Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Opal on "Andrew Jackson, the Rule of Law, and the American Nation"

New from Oxford University Press: Avenging the People: Andrew Jackson, the Rule of Law, and the American Nation, by J. M. Opal (McGill University). A description from the Press:
Most Americans know Andrew Jackson as a frontier rebel against political and diplomatic norms, a "populist" champion of ordinary people against the elitist legacy of the Founding Fathers. Many date the onset of American democracy to his 1829 inauguration.

Despite his reverence for the "sovereign people," however, Jackson spent much of his career limiting that sovereignty, imposing new and often unpopular legal regimes over American lands and markets. He made his name as a lawyer, businessman, and official along the Carolina and Tennessee frontiers, at times ejecting white squatters from native lands and returning slaves to native planters in the name of federal authority and international law. On the other hand, he waged total war on the Cherokees and Creeks who terrorized western settlements and raged at the national statesmen who refused to "avenge the blood" of innocent colonists. During the long war in the south and west from 1811 to 1818 he brushed aside legal restraints on holy genocide and mass retaliation, presenting himself as the only man who would protect white families from hostile empires, "heathen" warriors, and rebellious slaves. He became a towering hero to those who saw the United States as uniquely lawful and victimized. And he used that legend to beat back a range of political, economic, and moral alternatives for the republican future.

Drawing from new evidence about Jackson and the southern frontiers, Avenging the People boldly reinterprets the grim and principled man whose version of American nationhood continues to shape American democracy.
A few blurbs:
"Many Americans long for a strong man to lead the nation and avenge their grievances. In this eloquent book, Jason Opal astutely and vividly recovers the backstory to that longing in the personal charisma, frontier violence, legal reasoning, and assertive self-righteousness of Andrew Jackson and his America." --Alan Taylor

"If you think there can't be much more to say about Andrew Jackson, you will share my excitement at how much Jason Opal has discovered. In his subject's diverse hatreds, against Whigs and Indians, Britons and bankers, Opal has found a unifying thread--Jackson's obsession with revenge--that helps to explain them all." --Woody Holton
More information is available here.