Initially the two men became friends, the older Jackson serving as a mentor to the younger Benton. When the War of 1812 broke out, General Andrew Jackson appointed Thomas Benton as his aide de camp in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. However, Benton chafed under his duties which kept him out of the fighting. And when his brother challenged one of Jackson’s friends to a duel any friendship which remained between Jackson and Benton was destroyed. Jackson backed his crony and Brenton his brother. Both men received bullet wounds, but survived. The incident ended in a verbal confrontation between Jackson and Benton.
Later Jackson spotted Brenton and his brother outside a hotel and attacked them with his pistol. Jackson’s bullets missed their target, but not the brothers’. Jackson was wounded in the arm and shoulder.
Though he bled profusely, Jackson recovered from his wounds. But he and his friends vowed revenge.
Knowing that his life was in peril as long he stayed in Tennessee, Thomas Benton moved to the Missouri Territory, studied law, and started the second largest newspaper west of the Mississippi River, The Missouri Enquirer. When Missouri gained statehood, Benton became one of its first U.S. senators and went on to serve in this position for the next 30 years (1821-1851).
In 1829, Thomas Benton’s old nemesis, Andrew Jackson, became President.
By this time Benton was a powerful figure in the Senate and was in a position to obstruct or frustrate all of Jackson’s efforts. However, despite the fact they had once tried to kill each other and both men still feared and hated each other, the two enemies reconciled for the good of the nation. In fact, Benton became Jackson’s fiercest ally in the Senate and both fought relentlessly for westward expansion and against secession when it threatened to divide the country.
When I read how such hardened enemies put aside their differences to fight for a common cause, it makes me question why I allow minor slights and offenses unnerve and derail me. When our fellow teammates offend us, we are confronted with a critical decision. Do we keep the greater cause in view and subordinate our feelings to it? Or, do we nurture our feelings of resentment and bitterness and allow them to defeat the crusade for which we fight? May God open our eyes to reality, soften our embittered hearts, and restore reason to our minds.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3).