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American Lion

af Jon Meacham

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2,510594,258 (3.71)93
A thought-provoking study of Andrew Jackson chronicles the life and career of a self-made man who went on to become a military hero and seventh president of the United States, critically analyzing Jackson's seminal role during a turbulent era in history, the political crises and personal upheaval that surrounded him, and his legacy for the modern presidency.… (mere)

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Focused on his time in the white house and the major life events that shaped him leading up to his two terms in office, this book was an unflinching portrait of a not always admirable democrat but a pivotal President. Jackson brought a warriors mindset to the office of the President and fought to keep the union together as the conflict over slavery and states rights flared up. Jackson and his wife Rachel (who died right before he took office) had no children of their own but family and loyalty was very important to him and these relationships, thought sometimes opposed to each other, played an important part in his life as well. Meacham's writing brings the world around Jackson into focus, his toughness, his under appreciated political skills, his rise from Revolutionary War orphan to President of the young United States, a country full of promise but still finding its way. Jackson was a champion of "the people" over the privileged few, while also a slave owner and the architect of the removal of Indians from their land, and his work to keep the union together went a long way to shaping the views of the people who came after him.
( )
  SteveKey | Jan 8, 2021 |
Reading about the electoral college made me want to revisit Andrew Jackson, our 7th President. I actually read this book back in 2010, close to when it came out, but I had just had my first son and was getting no sleep with a newborn. So though this is technically a reread, I remembered almost none of it.

Jackson is a controversial president. He greatly expanded presidential power and viewed himself as a direct representative of the people. He believed this was in contrast to Congress, which until then was viewed as having the most power of the three branches. He used his veto power in a much more expansive way, vetoing bills he didn't agree with whether because of a firm-held belief or simply for a political statement. While in some ways, Jackson felt that because he was the direct representative of the people he should have expanded power as President, in other instances he believed in States' rights. These inconsistencies are a bit hard to understand from a modern point of view.

Three major issues are explored in this book: South Carolina's desire to nullify a federal tariff (a state's rights issue) that could have led to greater state power (and the ability to keep slavery), the removal of the Native Americans from huge swaths of land previously granted to them in treaties, and the break up of the federal bank which dispersed federal money to state banks instead of the centralized federal bank. Jackson is credited with preserving the Union by compromising the tariff in a way that allowed SC to accept it. On the Native American issue, posterity has judged him more and more harshly - rightly so in my mind. And on the bank issue? Well, I'm still a bit confused. He was supposedly combatting corruption and did balance the budget, but the country also entered a depression shortly after this move. I'd need to read more.

Jackson was a President who spoke to the average American and viewed himself as their voice in a Capitol filled with wealthy, out of touch, elitist congressmen. I'm still not sure what I think of him. This biography admits to being less of a scholarly work, and more of a look at broad topics and Jackson's relationships during his Presidency. In this way, I really liked this as an introduction to Jackson. Some day I'll tackle a more scholarly biography that gets into more detail. ( )
  japaul22 | Dec 8, 2020 |
Hardback, First Edition, 2008
  TheNelsonLibrary | Oct 15, 2020 |
This was an impulse buy when I visited Van Buren's home in Kinderhook, New York. They grow and sell the most succulent peaches there. The book though was not as succulent and I finished it on CD. Kudos to the author for making eight years of boredom at least palatable.
1 stem JoeHamilton | Jul 21, 2020 |
Jon Meacham has the ability to instill in the reader a sense that they are present during the events occurring around his subject. As a avid reader of American history, I found this work to be pivotal in telling the story of how the United States transformed from its origins as a revolutionary republic to its modern political culture.
Andrew Jackson was as important a President to this process of transformation as Washington, Jefferson or Lincoln. A truly great read. ( )
  MatthewFrend | Jun 30, 2020 |
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“American Lion” is enormously entertaining, especially in the deft descriptions of Jackson’s personality and domestic life in his White House. But Meacham has missed an opportunity to reflect on the nature of American populism as personified by Jackson.
 
Mr. Meacham, the editor of Newsweek, dispenses with the usual view of Jackson as a Tennessee hothead and instead sees a cannily ambitious figure determined to reshape the power of the presidency during his time in office (1829 to 1837). Case by case, Mr. Meacham dissects Jackson’s battles and reinterprets them in a revealing new light.
 
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The darker the night the bolder the sun.
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I was born for a storm and a calm does not suit me.
- Andrew Jackson
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It looked like war.
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A thought-provoking study of Andrew Jackson chronicles the life and career of a self-made man who went on to become a military hero and seventh president of the United States, critically analyzing Jackson's seminal role during a turbulent era in history, the political crises and personal upheaval that surrounded him, and his legacy for the modern presidency.

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