Andrew Jackson in the White House
by Jon Meacham
In recent years I’ve learned that I love a good biography. Presidential bios are particularly interesting because I think it takes a specific kind of person to want to be in such a lauded and attacked position of power. American Lion has been on my radar for a while and it didn’t disappoint.
Jackson broke the mold of presidents at that time. He was a fighter, a pioneer, a country boy, the opposite of the elite group of founding fathers in New England. I think he rivals Teddy Roosevelt for the title of most badass president of all time. At one point he was shot in the chest during a duel and he kept fighting!
He was more astute than most people gave him credit for. His critics often focused on his temper and stubborn nature, but he seemed to know when to back down or be cordial if he would benefit from it. He was fiercely loyal to his family and friends, at times to a fault. I thought it was interesting that even hundreds of years ago, the presidential office was filled with scandal and petty fights, etc. That was nothing new in the 20th century.
Jackson had his own moral code and he stuck by it. There are certainly some dark spots during his tenure as president, especially the trail of tears, which was created by his policy even if it was enacted in another president's term. Just like any other president, there were both good decisions and bad, and I’m sure that it’s much easier for us to judge them with hindsight.
BOTTOM LINE: Jackson was such an interesting president! Also, I’ll keep reading whatever Meacham chooses to write. He’s up there on my list of must read nonfiction authors with Erik Larson, Mary Roach, Bill Bryson, and a few others. I didn’t love this one as much as the author’s biography ofThomas Jefferson, but I think that has more to do with my fascinating with Jefferson.
“I was born for a storm and a calm does not suit me.”
Pairing Books with Musicals: I’ve never paired a book with a musical before, and a presidential biography isn’t the obvious place to start, but I think this is a perfect fit. My first real glimpse into Jackson’s life was through the musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, which is fantastic. It turned Jackson’s wild life into a fun rock ’n’ roll theatre piece. Following that same trend, there’s now a musical about Hamilton’s life on Broadway. It stars Lin-Manuel Miranda who also created “In the Heights”! Anyway, I’m dying to see it, especially after finishing American Lion.