"King Richard" attempted the first presidential assassination-Both of his guns misfired, and he was also hit with a cane

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On January 30, 1835, Richard Lawrence made history by attempting the first known presidential assassination against Andrew Jackson. The day was cold and wet, and Lawrence, an unemployed house painter, had strategically stationed himself behind one of the Capitol Building's entrance pillars. He silently waited as people gathered at the end of Representative Warren Davis's funeral. [i]

Richard Lawrence unsuccessfully attempts to assassinate President Andrew Jackson.Photo byN/A, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Upon exiting the Capitol's East Portico, Lawrence accosted the President. Lawrence whipped a Derringer pistol out of his jacket, aimed squarely at Jackson’s heart, and fired. Likely surprising onlookers, Lawrence misfired. President Jackson charged toward Lawrence, his walking cane held high over his head, causing a skirmish. [ii]

Lawrence drew a second pistol, took aim, and managed to fire again amidst his scuffle with President Jackson. With odds of 1:125,000, the second gun misfired. By this time, bystanders intervened, and President Jackson was escorted away. Both weapons were later tested and “fired afterward without fail, carrying their bullets true and driving them through inch boards at thirty feet.” [iii]

President Andrew JacksonPhoto byLibrary of CongressonUnsplash

It was blatantly evident during Lawrence’s trial that he was insane. Yet, rumors of conspiracies and accusations still ran afoul of the facts. Some speculated that Lawrence was a hired assassin. At the same time, President Jackson firmly believed that there was a political motivator behind the attack. He asserted that George Poindexter had been a chief conspirator. Others suggested that Jackson had staged the attempt “in a futile hope of gaining public sympathy.” [iv]

Nevertheless, Poindexter was eventually cleared of all wrongdoing–but not before losing re-election, likely a result of the accusations against him by President Jackson. Lawrence, on the other hand, was found not guilty by reason of insanity. [v]

Some of his unfounded beliefs included the notion that President Jackson had killed his father. Lawrence also believed he was a 15th-century English king, "King Richard," entitled to payments from his American colonies. Following the trial, he would spend the rest of his life in insane asylums. [vi]

Watch the video below to learn more about President Andrew Jackson.

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[i] United States Senate, The Attempt to Kill “King Andrew” (Jan. 30, 1835)

[ii] Howard Zonana, MD, The First Presidential Assassination Attempt (1984)

[iii] Lorraine Boissoneault, The Attempted Assassination of Andrew Jackson (Mar. 14, 2017)

[iv] United States Senate, The Attempt to Kill “King Andrew” (Jan. 30, 1835)

[v] Evan Andrews, Andrew Jackson Dodges an Assassination Attempt, 180 Years Ago (Aug. 29, 2018)

[vi] Id.

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