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

American Lion by Jon Meacham
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Feb 27, 2011

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Read in February, 2011

American Lion is a better than average presidential biography about Andrew Jackson. Having read through several bios recently, I found this one to be more compelling than my last read, A Country of Vast Designs, a seemingly dry policy lecture about the debates of the James K. Polk administration. Jon Meacham describes a believable fatherly figure who took the job of president very personally, vigorously working to protect the country as though it was his own family. The book captures many of the accomplishments of his rugged life, including his military campaigns, defeat of President John Q. Adams and the National Bank, peaceful preservation of the union during the Nullification Crisis, and his strict fiscal spending policies that led to the elimination of the country’s debt. Though epic in scale, these deeds are difficult to measure against his negatives, most notably the forced removal of American Indians from the south and staunch defense of slavery. In assessing this question, the author does not apologize for Jackson, but explains how his personal beliefs, as a man of the frontier in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, contributed to his decisions. However, American Lion seems to get bogged down in its exhaustive description of the Eaton Affair, a bitter rivalry between the wives of administration officials. While the event took a devastating toll on the Jackson White House, eventually triggering the resignation of much of his cabinet, the multiple chapters dedicated to this single sorry story clogged much of the text and drained energy from other more important things going on in the country at that time.
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