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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: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.1 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: #1,216,328 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

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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By O. Pflug on December 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There has been very little scholarship on President William Henry Harrison; the last scholarly work came out during the Second World War. For that reason alone, Robert Owens's work has value. Although Owens only covers Harrison's life in detail for the period between Harrison's enlistment in the army before 1800 and his resignation during the War of 1812, the author give a fine assessment of Harrison's character and the post-Revolutionary frontier mentality as a whole. Much of what was included in this work was covered in a book that I had read recently and that the author cited heavily: Andrew Clayton's Frontier Indiana, but there is still value in Owens's interpretations. Harrison was driven by the desire to maintain his personal honor, deeply distrusted the British and viewed Indians as their dupes, prone to savage outrage; he also had deep personal ambitions including the desire to improve his finances. While Harrison can be seen as a ruthless and even conniving careerist, he embodied the frontier gentleman persona that Andrew Jackson would perfect. Our culture may vilify such behavior today for supporting the dispossession of American Indians or supporting the spread of slavery, but in Harrison's worldview his actions were almost natural. Indeed, the author never lets the reader forget this principle, brining it up to the point of annoyance. The author does everything but fall all over himself trying to convince readers that he does not condone Harrison's behavior, but must remind us that he was a character of his time and place. Still well worth a read, especially if you are interested in the shortest serving president.
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