Monday, November 15, 2010

A. J. Langguth's "Driven West"

A. J. Langguth is professor emeritus of journalism in the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California. His books include Union: 1812, Patriots: The Men Who Started the American Revolution, and Our Vietnam: The War, 1954-1975.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Driven West: Andrew Jackson and the Trail of Tears to the Civil War, and reported the following:
Sam Houston, an aide to Andrew Jackson, had just shown Jackson a letter proving that his running-mate for the presidency, John Calhoun, had once urged James Monroe's cabinet to censure Jackson for his earlier military adventures in Florida.

From page 99:
Reading of Calhoun's duplicity set off one of Jackson's rages: "It smelled so much of deception," Jackson said, "that my hair stood on end for one hour."

In that quote and in the many others from the book, it's Jackson's insistence on the specific detail ("for one hour") that helps to bring him to life for me. When he was consoling the wife of his Secretary of War for being the target of sexual innuendo in the capital, Jackson said, "I tell you, Margaret, I had rather have live vermin on my back than the tongue of one of these Washington women."

Jackson often reminds me of Lyndon Johnson, also adept with a trenchant phrase. But the judgment on their presidencies is very different, and I think unfair. LBJ's towering achievements have been blighted by the Vietnam War, while Jackson usually has been forgiven for his slaves, for his ruinous economic policies and for forcing the Cherokee Nation at bayonet point down the Trail of Tears.
Learn more about Driven West at the Simon & Schuster website, and visit A.J. Langguth's website.

--Marshal Zeringue