From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Historian Brands, author of the bestselling The First American
: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin
, now turns to Andrew Jackson (1767–1845), illuminating both the mettle of a fascinating leader and the crucible in which American democracy was forged. A military hero during the War of 1812 and winner of the popular presidential vote in 1824 (he lost the election in Congress), Jackson won the office handily in 1828. Brands argues that the populist Jackson changed the very nature of the presidency, vetoing more bills than all six of his predecessors combined; thwarting the bank of the United States; and in a dramatic test of wills, preparing for civil war when South Carolina threatened to secede over tariffs. He died at the age of 78, just days after learning that Texas would join the union. Although Brands lacks the narrative flair of David McCullough, his effort is intensely engaging. He meticulously renders Jackson's life, his ugly massacres of Indians as well as his triumphs, with unflinching detail. He also conveys the vagaries of war, life on the frontier, the perilous state of the union and the brass-knuckles politics of the day. The result is a bracing, human portrait of both a remarkable man and of American democracy as it was transformed from a "government of the people" into a "government by the people."
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Critics agree that even though theres mild interest in the life of President Andrew Jackson, the author who could spark a forest fire of curiosity would be acclaimed biographer, H. W. Brands, who teaches at the University of Texas at Austin. In tackling the life and times of Jackson, Brands doesnt overlook any of the controversial aspects of "Old Hickory" and his history. Who remembered that Jackson killed a man for disrespecting his wife, was fiercely protective of his honor, and adored veto power (Brands claims he vetoed more bills than the previous six presidents combined)? While critics praised Brands for placing Jackson squarely within the context of the republics formative years, they faulted him for offering scant new material and focusing more on Old Hickorys military career than his influential political one. Still, this warts-and-all biography will engage readers interested in the nations early history.
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