Andrew Jackson Essay - Critical Context

Margaret L. Coit

Critical Context

Coit’s Andrew Jackson was one of the first attempts by a professional historian to enter the genre of juvenile biography. In the light of its author’s scholarly qualifications, the book’s lack of objectivity is certainly puzzling. Nevertheless, this biography must be judged successful in demonstrating the ability of academic historians to use their talents in the service of young readers. Those teachers and readers who demand that the leaders of the early American republic be treated gingerly will find much to approve of in Andrew Jackson, and those who demand accuracy and honesty from a juvenile biography may nevertheless find themselves recommending this book as an absorbing and informative introduction to its subject.

Andrew Jackson exemplifies a mature, intellectual approach to juvenile biography. The book assumes that young readers have the ability to understand the ideological issues of the first half of the nineteenth century and that they are interested in Jackson’s adult life and the intricacies and negative aspects of presidential campaigning. The pathos of Jackson’s life—his childhood poverty, his early bereavement of both parents, and the loss of his wife at the moment of his greatest political triumph—receives sufficient emphasis.

Although Coit’s Jackson is too close to perfect to be quite real, her approach nevertheless serves noble and useful purposes. Beneath the surface of Andrew Jackson lies a didactic framework, subtle and thus appropriately modern. Coit’s Jackson is a winner in life, but one whose competitive urges served not only himself but also the greater goals of the United States. He won not by superior education or inherited advantages but through his own hard work, indomitable determination, and fighting spirit. Thus, this book stresses “old-fashioned” virtues.