Sunday, August 2, 2009

Andrew Jackson by H. W. Brands Book Review

Andrew Jackson is known as the President of the people. He ran for president in the 1824 election and won the popular vote by a large margin (Jackson: 154,000; Adams: 109,000; Clay and Crawford: about 47,000 each). He had the majority of the electoral votes (Jackson: 99; Adams: 84; Crawford: 41; Clay: 37). This was the first election where a “popular” man or a man of the people had won the popular vote. Would the politicians follow the popular vote or would they lead toward the seasoned (and the elite) among them? It seems that Adams made some arrangement with Clay (he became Secretary of State) and the House of Representatives, voting by state delegations, selected Adams for President. Jackson waited out his opponents, however, and was elected in the 1828 election (647,000 votes to Adams’ 508,000 with the electoral votes being 178 to 83). He won a second term in 1832 with a great majority.
Brands writes nearly four times as much on Jackson’s life before being president as he does on the presidential years. Also, the majority of the text dealing with Jackson as President is on the “bank issue.” Jackson opposed the renewal of the charter for the Bank of the United States. When the congress passed the charter Jackson vetoed it and pulled federal funds out of that bank and placed the money in state banks. The head of the Bank fought back by freezing the funds that remains and financial hard times followed.
If you are interested in finding out about Jackson the military hero, this is the book for you. If you want to find out about Jackson the President, you will be very disappointed (as I was).
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