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


A Possible African-American Descendant of Andrew Jackson?

U.S. President Andrew Jackson in 1845, months before his deathA recent correspondent sent me a link to a post on a possible African-American descendant of President Andrew Jackson. I have never heard of the enslaved family from which the correspondent is descended, but in their response to his query, Prof. Henry Lous Gates, Jr., and Katrina Fahy do a good job of examining the available evidence and suggesting further avenues of research.

The claim of being descended from Andrew Jackson isn’t unusual. I’ve written previously about Hannah, an enslaved woman at Jackson’s Hermitage plantation. Some of Hannah’s descendants claim that Jackson fathered at least one of her children, as I noted in this article. It’s a disputed topic that deserves further exploration. That historians haven’t done more work on it is disappointing. I’ve previously attributed much of that inattention to John Spencer Bassett’s influence, but as Dan Feller and the editorial team at the Jackson Papers proceed quickly through Old Hickory’s presidency, it becomes less about Bassett and more about the profession’s unwillingness to grapple with Jackson as anything other than a one-dimensional caricature.

6 Years of Blogging

Hard to believe that it’s been six years since I made my first post.

More than ever, I’m convinced that the Jacksonian period is supremely relevant to understanding today’s United States, especially its politics. Despite Stanley Fish telling historians to keep quiet about modern-day presidential politics, “nobody puts Baby in the corner!”

A Historical Precedent for Dumping a Presidential Candidate

The Republican party is set to nominate Donald J. Trump as its nominee this week. Most signs indicate that a plan to derail the New Yorker’s convention nomination by unbinding delegates, thus freeing them to vote for someone else, will come to naught.

In 1844, another New Yorker discovered that going into a major party’s national convention as the presumptive nominee didn’t necessarily guarantee a victory. Martin Van Buren, who had served one term as president (1837-41), sought to recapture the White House for the Democrats after losing his reelection bid in 1840. Up until the convention met in Baltimore in late May, many Democrats assumed that Van Buren was the likeliest nominee. On the first ballot, in fact, the former president won a simple majority of the votes. Unfortunately for him, the party had passed a rule that required the nominee to win a 2/3s majority. For the next three ballots, Van Buren won a plurality of the votes, but he slowly lost ground to his closest rivals: James Buchanan, Lewis Cass, and Richard M. Johnson, who had been Van Buren’s vice president and had been on the 1840 Democratic ticket with him.

Unknown to Van Buren, work had begun to replace him even before the convention started. In April, the New Yorker had written a public letter disavowing the immediate annexation of Texas. This decision sunk him with his friend, Andrew Jackson, the former president and still-powerful Democratic statesman. In the days and hours leading up to the convention, Jackson met with several politicos, including Tennessee delegate Andrew Jackson Donelson, to find a replacement for Van Buren. He settled quickly on his loyal protegé and fellow Tennessean, James K. Polk. The former U.S. House Speaker was an ardent supporter of Texas’ immediate annexation, and his name had been prominently mentioned as a vice-presidential candidate in 1840 and in the months preceding the 1844 convention.

At Jackson’s direction, several members of the Tennessee delegation, including Donelson and Cave Johnson, worked behind the scenes in Baltimore to effect Polk’s nomination. They waited to orchestrate Polk’s nomination until it became clear that Van Buren did not possess enough votes to win the nomination and that none of the other leading candidates had a chance, either. “Young Hickory,” as he was known, went on to win the fall election against his Whig opponent, Henry Clay.

Of course, the presidential nominating system works differently now. The parties operate according to a system comprised of primaries and caucuses to determine their respective nominees weeks, if not months, before the national conventions meet. Delegates walk into the convention hall bound by rules that discourage or eliminate deviation from the planned pageantry, which is all conventions have proved to be in recent elections.

That doesn’t have to be the case, however. Republicans could take inspiration from the 1844 Democratic convention and decide to dump Trump for a “dark-horse” candidate like Polk. It worked for the Democrats in 1844, but it’s an unlikely occurrence for this year’s Republican party, which seems certain to seal its candidate’s fate in the November election.

This post was inspired by the Spring 2016 senior seminar paper written by Cumberland University student Josh Williams.