Book: Andrew Jackson: The Course of American Empire, 1767-1821 Volume 1
Author: Robert V. Remini
1. Date- As a polarizing and gigantic figure among the Presidents, it is no shock that Jackson is treated with dozens of biographies. These range from works completed while he lived through this current decade. Despite all of this, it is this three volume epic that stands tall as the standard in Jackson biography. The first installment appeared in April 1977. It covers the birth of Jackson through his tenure as Florida’s governor after becoming a national (and international) celebrity following the War of 1812. The date published here is not the strength of the work and certain events are seen through a post-Watergate lens particularly sensitive to aggrandizement and secrecy of power. Though it is tough to blame Remini, this overwhelming reality and feeling about secrecy does permeate through the work.The theme of a steady corrosive process of government is present which makes the date that this is published subtly yet enormously influential to the tone of the book. Without a doubt, this salient tone may be lost on the modern reader attempting the Project.
2. Scope- There is perhaps no way to criticize this scope except the fact that it is too in depth. Remini does not choose sides or tell the reader what parts of Jackson’s life are important. It is essentially an all-encompassing piece covering every aspect of Jackson’s life from his troubled beginnings through the dark days of his military command. Specifically in this first volume, almost half of Jackson’s life is covered and it seems every significant development is touched on and emphasized with due attention. Remini does not do the obvious with his scope. He does not flash forward to President Jackson even when the parallels of earlier decisions seem to foreshadow the elder man. The scope of this volume is laid out in the title and events after 1821 are seldom referenced and the scope remains superbly under wraps.
3. Author- Robert V. Remini became the preeminent Jackson biographer starting in his early 50s. However, this is not the first time he delved into this subject. In 1967, he published works on Jackson specifically covering the Bank crisis of the 1830s. Prior to this, he had a very successful career in academia topping out as chairman of History for the University of Illinois at Chicago starting in 1965. His works would continue to expand his already exhaustive research and his future works will be discussed in the Author section of successive volumes. Needless to say, Remini is without equal when it comes to dedication to one President.
4. Length- As a single volume, this work would fall squarely in the medium length biography. Alas, this is only volume one. Taken together, the three volume work covers nearly 1,500 pages. Some biographies on Presidents are considered longer than average when they are compared to Volume One’s 500+ pages. This work is an exhaustive study, leaving very few, if an ,significant moments out of the story and going very deep into the causes of each event. For a reader or student attempting the President’s Project rapidly or at a brisk pace, this work is not recommended. The benefit of Jackson is that many works have been written before and since Remini’s work that capture the cradle to grave narrative in substantially fewer pages. For the person wanting to get the most thorough and scholarly attempt at Jackson, this book is for you.
5. Mission- Remini’s mission is straightforward and clear. In a league, with voluminous works on Jackson, he wanted to create a comprehensive, no holds barred look at the man with little judgment by the author. He succeeded. In the painstakingly large amount of research, there are few attempts to exert judgment or criticism into Jackson’s actions or feelings. What makes Remini’s mission so successful is that he has done the research and is able to present facts to the reader with ample amount of time to critically look at the man without the author deciding. To be able to judge figures from yesteryear the reader is rarely given all of the facts because of sheer limited space in a book to tell the complete story. In the Project, no work comes closer to revealing the whole truth and nothing but the truth like Remini’s first volume.