I’ve read the first two volumes of this series this month, and it’s been an amazing journey. I got to celebrate Andrew Jackson’s birthday with a bang, and I enjoyed reading these books a lot. The analysis of such a controversial historical character just thrills me. You can expect me to read another biography sometime – this was too much fun.
Andrew Jackson: The Course of American Democracy, 1833-1845
Author: Robert Remini
I’ve been interested in Andrew Jackson ever since I first read about him in American History in high school. I understand that he wasn’t perfect, and I definitely get that he’s controversial (in fact, that’s part of why I love studying him and his era).
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 old school the writing feels. So strap in for the least historical review of a history book that you may ever read.
Part of why this volume deserves a non-spoiler review is that it has a few different literary criteria different from the first two. Despite being written in relatively rapid succession (’77, ’81, and ’84), this largest volume added some significant literary and theatrical elements. In previous volumes, Remini was a bit more no-nonsense, and his analysis was piled on top of excellent rhetoric.
Remini’s analysis does not lack in this final volume. In fact, this final volume won a couple awards in 1984, and most historians acknowledge that Remini’s trilogy is a very important work in terms of historical review.
5/5 Discoball Snowcones
This volume focused on the Bank War, which was far more complex than what they tell you in high school. He also focused on Jackson’s international successes – of which there were a lot – and his constant battle on the political stage.
One thing I found interesting, that I obviously didn’t care about in the least back when I read these in 2009, was that Jackson was the first president to push for the president to be chosen by popular vote rather than electoral college. At the time, each state chose its own electors, and some states did it proportionally to the vote. Some states did it with electors partially chosen by legislature (I’m looking at you, South Carolina). The legislature said no because, get this, they said it was the marks of democracy! America was a republic, dammit, and letting the dirty masses elect the president was just asking for trouble!
At the end of this volume, Jackson dies. And Remini mad it so fucking sad. I think Rachel’s death in book 2 was sadder because Jackson’s anguish was so apparent, but the collective national mourning in the final chapter was so heartfelt. Despite Jackson dying and being quickly buried at his rural home, 3,000 showed up at his funeral. Empty caskets and urns were mourned in cities throughout the country, all of which were collectively wailed and missed and simultaneously celebrated. Regardless of how terrible some of Jackson’s failures and modern legacy may be, he did do something right – something that has influenced American and, surprisingly, international democracies.
If you’ve enjoyed this series of reviews, I encourage you to think about the complexities of history, perhaps take a look at it in a way you haven’t before. Appreciate the richness that came before you, and think about how your own culture and life has been formed.
Next week is the first week of Indie Book Month! I hope you enjoy my choices. If you’ve written a book, I still have a couple spots left in my later Indie Book Months this year, so let me know if I should check them out!