Most of us would probably have to take a peek at a twenty dollar bill in order to answer whose portrait appears on it, and perhaps some of us might not even know his name. As for those who answered Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, they are definitely correct. Anyone who has not read Jon Meacham’s American Lion: Andrew Jackson would be curious as to why Andrew Jackson's portrait appears on our currency. American Lion is a biography of Andrew Jackson, but the book specifically focuses on the 8 years and 2 terms that he spent as the President of the United States. This book also revolves around Andrew Jackson’s rise to American Presidency from nothing. In his book, Jon Meacham has written down an account of Andrew Jackson that is highly informative, interesting and splendidly researched. What sets Meacham’s take on the 8-year Presidency of our seventh president apart from other accounts is that it is quite sprightly.
One of the reasons many Americans do not know much about the role Andrew Jackson played in the history of our country is because it rare to find books written about him. This makes Jon Meacham’s American Lion: Andrew Jackson an all the more valuable account of Andrew Jackson. Meacham’ account of Andrew Jackson seems quite conclusive as he explores each and every myth that has spread about the 7th president. Jon Meacham’s book should not be mistaken with a biography. Meacham not only focuses on Andrew Jackson’s presidency but also specifically focuses on his personal life within the White House, something that most people know very little about. Meacham describes Andrew Jackson as a “physical wreck” when he had started out his first term in 1829, especially because he had recently lost his wife.
Meacham examines how births, weddings and other frolics at the White House served as a background for many decisions that Jackson made on critical issues and how they affected them. He does this by drawing on diaries and letters from close friends of Jackson’s that have never been published. Meacham reviews how Jackson responded to the nullification crisis. Meacham has written down Jackson’s personal story and he has written it with a very high standard of perfection. Meacham has written the book with a tone that is inquisitive yet evenhanded. Meacham has written about how literally and sincerely Jackson felt as if he was the father of the United States of America. Meacham writes in his book that “the tragedy of Jackson’s life is that a man dedicated to freedom failed to see liberty as a universal, not a particular, gift” (Meacham). Nonetheless, Jackson overcame this repeatedly. As Meacham writes in the conclusion of his book that Jackson “held together a country whose experiment in liberty ultimately extended its protections and promises to all — belatedly, it is true” (Meacham).
In his book American Lion: Andrew Jackson, Jon Meacham has certainly succeeded in preventing his account of Jackson’s years of presidency competing against all those other mainstream accounts that are out there. What Meacham has done with his book is that he has taken those selectively picked out those mainstream accounts and has added elegant new readings of materials, which were previously overlooked, in order to enrich those versions. These especially include private papers of Jackson’s family members and close friends. Andrew Jackson is known for a very distinguished democratic dignity and Jon Meacham has very impressively highlighted that in his book. In fact, Jon Meacham very skillfully sweeps the consequences of Jackson’s darker qualities under the rug. The saga of Jackson’s personal life and close circle does indeed hold some very enthusiastic human-interest, and through his book, Meacham amazingly succeeds in adding life to the fascinating story of the inventor of modern politics. Meacham has written this account of Andrew Jackson for what he truly was, an American genius.
No doubt, Meacham’s American Lion: Andrew Jackson is an extremely entertaining book, especially in the dexterous way in which Meacham has described Jackson’s personality and his personal life in the White House. However, although Meacham had the chance to meditate on the nature of American populism that Jackson had represented, but apparently Meacham missed this chance. It is also arguable that tidbits from private collections that can be found in Meacham’s book add very little to the bulk of previous studies on Jackson that Meacham relied on during his research. Perhaps, Meacham is also not very successful in conveying more of Jackson’s historical contributions since he focuses on penning down emotions and rumors.
Regardless of a few potential drawbacks, Meacham’s American Lion: Andrew Jackson would make a valuable asset as a part of the course on the subject. As far as the account of Jackson’s 8-year presidency is concerned, American Lion is splendid it that regard and it is even more superb when it comes to teaching about Jackson’s domestic life in the White House. Moreover, the book is informative, entertaining and easy-to-read, so it would most likely make a great addition to coursework. Perhaps there might a bit of hesitation about the historical value that this book provides, yet it is overall an enjoyable book that students can study and learn things they probably do not know.
Meacham, Jon. American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. Reprint ed. Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2009. Print.