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Summary and book reviews of American Lion by Jon Meacham

American Lion

Andrew Jackson in the White House

by Jon Meacham

American Lion
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Nov 2008, 512 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2009, 512 pages

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Book Summary

Jon Meacham in American Lion has delivered the definitive human portrait of a pivotal president who forever changed the American presidency–and America itself.

Andrew Jackson, his intimate circle of friends, and his tumultuous times are at the heart of this remarkable book about the man who rose from nothing to create the modern presidency. Beloved and hated, venerated and reviled, Andrew Jackson was an orphan who fought his way to the pinnacle of power, bending the nation to his will in the cause of democracy. Jackson’s election in 1828 ushered in a new and lasting era in which the people, not distant elites, were the guiding force in American politics. Democracy made its stand in the Jackson years, and he gave voice to the hopes and the fears of a restless, changing nation facing challenging times at home and threats abroad. To tell the saga of Jackson’s presidency, acclaimed author Jon Meacham goes inside the Jackson White House. Drawing on newly discovered family letters and papers, he details the human drama–the family, the women, and the inner circle of advisers–that shaped Jackson’s private world through years of storm and victory.

One of our most significant yet dimly recalled presidents, Jackson was a battle-hardened warrior, the founder of the Democratic Party, and the architect of the presidency as we know it. His story is one of violence, sex, courage, and tragedy. With his powerful persona, his evident bravery, and his mystical connection to the people, Jackson moved the White House from the periphery of government to the center of national action, articulating a vision of change that challenged entrenched interests to heed the popular will–or face his formidable wrath. The greatest of the presidents who have followed Jackson in the White House–from Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt to FDR to Truman–have found inspiration in his example, and virtue in his vision.

Jackson was the most contradictory of men. The architect of the removal of Indians from their native lands, he was warmly sentimental and risked everything to give more power to ordinary citizens. He was, in short, a lot like his country: alternately kind and vicious, brilliant and blind; and a man who fought a lifelong war to keep the republic safe–no matter what it took.

Jon Meacham in American Lion has delivered the definitive human portrait of a pivotal president who forever changed the American presidency–and America itself.

Chapter 1

Andy Will Fight His Way in the World

Christmas 1828 should have been the happiest of seasons at the Hermitage, Jackson’s plantation twelve miles outside Nashville. It was a week before the holiday, and Jackson had won the presidency of the United States the month before. “How triumphant!” Andrew Donelson said of the victory. “How flattering to the cause of the people!” Now the president- elect’s family and friends were to be on hand for a holiday of good food, liquor, and wine–Jackson was known to serve guests whiskey, champagne, claret, Madeira, port, and gin–and, in this special year, a pageant of horses, guns, and martial glory.

On Wednesday, December 17, 1828, Jackson was sitting inside the house, answering congratulatory messages. As he worked, friends in town were planning a ball to honor their favorite son before he left for Washington. Led by a marshal, there would be a guard of soldiers on horseback to take Jackson into ...

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  • award image

    Pulitzer Prize for Letters, Drama and Music
    2009

  • award image

    Pulitzer Prize for Letters, Drama and Music
    2009

Reviews

Media Reviews

The New York Times - Janet Maslin

Case by case, Mr. Meacham dissects Jackson's battles and reinterprets them in a revealing new light.

Seattle Times - Steve Weinberg

Meacham's fondness for Jackson is evident in every chapter. Fortunately, Meacham also delineates Jackson's flaws and shows the complexity of Jackson's strengths.

The Boston Globe - Rich Barlow

Barack Obama and John McCain battled mightily for the presidency because the job matters. Meacham has produced a readable reminder for a new generation of Jackson's part in investing the office with such influence. He titles his epilogue, "He Still Lives." He does indeed.

Entertainment Weekly - Tina Jordan

This is no dry recitation of history: The skinny, rangy Jackson ... comes alive on the page. Rated A.

USA Today - Deirdre Donahue

[M]arvelously readable - brings alive a profoundly flawed but dazzlingly charismatic American original.

San Francisco Chronicle - Peter Lewis

Jon Meacham's portrait of Andrew Jackson's presidency may be more than obliquely admiring, but it's also like black coffee: no cream, no sugar, nothing to sweeten or obscure. Looked at through Meacham's commonsensibly astute eyes, Jackson is a fascinating figure.

Publishers Weekly

[A] gifted writer like Meacham might better turn his attention to tales less often told and subjects a bit tougher to enliven.

Booklist

There are numerous books on the seventh president, but this one is distinguished by its particularly fluid presentation.

Author Blurb Michael Beschloss, author of Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America 1789-1989.
American Lion is a spellbinding, brilliant and irresistible journey into the heart of Andrew Jackson and his unforgettable circle of friends and enemies. With narrative energy, flash and devotion to larger issues that are truly Jacksonian, Jon Meacham reveals Old Hickory's complicated inner life and recreates the excitement of living in Jackson's Washington...

Author Blurb Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein: His Life and Universe and Benjamin Franklin: An American Life.
Finally, a book that explains our nation's most enigmatic hero, a man who was revered and reviled and little understood. Jon Meacham brilliantly takes us inside the family circle that sustained Andrew Jackson's presidency and provided his steadiness of faith. It's a vivid, fascinating human drama, and Meacham shows how the personal was interwoven with the political....

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