Book Review: Andrew Jackson And His Indian Wars

Andrew Jackson And His Indian Wars, by Robert V. Remini

At the beginning of this book, the author states that he doesn’t want to write another book about Andrew Jackson.  I can certainly sympathize with his issue, for this is the third book by the author that touches on the career of Andrew Jackson and like the proverbial advice to a bride on her wedding day, this book has something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.  There are definitely some areas where this book echoes and perhaps even copies the author’s previous writings on Andrew Jackson [1].  There are other areas where the author spends some time dealing with topics that he did not address in either of the first two works about Andrew Jackson that he wrote, going into a great deal of detail about Indian Removal, areas that may greatly sadden many readers who dislike the author’s resolute realism that paints Jackson’s behavior as the most humane possible option for the cultural survival of the civilized tribes of the American South, something that will be difficult for many idealistic readers to accept.  As for me, I found this book to be an appropriate mix of hardheaded realism and detailed historical analysis, and that is something I approve of in general as well as in this particular case.

This book of about 300 pages is divided into seventeen chapters that cover the wide expanse of Andrew Jackson’s dealings over the course of his lives with the indigenous peoples of the United States.  The author begins with the making of an Indian fighter in the rural areas of North and South Carolina (1) and cover his initial experiences as a young man in the militia fighting the Cherokees, Chickasaws and Creeks in Tennessee and the Old Southwest (2).  After this the author talks about the abortive mission to New Orleans that led to Jackson acquiring the nickname Old Hickory (3), Jackson’s leadership during the Creek War (4), and Jackson’s sharp diplomacy that gave him the name “Sharp Knife” after he took half of the land of the Creek in the draconian peace after that war (5).  Jackson’s somewhat inaccurate claim to be the friend and brother of the native peoples (6) as a commissioner to help make peace treaties between the United States and various tribes (7) then follows before the author discusses Jackson’s efforts to cease Florida (8) which triggered the First Seminole War (9).  Jackson’s successful efforts to despoil the Chickasaws (10) and Choctaws (11) precedes a discussion of Jackson’s ultimately successful efforts to be elected President (12).  Several chapters then cover the Indian Removal Act (13), Jackson’s advice to the tribes to move peacefully to the west rather than be overwhelmed by insatiable white demands for land to settle on (14), Jackson’s legal struggles with the Cherokee nation (15), and the costly struggle of the Second Seminole War (16) before the author closes with a fair and balanced discussion of Jackson’s troubled but realistic legacy regarding Native Americans (17).

It is an often-cited but equally often ignored truism that politics is the art of the possible.  Andrew Jackson has fallen under a great deal of contemporary disdain for his tough-minded approach to solving the problem of cultural differences between the indigenous people of North America and the European-American settlers he was a part of by presenting the tribes of the Eastern United States with the choice of either staying and assimilating to the dominant American culture or getting out of the way.  Like the author, I believe that there are no easy answers when it comes to massive cultural divides, and that if there is no assimilation and open conflict is to be avoided that some degree of separation is necessary.  We see the same issue with regards to the contemporary divides within American society, and it is little wonder that people should find it intolerable to be close to those whom they cannot respect and cannot get along with.  If such a thing is true in our own time, how can we condemn Jackson for acting on that truth almost two centuries ago when he served as a racist but hardly cruel and wicked representative of American culture to its native people regarding the troubled relationship between ancestral rights and the irresistible pressures of demography.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, Book Reviews, History, Military History and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Book Review: Andrew Jackson And His Indian Wars

  1. Pingback: Book Review: American Encounters | Edge Induced Cohesion

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