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Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times    by H. W. Brands order for
Andrew Jackson
by H. W. Brands
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

H. W. Brands presents the life and times of Andrew Jackson (the first common man to become a U.S. president) from his birth in 1767 to his death in 1845. It was the era of the westward movement; French, British, and Spanish land possessions; epidemics; annexations; squatters' claims; and threats of withdrawal from the union. The book is divided into five sections, including 'Child of the Revolution' (1727-1805), 'Son of the West' (1805-1814), through 'Patriarch of Democracy' (1837-1845). It includes black and white photos and sketches, including the Jackson residence known as 'The Hermitage', and the electoral ballet of 1828. Brands, a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin, also wrote Lone Star Nation, The Age of Gold, and The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin.

The third son in a Scots-Irish family, Jackson was named after the father who died before he was born. Andrew's mother described him as 'a wild child ... with a defiant temper'. Jackson's brothers Hugh and Robert were killed in military service, while Elizabeth Jackson eventually died of cholera. Andrew remembered his mother's words: 'In this world you will have to make your own way. To do that you must have friends ... to forget an obligation or be ungrateful for a kindness is a base crime ... If you ever have to vindicate your feelings or defend your honor, do it calmly. If angry at first, wait till your wrath cools before you proceed.' Though Jackson was not a great orator, he was able to capture audiences. Before his eight-year term in the presidency (1829-1837), he was a lawyer, superior court judge, congressman and senator, district attorney of Tennessee, a merchant and land speculator. During his presidency, Jackson ushered in the 'Age of Democracy', vetoed more bills than all six of his predecessors combined, blocked the bank of the United States, and prepared for civil war when South Carolina threatened to secede over tariffs.

Brands has penned an authoritative and comprehensive account of Jackson's life and those around him. The biography is a distinguished and accessible presentation of a man from humble beginnings who became president of a young, emerging nation. Brands refers to Jackson's earlier biographers, 'who liked to assert that what his education lacked in book learning, it made up for in experience of the world ... It would be a mistake, though, to place much weight on this essentially democratic-romantic notion ... Andrew Jackson's was a deprived upbringing'. He covers Jackson in total, his frailties and strengths, and the surrounding circumstances and events that shaped the man known as 'Old Hickory'. I highly recommend this biography of Andrew Jackson, not just to history buffs, but to general reading audiences as well.

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