American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House

By Jon Meacham
Binding:Hardcover
Publisher:Random House, (11/11/2008)
Language:English



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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.

Jon Meacham in American Lion has delivered the definitive human portrait of a pivotal president who forever changed the American presidency–and America itself.

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.

Continue reading this Q&A

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Librarian50's thoughts on "American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House"
updated on:12/11/2010



Very Unleashable


"American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House"
By Jon Meacham

Average Rating:
Very Unleashable
4.00 out of 5 (1 Clubie's ratings)


The Gentleman
The Gentleman
By Forrest Leo

 
 
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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 

From Booklist
There are numerous books on the seventh president, but this one is distinguished by its particularly fluid presentation. As the subtitle indicates, it has special appeal for those readers who may be uninterested in a complete cradle-to-grave treatment but are looking for a particular focus on the Jackson presidency. The “evolution of presidential power” is the basic theme around which Meacham constructs his riveting account of the freshness Jackson brought to the White House—meaning, before his advent into the chief executive office, political power was considered to be best left in the hands of the landed elite, but Jackson believed in the “primacy of the will of the common people,” and during his administration, “democracy was making its stand.” This was a difficult time for the American republic; the issue of slavery was developing into a major political issue, and with that, the rise of southern questioning of just how strong the union of states was and what rights individual states possessed to safeguard regional interests. But Jackson administered the ship of state with good instincts and wisdom. --Brad Hooper 

Review
“What passes for political drama today pales in the reading of Jon Meacham’s vividly-told story of our seventh president. The rip-roaring two-fisted man of the people, duelist, passionate lover, gambler and war hero, was also a prime creator of the presidency as the fulcrum of executive power to defend democracy…Meacham argues that Jackson should be in the pantheon with Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln for this and for his role in preserving the Union and rescuing democracy from elitism. He makes the historian’s case with wit and scholarship but Meacham also has the novelist’s art of enthralling the general reader much as David McCullough did for the lesser figure of John Adams. Reading “American Lion” one is no longer able to look on the gaunt, craggy face on the $20 bill without hearing the tumult of America in the making.” 
--Tina Brown


“Jon Meacham's splendid new book on Andrew Jackson shrewdly places presidential politics in the context of Jackson's family life -- and vice versa. With an abundance of gripping stories, and with admirable fairness, Meacham offers a fresh portrait of one of the most controversial and consequential men ever to occupy the White House.”
--Sean Wilentz, Princeton University, author of The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln


"Every so often a terrific biography comes along that shines a new light on a familiar figure in American history. So it was with David McCullough and John Adams, so it was with Walter Isaacson and Benjamin Franklin, so it is with Jon Meacham and Andrew Jackson. A master storyteller, Meacham interweaves the lives of Jackson and the members of his inner circle to create a highly original book."
--Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln


“In magnificent prose, enriched by the author’s di... --This text refers to the Kindle Edition edition. 

Review
“What passes for political drama today pales in the reading of Jon Meacham’s vividly-told story of our seventh president. The rip-roaring two-fisted man of the people, duelist, passionate lover, gambler and war hero, was also a prime creator of the presidency as the fulcrum of executive power to defend democracy…Meacham argues that Jackson should be in the pantheon with Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln for this and for his role in preserving the Union and rescuing democracy from elitism. He makes the historian’s case with wit and scholarship but Meacham also has the novelist’s art of enthralling the general reader much as David McCullough did for the lesser figure of John Adams. Reading “American Lion” one is no longer able to look on the gaunt, craggy face on the $20 bill without hearing the tumult of America in the making.” 
--Tina Brown


“Jon Meacham's splendid new book on Andrew Jackson shrewdly places presidential politics in the context of Jackson's family life -- and vice versa. With an abundance of gripping stories, and with admirable fairness, Meacham offers a fresh portrait of one of the most controversial and consequential men ever to occupy the White House.”
--Sean Wilentz, Princeton University, author of The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln


"Every so often a terrific biography comes along that shines a new light on a familiar figure in American history. So it was with David McCullough and John Adams, so it was with Walter Isaacson and Benjamin Franklin, so it is with Jon Meacham and Andrew Jackson. A master storyteller, Meacham interweaves the lives of Jackson and the members of his inner circle to create a highly original book."
--Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln


“In magnificent prose, enriched by the author’s discovery of new research materials, Jon Meacham has written an engrossing and original study of the life of Andrew Jackson.  He provides new insights into Jackson’s emotional and intellectual character and personality, and describes life in the White House in a unique and compelling way. Scrupulously researched and vividly written, this book is certain to attract a large and diverse reading public.”
--Robert V. Remini, National Book Award-winning historian and biographer of Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and Daniel Webster

 
"Finally, a book that explains our nation's most enigmatic hero, a man who was revered and reviled and little understood. Jon Meacham brilliantly takes us inside the family circle that sustained Andrew Jackson's presidency and provided his steadiness of faith. It's a vivid, fascinating human drama, and Meacham shows how the personal was interwoven with the political. Jackson presided over the birth of modern politics, and this book's brew of patriotism and religion and populism tastes very familiar. In helping us understand Jackson, Meacham helps us understand America."
--Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein: His Life and Universe and Benjamin Franklin: An American Life


"American Lion is a spellbinding, brilliant and irresistible journey into the heart of Andrew Jackson and his unforgettable circle of friends and enemies.  With narrative energy, flash and devotion to larger issues that are truly Jacksonian, Jon Meacham reveals Old Hickory's complicated inner life and recreates the excitement of living in Jackson's Washington.  Most of all, Meacham's important book shows us how the old hero transformed both the American Presidency and the nation he led."
–Michael Beschloss, author of Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America 1789-1989


"An admiring, vividly composed portrait, full of colorful anecdotes and sentimental personal detail. Andrew Jackson's presidency remains controversial; but even those who, like myself, prefer John Quincy Adams's statesmanship to that of Old Hickory will find themselves engaged by Jon Meacham's skillful narrative."
--Daniel Walker Howe, author of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History 2008
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Jon Meacham is the editor of Newsweek and author of American Lion and the New York Times bestsellers Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship and American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation. He lives in New York City with his wife and children. 


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