So the lily-white town of Jackson, in all its incomparable virtue, wants to change history altogether. Well, that’s a popular hobby of those on the left these days, and Jackson certainly seems dominated by the left.
The plan, as I understand it, is to rescind the action by which the town of Adams renamed itself for President Andrew Jackson in 1829, and then rename it yet again after Dr. Charles Thomas Jackson.
Andy Jackson was as racist as anyone of his era, and the man behind this ploy apparently supposes that Charles was not — although there’s no evidence that he wasn’t. His sister married Ralph Waldo Emerson, whom the woke historian Nell Irvin Painter claims was a racist, and I can’t find any connection between Dr. Jackson and the abolition movement. Even that horrible racist Emerson at least gave aid and comfort to abolition.
By pretending to change the reason the town is called Jackson, residents can still use the same name and feel ever so self-righteous about it. They can also avoid the costs of actually choosing another name, such as repainting the emblems on their fleet of police cars — or, worse yet, rewriting all the publicity for the town’s tourist trade. Folks won’t even have to have their fancy stationery reprinted.
The author of this frivolous proposal contends that approving the change will “make a loud and clear statement for social justice.” What’s clear is that this is a cheap and easy way to give Jackson’s elite citizenry one more reason to feel superior. But I can understand how folks there might bridle at adopting more meaningful evidence of their social-justice bona fides, such as renaming their town after Harriet Tubman or Marcus Garvey. That could discourage visitation, or worse yet attract the wrong sort.
If Jacksonians really thought nomenclature reflected morality, and were interested in more than token gestures, they would demand a new name for the junior high school that their children attend. Like Andrew Jackson, Josiah Bartlett once advertised for the return of a runaway slave named Peter, who was back working on Bartlett’s farm by the time his master signed the Declaration of Independence. After 45 years here, some guy is suddenly indignant about his adopted town’s tenuous association with Andrew Jackson, yet with a son on the school board he ignores local education’s most prominent memorial to a slaveholder.
Unless this is just a joke, let’s be consistent. Doesn’t this newly discovered sensitivity require petitioning the Legislature to “rename” Mount Washington after Denzel?
Pretending the town of Jackson was named for Dr. Jackson might nevertheless be an apt fantasy. He was a little cracked in the head, you see — as became more evident over time.
He was born with all the early advantages Andrew Jackson lacked, graduating from Harvard Medical School, but he was soon distracted from medical practice by his interest in geology and chemistry. He served briefly as state geologist for different New England states. He also surveyed mining prospects around Lake Superior, reporting that copper lay too deep to ever be mined profitably, but copper mining began soon thereafter, and continues today.
When cholera struck the U.S., Dr. Jackson observed that the disease had never reached Switzerland, which sits on granite, so he predicted it would not afflict New England because of the granite here. He was mistaken.
Jackson initiated numerous notorious disputes with inventors, claiming to have given them the ideas for the inventions they later developed. In 1837, he asserted that he was the first to conceive of the telegraph, and later sued Samuel F. B. Morse over it, unsuccessfully. In 1845 he insisted that he had suggested the anesthetic effects of ether to the dentist who patented its application, but the credit ultimately went to someone else altogether.
By the late 1850s, Dr. Jackson was reduced to serving as state assayer of Massachusetts, but he sidelined in product endorsement. His name adorned many advertisements for patent medicines, whiskey and food additives. In 1873, he was finally committed to an asylum for the insane, and there he eventually died — a perfect namesake for any community long in the tooth and short on sense.
William Marvel lives in South Conway.