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American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 11, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Newsweek editor and bestselling author Meacham (Franklin and Winston) offers a lively take on the seventh president's White House years. We get the Indian fighter and hero of New Orleans facing down South Carolina radicals' efforts to nullify federal laws they found unacceptable, speaking the words of democracy even if his banking and other policies strengthened local oligarchies, and doing nothing to protect southern Indians from their land-hungry white neighbors. For the first time, with Jackson, demagoguery became presidential, and his Democratic Party deepened its identification with Southern slavery. Relying on the huge mound of previous Jackson studies, Meacham can add little to this well-known story, save for the few tidbits he's unearthed in private collections rarely consulted before. What he does bring is a writer's flair and the ability to relate his story without the incrustations of ideology and position taking that often disfigure more scholarly studies of Jackson. Nevertheless, a gifted writer like Meacham might better turn his attention to tales less often told and subjects a bit tougher to enliven. 32 pages of b&w photos. (Nov. 11)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

It's no surprise that the editor of Newsweek can write a well-researched, well-written, and entertaining book on American history. What stands out about reviews of American Lion, however, is how often critics—even professional historians—said they learned something new about the seventh president. A few reviewers were not so impressed with Meacham's scholarly synthesis, especially regarding Jackson's unwavering approval of slavery, his removal of Native Americans despite the objections of the Supreme Court, and his vindictive qualities. But even these reviewers praised Meacham's ability to tell Jackson's story without resorting to the cliches of high school history textbooks.
Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (November 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400063256
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400063253
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (384 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jon Meacham is the author, most recently, of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, a No. 1 New York Times bestseller that has been named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, The Seattle Times, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Meacham received the Pulitzer Prize for American Lion, his bestselling 2008 biography of Andrew Jackson. He is also the author of the New York Times bestsellers Franklin and Winston and American Gospel. Executive editor and executive vice president of Random House, Meacham is a contributing editor to Time magazine, a former editor of Newsweek, and has written for The New York Times and The Washington Post, among other publications. He is a regular contributor on Meet the Press, Morning Joe, and Charlie Rose. A Fellow of the Society of American Historians, Meacham serves on the boards of the New-York Historical Society; the Churchill Centre; and of The McCallie School. He is a former trustee and Regent of The University of the South and has served on the vestries of St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue and Trinity Church Wall Street. Born in Chattanooga in 1969, Meacham was educated at McCallie and at The University of the South, where he was salutatorian and Phi Beta Kappa. He began his career as a reporter at The Chattanooga Times. He and his wife live with their three children in Nashville and in Sewanee.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

201 of 223 people found the following review helpful By J. Moran VINE VOICE on January 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As he says, Meacham has "attempted to paint a biographical portrait of Jackson and of many... who lived and worked with him in his tumultuous years in power." The book concentrates almost entirely on the presidential years, with only enough on Jackson's earlier career to give the reader some idea of the man's personality, of how he rose to prominence and of his political views. Meacham provides an equally short coda on Jackson's post-presidential years until his death (1845). The book is not a "life and times" but is centered on Jackson's experiences in his political battles. The politics are Meacham's chief concern because he believes that Jackson's presidency transformed American political culture.

Jackson was the first president who was not from the pre-Revolutionary elite and was the first to be voted into office by a newly expanded electorate. Meacham views Jackson as the first to see the president as representing the entirety of the people and as the equal of Congress, entitled to shape policy and legislation without the traditional deference to Congressional views. Jackson thought that the people shared his beliefs and that he was fighting for their interests in everything he did. This vision sustained Jackson as he relentlessly expanded the powers of the president. Meacham believes that Jackson was a master politician who happily allowed opponents to think that he was entirely a creature of emotion and passion while coolly outmaneuvering them politically.
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106 of 116 people found the following review helpful By Jon Hunt on December 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Andrew Jackson is one of those presidents who stands out in our history but for many people, we're not exactly sure why. Jon Meacham, in his excellent new book "American Lion", tells us why. Not only do we get a clearer picture of the contributions of our seventh president but Meacham goes very much inside Jackson, the man, and it's a fascinating portrait.

Most of us remember Andrew Jackson as a hero of the Battle of New Orleans, at the close of the war of 1812. But Jackson as president really changed the course of the executive. He was the first of what we might call today an "imperial president" (or at least his critics of the day would have called him that...or worse) but Jackson rejected the notion that Congress had the more powerful lock on government. The great issues of the 1820s and 1830s all found their way to Jackson's office. His main idea that "nation first" was everything served him well in his executive battles. Jackson fought for the elimination of the Bank of the United States and slew the mighty dragon running it, Nicholas Biddle. Nullification, a notion that states had the right to ignore federal laws if they saw fit, was championed by South Carolina's John C. Calhoun, at once Jackson's first vice-president and later a senator from that state. Indian removal was paramount in Jackson's mind and while he succeeded to a degree, it wasn't without much bloodshed, leaving a stain on his presidency. But the most fascinating part of the Jackson presidency was the impending strife of secession and the issue of slavery. We tend not to think about those two issues arising until a decade or more after Jackson left the White House, but they were primary concerns a generation before war broke out.
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55 of 64 people found the following review helpful By James Hiller VINE VOICE on November 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As I write this review, I can peer over to the two shelves of books that I have just on one president alone; that being Abraham Lincoln. With the 200th anniversary of his birthday coming up next year, so many books have been focused on him, his legacy, his marriage, and even his time as president-elect. So it was with great surprise that I found this biography of Andrew Jackson. And it was an even greater surprise that I found it enchanting.

Jon Meacham's Andrew Jackson is rough, brilliant, difficult, and all together human. Meacham's writing attempts to avoid deifying the man, but tries to give insightful glimpses into his character and presidency. Sometimes biographies like this get bogged down in too many details and the minute factoids that only the most ardent fans find remotely interesting. Meacham paints a bigger portrait than that. By focusing mainly on Jackson's time in the presidency, it frees him up for a more specific yet more encompassing vision of Jackson.

I admit that my basic content knowledge of Jackson is sorely lacking (well, compare to Lincoln, that is) but after reading Meacham's page-turner of a book, I must admit my appetite has been whetted by yet another interesting character in our history. I can see this making a great Christmas gift for the history buff or biography lover in your life!
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on December 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I've always had something of an affinity for Andrew Jackson. Perhaps it's nothing more than the fact that we share a birthday (March 15th). Or maybe it's because he's generally regarded as one of the progenitors of the modern Democratic Party, of which I've been a member for almost 40 years. But now, after reading Newsweek editor Jon Meacham's rich, gracefully written biography of our seventh president, I've discovered new reasons to admire this colorful and controversial leader for the decisive role he played in shaping the modern presidency in the midst of a turbulent period of American history.

Drawing upon a diverse and impressive array of sources, including letters in private hands for 175 years, Meacham (like Jackson a Tennessean) paints what he describes as "not a history of the Age of Jackson but a portrait of the man and of his complex relationships with the intimate circle that surrounded him as he transformed the presidency." Born in humble circumstances and orphaned by the age of 14, Jackson rose to the pinnacle of power amidst the rude environment of the American frontier. He killed a man in a duel and was a ruthless military leader, whose victory over the British at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 catapulted him to national prominence. After winning a plurality of the popular vote and then losing the 1824 election to John Quincy Adams in the House of Representatives, Jackson captured a decisive 56 percent majority in 1828.
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