Pulitzer Prize, Biography/Autobiography, 2009Andrew 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.
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 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.
©2008 Jon Meacham; (P)2008 Random House
"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)
"American Lion is a spellbinding, brilliant and irresistible journey into the heart of Andrew Jackson and his unforgettable circle of friends and enemies." (Michael Beschloss)
"What passes for political drama today pales in the reading of Jon Meacham's vividly told story of our seventh president....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)
This book sounds like it was written by a gossip columnist. I realize it was written by a fine historian, but in dealing with Andrew Jackson, he didn't have much other material to work with.
When Jackson became President, the era of the Founding Fathers was over, and our modern political system was born. If this had been its purpose, the book could have been much shorter - and for me, more interesting.
Jackson, to use his words, was a man of the people - of the political mass, which he identified with completely. The American frontiersmen were just that - crude and greedy - as they made clear by their treatment of the Indians.
This could probably be made into a movie, with the most salacious parts emphasized. The jealousies of the women would provide some interesting character studies, much like a soap opera - which it resembles.
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