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American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House
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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每the family, the women, and the inner circle of advisers每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每or face his formidable wrath. The greatest of the presidents who have followed Jackson in the White House每from Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt to FDR to Truman每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每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每and America itself.

Exclusive 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. 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. 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. 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. 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

Customer Reviews:

  • very readable - no longer 'listen-able'
    I really enjoyed this book - well written and about an amazing american character. Highly recommended, although the visually-disabled can no longer access it, as the publisher recently decided to disable the text-to-speech feature....more info
  • dumbing down a presidency
    Meacham's book reminds me of the evening news where human interest and entertainment are each given equal time with events of potentially historical interest. An inquiring mind would like to know more about, for example, land speculation, the inner workings of the 2nd National Bank, polical forces at work in the house of representatives, etc. Instead, we are given chapter after chapter of the squabbles between the ladies of the White House. One is tempted to say that Meacham is pandering to female readers. Approach it as an interesting biography with excursions into family relations, but not for the history of the presidency or the period....more info
  • A little disappointing . . .
    Andrew Jackson lived a remarkable life. His entire immediate family died when he was still very young, leaving him an orphan. He was a hero during the War of 1812 and became a national celebrity. He was a two-term president during controversial events like Indian removal and the Trail of Tears, the attempted succession of South Carolina, and the ongoing struggle over slavery.

    Any of these subjects alone could easily provide enough material fill an entire book, and this is why it is so perplexing that Mr. Meacham decided to devote such a large portion of a book about Andrew Jackson to Margaret Eaton and Emily Donelson.

    While I'm sure that Meacham didn't want to write a book rehashing facts about Jackson that have already been stated in previous biographies, having new information on the Petticoat Affair (Ms. Eaton) hardly justifies this book on its own. With such a wealth of fascinating topics to address, it's a shame this book is so dry that the reader counts down the last 150 pages simply hoping for the book to be over....more info
  • American Lion
    I am very upset and will probably never use Amazon Again !!!! I have yet to receive this book and have been billed for it. It is past the date that it should have arrived. Please email me with the reason it has not been shipped and who I need to contact. YOU NEED TO TAKE CARE OF THIS IMMEDIATELY....more info
  • Fascinating
    Fascinating account of things I didn't know before since I am not a history buff. Andrew Jackson was the first populist president...and anti-Indian - anti nullification. I am learning a ton while having a great read....more info
  • Fascinating Study
    Fascinating study, and an enjoyable read. And particularly relevant, given the recent wave of populism sweeping our nation. Highly recommended!...more info
  • Bio? Charater study? No, just sensational pop up
    American Lion claims to be a "character study" not a bio. It does not want to look at the times. It barely looks at the man, it does look at the sensational headlines, one after another. Boom mother dies, living with family who do not want him. What happened to him at the time? Boom, in law school (as a poor ragamuffin, how did he get there? The writer doesn't care?) Boom, a judge, boom, a general, boom, a presidential plurality winner. How, why, why not? These things do not just happen and they are not character. How he got these things, what his choices were, why he choose what he choose, how he was part of or separate from his time, that is character.

    Jackson is a facinating man, off the charts interesting. It's shocking that this biographer is so little interested in revealing him. After 25 pages, I wanted more. After a hundred pages I put the book down and went looking for something better. It was a waste of time and of a subject....more info
  • I had to stop reading this garbage when.....
    pg. 174: "Beneath Jackson's warmth and passionate attachments lay a coldheartedness essential to any great leader."

    Coldheartedness in world in leaders is the reason for poverty, environmental destruction, and gross inequalities that make life for millions of the world's people miserable, including the Native Americans that Jackson committed enormous acts of brutality upon.

    I also agree with other reviews that the book focuses way too much on Mrs. Eaton, the wife of a cabinet minister, who may or may not have had sexual indiscritions. This seemed to be the focus of the book and was so boring that I just kept hoping that the story would end. I just ended the book myself by shutting it as I was on page 174.
    ...more info
  • "I KILLED THE BANK" -Andrew Jackson, greatest accomplishment
    Ive read many of the excellent reviews posted here and have decided that this book though accurate may take us all further from the truth. In order that we do not repeat the dark periods in human history, we need to learn from and apply what we have gleaned from history, otherwise what is the practicality of studying it? Solely for mere amusement? No, not for me, history is knowledge and you know how the rest of that axiom goes.... to state the obvious and be cliche: Knowledge is Power!

    So now I will plug an excellent supplement to this book and any other piece of literature dealing with presidential subjects. It provides another aspect, another view from a very different tangent.

    Check out the movie "The Money Masters: How International Bankers Gained Control of America".

    It deals with the history of privately controled capital in the United States of America.

    There are several segements in the film that help explain why Andrew Jackson ran for presidential office.

    It goes into detail about what he felt was his greatest accomplishment while in office.

    It offers to explain why major print media (such as the editor of Newweek) cannot be trusted to offer the truth about the USAs important historical heritage. It details our historical resistance to the PRIVATE CONTROL of our nations money supply. For if the truth were known as Henry Ford Sr. said "It is well that the people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning."

    This movie supplements, clarifies and defines more clearly much of the history I have learned and been taught throughout the years.

    I thank you for your time....more info
  • andrew jackson an american lion
    Andrew Jackson is a complex and fascinating character. In this book the author draws a picture of a self made man who manifests a lack of fear in confronting both the personal and political issues that he is presented with. The book is excellent is providing an understanding of him. The author places a heavy emphasis on personal issues surronding his wife and the wife his secretary of war. This creates an impression that Jackson's behavior is office was dominated by his personal life.In addition, more could have done regarding the complex issues that he confronted whilc President....more info
  • Not Easy
    I have to give Jon Meacham credit for writing a history of Jackson and actually making him not look so bad. Jackson's decisions regarding Indian Removal alone should have made his presidency unworthy of note. Meacham finds the human drama and tragedy, making this work at least interesting and instructive....more info
  • American Lion
    This book was both entertaining and wise. Andrew Jackson continues to be one of the most fascinating of our presidents albeit a little nutty. One of the best accounts I've read to date. ...more info
  • Incredible Book
    This book was amazing. Jackson is such an incredibly paradoxical and complicated character. I admire and loathe him at the same time. Meacham did an incredible job of putting it all together and laying out the complexities of this icon who had such a profound impact on our democracy....more info
  • A.J. gets a facelift
    As presidential biographies experience resurgent popularity, Meacham's American Lion is peerless in bringing the dusty, dogeared history of another 19th Century President to life. While Jackson's larger than life story is certainly excellent fodder for grandiloquent storytelling, Meacham's narrative remains firmly grounded in details capturing the essence of Jackson in his time, yet still being accessible to a wide audience. ...more info
  • This book is a mess
    I join the many others who have mentioned that, try as they might, they couldn't bring themselves to finish this book. I couldn't even get halfway through. This book is nothing but a collection of quotes from associates with absolutely no context or real insight into Jackson. If Meacham had spent a tenth of the effort into analyzing the real issues of the day that he put into expounding upon the Margaret Eaton affair, there might have been something worthy enough to justify all the trees that were killed to print this book. But it's a jumbled mess. Maybe the part I didn't get to makes it worthy of the Pulitzer prize it received, but I just don't see it. If you really want to try this book, I suggest you borrow a copy from your local library. Don't waste your own money on it....more info
  • Too Little Jackson - Too Much Meacham
    I was really looking forward to reading this book about one of our most enigmatic presidents. Unfortunately, the book is extremely disappointing in that it contains far less about Jackson than it does psychobabble about what Meacham thinks are Jackson's emotions, thoughts, motivations, etc. - without any supporting documentation. If there is any positive about this book, it is that it is a quick read - if you read the one-third that is actually about Jackson's life and skip the two-thirds that is Meacham's pop-psych analysis of Jackson. ...more info
  • Andrew Jackson-America's Adolph Hitler
    Well written and researched look at a butcher. Jackson's brutality towards and mistreatment of the Native American far eclipses any good works he may have done in other aspects of his life. Completely inexcusable and casts a pall over all other aspects of Jackson's life. Again and again the question screams, "What kind of a human being would not only allow this genocide to happen but was often the instigator?" Why is it that Hitler is vilified and rightly so for the deaths of 6 million yet Jackson is esteemed when he has the deaths of 20 million on his hands? Sad commentary on the citizens of this country who not only elected this psychopath to the highest office in the land but stood idly by and watched while millions perished. While his mistreatment of the native americans is but a small part of this biography, as I read about other aspects of his life, my mind kept returning to this topic and the image of innocent beings systematically detroyed. For me it truly was like trying to read a biography about Hitler; the genocide is always in your mind. Heartbreaking....more info
  • Excellent Read
    In American Lion Meacham goes over Jackson's White House Years with much deatil. The books goes in depth to Jackson's feelings, his beliefs and his policies. While the book does give some information as to what Jackson did before and after his years in the white house, if you are looking for a biography including lots of detail from those years I would suggest finding another book. However, if you are more interested in his White House Years, this is the book for you. ...more info
  • excellent service
    everything handled professionally and efficiently with a product that was as excellent as i had anticipated. i am thoroughly enjoying this book. ...more info
  • I'd Like to Review but NEVER RECEIVED IT!!
    Amazon is really amazing! They want me to review a product i never received and have filed a claim for. Who's asleep up there?...more info
  • a vividly colorful story
    Conclude what you will about his protagonist, but Meacham is a vividly colorful storyteller. Whether he is describing parlor or battlefield, Meacham pulls you into his scenes in a way that forever changes your perception of that time in US history. ...more info
  • Old Hickory for our times
    This is an excellent book on Jackson. While I would argue that the best books of all times are those by Robert Remini, Meacham's work is sound and entertaining. What this book does in terms of scholarship on Jackson is that it deals with aspects of his domestic life in new and more detailed ways than has been seen in the past. What I learned from this book was just how committed Jackson was to the idea of the separation of church and state. I do not believe that this position has received quite the same degree of attention as it has in Meacham's work.

    I also thought his analysis of Jackson's handling of the Nullification crisis, the dress rehersal of the Civil War, was very insiightful. If I were to render a critique it would be that other aspects of Jackson's life as not discused in the same detail. I would argue the policy Jackson took toward South Carolina, a carrot and stick approach, was his finest hour.

    Other aspects of Jackson's administration, indian removal, anti-anti-slavery measures were not fully developed. These do not rate the same level of attention. I would have also liked to have explored the implication of the Bank of the United States controversy. Was this a measure that brought the resulting economic collapse due to piersonal annoyance or was it a well reasoned attempt to prevent large economic enterprises from becoming involved in politics?

    These faults aside I like Meacham's work and though I would have preferred a second term for John Quincy Adams, I do see virtures in Old Hickory in no small part due to this biography....more info
  • curiously detached
    I love biographies. I love American history. Thus, I really looked forward to reading this and immersing myself once again in the making of this country. I finished it, but it was a chore. I never got to know Jackson in this book. The author kept telling me how Jackson felt, or what he said, or what he did, but it never seemed to come alive. The narrative seemed somehow just patched together. Situations just seemed to arise, were mentioned and then dropped. For example, over and over Meacham would say that Jackson was very ill, but it was never really explained. On the other hand, some things got discussed over and over. Also, the Jackson I met in this book was quite unlikeable, a holder of grudges, rather uncaring to those around him, yet curiously protective of someone who didn't deserve it - Margaret Eaton. I think that if this were to be the only book someone reads on Jackson, it would be a mystery as to why so many subsequest presidents thought so much of him. His dealing with South Carolina was fascinating, but at least as much time was spent on the Eaton situation. I think this book needed a good editor....more info
  • author not focused
    What happened to the author's focus? He spent 90% of his time on a female character's indiscretions. What a waste of time. Buy Master And Commander and at least be greatly entertained. ...more info
  • Very Timely
    All in Washington need to read this book, it shows how big govenment and banking do not mix....more info
  • Boycott the criminal text-to-speech disabling of this book
    Boycott the criminal disabling of text-to-speech in this book. We cannot stand by for the erosion of consumers rights and the discrimination against those with reading disabilities....more info
  • clinton got in trouble for what?
    other then puttin our economy in the dumper.
    wish we had andrew jackson now....more info