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American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 11, 2008
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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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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
Top customer reviews
I would say that this is not a good first book to read about Jackson. His childhood is covered in some detail, but the periods of his military career, his training as a lawyer, his term as a Tennessee congressman, are covered too briefly. Meacham states in his acknowledgment section that he has deliberately not attempted to cover Jackson entire life in detail.
The eight years of Jackson's presidency are the focus of the book. The main issues that characterize Jackson's presidency: the threat of secession by South Carolina, the dissolution of the national bank, standoff with the French over the payment of reparations, expanded use of the presidential veto, etc., were covered in detail. However, as a newcomer to the subject, I sometimes could have used more context. For instance, there was not much discussion of how a national bank came to be and what the counter-arguments might have been for preserving it.
On the other hand, there was (in my view) excessive detail given over infighting between some very minor characters in American history. In the acknowledgment section, Meacham explains that new information about these people had come to light since previous biographies on Jackson were published so Meacham deliberately focused on these matters.
If you have read previous books on Jackson and on this period in American history, you may find some interesting new stuff in Meacham's book. But if you are a novice like myself, there must be a better book out there to start with.