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Andrew Jackson (American Presidents)by Sean Wilentz
Synopses & Reviews
The towering figure who remade American politics--the champion of the ordinary citizen and the scourge of entrenched privilege
The Founding Fathers espoused a republican government, but they were distrustful of the common people, having designed a constitutional system that would temper popular passions. But as the revolutionary generation passed from the scene in the 1820s, a new movement, based on the principle of broader democracy, gathered force and united behind Andrew Jackson, the charismatic general who had defeated the British at New Orleans and who embodied the hopes of ordinary Americans. Raising his voice against the artificial inequalities fostered by birth, station, monied power, and political privilege, Jackson brought American politics into a new age.
Sean Wilentz, one of America's leading historians of the nineteenth century, recounts the fiery career of this larger-than-life figure, a man whose high ideals were matched in equal measure by his failures and moral blind spots, a man who is remembered for the accomplishments of his eight years in office and for the bitter enemies he made. It was in Jackson's time that the great conflicts of American politics--urban versus rural, federal versus state, free versus slave--crystallized, and Jackson was not shy about taking a vigorous stand. It was under Jackson that modern American politics began, and his legacy continues to inform our debates to the present day.
"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. Agent, the Wylie Agency." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
Would ordinary citizens have survived the beginnings of modernity without Jackson as their champion? Wilentz (history, Princeton U.) understands this question is far too simple to do justice to the seventh president, a complex man with complex politics. Made famous by his exploits as a general whose biggest battle was fought because the technology did not then exist to inform him the war was over, Jackson's political career was even more charged, starting with his defeat by John Quincy Adams in the 1824 presidential election, although Jackson won the popular vote. He riled up abolitionists as a slaveholder and slaveholders as a foe of states' rights, ticked off investors as a bank reformer whose efforts led to wild speculation, and turned out to be one of the best friends but worst enemies of the era's Native Americans. Elegantly, Wilentz makes Jackson accessible. Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Andrew Jackson, the charismatic general who had defeated the British at New Orleans and who embodied the hopes of ordinary Americans, brought American politics into a new age. This text recounts the fiery career of this larger-than-life figure.
About the Author
Sean Wilentz, a professor of history at Princeton University, is the author or editor of seven books, including Chants Democratic and The Rise of American Democracy. He has also written for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, and other publications. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
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