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por Jon Meacham
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Let's be clear. On balance I liked the book and do recommend reading it. If I didn't I would have put it down before finishing. The book offers a broad panorama of heroes and knaves for much of the early period of American history. It was a gripping page turner.
Why only three stars? It was on the border of being a hagiography. Andrew Jackson was a flawed man and an imperfect president. Some of the black marks are well-known; his blind, unquestioning approval of Negro slavery and his mistreatment of Native Americans. While those who know me know that I am far from an unquestioning progressive, even in his era the dehumanization of downtrodden groups was already an issue. Andrew Jackson had no curiosity or interest. His mad crusade against the Bank of the United States was a large part of the cause of the Panic of 1837. His role rates barely a footnote. In addition, the chaotic management of his White House family rivals that of the current British royals.
The book well highlights Jackson's obvious and positive role in crafting a powerful presidency; one that, in short, led the country. While I give this book a "three", really borderline "four" this book is worth the read; Jackson's place on the currency is well earned.
What a disappointing piece this was. American Lion takes everything wrong with armchair history as if to serve as a textbook example of what not to do. The writing style is captivating and well polished but so infatuated with the subject that the reader gets lost - what I suspect would be a trademark of Meacham as he is not trained as a historian but rather in English.
The chronology is confusing and chapters are spent on days and weeks while entire decades are summed up in a few paragraphs or pages. The reader is given no real sense of the timeline of Jacksons life, the impact that he had upon a broader America, or the actual changes and politics of his time. The story of the Eaton Affair, which rightfully deserves a large portion of the book, dominates along with the handful of scandals and issues of the Jackson presidency, but you get no sense of the true history of the period.
After reading this, you are left with a flashy sense of a few episodes in the life of Jackson, a hell of a lot of quotes from Jackson, his circle, contemporary and twentieth-century historians and commentators, but you get no real idea of what Meacham was adding to the conversation. So much of the book is quotes, I would be afraid of what would be left if we husked them out and left just Meacham. This is a perfect example of the poor history we get from biography and the problem with the popularity of the genre.
Masonry plays no role in the story, at any point. No mention is given to Jackson's Grand Mastership, and only a passage is spent on the Anti-Masonic crisis that gained traction just before Jackson's ascent to the Presidency. This would have made an interesting lens to understand the man, and given fertile grounds to understand the broader historical moment.
Jackson was the first strong/modern president and became a model for Lincoln, Roosevelt, Truman and others. The Margaret Eaton "Petticoat Affair" was quite interesting. Washington has always been a vicious place. The "Trail of Tears" was probably Jackson's low point while his holding the Union together through the Nullification Crisis was his greatest accomplishment.
As boring as a pile of poop. The Eaton affair almost made me puke.
Stick to your weekly editor, Meacham.
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“American Lion” is enormously entertaining, especially in the deft descriptions of Jackson’s personality and domestic life in his White House. But Meacham has missed an opportunity to reflect on the nature of American populism as personified by Jackson.
Mr. Meacham, the editor of Newsweek, dispenses with the usual view of Jackson as a Tennessee hothead and instead sees a cannily ambitious figure determined to reshape the power of the presidency during his time in office (1829 to 1837). Case by case, Mr. Meacham dissects Jackson’s battles and reinterprets them in a revealing new light.
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Wikipedia en inglés (11)
A thought-provoking study of Andrew Jackson chronicles the life and career of a self-made man who went on to become a military hero and seventh president of the United States, critically analyzing Jackson's seminal role during a turbulent era in history, the political crises and personal upheaval that surrounded him, and his legacy for the modern presidency.
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Sistema Decimal Melvil (DDC)973.56092History and Geography North America United States 1809-1845 Andrew Jackson (4 Mar. 1829-4 Mar. 1837)
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Interesting to learn more about D. Trump's "favorite" President. Jackson was a populist and it's easy to see how Trump somehow patterned himself after Jackson though clearly deluded about the reality of himself and his presidency.
Not too long (about 365 pages without notes etc) timely and worth a look IMHO. ( )