The story, published in 1809, is something of a potboiler. More colorful than subtle, it is nonetheless a powerful book, and Jackson thrilled to it. God is with me, Wallace says as he realizes his wife is dead. I am his avenger . . . God armeth the patriots hand! The cause of Scotland became one with Wallaces personal crusade for justice.
Jackson, too, had lost those he loved to the English. Orphaned in Waxhaw, he would struggle to build and keep a family everywhere else. In those distant forests, makeshift battlefields, and richer relatives houses he had seen the centrality of strength and of self- confidence. Both elements, so essential to his character and his career, can be traced to his mothers influence, which was brief but lasting. In his mind she remained vivid and her example did, toothe example of strength amid adversity and of persevering no matter what. It is also likely that her dreams remained with him: chiefly her ambitious hope that he would become a clergyman, thus exercising authority and earning respect, all in the service of a larger cause. In the end Jackson chose to serve God and country not in a church but on battlefields and at the highest levelsbut he did choose, as his mother had wished, to serve.
Excerpted from American Lion by Jon Meacham Copyright © 2008 by Jon Meacham. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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