Tuesday, January 4, 2011

American Lion

So, I read American Lion, finally. I was curious about Jackson, because he was largely skipped over in my history classes. It seems we jumped from the revolution straight into the civil war and what was in between was apparently not exciting enough to teach...

This book gives just a glimmer of the complicated man who was Andrew Jackson. I said recently, and reiterate here, that I will be reading more about this former President. So much about him is complicated and even contradictory.

In his youth he received a head wound from British soldiers during the Revolution. Jackson was orphaned fairly young and largely fended for himself, yet kept his Mother's counsel in his heart. He later adopted a young white boy whom he and his wife, Rachel, named Andrew Jackson, Jr. His heart and soul were generous and giving to those in his family. He adored his nephew Andrew Jackson Donelson (also named for the Pres.) and his wife, Emily. These youngsters became his White House family when his wife died prior to taking office. They were given every opportunity because he loved them.

His heart was pained by a young orphaned Indian boy, so much so that he adopted him as well. Although, he was not necessarily given the same status as his white son, it is apparent that the boy was cared for -- maybe even loved. This same man who adopted a poor Indian orphan also was responsible for the most disgusting event in his Presidency and probably in our country's history, in my humble opinion -- The Trail of Tears. As a man who prided himself on honor, he somehow managed to determine that the Indians with whom our country had signed treaties with, were not worthy of our country's honor in abiding the agreements made in them. Because their "civilization" was not the same as or advanced as ours, they were nothing but savages. They were forced from their homes and far too many died on the trek west. These peoples were murdered, tortured and disrespected, which is really just not a strong enough word.

Andrew Jackson was fiercely loyal, maybe even to a fault. His cabinet member, John Eaton made a scandalous choice in his selection of a wife. She was considered by most in Washington to be a tainted woman. She was not socially accepted and therefore it complicated her husband's ability to gain political acceptance. Jackson stood by the Eaton's through serious cabinet and political disharmony, even to the point of breaking up his cabinet prior to the second term. His loyalty gained him nothing but discord in  both daily and political affairs, so to my way of thinking he really needed to put away his pride in favor of a decision that would better have served his cabinet, his people and the general harmony (is there such a thing in politics?) of the world in which he was entrenched. I believe the President must have felt a huge change -- for the better -- in the air around his White House after the Eaton's departed.

His most interesting achievement, I have to say, would be collapsing the Bank of the United States. Jackson believed quite strongly that the privately run bank was using the "People's money" to buy their own -- biased -- desired political preferences/results in Congress. To him this was unthinkable, because  the whole point of our country is that the President and Congress follow the will of the people. Of course, now we have Lobbyists and Special Interest groups doing much the same -- BUT I would think/hope they are using private monies to accomplish their pay-offs as opposed to the funds raised to run the government, though I would not be surprised one bit if  this were happening!

Anyway, it was quite a good read. Very informative and I quite look forward to reading more about this complicated man.

Currently I have gone back in the direction of the Eat Pray Love vein with a book by Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter Anne Kidd Taylor called Traveling With Pomegranates. So far early in the book it is a good read and I look forward to seeing how mother and daughter re-connect through their travels. Sue wrote The Secret Life of Bees, which is a wonderful read and The Mermaid Chair, which was good, but nowhere equal to Bees in my opinion. I know she has a couple others out there and I hope to get my hands on them sometime as well.

Up next or should I say in the not too distant future? Well, I received 2 large tomes for Christmas. One about Gen. Grant and the other about Gen. Lee. Each is nearly 2 inches thick, so they will certainly be some serious reading. I think I will need to enjoy some fluff books to prepare for them first!

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