ANDREW JACKSON AND THE COURSE OF AMERICAN FREEDOM, 1822-1832 by Robert V. Remini

ANDREW JACKSON AND THE COURSE OF AMERICAN FREEDOM, 1822-1832

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The sequel to Remini's Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Empire, 1767-1821 (1977), beginning with the germination of Jackson's presidential ambitions and concluding--successfully, on the whole--with his landslide election to a second term. Remini labors under the disadvantage of a prose style that dulled sensibilities will call ""brisk"" or ""lively""--meaning lots of short sentences, exclamation points, and gothic psychodrama (""From that moment on Rachel Jackson began a slow mental and physical decline. Perhaps she gave up. Her eyes drifted and fixed themselves on a distant place""). Four hundred pages of this would be unbearable were it not that, along the way, Remini has some unusually intriguing and original things to say about Jackson and the Jacksonian ""era."" Jackson, it appears, was a physical wreck by the time he entered the White House: he suffered from old wounds, rotting teeth, ill-fitting dentures, abscesses, and terrible headaches, not to mention the loss of his beloved Rachel. Remini makes excellent use of this material-not only to demonstrate Jackson's remarkable personal courage but also to illuminate his responses to some central events of the day. Better yet is Remini's recognition--a near-milestone in the historiography of the early national period--that Jacksonian Democracy really constituted a massive effort to get back in touch with the old Revolutionary faith in republican simplicity and virtue. The years after the end of the War of 1812, Remini contends, had seen the rapid spread of venality and self-seeking throughout American public life--the Era of Good Feelings, he suggests, ought properly to be renamed the Age of Corruption-and it fell to Jackson to lead the first popularly-based reform movement in US history. Remini has no illusions about the extent to which Jackson actually succeeded in cleansing the Washington stables, nor indeed about his capacity for pigheadedness and petty vindictiveness (amply demonstrated in the celebrated Peggy Eaton Affair and Indian Removal). But it is clearer than ever before, thanks to Remini, that Jackson's stand on such issues as internal improvements, nullifcation, and the Bank represented a last-ditch effort to preserve a structure of ideas and sentiments which had been much neglected since the struggle for national independence. A valuable entry, then, marred chiefly by stylistic excesses.

Pub Date: Aug. 19th, 1981
Publisher: Harper & Row