Andrew Jackson The American Presidents Series: The 7th President, 1829-1837

The American Presidents

Sean Wilentz; Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., General Editor

Times Books




224 Pages



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A Choice Outstanding Academic Title Fearless, principled, and damaged, Andrew Jackson was one of the fiercest and most controversial men ever to serve as president of the United States. A child of the Carolina backcountry, Jackson joined the Revolution in his early teens, suffering humiliations and losses in fighting for national independence. When war broke out with the British in 1812, Jackson relished the chance to fight again. Nicknamed "Old Hickory" for his toughness, he repelled the British at New Orleans in the war's final battle and emerged a national hero second only to George Washington. After he won the popular vote in the 1824 election but lost the presidency to John Quincy Adams, Jackson vowed to overturn the corrupt, aristocratic powers in Washington. Elected president in 1828, he began his assault on anything he construed as undemocratic or a threat to the nation, enacting rotation-in-office for government appointments, excoriating southern state rights advocates, destroying the "monopolistic" Second Bank of the United States, pushing for a return to "hard money," moving the Indians to western lands, and stifling radical abolitionists. In all of his political  skirmishes, Jackson raised his voice against the artificial inequalities by birth, station, monied power, and political privilege. Sean Wilentz, one of America's leading historians, recounts the fiery career of this larger-than-life figure, a man whose triumphs and high ideals were matched by his failures and moral blind spots. Jackson's rise to the presidency heralded a new idea of broader democracy that took hold just as the revolutionary generation was passing from the scene; it also set the stage for the sundering of the Union a generation later. It was in Jackson's time that the great conflicts of American politics—urban versus rural, federal versus state, free versus slave—crystallized, and Jackson was not shy about taking a vigorous stand. Under Jackson, modern American politics began, and his legacy informs our debates even to the present day. "The Framers espoused republican government and popular sovereignty, but they were distrustful of the common people and designed a constitutional system that would temper popular passions. In contrast, Andrew Jackson believed that the American government should be as democratic as possible. He came of political age at exactly the right moment. As the revolutionary generation passed from the scene, a new movement, based on the principle of broader democracy, gathered force and united behind Jackson, the charismatic general and hero of the War of 1812, who embodied the hope of ordinary citizens. Jackson pushed the idea of democratic popular sovereignty further than any previous president—yet failed to see injustice in many of the inequalities repugnant to later generations of Americans, and even to some Americans in his own time. His presidency signaled a transition in the history of American democratic politics, a hinge between the founding of the Republic and its rebirth in the Civil War."—Sean Wilentz on Andrew Jackson


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Jackson and the Age of the Democratic Revolution
In the early spring of 1835, the renowned engraver and painter Asher Durand executed the finest portrait of Andrew Jackson made during Jackson's presidency. The artist could extract only four or five sittings from his irascible, distracted subject. Jackson, Durand reported, "has been part of the time in a pretty good humor, but some times he gets his 'dander up' & smokes his pipe prodigiously." Still, the final picture was candid and persuasive, showing a careworn, elegantly attired old man, his cheeks and forehead
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  • Sean Wilentz; Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., General Editor

  • Sean Wilentz, a professor of history at Princeton University, is the author or editor of seven books, including Chants Democratic and The Rise of American Democracy. He has also written for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, and other publications. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
  • Sean Wilentz Denise Applewhite
    Sean Wilentz
  • Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. Dominique Nabokov