My Presidential reading list got waylaid for a little while last year with Andrew Jackson and American Lion.
This book sat on my nightstand for too long, but I finally finished it over the weekend. President’s Day weekend no less!
So. Andrew Jackson. Old Hickory.
Generally, I enjoyed the read, but Jackson didn’t jump out at me as I would have thought. His story before becoming President is fascinating. Born from truly humble origins (no one is 100% sure which state he was actually born in, it was that humble), courageous as a boy during the Revolutionary War when he stood up against British soldiers, and then working himself up through the ranks of the Army, showing great brilliance during the War of 1812.
As President, he re-envisioned how the job functioned. The President was the only office elected by the entire nation (through the electoral college, of course), and therefore he believed that it should be the center of government–not Congress. Much of the Presidency as we think of it comes from him.
Like many of the Presidents that come after him through Lincoln, his biggest challenges had to do with slavery, states’ rights, and the secessionist movement. Jackson gets credit for keeping the union together, although he personally owned slaves and did not release them in his will upon his death (like Jefferson, but unlike Washington).
His dealings with Native Americans was particularly bad, and a lot of the worst of the relocation plans were laid by his administration.
The biography was interesting in how the social mores of the time affected his administration. A cabinet secretary’s wife had possibly (likely) had relations with a man before she married the cabinet secretary, and this fact was–amazingly–a huge issue in Jackson’s first term.
It was an interesting read, and Jackson’s influence was huge. But I never engaged with him as I have some of the presidents.
Next up is probably #8: Martin Van Buren.