Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times
Author: H.W. Brands
Release Date: 2005
More than any other president so far, Andrew Jackson’s life was full of excitement and personalities. Unlike the earlier founding fathers, Jackson seemed to stand in stark contrast to the other politicians of his era due to his propensity to get in duels, hold grudges, and do things that could be held against him by his political rivals (or modern historians). If there’s a good tv show or movie about Jackson’s life, I’d love to check it out after reading this, otherwise I can only think somebody’s missing an opportunity to adapt his life into a rags to riches to story climaxing in his terms at the oval office and leaving behind a large population of zealous supporters.
Born into – When you hear about how any child born in America can grow up to become president, Andrew Jackson should be cited as just such an example. His father dying before he was born, and his mother dying when he wasn’t even old enough to fight in the Revolutionary War, made him an unlikely candidate to rise to the top of the country. A modest legal education (of apprenticeship, not school) would hardly seem grounds to become a famous Judge, and his remarkable ascendancy to the General of the Tennessee Militia was all the more remarkable. 5 out of 5.
Pre-president – Andrew Jackson seemed a bit like the Donald Trump of his era, with his followers citing how he would make America great again like Washington did, but with himself not committing to any remarks about how he would do so or even taking a stand on political issues. That isn’t too concerting on its own, however for some of this time he was serving as a Congressman (and at one point, only as a senator to endorse his own bid for Presidency (which might make him more like Rubio). Still his Military leadership made him the most successful at his era in both the War of 1812 as well as in quelling Indian rebellions. 3.5 out of 5.
Presidential career – Jackson’s own belief was that the separation of powers did not bind him to following Supreme Court decisions, just as he couldn’t force the court to decide one way over another. As a result, historians have looked poorly at his removal of the Indians from Georgia. The author made some rational arguments for why this was the best of several bad alternatives, but Jackson himself came off has a hypocrite for claiming it was all done for humanitarian reasons for the Indians. Besides that his other legacies from the office involved securing the national borders (which he had started in Florida prior to becoming President) and successfully besting the National Bank at a pissing contest (to the detriment of the national economy). 2.5 out of 5.
Vice President – “John Calhoun was yet another in the line of political rivals who served as Vice President due to the nature of elections in that era. Calhoun had a long and successful career as a politician and frequent rival of Adams, however as a Vice President he was more detrimental to his President than anything else.” This section from the last President, still applies but replace Adams with Jackson. 2 out of 5 However, for his second term Jackson had Martin Van Buren, an aid in his cabinet prior to taking the role of Vice President. Although the two eventually had a bitter ending, for his term Van Buren was the best of all the Vice Presidents I’ve read about so far, even resigning his cabinet position to help Jackson rid himself of bad apples. 4.5 out of 5.
First Lady – Rachel Adams seeemed like a nice lady, but she died before he took office and was the subject of the most bitter campaign vitriol between Jackson and Adams. N/A
Post presidency – Jackson continued to exert influence in politics after taking office, eventually even railroading Van Buren’s bid for reelection by speaking up over the Texas question. Like many presidents of that era, most of his post presidency years were spend avoiding debt and keeping his adopted son solvent. 2 out of 5.
Book overall – This was a very quick read, despite it’s length. The problem I had with it was Jackson’s life had so many interesting facets, and this book spent large amounts of time detailing the background history that led up to his moments. Already knowing most of this information, I would have preferred it been replaced with additional detail from his elections (the second election is glossed over very quickly) and his family life (his adopted Indian son is only mentioned two or three times throughout the book, each stating “and he did adopt the son so he didn’t hate all Indians” to some extent. 3 out of 5.