Andrew Jackson, Southerner
Mark R. Cheathem
Winner of the 2013 Tennessee History Award
Narrated by Trevor Thompson
Approximately 9.5 hours
Book published by Louisiana State University Press
Many Americans view Andrew Jackson as a frontiersman who fought duels, killed Indians, and stole another man’s wife. Historians have traditionally presented Jackson as a man who struggled to overcome the obstacles of his backwoods upbringing and helped create a more democratic United States. In his compelling new biography of Jackson, Mark R. Cheathem argues for a reassessment of these long-held views, suggesting that in fact “Old Hickory” lived as an elite southern gentleman.
Jackson grew up along the border between North Carolina and South Carolina, a district tied to Charleston, where the city’s gentry engaged in the transatlantic marketplace. Jackson then moved to North Carolina, where he joined various political and kinship networks that provided him with entrée into society. In fact, Cheathem contends, Jackson had already started to assume the characteristics of a southern gentleman by the time he arrived in Middle Tennessee in 1788.
After moving to Nashville, Jackson further ensconced himself in an exclusive social order by marrying the daughter of one of the city’s cofounders, engaging in land speculation, and leading the state militia. Cheathem notes that through these ventures Jackson grew to own multiple plantations and cultivated them with the labor of almost two hundred slaves. His status also enabled him to build a military career focused on eradicating the nation’s enemies, including Indians residing on land desired by white southerners. Jackson’s military success eventually propelled him onto the national political stage in the 1820s, where he won two terms as president. Jackson’s years as chief executive demonstrated the complexity of the expectations of elite white southern men, as he earned the approval of many white southerners by continuing to pursue Manifest Destiny and opposing the spread of abolitionism, yet earned their ire because of his efforts to fight nullification and the Second Bank of the United States.
By emphasizing Jackson’s southern identity—characterized by violence, honor, kinship, slavery, and Manifest Destiny—Cheathem’s narrative offers a bold new perspective on one of the nineteenth century’s most renowned and controversial presidents.
Mark R. Cheathem is professor of history at Cumberland University and the author of Old Hickory’s Nephew: The Political and Private Struggles of Andrew Jackson Donelson.
“An informative work which ties the seemingly rough-cut Old Hickory back to the early days of gentry culture in Virginia.”
“This study is a fresh and frequently fascinating examination of Jackson.... An impressive array of sources informs his interpretation.... A solid, compelling analysis of Jackson’s life and character.”
—Journal of Southern History
“Mark R. Cheathem is a fine historian who has, in Andrew Jackson, Southerner, produced a well-researched, nicely written account of one of the nation’s most controversial presidents.”
—Journal of American History
“Mark R. Cheathem’s Andrew Jackson, Southerner, however, provides a fresh take on this polarizing figure, centering his examination on the notion of the southerner to better understand the symbolic implications of many of Jackson’s personal and political decisions.... Cheathem presents a strong example of the kind of nuanced historiography that closely assesses the cultural landscape of political actors to better understand the symbolic decision-making processes they negotiated.”
—Journal of American Culture
“i>Andrew Jackson, Southerner, is a well-written short biography. Professor Cheathem’s thorough research and subject knowledge are impressive.... Andrew Jackson may be the most fascinating American in history, and this book could serve as an introduction to those interested in his life, or as a supplement to those already familiar with his story.”
“An impressively researched and well-organized apologia for Andrew Jackson’s southern (rather than frontier) credentials.... We will be discussing Cheathem’s book for years to come.”
—Journal of East Tennessee History
“Carefully researched and clearly written.... Cheathem’s biography of this near-great president is provocative and should be read by those interested in Andrew Jackson’s life and presidency.”
—North Carolina Historical Review
“Writing with the ease and confidence of an experienced historian ... Cheathem has accomplished an impressive feat in condensing such a vast amount of research into a concise, two-hundred-page book.”
—Ohio Valley History
“An excellent book and a must-have for anyone with an interest in the seventh president.... Highly recommended.”
“A fresh and convincing portrait of the enigmatic seventh president.”
—Southwestern Historical Quarterly
“Cheathem draws from Jackson’s personal and professional correspondence and recent studies on Jackson, southern culture, and slavery to provide a valuable contribution to Jackson historiography.”
—Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
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