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The Legacy of Andrew Jackson

Essays on Democracy, Indian Removal, and Slavery

by Robert V. Remini

Walter Lynwood Fleming Lectures in Southern History

117 pages / 5.50 x 8.50 inches / no illustrations

American History

  Paperback / 9780807116425 / July 1990

Robert V. Remini is acknowledged to be the nation’s foremost authority on Andrew Jackson. Over the past three decades he has published numerous books on Jackson and his presidency, including a three-volume biography. Although his interpretations can be controversial, his mastery of sources and singular diligence in advancing a revised image of Jackson are universally respected. In his latest book, The Legacy of Andrew Jackson, Remini discusses Jackson’s role in htree areas of particular importance in American history: democracy, Indian removal, and slavery.

Remini’s first essay shows the steadily democratic evolution of the nation beyond its earlier commitment to the ideology of republicanism and the role Andrew Jackson played in that transition. Remini regards Jackson’s contribution to the development of democracy in this country as his most significant legacy and believes that Jackson is not given sufficient credit for his role in that development. According to Remini, few historians fully appreciate Jackson’s extraordinarily liberal views on suffrage, his deep commitment to majority rule, or his strong faith in “the incorruptibility of the people.”

In the second essay Remini argues that Jackson’s legacy regarding Indian removal was not the unmitigatedly evil one that most recent historians have seen ita as. Rather than being motivated by greed, political opportunism, or genocidal mania, Jackson, Remini contends, insisted on removal not only to ensure the nation’s security but also as a humanitarian means of preserving Native American life and culture. The Indians, Jackson sincerely believed, had to be removed if they were to survive with any degree of cultural autonomy. Thus, argues Remini, it was not the motivation but rather the implementation of the removal policy that led to such unnecessary cruelties as the Trail of Tears.

According to Remini’s third essay, the Jackson legacy concerning slavery was also ambivalent. Arguing that a debate over slavery would disrupt the Union, the Jacksonians sought to defuse the issue by excluding it from public debate, claiming that it had been permanently settled by the Constitution’s clear acceptance of slavery. However, Remini argues, Jackson failed to see the explosive potential of the slavery question as a moral issue that would not go away, viewing it rather as a secondary issue raised by such political enemies as John Quincy Adams and John C. Cahhoun to shatter the Union and impede the march of democracy.

The Legacy of Andrew Jackson is a penetrating interpretation of a major American president. Remini’s thoughtful and illuminating essays will be of great interest to historians of the Jackson and to all students of American history. 

Robert V. Remini is the author of eleven books, most recently Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Democracy, winner of the 1984 American Book Award for nonfiction. He is professor of history at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Praise for The Legacy of Andrew Jackson

“The essays are provocative, bold, lively, and essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how, despite significant failings, Jackson really did push American politics in a more democratic direction.”—Journal of American History

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