I enjoyed Jon Meacham's "Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power" better than his biography on Andrew Jackson. It is possible that I may have found the life of Thomas Jefferson to be more interesting than Andrew Jackson, but I also feel that the writing style in the biography about President Jefferson to be more engaging. It seems like there is too much detail in this biography, but oddly I did not feel as if I had a real good sense of who President Jackson was. However, President Jackson was a complicated, controversial figure in history and the biography does a decent job of highlighting this fact.
Like a number of people, I was interested in this book because of Trump's embrace of Andrew Jackson as a model, which drew some criticism. But, then again, so does everything he does. The average citizen probably knows that Jackson was nicknamed "Old Hickory," gained fame in the Battle of New Orleans, and was responsible for Indian removal in the South, which culminated in the brutal and shameful Trail of Tears. He's also on the $20 bill. Jon Meacham's book may not entirely change your opinion of the man, but it will give you a more nuanced understanding of him and his times, which includes colorful figures like John Quincy Adams, John Callhoun, and Daniel Webster. You can admire him for being anti-elitist (Something Trump is as well, despite being an elite.), expanding voting rights, and taking on the banks. Then again, he was bellicose, personally (He fought a number of duels.) and politically, his populism (Again, Trump.) had an ugly side, and, finally, there is the great stain on his presidency (And the nation.) that is the treatment of the Native Americans. You'd think all these contradictions would make for a fascinating read, but, while well-researched, the book is dull and inert. History fails to come alive.
“American Lion” was my recommendation because, before reading it, and having done a little research into facts about President Andrew Jackson, I believed that he and President Trump shared many similarities. The more I read, the more I believed that both men were convinced the government of the United States was controlled by a relatively small, insular group of people. Further, that this group of “elitists” believed that they should govern the majority of Americans because the great mass was not capable to do this. Both men believed that they had to change this situation and return to a popular-based government versus rule by a small group of “selectmen.”
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