Steven Peterson's Reviews > Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson by Sean Wilentz
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Feb 11, 2011

really liked it

Sean Wilentz has penned an admirable brief biography of Andrew Jackson. This thin volume is part of The American Presidents series of books. They are brief and accessible to a larger readership. Do you want a detailed picture of Jackson? This isn't for you (try Brands' biography for example). Do you want a quick and accessible introduction? Then this book would be useful.

One of the factors making this a good book is its realistic view of Jackson. He had great accomplishments; he also was flawed. His record in engaging in duels speaks to a pretty edgy personality. Wilentz, for instance, notes that some of his demons in how he viewed political foes was not so dissimilar from Richard Nixon and his "enemies' list." He observes Jackson's views toward removal of Indian nations from their lands and his hard core pro-slavery stance.

But this is also balanced by its appreciation of some of Jackson's great achievements. His efforts to democratize politics surely are worthy of note. His stand for a strong national sensibility against John Calhoun's flirtation with nullification is noteworthy (one may disagree with Jackson, but he clearly took a stand on the basis of principle).

The book discusses major political battles fought by Jackson, such as his effort to eliminate the Second Bank of the United States.

Early, the book examines why he became as he was, from his awful experience during the Revolutionary War to his loss of family early on to his hardscrabble life. The work also traces his advancement through military daring and leadership (and also his sometimes careless behavior that created problems for his troops).

In short, a nicely nuanced and realistic view of one of the most important of American presidents.
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Steven Peterson That is covered in some detail (given the brevity of the book).


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