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Mr. Jefferson's Hammer: William Henry Harrison and the Origins of American Indian Policy Hardcover – October 1, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0806138428 ISBN-10: 0806138424 Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press (October 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806138424
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806138428
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 6.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,835,696 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Robert M. Owens is Associate Professor of History at Wichita State University. He specializes in colonial U.S. history and the Early Republic. He is the author of Mr. Jefferson’s Hammer: William Henry Harrison and the Origins of American Indian Policy (OU Press, 2007). His articles have appeared in the Journal of the Early Republic and the Journal of Illinois History.


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Customer Reviews

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The book is published by the University of Oklahoma Press.
Ben House
Harrison uses the influence of his family to petition for a commission in the U.S. army.
Ryan Costa
Good book and quick read, but a little hard to fall asleep after reading some parts.
Thomas E. Truesdell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By mafialedonia@hotmail.com on January 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The three best things about this book are the extensive primary research, the author's clarity, and his unrelenting fairness to all his subjects. Every time Owens describes any peculiar behavior--whether by William Henry Harrison, other American politicians or by Native Americans leaders--he explains it in its context and then goes on to point out if it fits with the circumstances or if the actors are being inconsistent or hypocritical. While most historians work to understand the nuances and characters of their subjects, Owens is unique in explicitly laying these out along with the logic of his assertions. This helps the reader to really understand the motivations of these frontier people instead of just having to accept an author's implicit assumptions. To paraphrase a line from The Razor's Edge, Owens gives the reason and the intent--most historians just give the reason.

Besides the historical quality and the impressive research, Mr. Jefferson's Hammer is just a highly enjoyable read. Owens writes very vividly and uses lots of colorful language. The last two chapters, which describe Harrison wheeling and dealing for land and build up to the death of the Shawnee leader Tecumseh, have the pacing of a novel or at least a popular history. The author also has a snappy way of characterizing people and actions that make the book a lot of fun to read.

One somewhat noteworthy omission is that the section entitled "Everyday Life in Early Indiana" hardly mentions farming (except a couple of lines in passing), which one would suspect would be the most sizeable component of everyday life. He discusses ideological and cultural issues that are more related to the narrative, but it just seems that he could have included more about farming in that part or renamed the section.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Thomas E. Truesdell on February 20, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am reading successive presidential biographies. When I looked for a book on the one month term of William Henry Harrison, I decided that it made more sense to look for one related to his impact on the country of the time and how that got him elected to the presidency. This was the book. It described a piece of history that was entirely new to me. It explained another reason that I think of Thomas Jefferson as more of a character than a man of character. The information within this book describes the origins of our own color of racial prejudice in the adolescence of the USA. Good book and quick read, but a little hard to fall asleep after reading some parts.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ben House on March 19, 2011
Format: Paperback
When most people think of William Henry Harrison....Wait a minute, I forget that normal people almost never think of William Henry Harrison or even his grandson Benjamin Harrison. Perhaps they do think of Harrison Ford. I will start over.
When American history teachers think of William Henry Harrison, assuming they did not do graduate work on his career, they only have a line or two in their minds. First, they will remember that Harrison served the shortest term in elected Presidential history--one month. (In recent decades, Vice Presidents have been sworn in during times when the President was undergoing surgery or was in some way incapacitated.) Concerning Harrison's one month term, more knowledgeable students will recall that he gave the longest inaugural address ever (which led, in part, to his subsequent illness) and that great controversy followed his successor's taking office, referring here to John Tyler, sometimes referred to as 'His Accidency.'
The second point usually remembered about Harrison is the catchy, and at its time, convincing campaign slogan: Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too. In a ruthless and invenctive campaign, filled with lots of sound and fury and little thought and wisdom, the association of the military victory of Harrison over the Indian tribes at the battle of Tippecanoe served to convince voters to elect him over the incumbent, Martin Van Buren.
Robert M. Owens is an Associate Professor of History at Wichata State University in Kansas. This book, Mr. Jefferson's Hammer, grew out of his dissertation. The book is published by the University of Oklahoma Press. The OUP publishes many fine works on the history of the American west, Native Americans, and the 19th century. This might well be expected from a university press located in Oklahoma.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is my first review on Amazon.com, but I always read the customer reviews in regard to books on history before making a purchase; which is what I did with this particular book. I reread all the glowing reviews after reading the book and I cannot fathom exactly how this book could earn 5 stars, 4 stars or even 3 stars. If you are interested in presidential biographies stick with writers such as McCullough, Brands or Chernow for a good read. Not sure what the author's intentions were with this biography, though he spells them out in a lengthy introduction; he just doesn't follow through.

The title is misleading in that there really is no hammering by Jefferson through Harrison, at least not much is made of this except repeating the same statements over and over again a few places throughout the book. It is almost as if the publisher sought a flashy title to beef up sales of an uninteresting subject. The third title of the book - or sub-sub-title if you will - is really what the book is about: "The Origins of American Indian Policy." On that subject, the book should stand, for that is about all that is covered in the book. Very little is made of Harrison's involvement in the War of 1812 - a few pages. Even less is made of his elected career. He was a senator before president - one sentence on that term is provided. And Harrison went through two presidential campaigns with only a brief mention of that as well. All items I did not know about this president, and I still don't after reading this book.

As for the subject of the book in the first sub-title, Harrison, this is the first presidential biography I have read (of about 20) in which the author fails to give us a picture of the person he is writing about.
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