Was “Old Hickory” i.e. Andrew Jackson an ethnic cleanser? BOOK Review Pulitzer Prize Winner 2009: Biography Prize – ‘American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House’ by Jon Meacham
Newsweek editor, Jon Meacham, has taken out the ‘biography prize’ at the 2009 Pulitzer Awards held at Columbia University for his work ‘American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House,’ a best-seller about the populist US president whose sympathy for the less fortunate never extended to slaves.
“Jackson represents the best and the worst of us” Meacham said of his work
Apparently Meachem accessed materials not and/or rarely consulted before, to bring us this fascinating page turner. ‘Old Hickory’ Andrew Jackson was a great defender of democracy and it’s founding principles, yet he was a man tainted by his rich life as much as he was honoured. It is highly open for debate whether he would be considered a human rights abuser and ethnic cleanser today in hindsight. He stood for the defense of human rights, yet in the same breath seemed to attack them. Meacheam does a great job in giving humanity to a man that history has been unkind to in so many ways, justifiably or not. Meachem deserves praise for highlighting the positives of the 7th President of the US as much as the US$20 bill does. He is very adept at political PR.
The book is a good addition to the historical understanding of American political history, slavery and the plight of Native Americans. Meacham’s background as a journalist lends greatly to the readability of this text. It is not an academic work, but that is what makes this work. It is more like a compelling storytelling newspiece than a dry ‘academic standard’ american history textbook.
Get it now. It doesn’t disappoint. One could expect to build it up too much in the expectation stakes before reading it, especially after the media frenzy surrounding the winning of a pulitzer, but we were pleasantly surprised that it was as good as the media that covered its accolade made out.
The story of Jackson is certainly not one that is settled between historians. To get a feel for the other side of the historical coin on him, not just the legend, we enourage prospective readers to also consider having a read of Professor of History – Andrew Bursteins ‘The Passions of Andrew Jackson’ (Vintage, 2004) contemoraneously with Meachams work. We suspect the truth lies somewhere in between the two versions.
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