cover image Andrew Jackson: A Life and Times

Andrew Jackson: A Life and Times

H. W. Brands, . . Doubleday, $35 (620pp) ISBN 978-0-385-50738-7

Historian Brands, author of the bestselling The First American : The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin , now turns to Andrew Jackson (1767–1845), illuminating both the mettle of a fascinating leader and the crucible in which American democracy was forged. A military hero during the War of 1812 and winner of the popular presidential vote in 1824 (he lost the election in Congress), Jackson won the office handily in 1828. Brands argues that the populist Jackson changed the very nature of the presidency, vetoing more bills than all six of his predecessors combined; thwarting the bank of the United States; and in a dramatic test of wills, preparing for civil war when South Carolina threatened to secede over tariffs. He died at the age of 78, just days after learning that Texas would join the union. Although Brands lacks the narrative flair of David McCullough, his effort is intensely engaging. He meticulously renders Jackson's life, his ugly massacres of Indians as well as his triumphs, with unflinching detail. He also conveys the vagaries of war, life on the frontier, the perilous state of the union and the brass-knuckles politics of the day. The result is a bracing, human portrait of both a remarkable man and of American democracy as it was transformed from a "government of the people" into a "government by the people." Agent, Jim Hornfischer . (On sale Oct. 18)