Matter-of-fact in tone and circuitous in approach, this concise biography of Andrew Jackson raises some acute questions but...

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ANDREW JACKSON: And the Search for Vindication

Matter-of-fact in tone and circuitous in approach, this concise biography of Andrew Jackson raises some acute questions but loses them again. The young, death-ridden Indian fighter and land speculator has been covered more expansively in Michael Rogin's Fathers and Children (1975). Curtis remains diffident toward later policy questions--most of all, the Jackson approach to U.S. expansion. He suggests that Jackson wittingly supported Aaron Burr's scheme to gain ""a personal empire,"" then fudges with the remark that Burr's plot was ""vague and ill-defined."" On the national bank fight, Curtis stresses the President's ambivalence, then shows ambivalence of his own; it becomes clear that Jackson was no mere anti-banking populist, but the issues are left in a tangle. The ""vindication"" theme suffers too as Curtis first shows how Jackson's enemies exploited each potential scandal, then remarks that ""Jackson was always prone to elevate private problems to the level of public issues."" The book is most useful in sketching Jackson's ""style"" as president. Following his military bombastics, he had no gift for administration or organization; he was elected as a states-rights man, not a champion of executive power, and when he wielded that power, it was always on the defensive. Whether Jackson was uncommonly lax in picking obedient Cabinet members, or whether he was a figurehead executive to begin with, seems uncertain. Curtis firmly states that in any case, he did not found the American party system, and indeed, his indifference to building a strong, centralized Democratic machine to back him up opened the way for the Whigs. A suggestive but slack entry in the Library of American biography.

Pub Date: March 11, 1976

ISBN: 0673393348

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1976