Paul's Reviews > Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times

Andrew Jackson by H.W. Brands
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's review
Jun 22, 08

bookshelves: american-history, florida
Read in June, 2008

Excellent bio. I flew through this gripping account of one of our more controversial presidents. Jackson looms large in my hometown of Tallahassee. He’s celebrated at our annual spring festival (growing up my family was fairly active as members of a float crew) and he always inspires protest. And of course, as a graduate of Florida State, I’m reminded of his, uh, regional achievements every time I do the Seminole chop.

It’s easy to pick Old Hickory apart in order to reconstruct the man into whatever symbol fits your interpretation of his place in history. His ruthless expansionist policies; his fanatical service to the military; that tireless advancement of populism; the unflinching devotion to the idea of Union; and his many personal failings, eccentricities, and contradictions; all afford the lesser historian (or perhaps one with an ax to grind) an opportunity to paint Jackson w/ a broad brush. Not here. This book does not shy away from any aspect of its subject, and presents a complex and uncompromised final portrait. Overall, Brand’s analysis neither flatters, nor condemns. Credit is given when due; fault assigned likewise. How we judge the impact of his policies is one thing, but one cannot overstate the importance of Jackson.

Side note: Brand does a great job foreshadowing the catastrophic events that would divide our country in the decades after Jackson’s presidency and death. There's a palpable sense disaster lurking within the text of the closing chapters.
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