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Andrew Jackson Hardcover – December 27, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In the latest installment of the American Presidents series edited by Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Princeton historian Wilentz shows that our complicated seventh president was a central figure in the development of American democracy. Wilentz gives Jackson's early years their due, discussing his storied military accomplishments, especially in routing the British in the War of 1812, and rehearsing the central crises of Jackson's presidential administration—South Carolina's nullification of the protective tariff and his own battle against the Bank of the United States. But Wilentz's most significant interpretations concern Indian policy and slavery. With constitutional and security concerns, Jackson's support for removal of Indians from their lands, says Wilentz, was not "overtly malevolent," but was nonetheless "ruinous" for Indians. Even more strongly, Wilentz condemns the "self-regarding sanctimony of posterity" in judging Jackson insufficiently antislavery; Jackson's main aim, he says, was not to promote slavery, but to keep the divisive issue out of national politics. Wilentz (The Rise of American Democracy) also astutely reads the Eaton affair—a scandal that erupted early in Jackson's presidency, over the wife of one of his cabinet members—as evidence that, then as now, parlor politics and partisan politics often intersected. It is rare that historians manage both Wilentz's deep interpretation and lively narrative.
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From Booklist

Best known now for beating the British in the 1815 Battle of New Orleans, Jackson is truly, monumentally important, Wilentz argues, as the first great presidential champion of the common man and indivisible union. He fought the plutocratic Bank of the United States' stranglehold on credit for the sake of farmers and small businessmen. His militant expansionism--the rationale for his Indian removal policies, which he felt were better than white settlers exterminating Native Americans, as had happened in New England--aimed to facilitate American settlement and prevent foreign, especially British, encroachment. He became founder-leader of the first modern political party, the Democracy (later called the Democratic Party), to prosecute the interests of ordinary citizens, too, going so far as to advocate direct senatorial and presidential election. Even his anti-states rights and anti-secession positions reflected his social sympathies, for he considered his southern opponents on those issues would-be aristocrats. Factor in his heroic courage, iron will, and remarkable pragmatism, and Jackson's presidential stature, especially as carefully expounded here, seems towering, indeed. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 195 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books - Henry Holt and Company; BCE edition (December 27, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805069259
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805069259
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Loves the View VINE VOICE on April 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
He's on most lists of our best presidents as well as our $20 bill. Democrats hail him as a founder. After reading this book, and attempting a few others, it's still hard to understand why Jackson has been accorded such respect.

I started both the Brand and Remini bios. Through them I came to understand his childhood and how the American Revolution shaped his character and views. The psychological toll of losing his nuclear family at a young age had to be enormous. His mother's heroic search and rescue of him in a very abusive British POW camp illustrates the love and family loyalty he lost.

Wilentz quickly outlines the child/youth/military and plunges into the presidency, which was what I was seeking when I started reading the others.

Wilentz cleary states the complicated facts of Jackson's war on the bank. To Jackson it was a war on the aristrocracy. It is not within the scope of Wilentz's book to editorialize, but were Biddle and his cronies really controling the US economy? Could the land issues have been settled with (Lincolnesque) homestead acts, which undoubtedly would have been very popular? Could he have fought for legislative mini-changes (Clintonesque) to curb certain powers, such as bidding out government banking needs. Jackson and Biddle were clearly obstinate equals, but as Pres, it would seem that there were other paths to take leadership on this since he deemed it important. How necessary and/or effective was this bank war? Did it really save the "little guy" in the short or long run?

In his tooth and nail fight on nullification, Jackson may have been as instrumental as Lincoln in holding the union together. Jackson's stand against nullification not only solidified the sentiment for his day, but also built precedent for future times.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Buck Leonard on January 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I was fully prepared to dislike this book, but I bought it because of my continued enjoyment of the American Presidents series. My dislike would have been inspired by some of Professor Wilentz's comments regarding contemporary public policy. But once again, he fooled me. His comments on Jackson are insightful, he puts him in the right historical context, does not shy away from the unflattering, and is not given to making moral judgments based on modern attitudes regarding Jackson's sometimes appalling stances and statements.
I still think Professor Wilentz makes a few assumptions about Jackson's views re: the Constitution and what the government owes the individual, but he is not nearly as dogmatic as I would have guessed. Overall, a worthy introduction to the president and a handsome addition to the series.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The 2008 Presidential race is in full swing, and interest in the contest runs high. In order to keep my own bearings, I wanted to try to take a short but broader view of our Presidents and our nation's history. One way to do this is by reading some of the volumes in the recent "American Presidents" series edited by the late Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Each volume in this series offers, in short compass, the life and accomplishments of an American president together with an evaluation of his achievement.

I chose Sean Wilentz' biography of Andrew Jackson (1767 -- 1845) because of our seventh President's role in broadening the basis of American democracy and because of the controversy he inspired and continues to inspire. Jackson was a flamboyant, larger-than-life figure with great virtues and as many faults. He was orphaned at an early age and bore for life the physical and emotional scars inflicted upon him by a sword gash to the head by a British officer during the Revolutionary War. Jackson fought off poverty and his own impulsive nature to serve an early term in Congress and in the Senate before the 19th century. He became a lawyer, a judge and a large plantation owner of the Hermitage in Tennessee. He became famous as an Indian fighter in wars against the Southeast Tribes such as the Creeks and Cherokees and against the Florida Seminoles. Jackson won a great victory against the British at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, (the War of 1812 was officially over at the time) which secured his fame.

Jackson ran for President in 1824 but, following a close election, he was denied the presidency in the House of Representatives as a result of what he claimed was a "corrupt bargain" between John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Terry Heath on February 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Today's historians are still in a quandary on why Andrew Jackson, the Seventh President of the United States and one of this nation's greatest leaders, was a man of complete contradictions in his public life.

Was he the populist politician who championed the rights of all citizens in the growing republic, yet owned slaves to do the hard work on his own property?

Was he the grandiose dictator who tried to crush his political enemies whom he viewed as elitist or just a man from the working class battling those seeking to dominate the masses?

Was he the brilliant military genius who defeated the British in the War of 1812 for America's only major victory in that ill-conceived conflict against England? Or was he the racist extremist who conquered the Indian Tribes and removed them from their homelands in the south because it was good for his own political career?

Was he all of that and more?

Sean Wilentz is a Professor of History at Princeton University and has written a new examination of Jackson in `The American Presidents' series that are published by Times Books which are edited by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Schlesinger had previously written about the famed chief executive sixty years ago in the Pulitzer Prize winning biography `The Age of Jackson.'

Wilentz tries to explain in the brief 195 page tome those many contradictions of the Tennessee military commander nicknamed `Old Hickory' for his toughness who is generally accepted as one of our nation's top half-dozen greatest presidents.
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