Jacki: Andrew Jackson

American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, by Jon Meacham

Ok, let me just say right off that I kind of love Andrew Jackson.  I knew very little about him before starting this book, but as I read it I found myself bringing him up in conversation and going on and on.  It’s like a history-crush or something. Weird, right?

Here’s what I love:  He was just this rough and tumble guy… kind of a mess really.  His family all died when he was really young and he was raised poor. He didn’t go to college and wasn’t exactly a scholar. He had bullets lodged in his body and he was really good at fighting.  He had a hot temper and loved a good argument.

He was also madly in love with his wife and his country.  He had a code of ethics that he carried close to his heart and he let that guide him in nearly every decision in his life.

A lot of the presidents before Jackson kind of favored the individual states, but Jackson was really the first president to see the country as this cohesive group.  The decisions that he made as president were made with that in mind.  He didn’t favor any state or any state’s laws.  His end goal was to have this country that functioned as a unit, so that is what he went for.  When other countries threatened any part of that unit, he took action.  I love that.

I thought that this biography was kind of great.  Unlike most of the bios I’ve read, it was almost exclusively about Andrew Jackson’s time in office.  Because his family, including his wife, had already passed away at  that point, there really wasn’t a whole lot about them.  I thought that this would bother me, but honestly it didn’t.

While there was a lot of focus on the drama in his cabinet and the different political issues of the day, I felt like at its heart this book was about the man of Andrew Jackson and how he responded to situations and how we can still see his fingerprints in our current government. I walked away with a huge amount of respect for Andrew Jackson.  I kind of want to hug him.

Like John Adams, this book was written almost like a novel.  It wasn’t a chore to read it at all and I really found myself getting into it.  It was written for readers more so than historians or academics which I appreciated.

One of the things that has kind of caught me off guard while reading these bios is that every single president knew that slavery was, at some point, going to be an issue.  It’s not like one day it just creeped up on the country.  Every president up until this point has had to deal with it in one way or the other and they all have just pushed it aside hoping that someone else would take care of it.  Andrew Jackson did the exact same thing.  I guess I didn’t know much about the history of the civil war, but I really had no idea that it had been brewing for the entire history of the U.S.  Crazy.

Even if you are not participating in the Presidential Challenge, I recommend this wholeheartedly.

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