Newsweek editor and bestselling author Meacham (Franklin and Winston) offers a lively take on the seventh president’s White House years. We get the Indian fighter and hero of New Orleans facing down South Carolina radicals’ efforts to nullify federal laws they found unacceptable, speaking the words of democracy even if his banking and other policies strengthened local oligarchies, and doing nothing to protect southern Indians from their land-hungry white neighbors. For the first time, with Jackson, demagoguery became presidential, and his Democratic Party deepened its identification with Southern slavery. Relying on the huge mound of previous Jackson studies, Meacham can add little to this well-known story, save for the few tidbits he’s unearthed in private collections rarely consulted before. What he does bring is a writer’s flair and the ability to relate his story without the incrustations of ideology and position taking that often disfigure more scholarly studies of Jackson. Nevertheless, a gifted writer like Meacham might better turn his attention to tales less often told and subjects a bit tougher to enliven. 32 pages of b&w photos. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Why the President Should Read This Book
Meacham certainly gets it right when he states (I’m paraphrasing) that Jackson was a great man who did some horrible things. Jackson did nothing to resolve the matter of slavery, and was largely responsible for the Trail of Tears that killed many native Americans and displaced many more. Jackson’s actions might serve as a warning to other politicians who are content to go along with the flow. It’s also hard to blame Jackson entirely since he was a product of his times, but isn’t that part of what we look for in a President–a leader who is willing to move against the tide of popularity and do what is right based on principle?
In addition, many events that took place in Jackson’s day are relevant today. During Jackson’s presidency there was a nullification crisis, and we also face the specter of nullification today due to the recent passage of so-called health care reform. States-rights issues were paramount in Jackson’s day, as they are today as the Federal Government’s power grows at the expense of the states. Any President of our day would benefit from a thorough study of Jackson’s presidency, and this book is a good place to start.