Every American youth has been told repeatedly by his parents and his teachers that he must be a good boy and an exemplary young man in order to become the president of the United States. There is nothing new in this statement, and I do not print it because I regard it in the light of a “scoop.” But I desire to go a trifle further, and call the attention of the American youth to the fact that he must begin at a much earlier date to prepare himself for the presidency than has been generally taught. He must not only acquire all the knowledge within reach, and guard his moral character night and day through life, or at least up to the time of his election, but he must be a self-made man, and he should also use the utmost care and discretion in the selection of his birthplace.
A boy may thoughtlessly select the wrong state, or even a foreign country, as the site for his birthplace, and then the most exemplary life will not avail him. But hardest of all, perhaps, for one who aspires to the highest office within the gift of the people, is the selection of a house in which to be born. For this reason I have selected a few specimen birthplaces for the guidance of those who may be ignorant of the points which should be possessed by a birthplace.
Take, for instance, the residence of Andrew Jackson. No one has ever retained a stronger hold upon the tendrils of the Democratic heart than Andrew Jackson. His name appears more frequently to-day in papers for which he never subscribed than that of any other president who has passed away.
Andrew Jackson was a poor boy, whose father was a farm laborer and died before Andrew’s birth, thus leaving the boy perfectly free to choose the site of his birthplace.
He did not care much about books, but felt confident at the start that he had chosen a good place to be born at, and therefore could not be defeated in his race for the presidency. Here in this house A. Jackson first saw the light, and here his excellency sent up his first Democratic whoop. Here, on the back stoop, was where he was sent sorrowing at night to wash his chapped feet with soft soap before his mother would allow him to go to bed. Here Andrew turned the grindstone in the shed, while a large, heavy neighbor got on and rode for an hour or two. Here the future president sprouted potatoes in the dark and noisome cellar, while other boys, who cared nothing for the presidency, drowned out woodchucks and sucked eggs in open defiance of the pulpit and press of the country.
And yet, what a quiet, peaceful, unostentatious home, with its little windows opening out upon the snow in winter and upon bare ground in summer. How peaceful it looks! Who would believe that up in the dark corner of the gable end it harbors a large iron-gray hornets’ nest with brocaded hornets in it? And still it is so quiet that, on hot summer afternoons, while the bees are buzzing around the petunias and the regular breathing of the sandy-colored shoat in the back lot shows that all nature is hushed and drugged into a deep and oppressive repose, the old hen, lulled into a sense of false security, walks into the “setting room,” eats the seeds out of several everlasting flowers, samples a few varnished acorns on an ornamental photograph frame in the corner, and then goes out to the kitchen, where she steps into the dough that is set behind the stove to raise.
Here in this quiet home, far from the enervating pousse cafe and carte blanche, where he had pork rind tied on the outside of his neck for sore throat, and where pepper, New Orleans molasses and vinegar, together with other groceries calculated to discourage illness, were put inside, he laid the foundation of his future greatness.