Top positive review
Very well written and well balanced
Reviewed in the United States on October 1, 2016
"Let politicians handle politics. An honest man has real work to do - Andrew Jackson”
If you’re like me, you’ve probably sat through countless, idiotic meetings at your place of business because you were required to do so. Quite often, these asinine gatherings were led by the leader of your organization. Had Andrew Jackson been alive and worked for 21st century Corporate America, he would probably stand right up in the middle of one of these meetings and walked out the door. If the CEO asked him why he was doing so, he would probably look them right in the eye and say something like “Because, sir/madam, you are one of the most boring human beings on the planet and are wasting my valuable time.”
This man did not suffer fools gladly. He was definitely one of the most colorful presidents our nation has ever had, and it’s always quite a nice change to read about a president who never really wanted to be <president. Such creatures are rare. This was a man who had a very rough life. His parents, who were always struggling, moved to the frontier (now Tennessee) to try to make a living and yet both died leaving Andrew Jackson as a young orphan. From there, he plowed on doing anything he could do to survive.
Although known as the hero for the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812, Jackson’s military career was quite limited. The battle was a whopper, though, and he quickly becomes a national hero. Jackson (so he says) never wants to be President, but war heroes have a way of garnishing attention. He’s happy to oblige the will of the people, so he serves two terms as President before retiring to his native Tennessee.
This is the second biography I’ve read by H.W. Brands, and he’s slowly becoming one of my favorite biographers. He manages to keep his readers interested without a lot of bloated jargon and keeps the narrative going in a quick, yet leisurely fashion. I never felt bogged down by the details. Brands also understands that many of his readers may be unfamiliar with many of the current events, so he also carefully gives his readers helpful background information surrounding many of the events. Example: One thing we read about a lot in this book is the practice of “dueling” – you know, when two men stand back to back, take ten paces, and then turn around and shoot. Well, Jackson participated in many of these events as did others close to him, so H.W. Brands spends just the right amount of time giving his reader a primer on some of the lesser known aspects of the practice.
Currently, Andrew Jackson seems to receive quite a bit of heat because of his outdated racist beliefs (I believe he will shortly be taken off the face of the $20 bill). We must remember, however, that these views were quite common because of people’s surroundings. Perhaps the author gives him too much leeway, but Jackson didn’t come across as particularly harsh when compared to many of his contemporaries. Other than John Quincy Adams (the man who Jackson succeeded as President), you rarely find people that had acceptable attitudes towards race and gender equality up until the late 20th century.
I learned a lot from this book. I liked the man’s attitude, his unwavering stances, and his determination to do whatever it took for his young country to succeed and stay on track. I also found it quite interesting that partisan politics is definitely something that is not new. Despite what many people will tell you, our country isn’t really getting “worse” when it comes to arguing politics. You see this behavior just as fervent in Jackson’s day. It’s just that people didn’t have twitter accounts nor the ability to generate hateful memes to distribute across the virtual galaxy in a matter of minutes.
I sure would like to see someone like this as President again – someone that truly doesn’t want the job, but the majority of people convince him/her that their country needs them.