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American Lion
Cover of American Lion
American Lion
Andrew Jackson in the White House
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The definitive biography of a larger-than-life president who defied norms, divided a nation, and changed Washington forever
Andrew Jackson, his intimate circle of friends, and his tumultuous times are at the heart of this remarkable book about the man who rose from nothing to create the modern presidency. Beloved and hated, venerated and reviled, Andrew Jackson was an orphan who fought his way to the pinnacle of power, bending the nation to his will in the cause of democracy. Jackson’s election in 1828 ushered in a new and lasting era in which the people, not distant elites, were the guiding force in American politics. Democracy made its stand in the Jackson years, and he gave voice to the hopes and the fears of a restless, changing nation facing challenging times at home and threats abroad. To tell the saga of Jackson’s presidency, acclaimed author Jon Meacham goes inside the Jackson White House. Drawing on newly discovered family letters and papers, he details the human drama–the family, the women, and the inner circle of advisers– that shaped Jackson’s private world through years of storm and victory.
One of our most significant yet dimly recalled presidents, Jackson was a battle-hardened warrior, the founder of the Democratic Party, and the architect of the presidency as we know it. His story is one of violence, sex, courage, and tragedy. With his powerful persona, his evident bravery, and his mystical connection to the people, Jackson moved the White House from the periphery of government to the center of national action, articulating a vision of change that challenged entrenched interests to heed the popular will– or face his formidable wrath. The greatest of the presidents who have followed Jackson in the White House–from Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt to FDR to Truman–have found inspiration in his example, and virtue in his vision.
Jackson was the most contradictory of men. The architect of the removal of Indians from their native lands, he was warmly sentimental and risked everything to give more power to ordinary citizens. He was, in short, a lot like his country: alternately kind and vicious, brilliant and blind; and a man who fought a lifelong war to keep the republic safe–no matter what it took.
The definitive biography of a larger-than-life president who defied norms, divided a nation, and changed Washington forever
Andrew Jackson, his intimate circle of friends, and his tumultuous times are at the heart of this remarkable book about the man who rose from nothing to create the modern presidency. Beloved and hated, venerated and reviled, Andrew Jackson was an orphan who fought his way to the pinnacle of power, bending the nation to his will in the cause of democracy. Jackson’s election in 1828 ushered in a new and lasting era in which the people, not distant elites, were the guiding force in American politics. Democracy made its stand in the Jackson years, and he gave voice to the hopes and the fears of a restless, changing nation facing challenging times at home and threats abroad. To tell the saga of Jackson’s presidency, acclaimed author Jon Meacham goes inside the Jackson White House. Drawing on newly discovered family letters and papers, he details the human drama–the family, the women, and the inner circle of advisers– that shaped Jackson’s private world through years of storm and victory.
One of our most significant yet dimly recalled presidents, Jackson was a battle-hardened warrior, the founder of the Democratic Party, and the architect of the presidency as we know it. His story is one of violence, sex, courage, and tragedy. With his powerful persona, his evident bravery, and his mystical connection to the people, Jackson moved the White House from the periphery of government to the center of national action, articulating a vision of change that challenged entrenched interests to heed the popular will– or face his formidable wrath. The greatest of the presidents who have followed Jackson in the White House–from Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt to FDR to Truman–have found inspiration in his example, and virtue in his vision.
Jackson was the most contradictory of men. The architect of the removal of Indians from their native lands, he was warmly sentimental and risked everything to give more power to ordinary citizens. He was, in short, a lot like his country: alternately kind and vicious, brilliant and blind; and a man who fought a lifelong war to keep the republic safe–no matter what it took.
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  • Chapter 1 Chapter 1

    Andy Will Fight His Way in the World

    Christmas 1828 should have been the happiest of seasons at the Hermitage, Jackson’s plantation twelve miles outside Nashville. It was a week before the holiday, and Jackson had won the presidency of the United States the month before. “How triumphant!” Andrew Donelson said of the victory. “How flattering to the cause of the people!” Now the president- elect’s family and friends were to be on hand for a holiday of good food, liquor, and wine–Jackson was known to serve guests whiskey, champagne, claret, Madeira, port, and gin–and, in this special year, a pageant of horses, guns, and martial glory.

    On Wednesday, December 17, 1828, Jackson was sitting inside the house, answering congratulatory messages. As he worked, friends in town were planning a ball to honor their favorite son before he left for Washington. Led by a marshal, there would be a guard of soldiers on horseback to take Jackson into Nashville, fire a twenty- four- gun artillery salute, and escort him to a dinner followed by dancing. Rachel would be by his side.
    In the last moments before the celebrations, and his duties, began, Jackson drafted a letter. Writing in his hurried hand across the foolscap, he accepted an old friend’s good wishes: “To the people, for the confidence reposed in me, my gratitude and best services are due; and are pledged to their service.” Before he finished the note, Jackson went outside to his Tennessee fields.

    He knew his election was inspiring both reverence and loathing. The 1828 presidential campaign between Jackson and Adams had been vicious. Jackson’s forces had charged that Adams, as minister to Russia, had procured a woman for Czar Alexander I. As president, Adams was alleged to have spent too much public money decorating the White House, buying fancy china and a billiard table. The anti- Jackson assaults were more colorful. Jackson’s foes called his wife a bigamist and his mother a whore, attacking him for a history of dueling, for alleged atrocities in battles against the British, the Spanish, and the Indians–and for being a wife stealer who had married Rachel before she was divorced from her first husband. “Even Mrs. J. is not spared, and my pious Mother, nearly fifty years in the tomb, and who, from her cradle to her death had not a speck upon her character, has been dragged forth . . . and held to public scorn as a prostitute who intermarried with a Negro, and my eldest brother sold as a slave in Carolina,” Jackson said to a friend.

    Jackson’s advisers marveled at the ferocity of the Adams attacks. “The floodgates of falsehood, slander, and abuse have been hoisted and the most nauseating filth is poured, in torrents, on the head, of not only Genl Jackson but all his prominent supporters,” William B. Lewis told John Coffee, an old friend of Jackson’s from Tennessee.
    Some Americans thought of the president-elect as a second Father of His Country. Others wanted him dead. One Revolutionary War veteran, David Coons of Harpers Ferry, Virginia, was hearing rumors of ambush and assassination plots against Jackson. To Coons, Jackson was coming to rule as a tribune of the people, but to others Jackson seemed dangerous–so dangerous, in fact, that he was worth killing. “There are a portion of malicious and unprincipled men who have made hard threats with regard to you, men whose baseness would (in my opinion) prompt them to do anything,” Coons wrote Jackson.

    That was the turbulent world awaiting beyond the Hermitage. In the draft of a speech he was to deliver to...

About the Author-
  • Jon Meacham is a Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer. The author of the New York Times bestsellers Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, Franklin and Winston, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, and The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels, he is a distinguished visiting professor at Vanderbilt University, a contributing writer for The New York Times Book Review, and a fellow of the Society of American Historians. Meacham lives in Nashville and in Sewanee with his wife and children.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 15, 2008
    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.

  • Booklist

    November 15, 2008
    There are numerous books on the seventh president, but this one is distinguished by its particularly fluid presentation.As the subtitleindicates, it has special appeal for those readers who may be uninterested in a complete cradle-to-gravetreatment but arelooking fora particular focus on the Jacksonpresidency. The evolution of presidential power is the basic theme around which Meacham constructs his riveting account of the freshness Jackson brought to the White Housemeaning, before his advent into the chief executive office, political power was considered to be best left in the hands of the landed elite, but Jackson believed in the primacy of the will of the common people, and during his administration, democracy was making its stand. This was a difficult time for the American republic; the issue of slavery wasdeveloping into a major political issue, and with that, the rise of southern questioning of just how strongthe union of states was and what rightsindividual states possessed tosafeguard regional interests.But Jackson administered the ship of state with good instincts and wisdom.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2008, American Library Association.)

  • Tina Brown

    "What passes for political drama today pales in the reading of Jon Meacham's vividly-told story of our seventh president. The rip-roaring two-fisted man of the people, duelist, passionate lover, gambler and war hero, was also a prime creator of the presidency as the fulcrum of executive power to defend democracy...Meacham argues that Jackson should be in the pantheon with Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln for this and for his role in preserving the Union and rescuing democracy from elitism. He makes the historian's case with wit and scholarship but Meacham also has the novelist's art of enthralling the general reader much as David McCullough did for the lesser figure of John Adams. Reading "American Lion" one is no longer able to look on the gaunt, craggy face on the $20 bill without hearing the tumult of America in the making."

  • Sean Wilentz, Princeton University, author of The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln "Jon Meacham's splendid new book on Andrew Jackson shrewdly places presidential politics in the context of Jackson's family life -- and vice versa. With an abundance of gripping stories, and with admirable fairness, Meacham offers a fresh portrait of one of the most controversial and consequential men ever to occupy the White House."
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln "Every so often a terrific biography comes along that shines a new light on a familiar figure in American history. So it was with David McCullough and John Adams, so it was with Walter Isaacson and Benjamin Franklin, so it is with Jon Meacham and Andrew Jackson. A master storyteller, Meacham interweaves the lives of Jackson and the members of his inner circle to create a highly original book."
  • Robert V. Remini, National Book Award-winning historian and biographer of Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and Daniel Webster "In magnificent prose, enriched by the author's discovery of new research materials, Jon Meacham has written an engrossing and original study of the life of Andrew Jackson. He provides new insights into Jackson's emotional and intellectual character and personality, and describes life in the White House in a unique and compelling way. Scrupulously researched and vividly written, this book is certain to attract a large and diverse reading public."
  • Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein: His Life and Universe and Benjamin Franklin: An American Life "Finally, a book that explains our nation's most enigmatic hero, a man who was revered and reviled and little understood. Jon Meacham brilliantly takes us inside the family circle that sustained Andrew Jackson's presidency and provided his steadiness of faith. It's a vivid, fascinating human drama, and Meacham shows how the personal was interwoven with the political. Jackson presided over the birth of modern politics, and this book's brew of patriotism and religion and populism tastes very familiar. In helping us understand Jackson, Meacham helps us understand America."
  • Michael Beschloss "American Lion is a spellbinding, brilliant and irresistible journey into the heart of Andrew Jackson and his unforgettable circle of friends and enemies. With narrative energy, flash and devotion to larger issues that are truly Jacksonian, Jon Meacham reveals Old Hickory's complicated inner life and recreates the excitement of living in Jackson's Washington. Most of all, Meacham's important book shows us how the old hero transformed both the American Presidency and the nation he led."
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