“American Lion” could hardly be more accurate. Jackson had personality and to spare. He strikes me as the first populist President, and was far more loved by the people than his colleagues in Washington. Meacham brought him to life in this Pulitzer-winning volume, making me feel I know Jackson so much better.
Perhaps Jackson is the quintessential enigma. A man who could be tender at one moment and a raging torrent the next, Jackson is hard to fully explain. He was involved in much violence in his life. He was happy to duel no matter how small the disagreement, yet he was an accomplished general. He was bitter over what people said of his Rachel, yet he appears not to be innocent of adultery in the matter. He fought hard over issues he believed in, yet got totally sidetracked in his first term over the Eaton mess.
This dichotomy shows up in the big picture of his presidency too. He accomplished many of the things he sought to do, yet it included his horrible treatment of Indians. He could be shamefully petty, yet marvelously bold. He weathered nullification and held the Union together against some strong opponents in the South, yet he had slaves.
The most fascinating thing about him was his Christianity. He had the questionable marriage, an outrageous temper, and a penchant for violence, yet he said some of the strongest Christian statements I’ve seen from a President. He had a better record of church attendance than most too. Note the statement recorded on page 343 by Meacham about Jesus his Savior “who died upon the cross for me”.
Meacham succeeds in presenting Jackson. Critics point out that his focus on Jackson’s presidential days left the other parts of his life too bare. He got a little carried away on the Eatons to the point that he may have exaggerated their importance in Jackson’s first term. Still, he gave us Jackson the man, and I for one, was glad to read it.
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