American Lion

American Lion

Andrew Jackson in the White House

Book - 2008
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A thought-provoking study of Andrew Jackson chronicles the life and career of a self-made man who went on to become a military hero and seventh president of the United States, critically analyzing Jackson's seminal role during a turbulent era in history, the political crises and personal upheaval that surrounded him, and his legacy for the modern presidency.
Publisher: New York : Random House, [2008], ©2008
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781400063253
1400063256
Branch Call Number: 921 Jacks
Description: xxiv, 483 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm

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A look inside Jackson's White House based on newly discovered family letters and papers.


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EvanSchoenfeld
Jan 24, 2019

On January 30 1835 a lunatic fired two pistols at Andrew Jackson as he left the House chamber, both of which misfired. The President, also insane, flew at the assassin to attack him with his cane. My sense is that Meacham admires Jackson because of this sort of heartwarming incident, which I can understand up to a point. A. J. was a type of dangerous, hair trigger violent character that the American frontier produced in quantity. Remembering it also produced Abe Lincoln, we shouldn’t blame the frontier too much.
The narrative of events here rather indicates that A. J. suffered from terrible judgement as a rule, the Nullification Crisis being the main exception. With that, it’s hard to explain the author’s ardent admiration. I also wondered why there wasn’t a description of the Battle of New Orleans, since it was an important part of the story. (The American victory was a free gift that the British would have bestowed on any competent general, but Meacham doesn’t otherwise seem to have doctored events to suit his prejudices.)
Jackson’s Indian Removal Act was one of the darkest chapters in our checkered history. It’s amazing to me that Congress passed it by only a tiny margin. What a heroic show of conscience for the 'No' voters, considering how displeased their constituencies would have been with them! Conversely we can see that Jackson was wildly popular for his misdeeds rather than redeeming features.
It is idle to blame historical figures for sharing the benighted morality of the times they lived in. On the other hand, that we continue to honor deplorable persons points to something wrong with our values today.

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xiaojunbpl12
Aug 09, 2018

Compelling for readers who either like or dislike Andrew Jackson’s statesmanship. Author’s passion was palpable throughout, infectious, a bit over the top erasing the nuance of complexities to instead tell matter of fact.
The easiest biography I’ve read, well correlated with other biographies of American luminaries, also offered me valuable history lessons of the country.

“...a father to the people”...

ArapahoeSarah Aug 29, 2017

I enjoyed Jon Meacham's "Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power" better than his biography on Andrew Jackson. It is possible that I may have found the life of Thomas Jefferson to be more interesting than Andrew Jackson, but I also feel that the writing style in the biography about President Jefferson to be more engaging. It seems like there is too much detail in this biography, but oddly I did not feel as if I had a real good sense of who President Jackson was. However, President Jackson was a complicated, controversial figure in history and the biography does a decent job of highlighting this fact.

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lukasevansherman
Jun 07, 2017

Like a number of people, I was interested in this book because of Trump's embrace of Andrew Jackson as a model, which drew some criticism. But, then again, so does everything he does. The average citizen probably knows that Jackson was nicknamed "Old Hickory," gained fame in the Battle of New Orleans, and was responsible for Indian removal in the South, which culminated in the brutal and shameful Trail of Tears. He's also on the $20 bill. Jon Meacham's book may not entirely change your opinion of the man, but it will give you a more nuanced understanding of him and his times, which includes colorful figures like John Quincy Adams, John Callhoun, and Daniel Webster. You can admire him for being anti-elitist (Something Trump is as well, despite being an elite.), expanding voting rights, and taking on the banks. Then again, he was bellicose, personally (He fought a number of duels.) and politically, his populism (Again, Trump.) had an ugly side, and, finally, there is the great stain on his presidency (And the nation.) that is the treatment of the Native Americans. You'd think all these contradictions would make for a fascinating read, but, while well-researched, the book is dull and inert. History fails to come alive.

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DFLAN
Mar 08, 2017

“American Lion” was my recommendation because, before reading it, and having done a little research into facts about President Andrew Jackson, I believed that he and President Trump shared many similarities. The more I read, the more I believed that both men were convinced the government of the United States was controlled by a relatively small, insular group of people. Further, that this group of “elitists” believed that they should govern the majority of Americans because the great mass was not capable to do this. Both men believed that they had to change this situation and return to a popular-based government versus rule by a small group of “selectmen.”

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