burr to en-tertain ; the design, namely, of seizing West Florida or Texas, or perhaps both. The United States were at that time, as they were before and after, very close to war with Spain. Spain still had possession of the Floridas, although the United States claimed that West Florida, extending along the Gulf coast from the Perdido River to the " Island of New Orleans," was included in the Louisiana purchase. To drive the Spaniards out of West Florida was an ardent desire of Jackson's. Ten years before, when the Eastern States had shown little interest in the development of the Southwest, and had seemed to prefer commercial privileges with the Spanish colonies to the free navigation of the Mississippi, which the Western country needed for its development, Spanish agents had endeavored to stir up disaffection in the Southwest, looking to the separation of that region from the Union. At that time, many people in the East, knowing little of the Westerners, had suspected them of lending an ear to Spain's tempting whispers. That was one reason why such a panic arose over Burr, for he had always been a champion of the Southwest, and the pioneers liked him. After the failure and disgrace of Burr the stage was cleared for another leader in the southwestward movement. And who so likely to take the role as the patriotic and warlike general of the Tennessee militia ?
Jackson had a chance to play that role in a small way when Silas Dinsmore, the United States agent among the Choctaws, whose lands lay in Mississippi Territory, refused to allow persons to pass through the Choctaw country with negroes unless they showed passports for the negroes. Dins-more had a law of Congress behind him, but a treaty between the United States and the Choctaws provided for a road through the Choctaw country which should be " a highway for citizens of the United States and the Choctaws." Jackson, passing along the road with some slaves, dared the agent to interfere. He also exerted himself to bring about the removal of Dinsmore, and, as his wont was, made a personal matter of the dispute. His feeling was so strong that years afterwards, when Dinsmore, happening to meet him, made a courteous advance, the general sternly repelled it.
The quarrel with Dinsmore occurred in 1812. Andrew Jackson was then forty-five years old. He was well known in Tennessee as a successful planter, a breeder and racer of horses, a swearer of mighty oaths, a faithful and generous man to his friends, a chivalrous man to women, a hospitable man at his home, a desperate and relentless man in personal conflicts, a man who always did the thing he set himself to do. But as yet he had never found anything to do that was important enough to bring him before the country at large. Outside of Tennessee, few men had ever heard his name. At Washington he was probably distrusted, so far as he was known at all, because of his championship of Burr and his quarrel with Dinsmore, and because he had been for Monroe instead of Madison for President. He was ardently in favor of war with Great Britain because of the impressment of American seamen and other grievances which the United States had borne for years, but there seemed to be little likelihood of his getting a chance to play a part in the war if it should come. The war was declared in June, 1812. A member of Congress, on his way home after voting for the declaration, had a talk with Aaron Burr, who was now living in retirement in New York. " I know," said Burr, " that my word is not worth much with Madison ; but you may tell him from me that there is an unknown man in the West, named Andrew Jackson, who will do credit to a commission in the army."