Saturday, October 4, 2008

David S. Reynolds' "Waking Giant"

David S. Reynolds is Distinguished Professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His books include John Brown, Abolitionist, winner of the Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award; Walt Whitman's America, winner of the Bancroft Prize and the Ambassador Book Prize and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Beneath the American Renaissance, winner of the Christian Gauss Award from the Phi Beta Kappa Society.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson represents the book well. As my subtitle indicates, Andrew Jackson is at the heart of my book, which begins in 1815, the year he defeated the British in the Battle of New Orleans, and ends in 1848, three years after his death. Page 99 of Waking Giant features a political cartoon of Andrew Jackson, who is satirically portrayed as “King Andrew the First,” crowned and richly robed as he stands with a scepter in one hand and, in the other, his veto of the recharter bill of the Bank of the United States, with his feet trampling the U. S. Constitution. The cartoon was printed by Jackson’s enemies, who saw him as an oppressive tyrant who sullied the Constitution by asserting his executive powers in his veto of a bill that would have renewed the charter of the national bank. For Jackson, the bank represented moneyed corporations that tyrannized over average people. He enforced this view so determinedly that his foes charged that he, not the bank, was the tyrant. The cartoon captures the aggressiveness that could make Jackson seem like a despot. All the while, however, Jackson was revered by the masses: he was the People’s President to a degree that few other American leaders have been. Not only does the cartoon express the political tensions (anti-Jackson and pro-Jackson) which gave birth to America’s two-party system, but it also captures the paradoxical combination of power and democracy, the extraordinary and the average that made Jackson so representative of that era’s boisterous individualism.
Browse inside Waking Giant, and learn more about the book and author at the publisher's website and David S. Reynolds' faculty webpage.

Read the Wall Street Journal's long article on Waking Giant.

--Marshal Zeringue