Andy Miller's Reviews > American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House

American Lion by Jon Meacham
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May 31, 2010

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While this is a well written, lively book that explores many aspects of Jackson's life and his times in great depth, I think Meacham's (the author)sympathy towards Jackson prevents him from writing a balanced book. The good parts of the book, the focus on Jackson's fight against the south's nullification movement and his efforts on behalf "the average man" on the economic issues are in contrast to short shrift given to Jackson's shortcomings, his role in protecting slavery and his horrible record on Indian removal.

I did love the following quote from Jackson which explained his economic policy
"Distinctions in society will always exist under every just government. Equality of talents, of education or of wealth cannot be produced by human institutions...but when the laws undertake to add to these natural and just advantages...to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of government."

A quote especially relevant today!!

However, while Jackson concedes Jackson's poor record on slavery and Indian removal he minimizes that part of Jackson's life. In fact, the book appears to spend as much time on American efforts to collect debt from France as it does on Jackson's personal involvement with slavery and his efforts to prevent even debate on the slavery question. While I am sympathetic to the argument that men should be judged in the context of their time, the fact is that there were men of that time who opposed slavery or were not as strongly committed to it.

This is even more true regarding Indian removal. While Meacham briefly acknowledges those who opposed Jackson's Indian policies, he downplays the political and legal debate, one treaty passed by only one vote but Meacham brushs past Jackson's strong efforts to overcome the political opposition.

There is an excellent analysis of the Eaton affair and Meacham also does a great job in detailing Jackson's private and family life. A good book that could have been great if Meacham's sympathy toward Jackson did not prevent a balanced look at this life and times
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