On this day in history, President Andrew Jackson was nearly assassinated in Washington, D.C.
One hundred and eighty-two years ago today, Jackson was attending the funeral for South Carolina Representative William R. Davis in the Capitol building. It was an unusually damp winter day when an assassin emerged from the crowd to confront Jackson and shoot him. Richard Lawrence, an unemployed house painter, shot the president at point-blank range, but nothing happened; the gunpowder failed to ignite. As Jackson reacted and began rushing toward Lawrence, the assassin pulled out a second pistol which also misfired. Historians have concluded that the chances of two misfires were one in 125,000. President Jackson was a lucky man that day.
There was some initial speculation that Lawrence was part of a Whig conspiracy to assassinate the Democratic president, but that was found to be false. Richard Lawrence was tried in court but found not guilty by reason of insanity because during the one-day trial, Lawrence repeatedly claimed he was the rightful king of England and Rome, that President Jackson killed his father and that the U.S. government owed him a great deal of money.
Lawrence spent the rest of his days in mental institutions until his death in 1861.
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