Monday, November 29, 2010

Reads for Fun: H. W. Brands' "Andrew Jackson"

Most people these days probably know nothing more about Andrew Jackson than that he’s the guy on the $20 bill, and he was President – and many probably don’t even know that. (They probably think the guy on the 20 is Michael Jackson.) I knew somewhat more than that, but thanks to Brands, I now know quite a bit more.

What hits me most is that Jackson (like Custer, and me!) had an unusually rich marriage; although he could be an ill-tempered cuss (he got into a lot of trouble with duels and near-duels, including one that left him with a bullet inside him that probably gave him lead poisoning), when it came to his beloved Rachel, he was a real softie. He had rescued her out of a difficult situation involving her first marriage; unfortunately, this raised unlikely charges of adultery, which would come back to haunt Jackson when he ran for President, as his opponents felt no compunction about dragging Rachel through the mud. Sadly, the stress wasn’t exactly helpful; though she got to see Andrew win the election, she died before he could take office.

Prior to his Presidency, Jackson’s best known accomplishment was his leadership at the Battle of New Orleans (conducted, ironically, after peace terms had been reached, because word had not reached there of the accord), where he gave a fair licking to British forces who had been previously so successful against the armies of Napoleon. But Jackson was active in a lot of other areas, too, including my native Florida.

As President, he was regarded as the people’s choice, the first President who wasn’t of a more regal bent. He put up with a lot of nonsense from the self-interested, but at the forefront for him always was the good of the Union, as he understood it.

So it is: Another fascinating tome in my readings on American history.

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