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The young Schlesinger, for all the tradition he embodied, had a refreshing streak of informality. While working in the Kennedy White House, he found time to review movies for Show magazine. He also admitted his mistakes. One, he said, was neglecting to mention President Jackson’s brutal treatment of the Indians in his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Age of Jackson.” It was publish The young Schlesinger, for all the tradition he embodied, had a refreshing streak of informality. While working in the Kennedy White House, he found time to review movies for Show magazine. He also admitted his mistakes. One, he said, was neglecting to mention President Jackson’s brutal treatment of the Indians in his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Age of Jackson.” It was published when he was 27, and is still standard reading. The book rejected earlier interpretations linking the rise of Jacksonian democracy with westward expansion. Instead, it gave greater importance to a coalition of intellectuals and workers in the Northeast who were determined to check the growing power of business. The book sold more than 90,000 copies in its first year and won the 1946 Pulitzer Prize for history.


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The young Schlesinger, for all the tradition he embodied, had a refreshing streak of informality. While working in the Kennedy White House, he found time to review movies for Show magazine. He also admitted his mistakes. One, he said, was neglecting to mention President Jackson’s brutal treatment of the Indians in his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Age of Jackson.” It was publish The young Schlesinger, for all the tradition he embodied, had a refreshing streak of informality. While working in the Kennedy White House, he found time to review movies for Show magazine. He also admitted his mistakes. One, he said, was neglecting to mention President Jackson’s brutal treatment of the Indians in his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Age of Jackson.” It was published when he was 27, and is still standard reading. The book rejected earlier interpretations linking the rise of Jacksonian democracy with westward expansion. Instead, it gave greater importance to a coalition of intellectuals and workers in the Northeast who were determined to check the growing power of business. The book sold more than 90,000 copies in its first year and won the 1946 Pulitzer Prize for history.

30 review for The Age of Jackson

  1. 5 out of 5

    Vincent

    One might assume that working as an intelligence analyst in the Office of Strategic Services during World War II would leave one little time for much else. Yet Arthur Schlesinger managed to pen the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Age of Jackson during his two year stint with the CIA precursor, published in 1945. Schlesinger would go on to become one of the most influential and recognizable historians of the twentieth century, rubbing shoulders with presidents and even becoming Kennedy’s so-called “co One might assume that working as an intelligence analyst in the Office of Strategic Services during World War II would leave one little time for much else. Yet Arthur Schlesinger managed to pen the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Age of Jackson during his two year stint with the CIA precursor, published in 1945. Schlesinger would go on to become one of the most influential and recognizable historians of the twentieth century, rubbing shoulders with presidents and even becoming Kennedy’s so-called “court historian”. He would even win a second Pulitzer in 1965 for A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House. The Age of Jackson is really a biography of an idea, focusing on the concept of “Jacksonian democracy” as it influenced politics, culture, and identity in antebellum America. Schlesinger succeeds in bringing the era and its players into action in a lively, approachable way, and reveals how this new brand of democracy permeated every facet of society. It was, as Schlesinger shows it, a movement to protect or empower the laboring classes against the wealthy elites who sought to exploit and disenfranchise them. One of the book’s central arguments is the refutation of the thesis that Jacksonian democracy’s roots laid in the frontier West. Schlesinger calls this a “legend” and instead convincingly argues that the idea was more potent to northern states where there had been a long established wealthy class (307). Schlesinger is a gifted writer and clearly knows his time period, but The Age of Jackson is a work of popular scholarship, intended for an educated general readership embroiled in a war against fascism. The book is rife with conjectural details used to spice up the narrative quality of the text, such as: “when Van Buren entered, his face brightened and his eyes flashed” (7). Schlesinger, in voice and in bias, is as present throughout the work nearly as much as is Jackson. Schlesinger does not simply give an account of Jacksonian democracy; he becomes its advocate. Yet the book, like the author, is very much a product of its time. Certain aspects of the monograph reveal this, such as Schlesinger’s treatment of people of color. Native Americans are essentially absent, including the Indian Removal Act, which would have looked poorly upon the notions of populism during Jackson’s administration (for the following administrations, he is not so withholding, therefore saving the face of Jackson – a point which will be expanded upon later). Though Schlesinger acknowledges the evils of slavery, he accepts the notion of white supremacy of his own time. In its opening pages blackface minstrelsy is described in the language of warm nostalgia (4) and the only time in which blacks are actually addressed is in the form of benevolent enslavement. His description of the slaves’ reactions to Jackson’s death will likely make the modern reader chew back their bile: “A long wail of anguish rose up from the slaves in the house and echoed through the fields and stables” (447). This leads to one of the book’s greatest biases and faults, which is that of its depiction of the man, Andrew Jackson. Schlesinger becomes so committed to the concept of Jacksonian democracy that he becomes equally committed to its namesake, and in the end becomes unable or unwilling to distinguish the person from the principle. Jackson is not simply a general and statesman, he is a democratic prophet, wrapped in religious language: “The people called him, and he came, like the great folk heroes, to lead them out of captivity and bondage” (43). This is strong, stirring language about a man who himself owned humans in bondage and never appears to have questioned the morality of slavery. His Jackson is his contemporaries’ Hollywood hero – rugged and inspiring awe with his manner and wisdom wherever he goes. Even long after Jackson becomes president, Schlesinger continues to refer to him affectionately as “The General” (88). Jackson’s character deficiencies and political missteps are conspicuously absent. Other figures too become little more than their professed principles, often introduced with two or three paragraphs of irrelevant though memorable trivia, such as who was found to own porn when they died, before Schlesinger proceeds to judge their character and worth upon their commitment to Jacksonian democracy. They are clear protagonists and antagonists, the former committed to Jeffersonian and Jacksonian constructs, the latter to Hamiltonian ideals and Clay’s American System. Schlesinger’s language likewise lets the reader know who to accept or oppose, for whereas Jackson is sincere and benign in his execution of authority, Nicholas Biddle, head of the Second Bank of the United States and Jackson’s nemesis, is shown to be “drunk with power” (87). In at least one way, however, Schlesinger is atypical of the American public for which he was writing, though perhaps not of the intelligentsia of which he was a part. A predominant thread which runs through the narrative is Jacksonianism taking the form of anti-clericalism, which “thus assisted in the growing secularization of society” (360). Schlesinger clearly saw this as a positive force and outcome, and he dedicates many pages with accounts of agnostics and skeptics, even giving attention to the book’s sole prominent female, Fanny Wright. Anti-clericalism was a form of anti-aristocracy; it was in labor’s interest to oppose the clergy. As Schlesinger writes, “union leaders were generally atheists” (194). Victories against religion, such as that against the Sabbatarians, were victories for democracy. (Notice, if you will, the above quote about Jackson which clearly alludes to Moses, who is referred in secular terms as a “folk hero”). While an anti-theist reader (such as this one) can certainly sympathize with this stance and find it refreshing in a work published in 1940s America, Schlesinger’s contempt for the faithful can discolor his language in such a way that it reveals too greatly his bias, such as his treatment of Abolitionists: “The religious antislavery men, caring more about the Negro than about white men at home, were infecting large sectors of the Whig party” (453, emphasis mine). Leaving aside the asinine suggestion that caring predominantly about people of color was a character flaw, Schlesinger’s words drip with a contempt that, like many of his judgments, hardly seem justified. While Schlesinger’s biases are never hidden, one of them, though it is suggested throughout the work, is put forthright at the end of the book. Schlesinger, a committed Democratic partisan his whole career, is writing with a clear agenda. An admirer of FDR’s New Deal programs during the Great Depression, Schlesinger attempts to link the spirit of Jacksonian democracy with that of Roosevelt’s economic interventions meant to help the laboring classes in the 1930s. The Age of Jackson is, in essence, a diatribe against conservatism and a defense of liberalism coupled with strong executive policies designed to break the powers of the wealthy elite. As Schlesinger sees it, by Jackson’s time “a century of bitter experience in the democratic fight finally led liberalism to uncover what Jeffersonians had buried: the need for strong government,” for “it grew increasingly apparent that workingmen required protection from the mercies of their employers”. This “called for government to take a much more active role in economic life” (520). So begins a cycle which Schlesinger puts forth unambiguously: “In the past, when liberalism has resolved the [economic] crisis and restored tranquility, conservatism has recovered power by the laws of political gravity; then it makes a new botch of things, and liberalism again must take over in the name of the nation. But the object of liberalism has never been to destroy capitalism, as conservatism invariably claims – only to keep capitalists from destroying it” (522). Recent Democratic initiatives following the global recession of 2009 could easily have adopted the same language in their justifications. But no matter how much a liberal might be tempted to embrace it, the reading cannot stand firmly upon critical inspection. Schlesinger’s assertions suffer most profoundly in his general failure to clearly define what he means by “liberalism” and “conservatism”, other than the former being good Jacksonians and the latter their political enemies. Even if this antebellum association could be justified, these definitions do not carry concretely through the following generations, and Schlesinger is using a scholarly slight-of-hand to suggest that they do. He does this again as he conveniently overlooks the similarities of the demonized American System, particularly with its federal funding of infrastructure, with that of FDR’s New Deal programs. It is easy to see why The Age of Jackson resonated at its time. It reaffirmed accepted white narratives of the past while justifying Keynesian economic actions taken by popular politicians. Likewise, Andrew Jackson provided the precedent of a strong protagonist fighting to spread democracy and freedom to the world for a generation of Americans engaged, or recently engaged, in battling global fascism and imperialism. Jacksonian democracy, Schlesinger typically overstates, “was not simply a national movement. It was a movement of all people, everywhere, against their masters” (320). Inspiring words, no doubt, however suspect of their validity, to the American World War II generation. Schlesinger’s work is propaganda pocked by shoddy reasoning, but it is nevertheless thought provoking and, at times, entertaining. It is a brand of scholarship the passing of which the more progressive-minded cannot mourn, but it nevertheless remains an interesting artifact representative of its own era, and should continue to be valued as such.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Saunders

    Arthur Schlesinger's The Age of Jackson was, for a long time, the definitive account of Andrew Jackson's presidency and antebellum American politics. Writing in 1945, Schlesinger stresses the supposed egalitarianism of Jacksonian Democracy; he clearly views Old Hickory as a proto-FDR using the power of the presidency to thwart reactionary opposition, from an ossified Supreme Court to Whigs in Congress. Schlesinger, as always, is a fluid and engaging writer who provides lively vignettes of Jackso Arthur Schlesinger's The Age of Jackson was, for a long time, the definitive account of Andrew Jackson's presidency and antebellum American politics. Writing in 1945, Schlesinger stresses the supposed egalitarianism of Jacksonian Democracy; he clearly views Old Hickory as a proto-FDR using the power of the presidency to thwart reactionary opposition, from an ossified Supreme Court to Whigs in Congress. Schlesinger, as always, is a fluid and engaging writer who provides lively vignettes of Jackson's Administration and the American political scene. At best, it does show that the 1820s and 1830s saw a rise in political engagement by a (white male) public previously indifferent to, when not shut out of the political process - something Jackson, with his massive popular appeal, can surely claim. Yet a modern reader isn't likely to share Schlesinger's full-throated endorsement of Jackson; there's little on Indian Removal or Jackson's support for slavery, no attempt to examine the shortcomings of Jackson's own leadership style (is a president who defies the Supreme Court, ignores the will of Congress and views the law with contempt someone to romanticize?), no attempt to understand the Whigs and supporters of the Bank of the United States as anything more than fusty obstacles to progress. There are still echoes of this work in more sympathetic recent studies of Jackson, though the objective reader wonders at their utility in 2020, historiography and politics having inevitably evolved.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jim Gallen

    “The Age of Jackson” is more the study of the Age than of the man. Jackson is merely one of many who played their roles, including Martin Van Buren, John C. Calhoun, Roger B. Taney, John Quincy Adams and James Polk to mention a few. The Age of Jackson was an age of conflict: conflict between classes, regions and personalities. It was an era of bank vs. people, plutocrats vs. common man, North vs. South and abolitionist vs. slaveocrat. To author Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. the clash of lasting cons “The Age of Jackson” is more the study of the Age than of the man. Jackson is merely one of many who played their roles, including Martin Van Buren, John C. Calhoun, Roger B. Taney, John Quincy Adams and James Polk to mention a few. The Age of Jackson was an age of conflict: conflict between classes, regions and personalities. It was an era of bank vs. people, plutocrats vs. common man, North vs. South and abolitionist vs. slaveocrat. To author Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. the clash of lasting consequence was that of class, the plutocracy vs. masses. Schlesinger focuses the challenge Jackson raised to the Virginia aristocracy and the patrons of the Adams dynasty who had controlled the White House through the life of the Republic. Jackson turned the political landscape upside down as the broadening suffrage enabled military heroes to compete with the erstwhile political ruling class. The most profound struggle during the Jackson Age was the decision to deny the recharter of the Second Bank of The United States. This work begins in 1829 with Jackson’s ascension to the White House and continues until Jacksonians complete their public service after the Civil War. What I like most about this book is the way it follows the personalities and issues who entered the public stage with Jackson throughout their careers. The reader sees Jackson assemble his coalition, the opposition coalesce into the Whig party, the slavery tension supplant economic issues as fracture lines between the parties that traded power, all while individuals shift from banner to banner. The influence of Jackson and his followers was more long lasting than I realized. I am impressed by the way it involves so many political, commercial and literary figures in its story. I am reminded of Will and Ariel Durant’s series on the History of Civilization. This is clearly a book on a mission. Schlesinger presents Jackson as a popular reformer in the line extending from Jefferson through the Progressive Era that had found its high point in FDR’s administration. I think that at times he stretches the evidence to keep his chain intact. Copyrighted in 1945, it is undeniably a work of its day. Later historians may take a different view of the continuity from Jackson to Roosevelt and the issues selected by Schlesinger to make his case. I found it interesting that the contemporary charge that Jackson erred in his expulsion of the Indians along the Trail of Tears merits no mention in this work. I do not recall any Indians being mentioned on these pages. Schlesinger’s timeline runs from Jackson’s attack on the Bank through FDR’s support of unions, but not through the Trail of Tears to Roosevelt’s relocation of Japanese Americans. The “Age Of Jackson” compels the reader to think about the trend of American history from 1829 to the end of the Civil War. It also makes us contemplate how history is molded by its tellers.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Schlesinger is a good prose stylist, and there's interesting biographical detail of political leaders throughout, but I found it hard to get into this book and was often frustrated by it. Much of the book is about the controversy of the Bank of the United States, but I never felt like Schlesinger gave us the proper context to understand the real debates here. It's clear Schlesinger thought Jackson and the "hard money" crowd were in the right, but I'm still not 100% sure why. This episode, like mu Schlesinger is a good prose stylist, and there's interesting biographical detail of political leaders throughout, but I found it hard to get into this book and was often frustrated by it. Much of the book is about the controversy of the Bank of the United States, but I never felt like Schlesinger gave us the proper context to understand the real debates here. It's clear Schlesinger thought Jackson and the "hard money" crowd were in the right, but I'm still not 100% sure why. This episode, like much of the book, is discussed in terms of personalities and politics rather than in terms of substance. Maybe I'm grafting my own worldview on too much, but it almost seemed like the Politico view of history (all what one person said to/about another person, and about political positioning) rather than history that also explores the ultimate merit (or lack thereof) of actual policies. It's also hard to swallow how long the book takes to acknowledge the central role of slavery in so many of the sectional and other debates of the era ... and even when the book turns to discuss slavery, it acts as if slavery only arose as a political issue the day the Wilmot Proviso forbidding slavery in any territory acquired during the Mexican War was proposed. That's just wrong. The book also avoids wrestling with other aspects of Jackson, completely ignoring his treatment of Native Americans and lionizing his commitment to democracy (and the little guy) without really even acknowledging the exclusion of many men and all women from the political process that continued to occur. I know it's always dicey to look at the past through the present's morality, but it's also silly in my view to completely ignore what we've learned -- you end up greatly praising John C. Calhoun while only mentioning in asides and downplaying the lengths to which fervent defense of (and promotion of) slavery drove his career. With all that said, Schlesinger is insightful on the linkages and contradictions between Jeffersonian and Jacksonian visions and realities, and he is exhaustive in his tracing of personality conflicts. But ultimately, as read in the 21st Century, there is just too much lacking in this book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Million

    Unless you are studying the pre-Civil War period of our country, I would not suggest reading this book. Light reading it is not! It is a dense read, revolving around the Jacksonian democratic philosophy accentuated by Andrew Jackson. Schlesinger focuses much more on theoretical arguments of agrarianism/Jeffersonian principles and how they interact with Jackson's more hard-money, pro labor philosophy that espoused state rights - but only to a certain extent. He also talks about the decline and ul Unless you are studying the pre-Civil War period of our country, I would not suggest reading this book. Light reading it is not! It is a dense read, revolving around the Jacksonian democratic philosophy accentuated by Andrew Jackson. Schlesinger focuses much more on theoretical arguments of agrarianism/Jeffersonian principles and how they interact with Jackson's more hard-money, pro labor philosophy that espoused state rights - but only to a certain extent. He also talks about the decline and ultimate implosion of the Whig party - much the same as the Federalist party fell apart a generation before. I did enjoy that part of the book. But, he really does not address Indian issues hardly at all - a glaring omission. And slavery is not given a thorough treatment here. Schlesinger was a liberal historian, and that bias does come out in the book. The book is somewhat dated now, as he makes occasional references to WWII-era political thinking by both Republicans and Democrats. If you are looking for a much more readable, yet still intellectually challenging, book about this period, I suggest Daniel Walker Howe's "What Hath God Wrought."

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jack T

    I chose this book because I love History, American History, World History, whatever kind of History you name it I am on board. I love history because of learning about what our ancestors and past figures have done to create and progress the world, our country, and our lives. I had recently started to learn about Andrew Jackson when choosing what new book to read and this book caught my eye. My teacher told me he had a fascinating life and there is so much he could talk about for his life and dec I chose this book because I love History, American History, World History, whatever kind of History you name it I am on board. I love history because of learning about what our ancestors and past figures have done to create and progress the world, our country, and our lives. I had recently started to learn about Andrew Jackson when choosing what new book to read and this book caught my eye. My teacher told me he had a fascinating life and there is so much he could talk about for his life and decisions, but It would take multiple weeks. I thought why not give it a shot because I love History and was interested to see what exciting things he did in his life. I was not disappointed this book provides an amazing and accurate depiction of Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States of America. This book starts with the beginnings of Jackson presidency in 1828 to 1829. It talked about the harsh and bitter election Jackson was able to win against past president John Quincy Adams. This book is 500 plus pages long, and there is so much detail of how each major event happened. It starts with his first term as president where he inspires from the third president of the united states. Andrew Jackson is a very controversial and energetic president. He even threatened to kill JQA after his wife died because he was that sad and mad. His first act was to create more land for American settlers, so he proposed the Indian removal act which forced many native tribes and people in the south to move west paste Mississippi river. This action caused many native people or ⅓ of their kind to die along the way. The book then goes onto his time of the tariff of 1828 where he brings back the tariff of 1818. For all of you that do not know a tariff is a tax. This tariff taxed Americans for buying non-made American goods. South Carolina and much of the west was outraged. South Carolina threatened to break away from the United States if the tariff was not taken away or lifted. Jackson threatened to go down to South Carolina with the National Army to stop this, and he would hang the governor in front of them if actions were made. South Carolina ended up halting the, and slight changes were made to the bill. It also talks about the many actions of his that changed the power of the presidency and how each president after did just like him. For example, he used a total of 10 vetoes against laws which no president before had done. Another example is he fired all of the members in the previous cabinet which had never been done before and hired his team. There is so much more detailed view of his life, but the last significant action he took was the destruction of the National bank. Andrew Jackson hated the National bank as he thought it corrupted politicians and was not being used for anything important. He taxed the bank out of business leaving smaller state banks to fight for power. This caused inflation and imbalance in the economy. This was called the panic of 1837 which was an economic depression. Then this bookends with his life after his time as president and gives a detailed view of his reflection and times after the presidency. This book had a few bad parts or cons. The first thing was the language was outdated and old. There was a lot of sophisticated language but from the 1800s. Many of the words we would know in a regular sentence, but the way they structure these sentences can make it hard to understand and get the true impact of what is happening at that moment in the book. This book was also substantially long. It was over 500 pages as there was a lot of information to cover. The book also does not do a good job setting the stage as it just gets right into the story without many contexts behind it. The book jumps around a lot from a different story to story or idea to idea so it can be hard to follow at times. For a person that is not interested in history or presidents, I do not suggest this book as you will find it to be boring or dull and it will feel like your back in a history class in school This book, however, has lots of pros or good things about it. There is a lot of information, and the author does a great job of describing in detail each major event. It makes it feel realistic and like you are with Andrew Jackson right there and then. The information also was told in an exciting and suspense type way that kept you on your toes. The sources that the book used were top tier and from some of the best colleges and real hand account which gave the book credibility and gave it an edge on other Andrew Jackson books. This man had a lot of interesting person struggles along with his time as president, and the book does a fantastic job talking about them. This books also did an excellent job of putting in his controversial side. As many may or may not know Andrew Jackson was a little crazy and a controversial president. He did many horrible things like the Indian removal act, and this book does a good job contrasting his good and bad moments. This overall was a credible and well-written book about the life of Andrew Jackson.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Leonard Nakamura

    Writing in 1945, Schlesinger wrote this book to honor the Democratic Party of Jackson and van Buren for extending the democratic franchise and strengthening the role of government. Jackson can be seen as a populist strong man who fostered white supremacy and racism. And his election was viewed by the elites of the time as a catastrophe. But Jacksonian politics supported universal manhood suffrage, turning decisively away from restricting voting to property holders. It put the lie to the Whig bel Writing in 1945, Schlesinger wrote this book to honor the Democratic Party of Jackson and van Buren for extending the democratic franchise and strengthening the role of government. Jackson can be seen as a populist strong man who fostered white supremacy and racism. And his election was viewed by the elites of the time as a catastrophe. But Jacksonian politics supported universal manhood suffrage, turning decisively away from restricting voting to property holders. It put the lie to the Whig belief that extending the franchise to the poor meant the demise of property rights. It ended the Second Bank of the United States, which under Biddle was a dangerous monopoly used for private gain. Biddle tried to use the powers of the Bank to create a depression to force the renewal of the Bank's charter and nearly succeeded. Jackson provided the key push to get rid of debtor emprisonment: when he came to office, two-thirds of all prisoners in the US were debtors. The Democrats also strengthened the Federal Government, helping provide the powers that would aid the Union in the Civil War. They pushed for codification of the law and for allowing incorporation without requiring specific legislation for each corporate charter: the old method led to monopolies sanctioned by the state. They championed religious freedom. Van Buren ordered a 10 hour work day on Federal projects without loss of pay. Democrats led the successful push for the legalization of labor unions. Jackson and the Democrats supported and were supported by the great original writers: Whitman, Hawthorne, Cooper., Jackson was a strong and often autocratic leader. The extension of the franchise brought with it as well the rise of the spoils system and ward politics. This book reminds us of the two sides to populism and of democracy. The rabble rise up. They may be led and misled. But the voices of all the people need to be expressed, for better and worse. Only if the government speaks for all does democracy thrive. The privileged viewpoint of the elites, however sympathetic to groups of underdogs, does not represent the whole truth.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Robert Shaw

    The Age of Jackson is a novel documenting the massive populist movement that begins because of Andrew Jackson. The book descriptively explains every issue and event that occurs during the time right before this era, the actual presidency of Jackson, and the populist era that occurs after Jackson’s presidency. The first part of the book is about the early stages of America after the ratification of the Constitution. This section talks mostly about the federalist vs. anti-federalist debate. The ne The Age of Jackson is a novel documenting the massive populist movement that begins because of Andrew Jackson. The book descriptively explains every issue and event that occurs during the time right before this era, the actual presidency of Jackson, and the populist era that occurs after Jackson’s presidency. The first part of the book is about the early stages of America after the ratification of the Constitution. This section talks mostly about the federalist vs. anti-federalist debate. The next part of the book is about Jackson’s presidency and the age of populism that follows. This makes up the majority of book and is really interesting. This part goes through many of the issues that occurred during his presidency such as the trail of tears, a lot of time is spent talking about how Jackson was able to veto the Bank of the United States, and also the nullification crisis. This was a very interesting book to read, it is extremely descriptive and well written. I would not recommend this book to anyone who does not either love history or have good background knowledge in US history. The book makes a lot of references to events in history that it assumes the reader knows about, so if the reader does not know about said events they would very confused.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    http://bestpresidentialbios.com/2013/... “The Age of Jackson” by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. was published in 1945 and won the 1946 Pulitzer Prize in the History category. He also won a 1966 Pulitzer Prize for “A Thousand Days” about John F. Kennedy’s presidency. Schlesinger was a well-known historian, social critic and prominent Democrat, and served as Special Assistant to President Kennedy. In all, he authored nearly three-dozen books. Schlesinger’s “The Age of Jackson” is an American classic and it http://bestpresidentialbios.com/2013/... “The Age of Jackson” by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. was published in 1945 and won the 1946 Pulitzer Prize in the History category. He also won a 1966 Pulitzer Prize for “A Thousand Days” about John F. Kennedy’s presidency. Schlesinger was a well-known historian, social critic and prominent Democrat, and served as Special Assistant to President Kennedy. In all, he authored nearly three-dozen books. Schlesinger’s “The Age of Jackson” is an American classic and it maintains a consistent stream of readers despite its advanced age. However, as is well known to anyone who has perused its pages, it is not really a biography of Andrew Jackson. What Schlesinger’s book is, first and foremost, is a political science treatise – a discussion of Jacksonian democracy and the evolution of classical liberalism. Second, and in a much narrower sense, it is an interesting (but not comprehensive) book on American history during the first half of the nineteenth-century. It only vaguely contains the faintest shadows of a biography – and is as much about Martin Van Buren in that respect as Andrew Jackson. In fact, to the extent this book describes Jackson at all, it is less as a man than as a movement, or perhaps some sort of cosmic force. In spite of its now ancient publication date, this book is easy for the modern reader to absorb: it is articulate, intelligently-written and often interesting. With increasing frequency toward its back-half, however, it tries to morph into a dry, monotonous, overly academic discourse that seems more intent on proving the author’s point than presenting a balanced point of view. It is a carefully crafted campaign to convey the author’s opinions of social history and justice but, like a Paul Krugman op-ed, it is obvious the author believes his views so inviolate that no one of sane judgment could possibly disagree. Many past reviewers of this book have reflected on its one-sided nature and have expressed disappointment, or even hostility, about the lack of balance. Several have wished for a clearer delineation between the role of a scholar and a partisan. Schlesinger was clearly often both, but his ability to irritate readers seems to have been most profound when he performed both roles simultaneously. To his credit, Schlesinger provides an interesting discussion of the demise of Federalism and he colorfully details the contentious, multi-year effort to eradicate the Second Bank of the U.S. He also follows the fascinating evolution of popular political mood during the several decades following Jackson’s presidency. Ironically, for all his advocacy of egalitarianism, Schlesinger fails to cast Native Americans in the story in any meaningful way (despite their importance to Jackson’s career). He neither points out Jackson’s deficiencies in their treatment nor provides any excuse for the General’s actions. And Jackson’s apparent failure to seriously question the morality of slavery never seems to come up, either. Overall, “The Age of Jackson” is an interesting, provocative and reasoned analysis of a broad swath of American history and political transformation. Strictly as an introduction to Jackson the frontiersman, military leader and politician, the book is wholly unsuitable. But as a sweeping literary chronicle of an early American era seen through the lens of a passionate partisan, it is timeless. Given my specific mission, however, my overall rating reflects more the former than the latter. Overall rating: 3 stars

  10. 4 out of 5

    Clif

    A meaty read for anyone interested in American history, Schlesinger ranges broadly to give the reader a feel for the issues, conflicts, personalities and background of the period from 1830 to just after the Civil War. Democracy was interpreted in a very constricted way in the early years of the United States. Before the presidency of Andrew Jackson it was held by many wealthy propertied folks of the Federalist party that having property entitled one to a special place in the government of the Uni A meaty read for anyone interested in American history, Schlesinger ranges broadly to give the reader a feel for the issues, conflicts, personalities and background of the period from 1830 to just after the Civil War. Democracy was interpreted in a very constricted way in the early years of the United States. Before the presidency of Andrew Jackson it was held by many wealthy propertied folks of the Federalist party that having property entitled one to a special place in the government of the United States. Men of property didn't attempt to hide their contempt for the common man. The Second Bank of the United States was created to assert and protect this claim-to-rule of the wealthy. The funds of the government were placed on deposit in this private bank and the bank could then lend freely as it saw fit, earning a tidy sum for its owners. The president of the Bank. Nicholas Biddle, even disputed the power of the U.S. President to have any say on what the Bank did, though the government was generously allowed 5 places on the 30 person board of bank directors. Once Jackson got into office the Bank had a limited time to live, to the great acclaim of the common folk in the Eastern U.S. and the consternation of the industrialists in the East and the speculators in the West. Schlesinger launches his book on this issue. We are introduced to the major players, the political parties, the philosophies of the time, the economics that made up this period that began before the railroad and the telegraph. Abraham Lincoln (b. 1808) makes a late appearance in this history and is not emphasized in his person, but only in his role as a "conscience" Whig then a Republican. The issue of slavery and state's rights are thoroughly covered, though. What you get is a well rounded feel for the time that should fascinate anyone who is intrigued by the history of the United States and interested in how democracy found its feet. Though the mid nineteenth century seems far in the past, the same contest for power of the populace vs wealth is still present. But after Jackson, all accepted the concept of rule by the people, whether or not it might be in fact or only in appearance. Since then, anyone interested in rising to the top office has had to present himself as a man of the people and the "born in a log cabin" or "just a regular guy (or gal) like you" mythology was on the road that continues today in the persons of G.W. Bush, the backyard BBQ patrician or Sarah Palin, the hockey mom, whose total ignorance on issues was thought by many to be beneficial. In the Age of Jackson, you'll find out about the Locofocos, the Barnburners, the Doughfaces, the Copperheads and even the fracas in Rhode Island known as the Dorr Rebellion, an attempt to take office by force (backed by two cannon) that failed. I discovered a real jewel mentioned by Schlesinger, A Short History of Paper Money and Banking written by William Gouge (like gouging out your eye), a simple to read tutorial on how banks work and why paper money is so dangerous to financial stability. This work was extremely influential in the 19th century and is well worth reading today.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    Schlesinger laces up the gloves and swings away in this political/philosophical biography/history. His main subject- or rather the philosophical underpinning of his wide-ranging view of many different subjects- is that a pure form of populist democracy, arrayed against the pernicious forces of corporatism and classism will, if not inevitably prevail, invariably be on the right side of history. This book was much more politically dogmatic than I expected it to be, but on this level there is a tho Schlesinger laces up the gloves and swings away in this political/philosophical biography/history. His main subject- or rather the philosophical underpinning of his wide-ranging view of many different subjects- is that a pure form of populist democracy, arrayed against the pernicious forces of corporatism and classism will, if not inevitably prevail, invariably be on the right side of history. This book was much more politically dogmatic than I expected it to be, but on this level there is a thorough investigation into the outcomes of Jacksonian democracy. The age of Jackson, as Schlesinger tells it, was the age of expanding enfranchisement under the reign of King Mob. In this sense, Schlesinger is personally a fan of Jackson; the image of Jackson as backwoods commoner and champion of the working man fits the liberal narrative that Schlesinger tells, and there is little historical static to get in the way of that. Unfortunately, some of Jackson's less liberal attitudes and policies are conspicuously omitted or sketched out in calculatedly sparse detail: Jackson's Indian policies, his penchant for retributive murder. That is a shame, one less than excusable, and it smacks of whitewashing. The fundamental struggle between labor and capital, between elite and commoner is enough to move the narrative, but being the only struggle depicted in a history covering over decade, especially a decade so fraught with social upheaval as this, cripples the book almost fatally. That disinterest in the smaller scales of history, in the everyday ramifications of Schlesinger's philosophizing and politicking, also makes this book a chore to read. Schlesinger is one of those old-school historians who makes a person a principle a little too easily, harrumphing magisterially about Grand Ideas while forgetting the fickleness and nuance and humanness of the people who held the ideas. Characterization is limited to a few drily humorous anecdotes, generally illustrative of the subject's philosophy. Schlesinger put a mark on historiography with this dense and opinionated Pulitzer winner; it's worth a read, but be prepared for that read to be a taxing and heavy handed affair.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    I read this during the winter of the year I took U.S. Government, a required class at Maine Township South High School, probably during the Xmas break as I recall curling up with it in front of the fireplace one evening when the parents had gone to bed. Indeed, I might have finished it in that one sitting as it is short and the reading of it is swift--as if it were a good novel. My teacher, Mr. Ellenberger, was a recent graduate of Grinnell College as were a couple of other better-than-average te I read this during the winter of the year I took U.S. Government, a required class at Maine Township South High School, probably during the Xmas break as I recall curling up with it in front of the fireplace one evening when the parents had gone to bed. Indeed, I might have finished it in that one sitting as it is short and the reading of it is swift--as if it were a good novel. My teacher, Mr. Ellenberger, was a recent graduate of Grinnell College as were a couple of other better-than-average teachers at South and my own father. Their politics and my teachers' approach to scholarship and expectations of us in that regard led me to do early decision admissions there and eventually graduate.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This book, rather than being about Andrew Jackson himself, is about Jacksonian democracy and the Jacksonian Era. Schlesinger is not the easiest author to read, though his work is now a classic. For more on Jackson himself I would recommend the work of Robert Remini.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Thorpe

    Well, this is an expansive book. Schlesinger describes the evolution of the American liberal tradition from Jefferson thru Jackson and the civil war. In this attempt, though a serious history book, it is first and foremost an abstract argument that uses history as its data, rather than a primary effort to reveal the character and foibles of individuals within history. So I think the book should be evaluated as a historically motivated political philosophy rather than a detailed history and it do Well, this is an expansive book. Schlesinger describes the evolution of the American liberal tradition from Jefferson thru Jackson and the civil war. In this attempt, though a serious history book, it is first and foremost an abstract argument that uses history as its data, rather than a primary effort to reveal the character and foibles of individuals within history. So I think the book should be evaluated as a historically motivated political philosophy rather than a detailed history and it does better on that count. I’ll reserve several critiques that I agree with for the end. So what is the argument? Basically, Jackson used executive power to support Jeffersonian economic and political principals against a powerful business/ financial class. Generally, this exertion of power will always be necessary to check strong groups, generally business. First chunk. Jefferson favored individual liberty over federal power. However, he failed to imbue government with sufficient power to protect that liberty. As a result, business and financial interests dominated economic and to a lesser extent political power by 1830. Jackson used the power of the executive to check those financial interests (eg dissolve the bank) and thus matched Jefferson’s economic ideals with a new source of political power to defend them. Second chunk. Of course the real jeffersonians felt this strong executive shouldn’t be necessary and went back to feeling states rights and disparate power should be the norm. Schlesinger fees this was naive. Power loves a vacuum and absent any check, federalist pro business approaches shaped much of the institutions of the early 19th century, despite their dearth off formal political power. This is S’s core argument for a powerful executive to protect Jeffersonian interests, or whatever form those should take in a modern society. Third chunk. Then the civil war and industrialization sort of obliterate a tenable Jeffersonian ideal. Moreover the whigs / republicans win that war with a pro business, federalist philosophy and so the the liberal tradition disappears from American political influence for a while, Jackson’s progress dissolves. Schlesinger ends by explaining that business interests always fail the test of government and sow the seeds of internal dissatisfaction. A powerful counterbalance to those interests cannot be avoided and do he ends with a veiled defense of Roosevelt as the logical reemergence of that balance. So the obvious criticisms: 1) the author sorta overlooks that Jackson was a terrible dude in many ways (treatment of native Americans and minorities most obviously, but in other aspects of his personality as well). He’s the protagonist and so no time for that. I think if this is viewed as political theory rather than history, that omission is easier to swallow, but it’s still pretty bad. 2) this isn’t really history. There are good guys and bad guys and they are generally always good or bad. History doesn’t sweep away complexity , it reveals it. This is aspiring to be good theory and I don’t think it does a bad job of that. But it commits some basic sins of history and since it claims to be a history book I think you’ve gotta hold that against him. Anyhow, good book. Four stars.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Streator Johnson

    Not really a biography per se, it more a political study of a particular time in our nation's history. In fact, it is probably the best book on politics that I have ever read. A fascinating study of the times leading up, during and after Andrew Jackson was president. Written in 1945 by the then 27 year old Arthur Schlesinger, it went on to deservedly win the Pulitzer Prize. What is truly amazing about the book is that its similarities and stark differences with events happening today are almost Not really a biography per se, it more a political study of a particular time in our nation's history. In fact, it is probably the best book on politics that I have ever read. A fascinating study of the times leading up, during and after Andrew Jackson was president. Written in 1945 by the then 27 year old Arthur Schlesinger, it went on to deservedly win the Pulitzer Prize. What is truly amazing about the book is that its similarities and stark differences with events happening today are almost too much to believe. Jackson, like Trump, was elected to be a disrupter, someone to who was elected to shake up the current system and bring government back to the common person. But unlike Trump, Jackson and his followers actually strove to do so. And the effects of Andrew Jackson and his followers' political philosophy are still being felt today. Incredibly dense and highly footnoted, yet not that hard to follow. It is the best of both worlds, an academic work that is worth the effort. If you want to know why the Democratic party was the party of the people and why it became the party of slavery just before the Civil War and how it changed back, read this book. If you want to know why the Republican party of Abraham Lincoln becomes the party of Trump, read this book. If you want to know how the Republican party continues to fool the electorate into believing they have the best interests of the "people" at heart, read this book. It is all there in black and white. Amazing. My one complaint is the lack of discussion of the "dark side" of Jackson's legacy. Pretty much no talk of his policies towards Native Americans and the Trail of Tears. For that part of history, you will have to .look elsewhere. But in the end, it is eminently quotable, now that I have read it, I am going to have to buy my own copy to read reread, highlight and underline for future reference.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    Andrew Jackson was one of those Presidents that you sorta know about, but you don't really know about until you've read a history of him. While this one by Schlesinger isn't the best, it's a good overview of his Presidency (but not his life). Just to give you a taste: Jackson was not well-liked among the financial aristocracy of his time. He distrusted banks - most especially the Central Bank (now known as the Federal Reserve Bank) and did everything in his power to thwart them - making it amusin Andrew Jackson was one of those Presidents that you sorta know about, but you don't really know about until you've read a history of him. While this one by Schlesinger isn't the best, it's a good overview of his Presidency (but not his life). Just to give you a taste: Jackson was not well-liked among the financial aristocracy of his time. He distrusted banks - most especially the Central Bank (now known as the Federal Reserve Bank) and did everything in his power to thwart them - making it amusing that he is on the twenty-dollar bill. He spoke his mind and wasn't beholding to anyone other than "the common man" - think of a cross between Bill Clinton, Ross Perot, and Donald Trump (if you can wrap your mind around that). He was a lonely man - his wife passing away three weeks after his election - and was also very lucky, surviving not one, but two assassination attempts on his life. Nor was he the best of Presidents - especially in his view and treatment of Native Americans. He was the one that banished the Cherokee tribes from their lands, putting them on a forced-march that was called "The Trail of Tears" where a large percentage of them died along the way. All-in-all, one of the more complex of our Presidents, this historical tome of his time in office is worth reading and studying, if for no other reason than to see that Presidents and American politics haven't changed much in the past 200 years.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    The Age of Jackson ultimately proved too dense and philosophical to enjoy. This book is not for the faint of heart and will absolutely test your attention span, much like the Julius Caesar bio I read within the past few years. Schleisenger has no discernible central thesis, and the book covers some notably narrow and tedious subjects (including for ex. the political machinations of western Massachusetts hard money/hardliner democrats). This book is more a study of the shifting ideologies of Amer The Age of Jackson ultimately proved too dense and philosophical to enjoy. This book is not for the faint of heart and will absolutely test your attention span, much like the Julius Caesar bio I read within the past few years. Schleisenger has no discernible central thesis, and the book covers some notably narrow and tedious subjects (including for ex. the political machinations of western Massachusetts hard money/hardliner democrats). This book is more a study of the shifting ideologies of America’s political parties 1926-1960 more than a study of Andrew Jackson. The book’s image, an intimidating rendition of Old Hickory, proves misguided; Arthur S focuses more on the turning tides of events and social change than Jackson’s impression on historical developments. Van Buren is a far more central character in Schlesinger’s drama than Jackson! Major themes of the book included intra-party schisms over National Bank-related issues, the effects of “Jacksonian revolution” on American culture, the inheritance and molding of Jeffersonian ideals within Jackson’s time and influence. While brilliant for chapters, this book was way too academic and stuffy even for an American history buff. I can’t see myself reading another Schlesinger bio anytime in the near future.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    The title of the book is very accurate, this is not a biography of President Jackson, but rather, a review of the era that bears his name. The banking war takes up the majority of the book and is an incredibly interesting fight to read about. The fights between business and worker, and the split of the political parties in the lead up to the civil war were less substantive but equally gripping. Unfortunately, there was absolutely no mention of the trail of tears or anything at all about the Nativ The title of the book is very accurate, this is not a biography of President Jackson, but rather, a review of the era that bears his name. The banking war takes up the majority of the book and is an incredibly interesting fight to read about. The fights between business and worker, and the split of the political parties in the lead up to the civil war were less substantive but equally gripping. Unfortunately, there was absolutely no mention of the trail of tears or anything at all about the Native American experience during the era, which makes me wonder if other events are selectively chosen to not appear because of Schlesinger’s positive opinion of the Jacksonian era. All in all though, what was covered was very compelling, if likely biased, reading. The Jacksonian and Jeffersonian eras likely have a lot to teach us about our own, but, undoubtedly, we won’t know enough to benefit from the past, we’ll just pick out pithy quotes and use them for our own purposes, no matter their original intent.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jay Wright

    Why is Andrew Jackson not respected today? Schlesinger is a liberal and while this is not a biography it is a brilliant work on the period from 1824 to 1860. Without Jackson, the Republican party and the freeing of the slaves does not occur. Jackson was for the common man. In his tenure, federal contracts limited workers to 10 hour days. Jackson supported the rise of free labor. He fought the "aristocracy' that was reflected by the National Bank. He was an advocate for the farmer and the wage la Why is Andrew Jackson not respected today? Schlesinger is a liberal and while this is not a biography it is a brilliant work on the period from 1824 to 1860. Without Jackson, the Republican party and the freeing of the slaves does not occur. Jackson was for the common man. In his tenure, federal contracts limited workers to 10 hour days. Jackson supported the rise of free labor. He fought the "aristocracy' that was reflected by the National Bank. He was an advocate for the farmer and the wage laborer. The Civil War rose from Jackson radicals that fought for free soil and free labor. Schlesinger has been thorough and he has ample proof for his assertions. I am somewhat conservative and while I do not agree with many of his assertions in his final chapter, he is rather convincing. To young historians, who think Jackson is just another slave owner, get the facts. There is a reason Jackson is on the 20 dollar bill. Sclesinger won a Pulitzer for this work and it was highly deserved. He would win a second 20 years later.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Talmadge Walker

    Not so much a biography of Andrew Jackson as a portrayal of the times in which he wielded influence. The bulk of the book discusses the issues of banking & currency, tariffs, and labor, and the shifting political alignments involved in those discussions, so if you're not interesting in 19th century political economy questions you probably will not enjoy this book. For me , the single downside to the book was there was no mention of relations with native Americans and the Indian Removal Act, but Not so much a biography of Andrew Jackson as a portrayal of the times in which he wielded influence. The bulk of the book discusses the issues of banking & currency, tariffs, and labor, and the shifting political alignments involved in those discussions, so if you're not interesting in 19th century political economy questions you probably will not enjoy this book. For me , the single downside to the book was there was no mention of relations with native Americans and the Indian Removal Act, but that would have been only tangentially related to the focus.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Marcus Ellard

    This is an important history of the events leading up to, during, and immediately after the presidency of Andrew Jackson. Schlesinger was exhaustive in his research, and brilliantly laying out significant issues, and transformations of American culture that have a legacy lasting into this century. Unfortunately his final chapters strayed from the disciplined historian and were increasingly coloured by his political ideals of the mid-20th century. This is a great read, despite its minor flaws.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jdb

    I would have rated this 4 stars except for the fact that the writing is very choppy and I often found it a slog, rereading to capture the main point....obviously the Pulitzer Prize committee didn’t value the writing as highly as the subject matter. The most interesting point of the book for me is the realization that the major issues in today’s American politics are not new...they were hotly debated in the 1830-1850 era....the wealthy and their ties to government versus the working man....private I would have rated this 4 stars except for the fact that the writing is very choppy and I often found it a slog, rereading to capture the main point....obviously the Pulitzer Prize committee didn’t value the writing as highly as the subject matter. The most interesting point of the book for me is the realization that the major issues in today’s American politics are not new...they were hotly debated in the 1830-1850 era....the wealthy and their ties to government versus the working man....private property versus public policy....liberals versus conservatives Of course the author’s far left liberal philosophy colors the narrative.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mark Bowles

    Intent of book * Motivation to write it was present-minded. "The world crisis has given new urgency to the question of "meaning" in democracy." (ix) Present crisis will be better understood by examining the past. Anachronistic. * "Search for the immutable moral abstractions of the democratic faith" * Thesis: The tradition of Jacksonian democracy was primarily a reform tradition, dedicated to a struggle against the entrenched business interests of the national community. * Prologue, 1829: Adams last Intent of book * Motivation to write it was present-minded. "The world crisis has given new urgency to the question of "meaning" in democracy." (ix) Present crisis will be better understood by examining the past. Anachronistic. * "Search for the immutable moral abstractions of the democratic faith" * Thesis: The tradition of Jacksonian democracy was primarily a reform tradition, dedicated to a struggle against the entrenched business interests of the national community. * Prologue, 1829: Adams last nights in the White House before Jackson comes in. * The End of Arcadia (Jeffersonianism): Jefferson's agricultural utopia was ending. Industry and business began to dominate America. * Keepers of the Jeffersonian Conscience: Jefferson compromises and agrees to the necessity of industry. * Background for Revolution: The 1820s were a decade of discontent. There was frustration among the thriving classes that government was hostile to their interests (ex. northern working men lost the means of production). * The First Year: Jackson had a mandate from the people for change (government for the common man). * The Men Around the President: The president needed men who shared his belief that the balance of class power was the key issue of the day Ex. James K. Polk). The men who shared his views of reform became the "Kitchen Cabinet." * Beginnings of the Bank War: 1836 the charter of the Second Bank of the U.S. was to expire. * Veto: Jackson vetoes the bank bill because he believed too much power was centered in the bank (1832) * Counterattack: There was a great deal of denunciation of the veto. * Hard Money: Jackson eventually gained the publics support because his hard-money case would capture government for the "humble members of society (115)". Thus, the bank war triumphantly established Jackson in the confidence of the people. The central point was exclusion of the banks from control over the currency. Also, the working class felt cheated by paper money because a portion of the wages they received were depreciated, worthless, or counterfeit. * Credo of the Workingmen: The industrialization of the 1820's created discontent among the working class. Workingmen wanted opportunity for education, abolition of imprisonment for debt, less expensive law system, & equal taxation on property. * Stirrings in the Bay State: The Industrial Revolution was the key reasons for Jackson's policies. Thus, the most serious discussions of the Jacksonian policy were to be held in the most industrial states (Massachusetts & New York) * George Bancroft and Radicalism in Massachusetts: Staunch supporter of the workingmen * Radicalism in New York: Democratic party was dominant here and so Jacksonian policy began with the groups trying to control the party leader (Martin Van Buren) * Rise of the Locofoco's: These were friction matches that they lit at Tammany Hall. They were the workingmen's political organization. * The Pattern of Locofocoism: Reckless expansion of banking facilities provoked widespread popular disgust. Locofocoism was the expression of that disgust, an Eastern movement. * The Third Term: 1836 Jackson wins again * Panic: Starting with crop failures in 1835. This led to farmers who could not pay merchants, to merchants who could not pay banks. * Divorce of Bank and State: This was the plan out of the panic by radicals and intellectuals. * The Southern Dilemma: Which was the greater menace to the plantation system-radical democracy or finance capital?

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tom Schulte

    This abridged work leads with the perceptive quote of George Bancroft that typifies the question of Jacksonians and their antebellum age: "The feud between the capitalist and the laborer, the house of Have and the house of Want, is as old as social union, and can never be entirely quieted; but he who will act with moderation, prefer facts to theories, and remember that every thing in this world is relative and not absolute, will see that the violence of the contest may be stilled, if the unreaso This abridged work leads with the perceptive quote of George Bancroft that typifies the question of Jacksonians and their antebellum age: "The feud between the capitalist and the laborer, the house of Have and the house of Want, is as old as social union, and can never be entirely quieted; but he who will act with moderation, prefer facts to theories, and remember that every thing in this world is relative and not absolute, will see that the violence of the contest may be stilled, if the unreasonable demands of personal interests are subjected to the decisions of even-handed justice.... George Bancroft, 1834" Author Arthur Schlesinger Jr. distills the age of Jackson in the larger context of American history in his own sage summation as, "American history has been marked by recurrent swings of conservatism and liberalism. During the periods of inaction, unsolved social problems pile up till the demand for reform becomes overwhelming. Then a liberal government comes to power, the dam breaks and aflood of change sweeps away a great deal in a short time." It seems the "party politics" so familiar now really root back to the rise of Jackson and the echoes of his administration, or more so the popular upswell that made it and Van Buren's possible. Schlesinger excellenty encapsulates this in the final chapter to this important work: “The Jacksonian attitude presumes a perpetual tension in society, a doubtful equilibrium, constantly breeding strife and struggle: it is, in essence, a rejection of easy solutions, and for this reason it is not always popular. One of the strongest pressures toward the extremes, whether of socialism or of conservatism, is the security from conflict they are supposed to insure (ed. note a good example of this is outlined here in a review of a book by conservative theorist Russell Kirk). But one may wonder whether a society which eliminated struggle would possess much liberty (or even much stability). Freedom does not last long when bestowed above. It lasts only when it is arrived at competitively, out of the determination of groups which demand it as a general rule in order to increase the opportunities for themselves. To some the picture may not be consoling. But world without conflict is the world of fantasy; and practical attempts to realize society without conflict by confiding power to a single authority have generally resulted in producing a society where the means of suppressing conflict are rapid and efficient. “‘Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself,’ said Jefferson. ‘Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him?’ ‘The unfortunate thing,’ adds Pascal, ‘is that he who would act the angel acts the brute.’ The great tradition of American liberalism regards man as neither brute nor angel.”

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kay

    This in-depth treatment of the age of Jackson (not in particular his biography so it extends well beyond his presidency) showed me that in many ways things were not so different then as now. Back then, the country grappled with wealth inequality - a struggle between the producers (laborers, farmers, and working people who actually produced items but often received little pay) and the accumulators (those who did not manual work but made many through the efforts of others). I rather like those 19t This in-depth treatment of the age of Jackson (not in particular his biography so it extends well beyond his presidency) showed me that in many ways things were not so different then as now. Back then, the country grappled with wealth inequality - a struggle between the producers (laborers, farmers, and working people who actually produced items but often received little pay) and the accumulators (those who did not manual work but made many through the efforts of others). I rather like those 19th century terms better. Andrew Jackson was the first 'outsider' president from the frontier and not from the founding fathers' established order. I'm still trying to understand early American banking. As near as I can tell, banks were able to print their own notes which basically provided the paper currency. Of course, this gave them incredible power. I get the impression that paper money is not so much the problem but rather who controls the issuance of paper money. In that era, the fluctuations of value in paper bank notes meant that workers were paid in paper money when the value was high and then lost out when its value plummeted. This is what Jackson fought against. This is an amazing work of scholarship in its readability but so detailed that I still found myself flipping to the well-organized index to review definitions of groups such as the Barnburners and the Hunkers. (Apparently names for small political groups and their views were just as catchy as terms such as Tea Party today.)

  26. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Canfield

    What an incredibly detailed book (but then again, what else would you expect from Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.?). When I first began reading this book, I assumed it would be a biography of sorts about Andrew Jackson; although the seventh president gets a lot of focus, it expands this to all of the players of the Jacksonian era (1820s-1850s), looking at everyone from John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster and Henry Clay to Martin van Buren, John Tyler and Franklin Pierce. The era of Andrew Jackson is looked What an incredibly detailed book (but then again, what else would you expect from Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.?). When I first began reading this book, I assumed it would be a biography of sorts about Andrew Jackson; although the seventh president gets a lot of focus, it expands this to all of the players of the Jacksonian era (1820s-1850s), looking at everyone from John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster and Henry Clay to Martin van Buren, John Tyler and Franklin Pierce. The era of Andrew Jackson is looked at within the context of the bank war and the larger struggle to move the U.S. toward becoming a more democratic nation. Schlesinger even pays attention to men like William Leggett, Walt Whitman, and William Cullen Bryant, delving into how journalists, newspapermen, and the literary men of the era reacted to Jackson. It is an incredibly detailed look at the interactions between the interests of that era, expanding well beyond just Andrew Jackson (and only giving scant mention to rumors or personal details about him). If you are looking for a book on the Jacksonian Era and how it eventually smacked into the fight over slavery and Civil War, The Age of Jackson is for you. The book talks about often-overlooked people and events in U.S. history, bringing together a lot of research and insight in its pages. I completed this book feeling that my knowledge of the Jacksonian Era was enhanced by doing so. -Andrew Canfield

  27. 4 out of 5

    Brian Schwartz

    IN THE AGE OF JACKSON is not a biography of the legendary president. Nor does it restrict itself to the eight year term of the Jackson presidency. Schlesinger instead explores the evolution of classical liberalism as it developed in the days leading up to the election of Jackson through the time of Franklin Roosevelt. It is remarkable that Schlesinger never wrote a biography of Martin Van Buren or James Polk because he is clearly an admirer of both men. Schlesinger is best known for this book as IN THE AGE OF JACKSON is not a biography of the legendary president. Nor does it restrict itself to the eight year term of the Jackson presidency. Schlesinger instead explores the evolution of classical liberalism as it developed in the days leading up to the election of Jackson through the time of Franklin Roosevelt. It is remarkable that Schlesinger never wrote a biography of Martin Van Buren or James Polk because he is clearly an admirer of both men. Schlesinger is best known for this book as well as his 1000 DAYS which is a laudatory history of the Kennedy administration. Schlesinger is the most celebrated of the presidential historians and I don't think he really deserves that honor. His poll of historians that rank the presidents is considered the barometer of presidential performance. However, Schlesinger was a partisan defender of Democratic principles. I think there must be a clear delineation between scholar and partisan. Apparently, Schlesinger does not. This book won the Pulitzer Prize for history in 1946.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Barry Bridges

    Excellent book. Scholarly and tedious, yet full of relevant lessons in today's political environment. I spent March and the better part of April working my way through simply to understand the history of that period better. I came away with more than I bargained for - understanding more than 50 years of American political strategy from a passed over era. Today's Republican political environment tends to pass over the Jackson era in laying a claim (quite false we learn) on the original intent of Excellent book. Scholarly and tedious, yet full of relevant lessons in today's political environment. I spent March and the better part of April working my way through simply to understand the history of that period better. I came away with more than I bargained for - understanding more than 50 years of American political strategy from a passed over era. Today's Republican political environment tends to pass over the Jackson era in laying a claim (quite false we learn) on the original intent of the Founding Fathers. Others dwell on the Civil War and the reshaping of the industrial era. In between sits an era of all political parties swapping places as the people's party. We can learn that neither Bush or Obama can claim the market on Executive Directive to fight a recalcitrant congress.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Brendan

    Man, I thought this was going to be a biography of Andrew Jackson. Instead, it's a very complicated, nuanced survey of the political climate in 1820-1840s America and how the influence of 'the West' (i.e. the Jacksonian Democrats in Kentucky, Tennessee, and the southern states less reliant on slavery) rocked American politics. Incredible book, but probably good to read a more run-of-the-mill biography of Jackson (or Henry Clay or John C Calhoun) before tackling this one. Also, the last 3-4 chapter Man, I thought this was going to be a biography of Andrew Jackson. Instead, it's a very complicated, nuanced survey of the political climate in 1820-1840s America and how the influence of 'the West' (i.e. the Jacksonian Democrats in Kentucky, Tennessee, and the southern states less reliant on slavery) rocked American politics. Incredible book, but probably good to read a more run-of-the-mill biography of Jackson (or Henry Clay or John C Calhoun) before tackling this one. Also, the last 3-4 chapters = what I would call a definitive rebuttal to anyone who as ever claimed the cause of the US Civil War was not slavery. It was totally slavery.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michael Laflamme

    What a read! It screams like today's headlines. The same 2 sides bashing each other over corporatism, labor rights, political equality, aristocracy, monopoly, money in elections. If you thought we only just started talking about democracy and the Constitution, think again. The sheer amount of research in this book, before the internet, is a monumental labor. Almost all the footnotes, at the bottom of each page, are attributions. Some to newspapers and editorials from 1830-1840. Many notes refere What a read! It screams like today's headlines. The same 2 sides bashing each other over corporatism, labor rights, political equality, aristocracy, monopoly, money in elections. If you thought we only just started talking about democracy and the Constitution, think again. The sheer amount of research in this book, before the internet, is a monumental labor. Almost all the footnotes, at the bottom of each page, are attributions. Some to newspapers and editorials from 1830-1840. Many notes reference private collections of papers and letters. The footwork involved here had to be prodigious. This book alone adds tremendous depth to the perception of American history. Stunning!

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