Is the History Channel, where you can get information on the Bank War.
Brands, H.W. AndrewJackson: His Life and Times (New York: Anchor, 2006).
H. W. Brand’s book takes kinder look at the Jackson presidency. With Jackson’s bloodstained résumé, Jackson fits awkwardly alongside our prim modern sensibilities. It is not difficult to condemn him before the bar of public opinion, especially academic opinion: He was a slave-owner, a brutal slayer of Native Americans and an unapologetic expansionist. His violent temper still frightens away the type of person often drawn to the historical profession.
It is not simply that Jackson's impact on American history was enormous; he was our greatest soldier after Washington, he vastly strengthened the executive branch, and he forcefully represented ordinary Americans who had not enjoyed much clout in Washington until his arrival. From the start of the story, he writes in a reverent voice that biographies of great Americans used to be written in. He details Jackson's poverty and early scrapes with mortality to his violent encounters with British soldiers when he was a mere stripling to his impressive rise as a Tennessee politician, soldier and statesman. Brands is drawn toward the dramatic spends vast amounts of space to murderous duels, savage Indian raids, equally savage counterattacks and Jackson's scorched-earth campaigns in Louisiana and Florida. His gripping account of the battle of New Orleans, perhaps the greatest American victory ever, reveals Jackson as a defender of that city. Brands also has an eye for the arresting detail -- for example, Jackson's decision to adopt "a little Indian boy" after an especially violent campaign that had exterminated the child's tribe, or the fact that 200 black Haitians were fighting alongside the Americans at New Orleans.
The heavy focus on blood and guts comes at a price, however. Brand's treatment of Old Hickory's political career is comparatively thin. Jackson doesn't assume the presidency until page 386, three-quarters of the way through the book, and the treatment of the great struggles of that era feels rushed. That's a shame, for Jackson's presidential achievement was more significant than his military career and set a crucial precedent for Lincoln and both Roosevelts.
Marrin, Albert. Old Hickory: Andrew Jackson and the American People (New York: Dutton Juvenile, 2004). This book is geared toward school age children, but I have included it because, I believe it is important to see how Andrew Jackson is portrayed in language that a middle school child can understand. This book is more than a biography, it is a fine study of our seventh president is also a history and analysis of the times in which he lived. Born in a log cabin to a strong-willed, Scotch-Irish widow, Jackson lacked formal education but was intelligent and could size up people and events, a useful trait for his work as a soldier, lawyer, judge, legislator, and president. Defeated by John Quincy Adams in the 1824 election even though he had won the popular vote, Jackson was elected president four years later, following a dirty campaign that smeared both him and his wife. He was a strong-willed leader whose opinions would be most unpopular today. Marrin discusses the changes to society brought about by the Industrial Revolution, the railroads, and the rise of the market economy. This book is written in an engaging style and with a wealth of detail, and is enhanced by numerous black-and-white illustrations, including reproductions of political cartoons, portraits, and documents. The lists of sources and of additional reading are extensive.
Meacham, John. American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House (New York: Random House, 2008). John Meacham offers a lively take on the seventh president's White House years. We get the Indian fighter and hero of New Orleans facing down South Carolina radicals' efforts to nullify federal laws they found unacceptable, speaking the words of democracy even if his banking and other policies strengthened local oligarchies, and doing nothing to protect southern Indians from their land-hungry white neighbors. For the first time, with Jackson, demagoguery became presidential, and his Democratic Party deepened its identification with Southern slavery. Relying on the huge amount of previous Jackson studies, Meacham adds little to this well-known story, save for the few tidbits he's unearthed in private collections rarely consulted before. What he does bring is a writer's flair and the ability to relate his story without the ideology that often color more scholarly studies of Jackson.
Parsons, Lynn. The Birth of Modern Politics: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and the Election of 1828 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009). The Birth of Modern Politics is short, smart, well-written and well-researched. Lynn Hudson Parsons is clearly a fair- minded and scrupulous historian. So it feels a bit picky to point out that his fine new book is not about the birth of modern politics. It is, as his subtitle more accurately suggests, a book about Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams and (once he gets to it) the election of 1828 -- two infinitely compelling men and a reasonably compelling election that generated important shifts in the practice of politics and the direction of the nation, even though its outcome was never really in doubt. Parsons himself is careful not to overstate the case for the Adams-Jackson contest in 1828 as a revolution in politics. He notes that some historians have described it as the first truly democratic election, or the first unabashedly partisan election, but he never exactly endorses those arguments. It was more democratic than previous elections, with a 57 percent white male turnout, but most of the population was still ineligible to vote, and results were still skewed by the three-fifths rule that amplified the influence of Southern planters by giving their states partial credit for their nonvoting slaves. The election featured new advances in partisanship -- such as the coordinated media and get-out-the-vote strategies pioneered by Jacksonians -- but Jackson and Adams were actually members of the same party. And while the election of 1828 was certainly a nasty battle, it wasn't the first nasty battle or even the nastiest battle to date. In fact, very little of what we think of as modern politics was born in 1828. It's not just that there was no TV, Internet, campaign planes or 24-hour news cycle; there were no primaries, stump speeches, media interviews or even a single Election Day. Parsons does describe the birth of a few enduring tactics, but these rudimentary advances reveal as little about modern politics as a description of a man's birth would reveal about the man. For example, he suggests that political fundraising began in 1828, but his only real example is $11,000 that Massachusetts Jacksonians apparently sent to a national Jacksonian newspaper. He also argues that Jackson was the first presidential candidate to actively seek the office rather than merely obey the will of the people. However, writing bland letters to supporters and welcoming visitors to the Hermitage were still a long way from the epic cross-country solicitations of a modern candidate. Parsons is more convincing when he sticks to the Jackson-Adams story. It would be hard to make up two more diametrically opposed protagonists. Jackson was American mythology, a hardscrabble Scots-Irish child of the southwestern frontier, a slaveholding planter with a feel for the common man, a gaunt, fiery, honor-obsessed warrior. Adams was American royalty, a Harvard-educated, Europe-trained child of the northeastern elite, an antislavery intellectual with no feel whatsoever for the common man, a plump, dour, honor-obsessed diplomat. For all their personal, temperamental and cultural differences, Jackson and Adams were on the same side of the most important issue of their day; they were fervent believers in America's destiny to be a continental superpower. The best example came during the Seminole Wars, when Gen. Jackson triggered an international incident with a preemptive and unauthorized invasion of Spanish Florida for harboring Indian "terrorists." President Monroe's Cabinet was almost unanimously appalled by Jackson's freelancing, but Adams, then the secretary of state, defended him as a patriotic agent of American power and used the facts on the ground to negotiate a treaty annexing Florida to the United States. The mutual support society ended after the election of 1824, when Jackson won a plurality of the electoral vote, but Adams won a runoff in the House of Representatives, thanks to the machinations of Speaker Henry Clay. Adams then had the bad judgment to nominate Clay to be secretary of state, and Clay had the bad judgment to accept, creating the appearance of a "corrupt bargain" that tainted the entire Adams presidency. Jackson had fought duels over less, and his pique instantly converted him into a furious opponent of the administration. As Adams pushed a bold agenda of expansionary government, it became clear that the frontiersman and the cosmopolitan had little in common on the other big issues of the day. Jackson was the populist leader of the agrarian class, leery of federal power and egghead politicians, opposed to national banks and national debt and paper money; Adams was the elitist leader of the merchant class, leery of mob rule and "state's rights," a believer in national improvement. And as a candidate for reelection, he was doomed. The Jackson wing of the National Republican Party -- finally united around one candidate -- would dominate the next generation of American politics under the name of the Democratic Party. The Adams wing would soon split off and join the leftovers of the Federalist Party to form the Whigs. Parsons does a nice job of explaining how the Jacksonian era came to pass, resisting the temptation to inject suspense where it didn't really exist while recognizing the high stakes. In the end, it was Jackson, he writes, "who would come to represent the future" -- a future where every vote would count, a future where overt intellect could be a political liability, a future of political campaigns run like military campaigns with war rooms, field generals, foot soldiers and battleground states. In some ways, though, modern politics took a beating in the election of 1828. It was John Quincy Adams who represented the real future of the country. It was a future of big government and skyrocketing debt, a future of financial complexity and international engagement, a future where all men were truly created equal. Today we tend to think of modern politics as cable hosts prattling about Palin's shopping spree. But as voters understood much better in 1828, there's more to politics than that.
Reynolds, David S. Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson (New York: Harper Perennial, 2008). Award winning historian David Reynolds offers a fine addition to the literature on pre–Civil War American history in this account of the years 1815–1848. Exhilarated after defying Britain in the War of 1812, Americans redirected their energy into moving west, making money and wiping out every trace of elitism in their leaders. This resulted, after four aristocratic Virginians and two scholarly Adamses as president, in the election in 1828 of the uneducated frontiersman Andrew Jackson, who launched the unique American tradition of leaders who boast that they are no smarter than the electorate. While the politics of the era are familiar to many, even knowledgeable readers will relish the chapters on social history, in which Reynolds explains how a rapidly growing economy spurred both prudishness and prostitution, and the enormous consumption of alcohol that spawned the temperance movement. Most, according to Reynolds, took for granted that anyone not like them (blacks, Indians, perhaps even Canadians) belonged to subhuman races. Reynolds delivers a straightforward, insightful history of America during its bumptious adolescence.