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Home » Books » History » United States » Revolutionary Period (1775-1800)

Avenging the People

Andrew Jackson, the Rule of Law, and the American Nation

By J. M. Opal

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Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Published In: United Kingdom, 01 June 2017
Andrew Jackson towered over American life during the second quarter of the nineteenth century, so much so that the period has been dubbed the Jacksonian era. With the passionate support of most voters and their families, he broke through the protocols of the Founding generation, defying constitutional and international norms in the name of the "sovereign people." And yet Jackson's career was no less about limiting that sovereignty, imposing one kind of law over Americans so that they could inflict his sort of "justice" on non-Americans. Jackson made his name along the Carolina and Tennessee frontiers by representing merchants and creditors and serving governors and judges. At times that meant ejecting white squatters from native lands and returning blacks slaves to native planters. Jackson performed such duties in the name of federal authority and the "law of nations." Yet he also survived an undeclared war with Cherokee and Creek fighters between 1792 and 1794, raging at the Washington administration's failure to "avenge the blood" of white colonists who sometimes leaned towards the Spanish Empire rather than the United States. Even under the friendlier presidency of Thomas Jefferson, Jackson chafed at the terms of national loyalty. During the long war in the south and west from 1811 to 1818 he repeatedly brushed aside state and federal restraints on organized violence, citing his deeper obligations to the people's safety within a terrifying world of hostile empires, lurking warriors, and rebellious slaves. By 1819 white Americans knew him as their "great avenger." Drawing from recent literatures on Jackson and the early republic and also from new archival sources, Avenging the People portrays him as a peculiar kind of nationalist for a particular form of nation, a grim and principled man whose grim principles made Americans fearsome in some respects and helpless in others.

About the Author

J.M. Opal is Associate Professor of History at McGill University. He is the author of Beyond the Farm: National Ambitions in Rural New England and the editor of Common Sense and Other Writings by Thomas Paine.

Reviews

"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, author of American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804"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, author of Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution"Jason Opal shows how a violent frontier ruled by vengeance shaped the characters of Andrew Jackson and so many of his countrymen. This vivid, wide-ranging, meticulously documented narrative will fascinate history buffs and scholars alike." --Daniel Walker Howe, author of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848"What a riveting book this is! How is it that Americans, a professedly civilized and peace-loving people, have at times behaved so savagely and even gloried in their savagery? J. M. Opal's provocative take on Jacksonian character rewrites Andrew Jackson not as common-man champion but as avenger-in-chief, the avatar of a nation whose defining trait was not equality or democracy but an unslakable craving for vengeance." --Daniel Feller, University of Tennessee "A timely study of how American democracy set limits on its own egalitarian potential while enacting bloody vengeance against people defined as enemies to American progress." --Kathleen DuVal, author of Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution "A scholarly study of Andrew Jackson's troubling sense of persecution and vindication for the poor, white frontier folk who flocked to his name and legend... Given some of the views of the current occupant of the White House, it is certainly relevant."--Kirkus "A thoroughly researched and quite sophisticated book... Opal's portrait of Jackson and his world is insightful and vividly rendered."--Richard White, Boston Review "A beneficial and comprehensive addition to the discussion of how the United States became what it is today."--Counterpunch "[Opal] certainly has an eye for the telling anecdote and a knack for capturing in a few words the essence of Jackson's vengeful character... Opal also offers a big idea to frame his lively prose. Jackson, he argues, was hardly the thoughtless figure [Richard] Hofstadter described, who believed that might always made him right. Instead, Old Hickory had a more sophisticated view of power: He legitimated his aggression in politics and war by invoking the concept of the rights of sovereign nations."- Michael Kazin, The Nation -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, author of American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804-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, author of Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution-Jason Opal shows how a violent frontier ruled by vengeance shaped the characters of Andrew Jackson and so many of his countrymen. This vivid, wide-ranging, meticulously documented narrative will fascinate history buffs and scholars alike.- --Daniel Walker Howe, author of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848-What a riveting book this is! How is it that Americans, a professedly civilized and peace-loving people, have at times behaved so savagely and even gloried in their savagery? J. M. Opal's provocative take on Jacksonian character rewrites Andrew Jackson not as common-man champion but as avenger-in-chief, the avatar of a nation whose defining trait was not equality or democracy but an unslakable craving for vengeance.- --Daniel Feller, University of Tennessee -A timely study of how American democracy set limits on its own egalitarian potential while enacting bloody vengeance against people defined as enemies to American progress.- --Kathleen DuVal, author of Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution -A scholarly study of Andrew Jackson's troubling sense of persecution and vindication for the poor, white frontier folk who flocked to his name and legend... Given some of the views of the current occupant of the White House, it is certainly relevant.---Kirkus

EAN: 9780199751709
ISBN: 0199751706
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Dimensions: 23.62 x 16 x 3.3 centimetres (0.60 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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