“Andrew Jackson: The Course of American Freedom (1822-1832)” is the second of three volumes in Robert Remini’s series on Andrew Jackson. This volume was published in 1981 and the series was completed in 1984. Despite the significant historical scholarship and refreshing lucidity it offers, Remini’s series is no longer frequently read. However, in 1988 Remini published a single-volume abridgment of the series which maintains a relatively vigorous following.
Remini was a historian and professor at the University of Illinois and authored several biographies during his forty-year literary career (of John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay and Martin Van Buren, among others). He was named historian of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2005 and was asked to author a narrative history of that legislative body. His resulting work “The House: The History of the House of Representatives” was published in 2006. Remini died earlier this year at the age of 91.
This volume of Remini’s series covers the ten-year period which includes Jackson’s national political ascendancy, his contentious defeat for the presidency in 1824 by John Quincy Adams, his successful presidential campaign in 1828 and his first presidential term. Early in the volume, Remini lays the groundwork to prove the case that the Monroe and Adams administrations created an unprecedented level of corruption within the federal government.
His effort is reasonably, but not entirely, convincing. He successfully demonstrates the existence of widespread, systemic corruption but is less convincing in attributing it directly to Monroe or Adams. This “Era of Corruption” underpins his central thesis that by running for the nation’s highest office, the virtuous General Jackson was responding to a public “call” to rescue the nation from the malfeasance of the very wealthy and the most politically powerful.
Remini does a remarkable job of constructing an interesting, wonderfully penetrating and occasionally provocative narrative of the seventh president. I came away from this volume (and its predecessor) with a far more complete and coherent understanding of Jackson than I developed by reading about him in earlier biographical works by Marquis James and Arthur Schlesinger. Remini not only dissects Jackson’s actions within the context of his personality and worldview, but also wonderfully describes Jackson’s complex network of friends and political allies.
Consistent with his treatment of Jackson in the first volume, there can be no mistake while reading this volume that Remini is favorably disposed toward his primary subject. In fact, although Remini’s Jackson is heroic but deeply flawed, the author has been accused of seeing the world “too much from Jackson’s point of view.” But this criticism is one of shading; Remini’s critiques of Jackson are too frequent and often too searing to leave the reader with an unrealistic, saintly image of Andrew Jackson.
Overall, the second volume of Robert Remini’s series on Andrew Jackson was nearly as outstanding as the first. Though the description of some of the political issues facing President Jackson occasionally became a bit dense (and sometimes felt too lengthy) the book as a whole was well-paced, extremely approachable and quite engaging. This volume on Andrew Jackson was excellent and is well worth reading even without the benefit of the first or third volumes.
Overall rating: 4¼ stars