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Andrew Jackson (American Presidents)

by

Andrew Jackson (American Presidents) Cover

ISBN13: 9780805069259
ISBN10: 0805069259
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

"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)

Synopsis:

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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OneMansView, September 4, 2009 (view all comments by OneMansView)
Jackson’s inadequate view of democracy (4.25*s)

This compact book is a very insightful look at the controversies and complexities of Andrew Jackson and his Presidency. His early standing in life and his personality are certainly unique when compared to all prior Presidents: very impoverished background, his family all dead by his fifteenth birthday, no education to speak of, a tendency towards violence and revenge, a fierce and headstrong military leader, etc. The American Revolution supposedly elevated the common man to be the foundation of the nation (We the People), yet the American aristocracy ruled until Jackson’s broad appeal got him elected in 1828. By far the most interesting aspect of this book is the contemplation of Jackson and his connection to democracy. Did the people rule during his Presidency? Did he enhance democracy? Or was he a demagogue, steering his own course under the pretence of following the people’s will?

The author outlines the key currents that ran through Jackson’s Presidency. First of all, he was a fierce nationalist. No issue could be permitted to undermine the Union and he dealt with them accordingly: sectionalism, nullification, abolitionism, Congressional petitions, incendiary mail delivered to the South, and the like. His antipathy towards privilege was expressed in his purge of officials in the upper layers of government and in his Bank wars: not renewing the charter and the removal federal government deposits. Closely tied to his dislike of moneyed elites was his fixation on western expansion, which he saw as economic opportunity for the little guy: Jefferson’s “empire of liberty. “ His summary and harsh removal of Indians all across the South and his fixation on annexing the Mexican state of Texas were justified in these terms.

Jackson was a believer in the concept of popular sovereignty, in other words, majority rule. Since Congressmen were directly elected within small districts, Jackson held that his nationwide election established him as the true embodiment of the people’s will. Virtually by definition, his actions as President expressed the desire of the majority. Prior to his Presidency, the assumption was that Congress was the superior part of the federal government. But Jackson overrode Congress repeatedly with his use of the veto power, little used before his Presidency. His veto of state-level internal improvements was especially vexing to proponents of Henry Clay’s American system.

The author explores the contradictions and soundness of some of Jackson’s policies. While the lack of governmental control of Nicholas Biddle’s Bank of the United States was without doubt inconsistent with democracy, Jackson’s handling of the entire banking situation created havoc in the economy for years, including a severe depression in 1837 after he left office. Jackson’s notion of who belonged to the political community was highly limited. Rights of participation did not apply to Indians, slaves, and women. As a consequence, expansionism and the denunciation of abolitionism overlooked brutal Indian removal and full support of slavery. He viewed abolitionists as political opportunists with no real concern for slavery. His policies were consistent with the position that he should represent the views, if not prejudices, of the majority of white men. His exclusions and policies kept the lid on severe social cracks and regional differences for a few years, before it all exploded in the 1850s and led to the Civil War.

The author touches on attempts to understand Jackson in terms of the modern concepts of liberal and conservative. Neither label really works. Jackson’s extreme dislike for economic elites would put him in disfavor with modern conservatives. His exclusion of minorities would hardly endear him to modern liberals. The activists of Jackson’s time, that is the social reformers, invariably were found in the Whig Party, not the Democracy. The democracy that Jackson supported was theoretical and procedural, not consisting of activists desirous of including all Americans and struggling for change. Note the complete flip flop of party philosophies in our time.

While the author sees the contradictions and controversies surrounding Jackson, he gives Jackson much credit as being the first President to represent the will of the people as he defined them and to encourage rightful beliefs in popular sovereignty. But Jackson’s simplistic views of democracy in the face of the developments of territorial expansion, the extension of slavery, and immigration proved woefully inadequate only a few years after he left office. The formation of the Liberty Party, the Free-Soilers, the Know-Nothings, and the Republicans and the demise of the Whigs and the recasting of the Democracy reflected the highly contentious nature of American understandings that began in Jackson’s time and continued to the Civil War. Jackson did reshape the Presidency. But clearly he demonstrates that there are limits to policies of containment of core issues and to precipitous actions, even in the name of the people.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780805069259
Author:
Wilentz, Sean
Publisher:
Times Books
Editor:
Schlesinger, Arthur M.
Author:
Schlesinger, Arthur M.
Author:
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.
Subject:
Historical
Subject:
Historical - U.S.
Subject:
United states
Subject:
Presidents
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Presidents & Heads of State
Subject:
Presidents -- United States.
Subject:
Jackson, Andrew
Subject:
United States - 19th Century
Subject:
Biography-Presidents and Heads of State
Edition Description:
Times
Series:
American Presidents
Publication Date:
20051231
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
1 bandw illus
Pages:
224
Dimensions:
8.65 x 5.76 x 0.85 in

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Related Subjects

Biography » Historical
Biography » Presidents and Heads of State
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » US History » General
History and Social Science » US History » Presidents » Jackson, Andrew
History and Social Science » World History » General

Andrew Jackson (American Presidents) New Hardcover
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Product details 224 pages Times Books - English 9780805069259 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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.)
"Synopsis" by , 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.
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