Book Review: “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House” by Jon Meacham

Just finished the long (16-CD equivalent) audio book on this book. At times, it was quite tedious as the research involves covering the accounts of many people’s through their letters and diaries. Some of details were not necessary and could have been edited out.

Andrew Jackson, the 7th US President on the twenty-dollar bill, had a very tragic life. His father died just after he was born and his mother died in his early age. Thus, he stayed in his relatives’ homes for most of his childhood and his young life. His brothers also died in their early age to illness and the revolution. This, I believe, made him so tough and treasure any close relationship he had with his niece (Emily Donaldson). Even his wife died around the time he got elected to the US president. The book did not go into much details how he educated himself to be a lawyer (probably not much those days) in his 20’s.

Jackson rose to be a general of the revolution and later became a political force. He enjoyed working the crowd and he especially loved this young country and what it stood for. He would fight for solidifying the union; it wasn’t as united as we have taken for granted nowadays. At the same time, he would fuel its growth by justifying the course of taking lands from the Indians and sooth the Southerners by not taking any action against slavery. He may seemed hypocritical to his critics by arguing for and supporting meritocracy against the aristocracy symbolized by the powerful bankers that gripped the nation at that time. His strong and skillful hand in taking away treasure deposit from the monopolistic Bank of the United Stated (private bank) and his strong stand against France which refused to pay its debt to US showed that he was willing to do the right thing (even going to war) despite the potential political fall out. And he forced and kept the state of South Carolina from breaking away from the union. At the end, he prevailed.

Early in his presidency, he had to deal with internal cabinet conflicts such as the rumors impropriety of Margaret Eaton (wife of his cabinet) and how other cabinet member (Emily) despised her and refused to socialize together. This may seem trite or soap-opera-ish in today’s society. Ultimately, Jackson’s true loyalty lied in the United States, even if he had to exile his young Emily Donaldson back her Tennessee home.

Jackson lived a long and illness-inflicted life but he stood strong and tough – like a lion – in front of his people and foes. You may not like how he reached his goal but he hardly compromised and always kept to his principles for the good of this nation including his vision of a much bigger ownership of the America continent. He’s like a tough CEO in a mid-size company that has passed the start-up and on its way to a big conglomerate. Though Jackson kept a double standard on liberty for all – except slaves, he treated his slaves fairly to the standard of the era. He deserves our respect and our gratitude for his contribution to this nation.