You know what kind of book I enjoy but haven’t yet posted a review of on this blog?
So, in order to remedy that, I’m reading Remini’s trilogy on Andrew Jackson, 7th president of the United States (and one mean, angry MF). Remini unfortunately died in 2013, meaning that my dream to one day meet the premier Jackson scholar is over… so I must simply do with reading his seminal biography.
Andrew Jackson: The Course of American Empire, 1767-1821. v.1
Author: Robert Remini
Look at the price of this trilogy. Look at it. Needless to say, I borrowed this sucker at the library. The picture is of the one with the nice paperback cover because you really don’t want to see the shape of the cover for the book I’m reading. You really don’t want to know.
Anyway, I read this trilogy for the first time more than a decade ago (I’ve been a big Andrew Jackson fan for a long time). I loved it then, and I love it now. Will I give you a fair, balanced, well-informed view of this book? Absolutely not. You will get the H.R.R. Gorman Special, TM (C) (R), where I get to tell you how fun the book was and how 70’s the writing feels. So strap in for the least historical review of a history book that you may ever read.
Should I really do this? Does a history book need a ‘non-spoiler’ review?
With this volume, yes. This book is the stuff about Jackson you don’t know. There’s nothing in here about elections to the presidency. If you want to know about shady land deals, weird money scandals, killing native Americans, and exactly who Jackson hated (everyone except his mother, wife, and adopted kids, it seems), this is the one to read.
What I like about the Remini book is how ‘unbiased’ he tries to seem. He does include critiques and alternative viewpoints concerning Jackson (and his treacheries against Native Americans), but Remini almost always ends up defending Jackson’s choices. What I enjoy about reading this older biography is getting to see that viewpoint – it wasn’t until the 70’s, after all, that Jackson scholars began truly criticizing his Indian Removal policies. Until the 1970’s, Jackson was widely regarded as a top-notch president and all-around honorable dude. Reading Remini’s 1977 work will put you right at the crux of that change, so you get to see both the terrible awfulness of the Creek War while at the same time experiencing the jubilation of white Americans after the victory at New Orleans.
5/5 Discoball Snowcones
This book covers from Jackson’s low-class birth and upbringing, through the War of 1812 and fateful Battle of New Orleans, all the way to the taking of Florida from Spain. As such, it contains some of the really weird, shady stuff that Jackson did in his 20’s and 30’s, including (gasp!) marrying a divorced woman.
Like mentioned in the non-spoiler review, one of the interesting things about Remini’s work is how obviously pro-Jackson he was. While this sentiment was probably more understandable in the 1970’s, it’s painfully obvious when one reads this book now. When on one page Remini says “He was good to his slaves” then goes on to say HE CHAINED AND WHIPPED THEM, I’m going to have to argue with the author. I can only give Jackson the benefit of the doubt in that he acted in a way similar to his peers, but that doesn’t forgive him some of the stuff he did. It’s hard to judge the founding fathers and some of the early American heroes because of the juxtaposition of evil with good. And, yet, it’s something I think needs to be pondered.
Remini is right that Jackson was extremely complex. Jackson wasn’t just a murder-monster filled with hate, but he definitely did try to hunt down John Sevier, the former and future governor of Tennessee.
While Jackson was a superior court judge.
Imagine that – your governor is literally being hunted down by a judge in your state. That’s bonkers.
Imagine that a dude decides it’s within his rights to put your city under martial law and arrest anyone who challenges him – including the federal judge who says his actions are illegal. Then, when everyone in town is certain he’s trying to form his own little kingdom, the tyrant receives dispatch that the war is over and releases everyone he put in political prison. Just like that, his faith in the republic allows his rule to evaporate, and he leaves.
Jackson did that. He did that and more. It’s really interesting, to me, that we have larger-than-life legends about Crockett and Boone, but don’t have as many legends about Jackson. If he hadn’t become president (spoiler for the next book… sorry y’all), he’d probably still be spoken of in similar capacity to those two legends.
Because, as I see it, Jackson’s true story is far more insane than legend.
We’re going to jump on in with the second book in the series in which, spoiler, Jackson becomes president.