The Little Magician Needs You!

The Little Magician Needs You!

As regular readers know, Cumberland University launched the Papers of Martin Van Buren project last February. We have spent the last 13 months working hard to organize the project and begin transcribing Series 1 documents.

In an effort to move the project forward, our state representative has introduced Amendment #59 to the Tennessee Higher Education funding bill (House Bill #0511; Senate Bill #0483), which seeks to provide $250,000 in non-recurring funding for the project. Among other things, these funds will allow us to hire full-time editors and pay students to work on the project.

If you are a Tennessee resident and you think this project is worth supporting with taxpayer money, you can help by calling or emailing your state representative and senator and expressing your support for Amendment #59 to the Tennessee Higher Education funding bill (House Bill #0511; Senate Bill #0483). You can easily find both state representatives and senators at this link.

If you are out of state, your voice likely will not count as much, but the project could still use your support. You can contact Rep. Mark Pody’s office ( or 615-741-7086) or Sen. Mae Beavers’ office ( or 615-741-2421), and express your support for Amendment #59 to the Tennessee Higher Education funding bill (House Bill #0511; Senate Bill #0483).

Projects such as the Van Buren Papers usually cannot survive solely on university funding, so federal or state money is crucial to helping them exist. For a new project such as ours, it’s imperative that we receive some kind of external funding. Your support would be very beneficial, and I would be grateful if you would take a few minutes out of your day to make a phone call or send an email.

Trump’s Visit to The Hermitage

I had the good fortune of spending a couple of days at The Hermitage this week. On Tuesday evening, the Andrew Jackson Foundation premiered its new visitor film. It is a much more visually exciting film than the previous version, and it generally treats Old Hickory positively.

On Wednesday, I returned to the site to witness President Donald Trump’s speech. The crowd was overwhelmingly pro-Trump,  which was not surprising since almost every Republican member of the General Assembly attended. Several men, young and old, dressed in suits wore the now-famous red Trump hats.

I’ve shared my thoughts on the Jackson-Trump comparison several times, so I won’t rehash them here. Interestingly, the president, who mostly read from a prepared speech*, alluded to the comparisons, saying that he knew how Jackson felt about being criticized. While standing in line for the restroom afterwards, two gentlemen behind me were commenting on Trump’s love of Jackson. One of them boldly (and wrongly, according to Jon Meacham and good old common sense) proclaimed that Trump always loved Jackson and had been studying him for years, long before the 2016 campaign.

The speech accurately recounted biographical details of Jackson’s life, although my friend and fellow Jacksonian historian, Dan Feller, and I exchanged puzzled looks when Trump mentioned Jackson passing tariffs to protect American consumers. The president also said that Jackson was a flawed human being who was a product of his time, which surprised me, as did his comment that his administration was working to bring equality to all Americans. What didn’t surprise me was Trump’s assertion that both he and Jackson fought the “arrogant elite.”

I was surprised that Trump sounded tired and old. My colleague, Rick Bell, observed that it may be because of the small crowd (media estimates were 400, which seems high #fakenews) and the venue (open-air seating on the front lawn in front of the main house). Trump seems to feed off of the energy from larger crowds in larger venues; his speech at the evening rally in Nashville was much more enthusiastic and passionate.

Since the speech was fairly banal, there’s not much more to say about it. Trump’s visit to The Hermitage and Nashville elicited a number of responses to his supposed similarities to Jackson, though. Betsy Phillips doesn’t think that Jackson would care much for Trump. Members of the Cherokee Nation denounced the visit, while others have stated that Jackson, a “monster,” should not have been honored, even by a president such as Trump.

Given Trump’s controversial political choices and his embrace, however superficial, of Jackson, it appears that Old Hickory’s life and legacy will continue to be a point of interest over the coming years. Whatever I think of President Trump, I suppose I should be grateful for that.

* My thanks to Marsha Mullin for sending me a link to the full text.

Books for Fall 2017

Introduction to Historical Methods

Conal Furay and Michael J. Salevouris, The Methods and Skills of History: A Practical Guide, 4th ed. (Wiley Blackwell, 2015) ISBN 9781118745441

Mark Gilderhus, History and Historians, 7th ed. (Pearson, 2010) ISBN 9780205687534

Peter Charles Hoffer, Past Imperfect: Facts, Fictions, Fraud American History from Bancroft and Parkman to Ambrose, Bellesiles, Ellis, and Goodwin (PublicAffairs, 2007) ISBN 9781586484453

Jill Lepore, The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle over American History (Princeton Univ. Press, 2011) ISBN 9780691153001

Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 8th ed. (University of Chicago Press, 2013) ISBN 9780226816388

African American History

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau, 2015) ISBN 9780812993547

Walter Johnson, River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom (Harvard Univ. Press 2013) ISBN 9780674045552

Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (Nation Books, 2016) ISBN 9781568585987

Stephanie E. Smallwood, Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora (Harvard Univ. Press, 2008) ISBN 9780674030688

Amy Louise Wood, Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940 (Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2011) ISBN 9780807871973

Another Trump-Jackson Comparison

I’ve written about the Trump-Jackson comparison several times (here, here, and here), so when I was asked to contribute a piece on it to the OAH‘s The American Historian, I took the opportunity to bring together my thoughts into something more coherent than a blog post.

You can read the entire American Historian piece, but here’s the last part of it:

Ultimately, the comparisons fail because the current president-elect is outside of the bounds of traditional American political culture. Whatever we think of Jackson today, he was a military hero who served his country in combat and a politician who (generally) placed the nation’s best interests over his own. Not so with Trump, who will become the nation’s first president without military or political experience and who has repeatedly demonstrated that he cares more about himself than about the American people and what is best for the nation’s future. If history has judged Jackson harshly, it will likely treat Trump with contempt.

Jacksonian America: 2016 in Review

WordPress isn’t generating year-in-review reports this year, so I’m putting together my own.

Total blog views: 55,459

Most active month in views: November (9,807)

Ten most-viewed posts of 2016 (2016 posts in bold):
1. Debunking the Lincoln-Kennedy Federal Reserve Meme 23,022
2. Andrew Jackson’s Profane Parrot 7,001
3. The Man Who Wanted to Kill Andrew Jackson 3,937
4. Was Calvin Coolidge a Klansman? 1,639
5. I Believe Donald Trump 741
6. What Does a History Course on Conspiracy Theories Look Like? 679
7-t. The Tension Between Popular and Academic History 673
7-t. Is Donald Trump: A Modern-Day Andrew Jackson? New Thoughts 673
9. Donald Trump: A Modern-Day Andrew Jackson? 634
10. Were Tariffs the Cause of the Civil War? 446

2d. Edition of Historical Dictionary of Jacksonian Era & Manifest Destiny Now Available

hdjemd-book-coverYesterday, I received my personal copies of the 2d. edition of the Historical Dictionary of the Jacksonian Era and Manifest Destiny. Terry Corps, the original editor, did an incredible job of providing a nearly comprehensive list of entries for important people, places, and events. For the second edition, I filled in some of the few gaps in political and legal history and added a substantial number of entries in the gender, labor, and literary fields. I also updated the bibliography with the newest and most important works that address the era.

Like most reference books, this one is pricey, but I hope you will ask your library to order a copy.

Andrew Jackson, Southerner Now Available as an Audiobook

Andrew Jackson, Southerner - CoverPlanning a holiday road trip? Flying across the country to surprise your parents on Christmas morning? Tired of listening to “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer?”

I bring you good tidings of great joy: The audiobook of Andrew Jackson, Southerner is out just in time for the holidays. You can even listen to a sample.

Did Andrew Jackson Really Hate the British?

Two years ago, I had the opportunity to present a paper at a symposium commemorating the bicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans. The papers from that symposium have now been published in a new book, The Battle of New Orleans in History and Memory (LSU Press).

The table of contents gives you some idea of the variety of topics covered by the essays:

Introduction by Laura Lyons McLemore

  1. “What We Know That Ain’t So”: Myths of the War of 1812 (Donald R. Hickey)
  2. “I Owe to Britain a Debt of Retaliatory Vengeance”: Assessing Andrew Jackson’s Hatred of the British (Mark R. Cheathem)
  3. “The Dreams of Empire”: The War of 1812 in an International Context (Alexander Mikaberidze)
  4. Objects of Scorn: Remembering African Americans and the War of 1812 (Gene Allen Smith)
  5. In Defense of Liberty: The Battalion d’Orleans and Its Battle for New Orleans (Paul Gelpi)
  6. Lessons Learned from the War of 1812 for the US Military in the Twenty-First Century (Blake Dunnavent)
  7. One Hundred Years of Hickory and Cotton Bales: The Battle of New Orleans Centennial Celebration (Joseph F. Stoltz III)
  8. Continually Heroic: Portraying Andrew Jackson through Classical and Contemporary Heroic Devices (Leslie Gregory Gruesbeck)
  9. The Battle of New Orleans in Popular Music and Culture (Tracey E. W. Laird)

My own contribution examines the commonly held idea that Jackson possessed a lifelong hatred of the British. In the essay, I traced the historiographical and popular development of this claim, then examined the historical evidence, including Jackson’s own writings. Like most history, the idea that Old Hickory saw red when he thought about the British seems to be mostly myth, with some truth mixed in.

I Believe Donald Trump

I have been a lifelong Republican. While I have voted for Democrats on the local and state levels, I cast my vote for Republican presidential candidates from 1996 on: Dole, Bush (2xs), McCain, and Romney. This year, I voted for Hillary Clinton. Why? Because I believe Donald Trump.

I believe Trump when he says that he will require all Muslims to register with the government.

I believe Trump when he says that he was able to “get away” with “inspecting” nude women and teenage girls competing in beauty pageants.

I believe Trump when he says that he wants his supporters to be violent and doesn’t condemn them when they follow through.

I believe Trump when he says that he thinks Mexicans who come to the U.S. are criminals, rapists, and drug dealers.

I believe Trump when he says that he doesn’t respect veterans, including deceased Purple Heart and Bronze Star awardee Humayun Khan and Vietnam War veteran and former Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

I believe Trump when he says that he can sexually assault women and get away with it because he’s a star.

I believe Trump when he says he will torture prisoners and kill their families.

I believe Trump when he says that he admires Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

I believe Trump when he said that he would only accept the election results if he won.

I believe Trump when he said that he believes the president of the United States founded ISIS and wasn’t a U.S. citizen.

I believe Trump when he doesn’t condemn the racism among his supporters.

I believe Trump when he says that he doesn’t support the freedom of the press encapsulated in the First Amendment.

I believe Trump when he empowers conspiracy theorists such as Roger Stone and Alex Jones.

I believe that Trump the presidential candidate meant what he said (and what he didn’t say), and there’s no reason to think that President-elect Trump will pivot once he’s in office.

[Note: This piece helped me crystallize my feelings about Trump.]

Books for Spring 2017 Courses

Introduction to Documentary Editing

Mary-Jo Kline and Susan Holbrook Perdue, A Guide to Documentary Editing, 3rd. ed.  (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008)–Available for free online at the link

Ted Widmer, Martin Van Buren (Times Books, 2004) ISBN 978-0805069228

Old South

Bruce Baker, What Reconstruction Meant: Historical Memory in the American South (Univ. of Virginia Press, 2009) ISBN 9780813928777

Edward Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (Basic Books, 2016) ISBN 9780465049660

Richard Follett et al., Plantation Kingdom: The American South and Its Global Commodities (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2016) ISBN 9781421419404

Nancy Isenberg, White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America (Viking, 2016) ISBN 9780670785971