Andrew Jackson (1829-1837)

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This is Volume Three of Remini’s work. For discussion of Volume One follow this link ->https://andrewcordisco.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/andrew-jackson-1829-1837-2/ and for Volume Two follow this link -> https://andrewcordisco.wordpress.com/2014/02/07/andrew-jackson-1829-1837-3/

Book: Andrew Jackson: The Course of American Democracy, 1833-1845 Volume 3

Author: Robert V. Remini

1. Date-In April 1977, Remini set out to write a long single volume or, time permitting, a two volume biography on the seventh president. Seven years and two volumes later, Remini was not even close. Coving the first half of the Jackson presidency, volume Two was released in the early 1980s. In 1984, he finished the story. While the first two volumes gave context and background to the laymen and scholar alike, this most recent work starts with meaning and purpose, starting at the peak of the Jackson presidency and ending 12 years later with his death. The project began after the Watergate scandal led to common man Jimmy Carter and ended halfway through the dynamic Ronald Reagan. The times of the volumes cannot be discounted. Much like in volume two, Remini harps on the size of government, corruption, and questions of freedom. On the surface telling the story of Jackson, Remini channels the modern political temper and comes as close as possible to making Jackson alive and well in the 1980s, full of life and full of vigor. Nearly 30 years later, the fears of corruption and subversive forces within government may not frighten as much as today. However, the scars and wounds of Watergate were still fresh and the good vs. evil struggle against corruption was pertinent to the story as it was in Jackson’s day. Volume three shows the aftermath of the struggle and perhaps a playbook for modern politicians after corruption was seemingly rooted at the cause but persisted through real and imagined threats. The decision, intentional or not, to include this as the base narrative and direction of the story is one reason that date of the work matters. That is no more clear than in Remini’s final volume. It works more effectively than in the second volume but that does not mean that the power has diminished (albeit slightly) since the 1980s. The date was crucial at time of publication and is key to understanding with a modern eye.

Grade: B+

2. Scope- The first two volumes covered Jackson’s birth until squarely in the middle of the Jackson presidency in 1833. Here, the scope begins in the thick of battle over nullification. A lot has changed between the closing pages of volume two and the brisk open of the final volume. This incredibly dominant event surely would be forgiven as taking over the scope of the volume. Nevertheless, Remini deftly allows the story to be told in full while promptly proceeding with his now expected thorough work. The final dozen years of Jackson (1833-1845) are covered seemingly without exception. For example, the descriptions of his deathbed rival those of him in prime form. This is the work of declining influence and reading just a few biographies can show the difficulty of telling the tale of a President on the wane. Remini does his best to keep Jackson relevant as his place in the American public exited and his retirement and death became the focus. By the end of the three volumes nearly every year of Jackson’s life is covered without any noticeable gap. Criticism of scope is a fool’s errand. In biography, this is as comprehensive as it gets.

Grade: A

3. Author- For a discussion on Remini, reference the entry from Volume One and Two.

Grade: N/A

4. Length- This final volume is the last and longest work in Remini’s arsenal. While the first volume set the table and the second sprinted, the third volume is a marathon. At over 600 pages, it encompasses the deepest and most complete volume, referencing events in the first two works while using its status as a long biography to give outstanding detail of Jackson’s life and the issues. Remini uses his length here to his advantage, knowing the audience is expecting a longer biography and able to expand and elaborate while still not losing his readers. As its own work of late-life Jackson this would be considered long biography. Each volume is packed with facts, analysis and complicated issues in great detail. As a three volume work, this is certainly ideal for a long biography seeker. However, newer and shorter works are out there and that does not necessarily mean it’s worse for the wear. These works are a commitment. They are long. They are thorough. Anyone wanting a brisk or speed read should heed this caution.  However, those that seek to learn the whole story with both sides, context and perspective, this book has it in all its lengths. The gigantic tome should not intimidate.

Grade: B+

5. Mission- This is the end of the road for Remini. The original mission was an updated work on Jackson to bring scholars and interested readers alike up to speed on the latest research on Jackson. By the end, Remini had righted wrongs and established undeniably that he was an elite voice on the subject. His mission was much lower aspiration-wise than the finished product. Few if any writers before or since have matched Remini’s knowledge on Jackson. This level of dedication has been equated to genius among presidential historians. While Lincoln and Washington will always stand as the most discussed and perhaps most beloved, it is writers such as Remini that keep Jackson in the conversation and remind all readers of his importance. With the rash of letters and other primary sources in the 1970s on Jackson, someone was bound to give him his due. Remini was the man for the task. His dedication and strength of knowledge gave voice to Jackson in a fair and reasonable light. Facts can lie when they are presented without context. It takes someone with Remini’s skill and focus to bring them to the modern reader and to understand the complex and fascinating man that was our seventh president.

Grade: A

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