- STAFF PICKS
- GIFTS + GIFT CARDS
- SELL BOOKS
- FIND A STORE
Ships in 1 to 3 days
More copies of this ISBN
This title in other editions
Other titles in the American History series:
Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jacksonby David Reynolds
Synopses & Reviews
America experienced unprecedented expansion and turmoil in the years between 1815 and 1848. In Waking Giant, Bancroft Prize-winning historian and literary critic David S. Reynolds illuminates the period's exciting political story as well as the fascinating social and cultural movements that influenced it. He casts fresh light on Andrew Jackson, who redefined the presidency, along with John Quincy Adams and James K. Polk, who expanded the nation's territory and strengthened its position internationally.
Waking Giant captures the turbulence of a democracy caught in the throes of the controversy over slavery, the rise of capitalism, and the birth of urbanization. Reynolds reveals unknown dimensions of the Second Great Awakening with its sects, cults, and self-styled prophets. He brings to life the reformers, abolitionists, and temperance advocates who struggled to correct America's worst social ills. He uncovers the political roots of some of America's greatest authors and artists, from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Edgar Allan Poe to Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand, and he reveals the shocking phenomena that marked the age: bloody duels and violent mobs, P. T. Barnum's freaks and all-seeing mesmerists, polygamous prophets and wealthy prostitutes, table-lifting spiritualists and rabble-rousing feminists. All were crucial to the political and social ferment that led to the Civil War.
Meticulously researched and masterfully written, Waking Giant is a brilliant chronicle of America's vibrant and tumultuous rise.
"Bancroft Prize — winning historian Reynolds (Walt Whitman's America) offers a fine addition to the literature on pre — Civil War American history in this account of the years 1815 — 1848. Exhilarated after defying Britain in the War of 1812, Americans redirected their energy into moving west, making money and wiping out every trace of elitism in their leaders. This resulted, after four aristocratic Virginians and two scholarly Adamses as president, in the election in 1828 of the uneducated frontiersman Andrew Jackson, who launched the unique American tradition of leaders who boast that they are no smarter than the electorate. While the politics of the era are familiar to many, even knowledgeable readers will relish the chapters on social history, in which Reynolds explains how a rapidly growing economy spurred both 'prudishness and prostitution,' and the enormous consumption of alcohol that spawned the temperance movement. Most, according to Reynolds, took for granted that anyone not like them (blacks, Indians, perhaps even Canadians) belonged to subhuman races. Although less opinionated than Sean Wilentz and Daniel Walker Howe on this period, Reynolds delivers a straightforward, insightful history of America during its bumptious adolescence. 44 b&w illus." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
It was the summer of 1832, and President Andrew Jackson was fleeing the notorious Foggy Bottom humidity for his home in Nashville, Tenn. Somehow he misplaced an important cache of papers along Washington's Post Road; they either dropped from his saddlebag, were stolen by the livery hand or were left behind in a tavern. Writing to his private secretary, Jackson lamented that the missing papers were... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) "of a private and political nature of great use to me and the historian that may come after me." History will probably never recover those fumbled documents. But as three new books attest, Jackson left behind plenty of other material about a president determined to bring change to Washington. Many anxieties of his era are once again in the air: a hunger for economic reform, a banking crisis, mushrooming unemployment, friction between a belligerent White House and a suspicious Congress. So it's worth remembering that Jackson shaped the modern Democratic Party by taking on powerful bankers and widening participation in politics. But he also caused or at least contributed to a depression after he left office. In "American Lion," Newsweek editor Jon Meacham gives us the most readable single-volume biography ever written of our seventh president, drawing on a trove of previously unpublished correspondence to vividly illuminate the self-made warrior who "embodied the nation's birth and youth." Such new documents, many unearthed from the archives of the Hermitage, Jackson's Nashville estate, allow Meacham to offer fresh analysis on the central issues of his presidency: the so-called Bank War (in which Jackson abolished the government-controlled national bank) and the federal tariff on imports (which South Carolina tried to nullify, even threatening to secede). While in the hands of a lesser writer this economics-laden history might glaze a reader's eyes, Meacham skillfully brings to life such long-forgotten characters as Nicholas Biddle (president of the Second Bank of the United States) and William B. Lewis (second auditor of the Treasury). "American Lion" explains why Jackson saw the federal bank as a threat: He was "an enemy of Eastern financial elites and a relentless opponent of the Bank of the United States, which he believed to be a bastion of corruption." But he was not opposed to national authority in general. On the contrary, he "promised to die, if necessary, to preserve the power and prestige of the federal government." In Robert V. Remini's "Andrew Jackson" (one in a series of slender books on "great generals," edited by Gen. Wesley K. Clark) the official historian for the House of Representatives expertly limns Jackson's qualities as a military leader. We learn how he drove the Spanish out of Florida and the Creek Indians into the ground. The Seminoles quaked at the mention of his name. He relished blood-soaked "encounters with the savages." His eyes were deep blue, his jaw jutting, his ambition cutthroat. It's the kind of rah-rah fare that war colleges love to teach. According to Remini, Jackson was an "inspirational" general, not a bureaucratic "organizer of victory type" like Eisenhower or Marshall. "Defeat was something he could not abide," Remini writes. "He demanded victory, and his soldiers did everything in their power to achieve it for him." Because Jackson was an acclaimed Indian fighter and the hero of the American victory over a much larger British force at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, historians have given his intellectual side short shrift. Meacham follows this pattern in his early chapters, which trace Jackson's route to the White House (and which owe a great deal to Remini's previous, award-winning, three-volume biography). We get up-from-the-hollow tales of Jackson's boyhood along the North and South Carolina border before the Revolutionary War. "I was born for a storm," Jackson once boasted, "and a calm does not suit me." Along with his brothers, he longed to be part of General Washington's fife-and-drum action. Orphaned at 14, he enlisted in the Continental Army as a courier, was captured by the Red Coats and was lashed with a sword for refusing to clean a British officer's boots. From such stories, a portrait emerges of a fearless warrior ever ready to duel or brawl to protect his honor, the only U.S. president to absorb a bullet in a frontier gunfight. Yet, in his later pages, based on his original research, Meacham tries to separate Jackson from his rough-and-tumble reputation and to present him in a more multi-dimensional way. While there are plenty of anecdotes in "American Lion" about racehorses, gambling, whiskey and women, it's Jackson's sensitive side that surprises the reader. Always, it seems, he was looking for affection (think: Bill Clinton). "He was gloomy when people left him," Meacham writes, "and he could be the most demanding of men, insisting that others bend their lives to his. His was an interesting kind of neediness, often intertwined with sincere professions of love and regard." Not that Jackson was a kumbaya kinda guy. His will-for-power would have made Nietzsche flinch. While Emerson wrote of self-reliance and Whitman sung of self, Jackson dredged rivers and built roads. His spirit was as new as the country itself. He was a master of the veto. And the pocket veto. As David S. Reynolds, professor of history at the City University of New York, maintains in "Waking Giant," Jackson did more than all his predecessors combined to strengthen the power of the presidency. Unlike "Andrew Jackson" and "American Lion," which are chronological biographies, "Waking Giant" is an intellectual history and group portrait of America turning from a republic to a popular democracy during the Age of Jackson. While Reynolds also grapples with Manifest Destiny, the Monroe Doctrine, abolitionism and European immigration with consummate skill, it's his depiction of an exploding popular culture that makes "Waking Giant" an unmitigated delight. The reader meets Transcendentalists promoting anarchic individualism, Mormons finding God's tablets and Mesmerists time-traveling. And it was Old Hickory who produced the now-familiar notion that charisma and log-cabin imagery are vital factors in a U.S. presidential election. Clearly, as president from 1829 to 1837, Jackson changed American political culture by opening up our democracy. He insisted that the people were sovereign, their will absolute. He wanted all federal officials, even judges, subjected to direct election. "He was the people's president to a degree that few other presidents have been," Reynolds writes. "He not only provided a fresh spirit and language for average workers, he also made them feel more truly American than those they increasingly regarded as the idle rich." There was, however, a political cost. Jackson's audacity outraged his Whig critics, causing him to receive a congressional censure. Cartoonists portrayed him as King Andrew. His great rivals, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, boasted that they deserved national gratitude for defending the Constitution against his crass usurpations. Apparently, all that sniping is now over. Jackson's reputation is secure (just look at a 20-dollar bill or read Meacham's rapturous description of Jackson's statue watching over the Potomac tidal basin, "never blinking, never tiring.") Together, these three books remind us of Jackson's steely accomplishments, from paying off the national debt in 1835 for the only time in U.S. history (take that Obama and McCain!) to ordering armed troops to South Carolina when the state tried to nullify the tariff. But the cult of Jackson should have limits. Unlike George Washington — who freed his slaves in death — Jackson was an unrepentant whipmaster. The inconvenient fact remains that his first significant act as president was passage of the Indian Removal Act, a genocide. The Trail of Tears makes Jackson an unsustainable hero in my eyes. There was a vileness to Jackson that shouldn't be glossed over by overly embracing the huzzas and tra-la-la-boom-dee-ays of the era. Given my druthers, I prefer John Quincy Adams, an educated man with a human rights instinct. The storyline these three fine scholars are hawking is that Jackson epitomized a young, restless democracy; but he was also a bigot and a killer with blood in his eyes and malice in his heart, always warring against what he called "savage enemies." Crazy old Gutzon Borglum was right not to chisel his lean face onto Mount Rushmore. Douglas Brinkley is professor of history at Rice University and CBS News' presidential historian. Reviewed by Douglas Brinkley, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
Book News Annotation:
Reynolds, who has written several books on aspects of nineteenth-century American history, tackles the society as a whole in the period between the end of the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War in 1848. While the figure of Andrew Jackson is used as a symbol of the age and the rapid changes in the American character, politics are only a part of the story. Reynolds examines the totality of American life: religion, immigration, entertainments, industry, literature, education and inventions. In the best tradition of social history, he demonstrates how nothing happens in a vacuum. Thoreau was appalled by the concept of Manifest Destiny and he also helped create the legend of John Brown as martyr. The battles Jackson had with the National Bank reflected the distrust of the frontiersman for the Establishment. By treating lesser known characters and events along with the major events of the period, Reynolds demonstrates how the nation found its unique voice, that of a somewhat discordant chorus, all singing at the top of their lungs. And beneath the reforms, exploration and creativity, Reynolds uncovers for the reader the roots of the coming War Between the States. This is a compelling book accessible to general readers. Annotation ©2009 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Waking Giant is a brilliant, definitive history of Americas vibrant and tumultuous rise during the Jacksonian era from David S. Reynolds, the Bancroft Prize-winning author of Walt Whitmans America. Casting fresh light on Andrew Jackson, who redefined the presidency, along with John Quincy Adams and James K. Polk, who expanded the nations territory and strengthened its position internationally, Reynolds captures the turbulence of a democracy caught in the throes of the controversy over slavery, the rise of capitalism, and the birth of urbanization.
About the Author
David S. Reynolds is Distinguished Professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His books include John Brown, Abolitionist, winner of the Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award; Walt Whitman's America, winner of the Bancroft Prize and the Ambassador Book Award and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Beneath the American Renaissance, winner of the Christian Gauss Award from the Phi Beta Kappa Society. He lives in Old Westbury, New York.
What Our Readers Are Saying
Average customer rating based on 1 comment:
Other books you might like