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American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House | [Jon Meacham]

American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House

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.
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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, Biography/Autobiography, 2009

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.

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

What the Critics Say

"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)

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  •  
    John M Lafayette, CA USA 01-05-09
    John M Lafayette, CA USA 01-05-09
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    "Unlikable Old Hickory"

    There have been some truly remarkable presidential biographies written fairly recently (including David McCullough's masterful works John Adams and Truman as well as Goodwin's Team of Rivals) but American Lion suffers in comparison - both in the eloquence of the writing and the subject itself.

    The author indicates in his introduction that the book is not intended to be about the "Age of Jackson" but directly about Jackson himself. It is too bad as the changes that happened during Jackson's presidency are incredibly interesting: the election of a "common man" from the West, more popular participation in politics, nullification crisis as a prelude to the Civil War 30 years later, and the evolution of the Office of the President as the most powerful branch of government.

    Unfortunately when one gets too close to Jackson himself it is hard to get too excited about the man given the amount of effort Jackson put into the petty social squabbles of the day, battling the central bank at every turn, his general grumpiness, and his unabashed support of slavery (though it is certainly not uncommon at the time).

    The biography itself was also a bit hard to follow as it was perhaps too tightly constrained to the Jackson presidential years, but still jumped around chronologically. This meant, for example, we got only a limited mention of Jackson's role in the War of 1812 but pages and pages of the Washington social scene. I also felt there was too much reliance on including text from the vast amount of correspondence between the different parties. Obviously you need some first-hand accounts, but the flow of the narrative suffered.

    If you are a dedicated presidential biography reader then this certainly could fill a void in your library, but there are better ones out there. This was the unabridged version - perhaps the abridged version (especially for only one credit!) would be a better bet.

    29 of 31 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David I. Williams Keithville, LA, United States 04-26-13
    David I. Williams Keithville, LA, United States 04-26-13 Member Since 2007
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    "Excellent book. Brings the Subject Alive"

    Andrew Jackson is one of the most important and one of the most controversial presidents in American History. During his lifetime the United States came into being and gained large new tracts of territory. Much of that territory was rough and wild, as were the people who lived there. Andrew Jackson became a lawyer and judge in Tennessee. He met and married his beloved Rachel. Their relationship was controversial at the time because they were married before her divorce from her prior husband had come through. For the rest of their lives allegations of Rachel's character would haunt them. At least one man was killed by Jackson in a duel over this. As a military leader Jackson twice invaded Spanish Florida chasing Creek raiders who raided into George and Alabama and escaped to Florida. As a military commander he is most known as the US commander at the Battle of New Orleans. At that battle a ragtag group of regular soldiers, militia, volunteers, Choctaw warriors, and Baratarian pirates defeated a large British army.

    The book covers these issues, but it is focused on his two terms as president. Jackson won a contentious election. Over the next eight years he would confront many controversies. He sought to bring more prestige and power to the office of the President. An opposition party would form to battle his policies. They called themselves Whigs after the British party that opposed royal authority. Jackson despised the idea of a National Bank and did everything he could to not only block the re-chartering of the Bank, but to bring it down ahead of it's time. When the South Carolina legislature claimed it had the authority to nullify a federal law Jackson was ready to invade the state to assert Federal authority. In fact Lincoln would cite Jackson's example in the early days of his administration. The act that would be remembered the most in future generations was the Indian Removal Act. This act forced native people to sell their land (often at cut rate prices) and move west of the Mississippi. The mostly ended up in Oklahoma. The suffering encountered by these people would be remembered as the Trail of Tears.

    Meacham paints a fascinating portrait of this complicated man. You may or may not like Jackson after you read this book, but you will have a better understanding of this important man. Perhaps like every other person in history we should learn how to admire the good things that a man does while disapproving of the bad. This is a great book and is well worth reading.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kate Reynolds 07-04-09 Member Since 2008
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    "An informed portrait"

    I've read reviews that were not as favorable to this book as I am. Different expectations may account for the discrepancies of opinion. I found the book highly entertaining. To dismiss the social battles of Washington in those years as petty and not central to the more interesting events of the day shows a more superficial understanding of what is meaningful in history. The social battles were but the surface of shifting social custom and much deeper human events. Meacham intended a balanced and highly personal portrait of Jackson. His account accomplishes this, showing the paradoxes of Jackson's character and that of the character of the country of that time. It is a close personal look at a man that manages to be great in spite of serious flaws, and so identified with the country at the time that after reading it, one again must consider what it means to be an American. I really enjoyed this book.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    STEPHEN North Oaks, MN, United States 03-07-09
    STEPHEN North Oaks, MN, United States 03-07-09 Member Since 2004
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    "Horrible!"

    I don't usually write reviews. I have listened MANY audible biographies. This was one of the worst (stike that-- the worst). It's organization was terrible and it focused on Washington society while ignoring what REALLY made Jackson interesting. RUN AWAY FROM THIS BOOK!

    14 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Suzanne Gulf Shores, AL, USA 01-22-09
    Suzanne Gulf Shores, AL, USA 01-22-09 Member Since 2001
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    "American Lion"

    Informative about our seventh President. It could have used more editing--dragged in some places.

    6 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Benjamin Nashville, TN, United States 02-19-13
    Benjamin Nashville, TN, United States 02-19-13
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    "Meacham is always impressive"
    Would you listen to American Lion again? Why?

    No.
    Jefferson was so much better in my view.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of American Lion?

    the fact that the Civil War could have started in Jackson's administration.


    What about Richard McGondale’s performance did you like?

    I thought he was very good- although not excellent


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    American Lion is the perfect description


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mike Rochester, MN, United States 01-19-13
    Mike Rochester, MN, United States 01-19-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Great book - leaves you conflicted about Jackson"

    Jackson did so many great things but he also did so many horrible things. He brought tremendous power to the Presidency which lead to many positives as America became larger but also did many horrible things to the native population and was part of the beginning of the end for Gentlemanly elections in the US.

    Overall, a great book and should be required reading for anyone interested in the American Presidency!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Roanld Tenney Gilbert, AZ USA 08-07-12
    Roanld Tenney Gilbert, AZ USA 08-07-12 Member Since 2005

    Ron

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    "Compelling narrative -Flawed but inspirational man"

    Jackson is a person I had come to revile. I learned of the Trail of Tears, the duels and all. Yet, he was a figure of inspiration to many. This book is balance and entertaining. It has re-kindled my interest in this phase of American History.

    I have read one other book my Jon Meacham, American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation. Though not my favorite author, this book is amazing. it flows well and never bored me.

    I hate to be critical of the narration, but Richard McGondale does not entertain me as many others do. This is not to say that the narration is bad. For my ear, he is not as good as others such as Scott Brick.

    I highly recommend this book if you are interested in biography and Early American History.

    RT

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Victor Pasadena, CA, United States 02-18-10
    Victor Pasadena, CA, United States 02-18-10
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    "Read around Jackson"

    This was very dissapointing. It felt as if the author was trying not to write about Jackson as he would give you a tiny bit of info about Jackson and then go on and on about how Jackson's friend and family reacted. Ugh.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    D. Hile Evans, GA United States 02-17-10
    D. Hile Evans, GA United States 02-17-10 Member Since 2006
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    "Good Book"

    I started this book with negative impression of Jackson. While not sugar coating the rough edges the author clearly illustrates his actions and motivations. It was also very interesting to explore the perpetual debate over our form of government and its divisions of power. It shows that there is nothing new under the sun.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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