American Lion

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-04-30
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks

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Jackson's election in 1828 ushered in a new and lasting era in which the people, not distant elites, were the guiding force in American politics. Democracy made its stand in the Jackson years, and he gave voice to the hopes and fears of a restless, changing nation facing challenging times at home and threats abroad. Drawing on newly discovered family letters and papers, Meacham details the human drama--the family, the women, and the inner circle of advisers--that shaped Jackson's private world through years of storm and victory. With his powerful persona, his palpable bravery, and his mystical connection to the people, Jackson moved the White House from the periphery of government to the center of national attention, articulating a vision of change that challenged entrenched interests to heed the popular will--or face his formidable wrath. The greatest of the presidents who have followed Jackson in the White House--from Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt to FDR to Truman--have found inspiration in his example, and virtue in his vision.

Author Biography

Jon Meacham is the editor of Newsweek and author of American Lion and the New York Times bestsellers Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship and American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation. He lives in New York City with his wife and children.

From the Hardcover edition.

Table of Contents

A Note on the Textp. xi
Principal Charactersp. xiii
Prologue: With the Feelings of a Father The White House, Washington, Winter 1832-33p. xv
The Love of Country, Fame and Honor Beginnings to Late 1830
Andy Will Fight His Way in the Worldp. 3
Follow Me and I'll Save You Yetp. 20
A Marriage, a Defeat, and a Victoryp. 41
You Know Best, My Dearp. 52
Ladies' Wars Are Always Fierce and Hotp. 70
A Busybody Presbyterian Clergymanp. 86
My White and Red Childrenp. 91
Major Eaton Has Spoken of Resigningp. 98
An Opinion of the President Alonep. 114
Liberty and Union, Now and Foreverp. 124
General Jackson Rules by His Personal Popularityp. 135
I Will Die With The Union Late 1830 to 1834
I Have Been Left to Sup Alonep. 157
A Mean and Scurvy Piece of Businessp. 177
Now Let Him Enforce Itp. 198
The Fury of a Chained Pantherp. 208
Hurra for the Hickory Tree!p. 218
A Dreadful Crisis of Excitement and Violencep. 222
The Mad Project of Disunionp. 227
We Are Threatened to Have Our Throats Cutp. 238
Great Is the Stake Placed in Our Handsp. 248
My Mind Is Made Upp. 254
He Appeared to Feel as a Fatherp. 260
The People, Sir, Are with Mep. 266
We Are in the Midst of a Revolutionp. 275
The Evening of His Days 1834 to the End
So You Want Warp. 283
A Dark, Lawless, and Insatiable Ambition!p. 286
There Is a Rank Due to the United States Among Nationsp. 291
The Wretched Victim of a Dreadful Delusionp. 298
How Would You Like to Be a Slave?p. 302
The Strife About the Next Presidencyp. 307
Not One Would Have Ever Got Out Alivep. 315
I Fear Emily Will Not Recoverp. 321
The President Will Go Out Triumphantlyp. 334
The Shock Is Great, and Grief Universalp. 340
Epilogue: He Still Livesp. 355
Author's Note and Acknowledgmentsp. 363
Notesp. 371
Bibliographyp. 449
Illustration Creditsp. 463
Indexp. 465
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


Chapter 1

Andy Will Fight His Way in the World

Christmas 1828 should have been the happiest of seasons at the Hermitage, Jackson’s plantation twelve miles outside Nashville. It was a week before the holiday, and Jackson had won the presidency of the United States the month before. “How triumphant!” Andrew Donelson said of the victory. “How flattering to the cause of the people!” Now the president- elect’s family and friends were to be on hand for a holiday of good food, liquor, and wine–Jackson was known to serve guests whiskey, champagne, claret, Madeira, port, and gin–and, in this special year, a pageant of horses, guns, and martial glory.

On Wednesday, December 17, 1828, Jackson was sitting inside the house, answering congratulatory messages. As he worked, friends in town were planning a ball to honor their favorite son before he left for Washington. Led by a marshal, there would be a guard of soldiers on horseback to take Jackson into Nashville, fire a twenty- four- gun artillery salute, and escort him to a dinner followed by dancing. Rachel would be by his side.
In the last moments before the celebrations, and his duties, began, Jackson drafted a letter. Writing in his hurried hand across the foolscap, he accepted an old friend’s good wishes: “To the people, for the confidence reposed in me, my gratitude and best services are due; and are pledged to their service.” Before he finished the note, Jackson went outside to his Tennessee fields.

He knew his election was inspiring both reverence and loathing. The 1828 presidential campaign between Jackson and Adams had been vicious. Jackson’s forces had charged that Adams, as minister to Russia, had procured a woman for Czar Alexander I. As president, Adams was alleged to have spent too much public money decorating the White House, buying fancy china and a billiard table. The anti- Jackson assaults were more colorful. Jackson’s foes called his wife a bigamist and his mother a whore, attacking him for a history of dueling, for alleged atrocities in battles against the British, the Spanish, and the Indians–and for being a wife stealer who had married Rachel before she was divorced from her first husband. “Even Mrs. J. is not spared, and my pious Mother, nearly fifty years in the tomb, and who, from her cradle to her death had not a speck upon her character, has been dragged forth . . . and held to public scorn as a prostitute who intermarried with a Negro, and my eldest brother sold as a slave in Carolina,” Jackson said to a friend.

Jackson’s advisers marveled at the ferocity of the Adams attacks. “The floodgates of falsehood, slander, and abuse have been hoisted and the most nauseating filth is poured, in torrents, on the head, of not only Genl Jackson but all his prominent supporters,” William B. Lewis told John Coffee, an old friend of Jackson’s from Tennessee.
Some Americans thought of the president-elect as a second Father of His Country. Others wanted him dead. One Revolutionary War veteran, David Coons of Harpers Ferry, Virginia, was hearing rumors of ambush and assassination plots against Jackson. To Coons, Jackson was coming to rule as a tribune of the people, but to others Jackson seemed dangerous–so dangerous, in fact, that he was worth killing. “There are a portion of malicious and unprincipled men who have made hard threats with regard to you, men whose baseness would (in my opinion) prompt them to do anything,” Coons wrote Jackson.

That was the turbulent world awaiting beyond the Hermitage. In the draft of a speech he was to deliver to the celebration in town, Jackson was torn between anxiety and nostalgia. “The consciousness of a steady adherence to my duty has not been disturbed by the unsparing attacks of which I have been the subject during the election,” the speech rea

Excerpted from American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham
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