• American Lion

  • Andrew Jackson in the White House
  • By: Jon Meacham
  • Narrated by: Richard McGonagle
  • Length: 17 hrs and 16 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (1,497 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, Biography/Autobiography, 2009

Andrew Jackson, his intimate circle of friends, and his tumultuous times are at the heart of this remarkable book about the man who rose from nothing to create the modern presidency.

Beloved and hated, venerated and reviled, Andrew Jackson was an orphan who fought his way to the pinnacle of power, bending the nation to his will in the cause of democracy. Jackson's election in 1828 ushered in a new and lasting era in which the people, not distant elites, were the guiding force in American politics. Democracy made its stand in the Jackson years, and he gave voice to the hopes and the fears of a restless, changing nation facing challenging times at home and threats abroad.

One of our most significant yet dimly recalled presidents, Jackson was a battle-hardened warrior, the founder of the Democratic Party, and the architect of the presidency as we know it. His story is one of violence, sex, courage, and tragedy. With his powerful persona, his evident bravery, and his mystical connection to the people, Jackson moved the White House from the periphery of government to the center of national action, articulating a vision of change that challenged entrenched interests to heed the popular will or face his formidable wrath. The greatest of the presidents who have followed Jackson in the White House have found inspiration in his example, and virtue in his vision.

Jackson was the most contradictory of men. The architect of the removal of Indians from their native lands, he was warmly sentimental and risked everything to give more power to ordinary citizens. He was, in short, a lot like his country: alternately kind and vicious, brilliant and blind; and a man who fought a lifelong war to keep the republic safe, no matter what it took.

Jon Meacham, in American Lion, has delivered the definitive human portrait of a pivotal president who forever changed the American presidency and America itself.

©2008 Jon Meacham (P)2008 Random House

Critic Reviews

"A master storyteller, Meacham interweaves the lives of Jackson and the members of his inner circle to create a highly original book." (Doris Kearns Goodwin)
"American Lion is a spellbinding, brilliant and irresistible journey into the heart of Andrew Jackson and his unforgettable circle of friends and enemies." (Michael Beschloss)
"What passes for political drama today pales in the reading of Jon Meacham's vividly told story of our seventh president....Reading "American Lion" one is no longer able to look on the gaunt, craggy face on the $20 bill without hearing the tumult of America in the making." (Tina Brown)

What listeners say about American Lion

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When the time for action has come, stop thinking.

"Jackson was a transformative president in part because he had a transcendent personality"
- Jon Meacham, American Lion

A solid history of a complicated man. One of the more influential Presidents, Jackson can and should be both praised and condemned. In many ways, he epitomized our young nation. Problematic, in the extreme, in regards to Native Americans and slaves, energetic, complicated, narcissistic, driven, and not to be trifled with. Jackson is often revered by Presidents who want to appear both populist and strong. Jackson, however, is no Trump. With obvious blind spots (Slavery and Natives) he typically acted according to an inner guide. He felt our nation needed a stronger executive to protect the people from the tyranny of bureaucracy and moneyed interests. He was brutal to anyone who stood in his way.

Meacham doesn't shy away from Jackson's failings, but also spends a bit too much time (in my opinion) in dealing with Jackson's family. After reading a bunch of Caro, I was afraid I would be severely disappointed with Meacham (like I was with the most recent Walter Isaacson book, Leonardo da Vinci). It was, however, better than I expected.

17 people found this helpful

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Disappointing as political history

I was very disappointed in this book. I can't believe it won the Pulitzer.

Coverage of his early career was terrible. Elections are things that just happen in a sentence or two, no explanation of the forces shaping the outcome, no characterization of other, opposing figures.

The whole book was shockingly one sided. We hear from time to time what others said about Jackson, but not who these critics are, nor whether their criticisms are ever on point.

Take Indian removal, for instance. We hear a lot about Jackson's genuine belief that it was necessary for American security, but nothing at all about...whether there were grounds for that view. Moreover, Jackson comes in for almost no criticism for the hypocrisy of reportedly viewing the Indians as his 'red children' and yet endorsing wholesale breaking of faith with them through unilaterally abrogating treaties.

I'm not saying the only way to discuss Jackson is critically. Just that it's bad history to cover his subject this way. I wasn't expecting what ultimately comes to hagiography from a Pulitzer winning book, but here we are.

9 people found this helpful

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Excellent book. Brings the Subject Alive

Andrew Jackson is one of the most important and one of the most controversial presidents in American History. During his lifetime the United States came into being and gained large new tracts of territory. Much of that territory was rough and wild, as were the people who lived there. Andrew Jackson became a lawyer and judge in Tennessee. He met and married his beloved Rachel. Their relationship was controversial at the time because they were married before her divorce from her prior husband had come through. For the rest of their lives allegations of Rachel's character would haunt them. At least one man was killed by Jackson in a duel over this. As a military leader Jackson twice invaded Spanish Florida chasing Creek raiders who raided into George and Alabama and escaped to Florida. As a military commander he is most known as the US commander at the Battle of New Orleans. At that battle a ragtag group of regular soldiers, militia, volunteers, Choctaw warriors, and Baratarian pirates defeated a large British army.

The book covers these issues, but it is focused on his two terms as president. Jackson won a contentious election. Over the next eight years he would confront many controversies. He sought to bring more prestige and power to the office of the President. An opposition party would form to battle his policies. They called themselves Whigs after the British party that opposed royal authority. Jackson despised the idea of a National Bank and did everything he could to not only block the re-chartering of the Bank, but to bring it down ahead of it's time. When the South Carolina legislature claimed it had the authority to nullify a federal law Jackson was ready to invade the state to assert Federal authority. In fact Lincoln would cite Jackson's example in the early days of his administration. The act that would be remembered the most in future generations was the Indian Removal Act. This act forced native people to sell their land (often at cut rate prices) and move west of the Mississippi. The mostly ended up in Oklahoma. The suffering encountered by these people would be remembered as the Trail of Tears.

Meacham paints a fascinating portrait of this complicated man. You may or may not like Jackson after you read this book, but you will have a better understanding of this important man. Perhaps like every other person in history we should learn how to admire the good things that a man does while disapproving of the bad. This is a great book and is well worth reading.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Unlikable Old Hickory

There have been some truly remarkable presidential biographies written fairly recently (including David McCullough's masterful works John Adams and Truman as well as Goodwin's Team of Rivals) but American Lion suffers in comparison - both in the eloquence of the writing and the subject itself.

The author indicates in his introduction that the book is not intended to be about the "Age of Jackson" but directly about Jackson himself. It is too bad as the changes that happened during Jackson's presidency are incredibly interesting: the election of a "common man" from the West, more popular participation in politics, nullification crisis as a prelude to the Civil War 30 years later, and the evolution of the Office of the President as the most powerful branch of government.

Unfortunately when one gets too close to Jackson himself it is hard to get too excited about the man given the amount of effort Jackson put into the petty social squabbles of the day, battling the central bank at every turn, his general grumpiness, and his unabashed support of slavery (though it is certainly not uncommon at the time).

The biography itself was also a bit hard to follow as it was perhaps too tightly constrained to the Jackson presidential years, but still jumped around chronologically. This meant, for example, we got only a limited mention of Jackson's role in the War of 1812 but pages and pages of the Washington social scene. I also felt there was too much reliance on including text from the vast amount of correspondence between the different parties. Obviously you need some first-hand accounts, but the flow of the narrative suffered.

If you are a dedicated presidential biography reader then this certainly could fill a void in your library, but there are better ones out there. This was the unabridged version - perhaps the abridged version (especially for only one credit!) would be a better bet.

57 people found this helpful

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Excellent

Meacham does not write with the voluminous depth of Ron Chernow but this books are always satisfying in their scope and scholarship. Jackson was such a fascinating individual and an important President that I can very much recommend this volume.

5 people found this helpful

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exceptional read

the book is very well written and the performance is excellent I fully enjoyed listening to this book. the author takes us through the whole entire story of the presidential Memoirs of Jackson and the counterparts displayed within his Arena

2 people found this helpful

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An honest assessment of a misunderstood President

Those who would write off Andrew Jackson as another slave-owning President from the pre-War South who cruelly drove Native Americans out of their ancestral lands would be correct in their factual assertions but unwise to overlook and cast aside the many powerful lessons and great examples his life story provides on how to lead and persevere through troubling times. Meacham does a great job of presenting the man as he was, with all his faults, and without excuses. Read and you will see why he was and still is revered by many. And perhaps more importantly, you will understand and appreciate how this one man's tenacity, vision and love of country greatly shaped the America we enjoy today.

2 people found this helpful

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Narrator

Was probably the best I’ve listened to.

An excellent vista into Jaskson’s presidency and life

2 people found this helpful

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Engaging and Enlightening

A pleasure to listen to and easy to understand. This biography has very compelling relevance today.

2 people found this helpful

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Great read, fantastic look at a complex Man

This is a great book on Jackson. Is it perfect? No. But it attempts to give a full an honest view of his flaws and successes

1 person found this helpful

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  • paul delaney
  • 03-13-21

great book

great read, took a lot from it. well read, will be reading again good purchase

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  • slwan fayyad
  • 07-06-20

Great account of truly significant historical figu

well written, detailed account of the 7th American president. Gave the reader a good sense of the historical context of the age

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  • rod
  • 06-10-18

Lacking political and historical context.

This book didn’t explain the political context fully and clearly. It focused too much on his family life and lacked scope.Although Jackson is an interesting character I would try a different biography on him.