What transformed a frontier bully into the seventh president of the United States? A southerner obsessed with personal honor who threatened his enemies with duels to the death, a passionate man who fled to Spanish Mississippi with the love of his life before she was divorced, Andrew Jackson of Tennessee left a vast personal correspondence detailing his stormy relationship with the world of early America. He helped shape the American personality, yet he remains largely unknown to most modern readers. Now historian Andrew Burstein (The Inner Jefferson, America’s Jubilee) brings back Jackson with all his audacity and hot-tempered rhetoric. Most people vaguely imagine Andrew Jackson as a jaunty warrior and man of the people, when he was much more: a power monger whom voters thought they could not do without—a man just as complex and controversial as Jefferson or Lincoln. Declared a national hero upon his stunning victory over the British at the 1815 Battle of New Orleans, this uncompromising soldier capitalized on his fame and found the presidency within his grasp.Yet Burstein shows that Jackson had conceived no political direction for the country. He was virtually uneducated, having grown up in a backwoods settlement in the Carolinas. His ambition to acquire wealth and achieve prominence was matched only by his confidence that he alone could restore virtue to American politics. As the “people’s choice,” this model of masculine bravado—tall, gaunt, and sickly through-out his career—persevered. He lost the election of 1824 on a technicality, owing to the manipulations of Henry Clay. Jackson partisans ran him again, with a vengeance, so that he became, from 1829 to 1837, a president bent on shaping the country to his will. Over two terms, he secured a reputation for opposing the class of moneyed men. To his outspoken critics, he was an elected tyrant.Burstein gives us our first major reevaluation of Jackson’s life in a generation. Unlike the extant biographies, Burstein’s examines Jackson’s close relationships, discovering how the candidate advanced his political chances through a network of army friends—some famous, like Sam Houston, who became a hero himself; others, equally important, who have been lost to history until now. Yet due to his famous temper, Jackson ultimately lost his closest confidants to the opposition party.The Passions of Andrew Jackson includes a fresh interpretation of Jackson’s role in the Aaron Burr conspiracy and offers a more intimate view of the backcountry conditions and political setting that shaped the Tennessean’s controversial understanding of democracy. This is the dynamic story of a larger-than-life American brought down to his authentic earthiness and thoughtfully demythologized. In a provocative conclusion, Burstein relates Jackson to the presidents with whom he was and still is often compared, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
Biographies & Memoirs, Historical, General,