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Andrew Jackson’s regrets — and the Lake Formerly Known as Calhoun

Now that a certain beautiful Minneapolis Lake has been officially assigned a second name (Bde Maka Ska, which was its name long ago), a friend urged me to alert MinnPost readers to the perhaps-apocryphal-but-oft-quoted remark of President Andrew Jackson that “I have only two regrets: I didn’t shoot Henry Clay and I didn’t hang John C. Calhoun.”

Calhoun was Jackson’s vice president during his first term in the White House (although Calhoun resigned before the term ended and was replaced by Martin Van Buren).

Jackson thought those — the most prominent of whom was Calhoun — who advocated for the doctrine of “nullification” (that each state had the power to disregard, within its borders, federal laws with which the state disagreed) were traitors to the spirit and meaning of the Constitution.

Although it doesn’t seem to be attributed to a specific time and place when he said it, the “only two regrets” remark is often quoted, here, for example.

As far as showing respect for Native Americans, Jackson’s record couldn’t be much worse.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 09/04/2015 - 12:04 pm.

    The name of Lake Calhoun remains Lake Calhoun. All the Park Board did Wednesday was pass a resolution to put double signs up at the lake, adding one that uses the Dakota phrase to the sign that says Lake Calhoun. Politically correct, but not a legal change.

    Legal change is much more complicated, and our park board is reflecting public opinion in its less-than-enthusiasm about changing the 200-year-old name.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/04/2015 - 01:36 pm.

      And That’s a Bad Thing?

      It’s easy to sneer about “political correctness.” I just don’t understand why that label makes efforts to erase an honor for one of the worst political figures in American history worthy of derision.

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 09/04/2015 - 03:13 pm.

    Even more

    I’m inclined to agree that there’s little in John C. Calhoun’s life to merit the honor of having natural features named after him. That said, and acknowledging that quick action doesn’t seem to be a strong point for the Minneapolis Park Board, I wish, even more sincerely, that someone from the relevant Dakota band would provide – and the Park Board would affix to the new signs – some sort of pronunciation guide. I have a hard time pronouncing words that appear to need at least a couple more vowels than they actually have.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/04/2015 - 06:56 pm.

      Signs, signs

      Relax!
      The Park Board may put up signs, but that won’t change what people call the lake.
      And most of them have no idea which Calhoun the lake is named after, or what he did.
      A tempest in a tea puddle.

    • Submitted by Sean Huntley on 09/08/2015 - 08:37 am.

      Find a different Calhoun

      Just officially change who it is named after. Have a big ceremony that points out what a scumbag John Calhoun was and then announce it is now named after, say, Will Calhoun-drummer from Living Colour. They have played here a few times. That at least equals John Calhoun’s tenuous ties to this state.

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