NASHVILLE - Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, signed an oath of loyalty to Spain in 1789 when he was a 22-year-old businessman seeking trade in the Louisiana Territory.
The revelation, overlooked for 206 years, was reported yesterday in the spring issue of the Tennessee Historical Quarterly in an article by scholar Robert Remini.
It is believed to be the only time an American who later became president has signed such an oath to a foreign power, Remini said, and may serve to further fuel controversy over Jackson. Although he was a hero of the Battle of New Orleans, he was accused of being an adulterer with his wife-to-be, Rachel, before her first marriage ended, he killed a man in a duel over her honor and political opponents called his mother a prostitute.
Jackson became president in 1829 and served two terms.
The loyalty oath surfaced after Remini analyzed an 18th-century document recently uncovered in government archives in Spain.
"I was dumbfounded," said Remini, of Wilmette, Ill., emeritus professor of history at the University of Illinois at Chicago and an award-winning Jackson biographer.
"After all, how many other presidents of the United States ever took an oath of allegiance to a foreign country? Not one. Andrew Jackson, a vassal of His Catholic Majesty, the King of Spain? I simply could not believe it. He of all people!"
At the time, however, Spanish colonial law required anyone doing
business in the Mississippi River town of Natchez to sign such an oath or not trade goods.
The quarterly's senior editor, Carroll Van West, called the document "a rare historical find" in terms of Jackson and the rise of the American republic.
"Jackson, like other ambitious men, signed an oath that meant nothing to him personally, but removed a technicality that could impede his business activities," West said.