Andrew Jackson, his intimate circle of friends, and his tumultuous times are at the heart of this remarkable book about the man who rose from nothing to create the modern presidency. Beloved and hated, venerated and reviled, Andrew Jackson was an orphan who fought his way to the pinnacle of... read more
Andrew Jackson, his intimate circle of friends, and his tumultuous times are at the heart of this remarkable book about the man who rose from nothing to create the modern presidency. Beloved and hated, venerated and reviled, Andrew Jackson was an orphan who fought his way to the pinnacle of... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
Andrew Jackson, his intimate circle of friends, and his tumultuous times are at the heart of this remarkable book about the man who rose from nothing to create the modern presidency. Beloved and hated, venerated and reviled, Andrew Jackson was an orphan who fought his way to the pinnacle of power, bending the nation to his will in the cause of democracy. Jackson’s election in 1828 ushered in a new and lasting era in which the people, not distant elites, were the guiding force in American politics. Democracy made its stand in the Jackson years, and he gave voice to the hopes and the fears of a restless, changing nation facing challenging times at home and threats abroad. To tell the saga of Jackson’s presidency, acclaimed author Jon Meacham goes inside the Jackson White House. Drawing on newly discovered family letters and papers, he details the human drama–the family, the women, and the inner circle of advisers–that shaped Jackson’s private world through years of storm and victory. One of our most significant yet dimly recalled presidents, Jackson was a battle-hardened warrior, the founder of the Democratic Party, and the architect of the presidency as we know it. His story is one of violence, sex, courage, and tragedy. With his powerful persona, his evident bravery, and his mystical connection to the people, Jackson moved the White House from the periphery of government to the center of national action, articulating a vision of change that challenged entrenched interests to heed the popular will–or face his formidable wrath. The greatest of the presidents who have followed Jackson in the White House–from Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt to FDR to Truman–have found inspiration in his example, and virtue in his vision. Jackson was the most contradictory of men. The architect of the removal of Indians from their native lands, he was warmly sentimental and risked everything to give more power to ordinary citizens. He was, in short, a lot like his country: alternately kind and vicious, brilliant and blind; and a man who fought a lifelong war to keep the republic safe–no matter what it took.
Exclusive Amazon.com Q&A with Jon Meacham and H.W. Brands On the eve of the historic 2008 presidential election, we were fortunate to chat with historians Jon Meacham and H.W. Brands (author of Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt ) on the similarities of their presidential subjects and how the legacies of FDR and Jackson continue to shape the political world we see today.
Amazon.com: One of Andrew Jackson's childhood friends once remarked that when they wrestled, "I could throw him three times out of four, but he never stayed throwed." How emblematic is this of Jackson's career?
Meacham: Utterly emblematic. Jackson was resilient, tough, and wily, rising from nothing to become the dominant political figure of the age. He was crushed by his loss in 1824, when, despite carrying the popular vote, he was defeated in the House of Representatives. But, tellingly, he began his campaign for 1828 almost immediately, on the way home to Tennessee. And he won the next time.
Amazon.com: What would Jackson think of Franklin Delano Roosevelt?
Meacham: I think they would have gotten along famously. It is difficult to imagine men from more starkly different backgrounds—to take just one example, Jackson lost his mother early, and FDR was long shaped by his mother—but they both viewed the presidency the same way: they both believed they should be in it, wielding power on behalf of the masses against entrenched interests.
Amazon.com: How important was Jackson's legacy to FDR's Presidency?
Brands: Jackson was FDR’s favorite president, and Jackson’s presidency was the one Roosevelt initially modeled his own after. FDR saw Jackson as the champion of the ordinary people of America; he saw himself the same way. He compared Jackson’s battle with the Bank of the United States to his own battle with entrenched economic interests. And just as Jackson had reveled in the enmity of the rich, so did Roosevelt.
Amazon.com: Although both were regarded as champions of the people, their backgrounds were drastically different. FDR hailed from a wealthy and politically-connected family, while Jackson was an orphaned son of immigrants. How did each manage to endear themselves to the voters of their day?
Meacham: Jackson was in many ways the first great popular candidate. He had “Hickory Clubs,” and there were torchlit parades and barbecues—lots and lots of barbecues. Jackson helped mastermind the means of campaigning that would become commonplace. He also intuitively understood the power of image, and kept a portrait painter, Ralph Earl, near to hand in the White House.
Brands: FDR combined noblesse oblige with felt concern for the plight of the poor. His polio had something to do with this—it introduced him to personal suffering, and it also introduced him, in Georgia, where he went for rehabilitation, to poor farmers unlike any he had spent time with before. He came to know them and to feel the problems they faced. He took people in trouble seriously and communicated that seriousness to them.
“Jackson was a transformative president in part because he had a transcendent personality; other presidents who followed him were not transformative, and served unremarkably.”
“With a writer's eye, Irving detected Jackson's depths. "As his admirers say, he is truly an old Roman-to which I would add, with a little dash of the Greek; for I suspect he is as knowing as I believe he is honest.”
“Or, as Jackson would have said: The people, sir-the people will set things right.”
“He was a firm believer in the goodness of superintending Providence, and in the eventual right judgement and justice of the people.”
If you ever have to vindicate your feelings or defend your honor, do it calmly. If angry at first, wait till your wrath cools before you proceed.Highlighted by 104 Kindle customers
PATRONAGE, THE BANK, nullification, Indian removal, clerical influence in politics, internal improvements, respect abroad—these were the questions that would define Jackson’s White House years.Highlighted by 93 Kindle customers
Always take all the time to reflect that circumstances permit, but when the time for action has come, stop thinking.”Highlighted by 86 Kindle customers
“I was born for a storm,” Jackson once said, “and a calm does not suit me.”Highlighted by 84 Kindle customers
To him debt was dangerous, for debt put power in the hands of creditors—and if power was in the hands of creditors, it could not be in the hands of the people, where Jackson believed it belonged.Highlighted by 83 Kindle customers
“There is a rank due to the United States among nations which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of weakness. If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it. If we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times, ready for war.”Highlighted by 82 Kindle customers
Trust no one except those who have proved themselves, yet never let those who have failed the test know that when they look at you, they are looking at a mask, not at your true self. Life, Jackson was saying, particularly political life, can be theatrical—an exercise in assessing other people’s minds and motives and then designing your own response with an awareness of the gulf between appearance and reality. It was Chesterfield’s creed, and Jackson subscribed to it.Highlighted by 71 Kindle customers
“The Americans, as it appears to me, are infinitely more occupied about bringing in a given candidate, than they are about the advancement of those measures of which he is conceived to be the supporter.”Highlighted by 59 Kindle customers
Jackson liked to think of himself as first and foremost a republican—a man who believed the best government was the one that meddled least in the affairs of the governed. For Jackson, the primary duty of federal power, once invoked, was to protect the many from the few.Highlighted by 59 Kindle customers
Jackson was more anticlerical than antireligious. Like bankers or entrenched incumbents, ministers created a layer between Jackson and the people at large, and he hated such elite intermediaries. Believers were part of the public; clergy were an interest with specific demands. Broadly put, the organized church was beyond Jackson’s control, and that made him suspicious of its ministers and their motives.Highlighted by 40 Kindle customers
A Note on the Text
Prologue: With the Feelings of a Father
I. The Love of Country, Fame and Honor - Beginnings to Late 1830
1. Andy Will Fight His Way in the World
2. Follow Me and I'll Save You Yet
3. A Marriage a Defeat and a Victory
4. You Know Best My Dear
5. Ladies' Wars are Always Fierce and Hot
6. A Busybody Presbyterian Clergyman
7. My White and Red Children
8. Major Eaton Has Spoken of Resigning
9. An Opinion of the President Alone
10. Liberty and Union Now and Forever
11. General Jackson Rules by His Personal Popularity
II. I Will Die with the Union - Late 1830 to 1834
12. I Have Been Left to Sup Alone
13. A Mean and Scurvy Piece of Business
14. Now Let Him Enforce It
15. The Fury of a Chained Panther
16. Hurra for the Hickory Tree!
17. A Dreadful Crisis of Excitement and Violence
18. The Mad Project of Disunion
19. We Are Threatened to Have Our Throats Cut
20. Great is the Stake Placed in Our Hands
21. My Mind is Made Up
22. He Appeared to Feel as a Father
23. The People Sir Are with Me
24. We Are in the Midst of a Revolution
III. The Evening of His Days - 1834 to the End
25. So You Want War
26. A Dark Lawless and Insatiable Ambition!
27. There Is a Rank Due to the United States Among Nations
28. The Wretched Victims of a Dreadful Delusion
29. How Would You Like to be a Slave?
30. The Strife About the Next Presidency
31. Not One Would Have Ever Got Out Alive
32. I Fear Emily Will Not Recover
33. The President Will Go Out Triumphant
34. The Shock is Great and Grief Universal
Epilogue: He Still Lives
Author's Note and Acknowledgments
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