Sunday, January 10, 2010

Andrew Jackson: American Lion

Old Hickory, Andrew Jackson, was a legend even in his time. He is a legend now gracing our $20 bill. My view of Jackson was incredibly negative because of the Trail of Tears, selective pressing of principles, and his defeat of the 1st Bank of the USA, which created liquidity and control problems in the economy. After reading this book, I still abhor his behavior towards the Cherokees, but do understand his actions vs. the Bank. My opinion of his time in office has changed. The book, American Lion, was persuasive. As a book, it left me wanting more.

Jackson's treatment of the Cherokee and other Indian tribes are the product of a land grab. Considering how much the Cherokees adopted Southern white culture and behavior, the Cherokee screw job by the government should have been a warning to every other tribe on the continent. It is pretty terrible and completely transparent in its motivations, and the Trail of Tears is an ugly, greenish bruise on the body of American history.

In economic history classes, it is taught how the closing of the 1st Bank of the US set the nation up for wild times in the 1800s. There was no central bank to help with credit and currency control or inject liquidity into the system. The bank was a stabilizing force, and its destruction hurt the growth of the American economy. Reading the details in this book, Jackson was against the bank because of the corrupting influence it could have over the rest of America. Very timely to read this book and about this problem in our current day. He had to destroy the bank to get rid of its power to corrupt politicians to create policy that benefited the bank moreso than the nation. I wish we had a strong central figure who shared this same view instead of fringe players like Sen. Sanders and Rep. Paul who are calling for the break up of the big 4 banks. Because of the story told in this book, I have a new appreciation for how President Jackson acted.

Jon Meacham's book is an entertaining book, which could have dug in much deeper into some issues, and seemed to skim over some things. I enjoyed reading the portions involving the growth of the role of the veto under Jackson, the portions covering 'nullification' & South Carolina, and of course, the battle with the Bank. There was some lines talking about how Jackson's attitude about expanding rights and freedoms for white individuals, but could be a bastard to Indians and be a slaveowner. If he had writing on the issue of slavery or personal letters about the Indians, it would be have a been addition to this book. Peering into his mind on those issues would have been welcomed by readers, and would not have made the book too long. Seventy five more pages would not have bored anyone. There were too many interesting characters to make it boring. The Jackson cabinet was pretty much driven out because they did not accept one Secretary's 'loose' wife. Pieces of drama as important as nullification and as trivial as petticoat politics fill this book and make it an educating and entertaining book.

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