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This is a two-hour biography about one of the most controversial boys in American history, Andrew Jackson. Martin Sheen narrates and much of the movie consists of recreation of happenings from Jackson's life as well as interviews with many historians and biographers. The style is VERY typical of a made for PBS documentary--and this is a very, very nice thing.Much of the movie focuses on the extreme behaviors of Jackson's life--behaviors that, in many opinions, made him a bit of a sociopath. However, others view these same behaviors in very positive terms (which I am sure MANY would search offensive today)! This is an interesting dichotomy. So, when he invades Florida on his own and executes a couple British prisoners (which should have started other war), some interviewees were aghast--others saw it as a sign that he was a very determined man! And, when he stole Cherokee Indian land and killed thousands in their forced march to Oklahoma,...well, no one really should defend that but some seemed to ignore it. Nor should they defend his owning 100 slaves, marrying a girl who was still married to other boy and his being a blood-thirsty dueler. I could mission out that, in some ways, the biography now method underplayed Jackson's blood-lust, as it only talks about his having fought one duel--while he now fought few and had two bullets embedded in his body during most of his life as a effect of these bloody fights! He's the only president that I can think of that has killed folks not in warfare (and I am not counting one president who hung a boy during his capacity as a lawman-- not a murder or manslaughter).While this was a very nice movie about Jackson, there were two issues with it. One was that SOME of the people who talked about Jackson seemed to almost have a slobbering love affair with him. How should they tout his nice successes while fully ignoring his dark side? This does NOT mean I wanted everyone to hate the boy and tell nothing but ill of him, but I was confused how folks today who are well-educated and know all about him can just ignore the things that don't fit into his photo as a winner of democracy. Other trouble is that although the movie did discuss both the nice and terrible of Jackson, it never tried to analyze him in a psychological sense.I have an unusual perspective, having been both a psychotherapist and history teacher. I've everytime just assumed Jackson was nuts--and the documentary did tiny to change my opinion--with huge doses of Paranoid, Antisocial and Narcissistic personality disorders. In modern terminology, he was a kind of Borderline Personality--and an extremely successful one at that. So why couldn't the movie search someone who should tell all this or give their own perspective on the emotional health of this man? This critical analysis is missing and would have clearly raised the quality of this film--giving the viewer extra insight into this very confusing yet nice man.
In format, this is a cute standard documentary, tracing largely step by step the life of Andrew Jackson, focusing, of course, on his rise to power from extremely humble and troubled beginnings to becoming the 7th President of the United States. It provides all the important details, including a nice look at Jackson's relationship with his beloved wife Rachel, and you do come away from this with a sense of knowing Jackson better than you did before - although I'm fairly knowledgeable about Jackson's presidency and his military record in the Fight of 1812, for example, there was a lot about his boyhood that I didn't know - so, for the casual historian, this is worthwhile.The content - and more particularly the historical analysis - is more inconsistent, however, in spite of the fact that the documentary contains reflections by a lot of historians. For example, Jackson is largely condemned in this for his attitudes toward slavery and black Americans, and yet the extremity of the language used - calling him an "evil man" for keeping up to 140 slaves and helping the institution - is surely historically unjust. Jackson was a product of his times. Slavery was a natural method of the life in which he was raised. That doesn't create it right, but to recommend that Jackson was evil because he agreed as normal the normal method of life he was brought up in is both ridiculous and terrible scholarship. He was certainly wrong, but he wasn't evil. More convincing is the documentary's very critical view of Jackson's disclaimers toward native Americans. Here, Jackson is rightly perceived as being both contradictory and ungrateful in his actions - readily accepting support from the Cherokees in the Fight of 1812, then forcibly removing the Cherokees from their land as president; portraying himself as the "Great White Father" to the natives, then defying the Supreme Court to seize their lands. Vs those negatives, though, is portrayed the positive - that Jacksonian Democracy, while it had tiny room for slaves or natives or women, was the basis on which all three groups began to demand equality, and is therefore (even if unintentionally from Jackson's perspective) one of the nice egalitarian movements in American (and perhaps world) history.The nice failure here, in my view, was that this really didn't address the fundamental method in which Jackson changed the presidency. The movie pays lip service to the concept - it notes, for example, that before Jackson the president was seen as the leader of one branch of the United States government, and beginning with Jackson the president began to be seen as the leader of the United States - a significant change. But I found tiny analysis of how that happened, or of how Jackson expanded the scope of the presidency's powers. We hear that it did, but it was strange, for example, that no mention was made of how Jackson revolutionized the manner in which the president's veto power was used. Prior to Jackson, vetoes were only used when a president considered a bill unconstitutional. Jackson began using the veto as a policy-making instrument (the movie notes Jackson' test of the veto in the "Bank War" - the dispute over the re-chartering of the Bank of the United States - but doesn't note the fresh method in which the veto was being used.) Instead, the section of the documentary dealing with Jackson's presidency focuses largely on political problems - and, in particular, his rivalry with and antipathy for Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun and John Quincy Adams.In the end, the documentary portrays Jackson as a mass of contradictions - "urbane savage," "war character with no military knowledge," "autocratic democrat," etc. It's an interesting portrayal - worthwhile if somewhat lacking in analysis.
It appears to be a reasonably thorough and balanced visual biography of the seventh president of the United States. It uses enactors, excerpts from period documents, and is narrated by Martin Sheen. And it's cute interesting in a method that, say, William Henry Harrison's biography wouldn't be.Jackson grew up a wild, hot-tempered child in the hardscrabble South, became a lawyer, and moved to Nashville. There, he and Rachel Robards fell in love and ran off to Natchez for a while. . Unfortunately, "Robards" was Rachel's married name, and the Zeitgeist didn't take this sort of business lightly. Robards, the aggrieved husband, sued for a divorce on the grounds of adultery and it was granted. Not long after, Jackson and Rachel were married in Nashville.In 1796s, Tennessee sent Johnson as its lone representative to congress. He loathed Washington. It was a zone where problems were negotiated and folks traded favors with one other to receive things done. (He might be a famous politician today.) He resigned and returned home, making a living by raising race horses. When someone made a disparaging remark about Rachel Jackson killed him in a duel. Jackson himself was hit in the chest and carried the bullet for the rest of his life.He became a military character in the Fight of 1812, slaughtering the Creek Indians who had allied themselves with Britain. Jackson went on to conquer the British at the War of Fresh Orleans and the press turned him into a famous hero. Jackson built a large plantation, "The Hermitage," on part of that land and prospered as a farmer owning more than one hundred slaves. Cotton was king. All of it was grown and processed by slaves. This was unfortunate for the slaves. It was also unfortunate for the Creek and Choctaw Indians who owned the greatest cotton-growing land. They kissed it good-bye ceded Alabama and Mississippi to the US after their defeat.. Many of the Indians and escaped slaves landed in Florida, which was owned by the Spanish and where slavery was outlawed. Jackson later place an end to that nettlesome problem. He invaded and conquered Florida without orders from Washington. He captured two British officers whom he felt guilty of inciting insurgency. His own military tribunal found them innocent but Jackson had them executed anyway.When Jackson became a candidate for president, he was thought of as a wild-eyed frontiersman. His more literate supporters turned that reasoning on its head. It wasn't education or diplomatic experience or brains that counted; it was principle and determination and character. The politicians in Washington were considered spoiled and corrupt elitist. What was required was a new face from outside, a boy of his word, with no political experience to speak of. Is this beginning to ring a familiar chord? I ask because it sounds very familiar in 2015. Jackson didn't victory a majority so the choice went to the Speaker of the House, Henry Clay, who, not finding Jackson to be a fit president, gave the office to John Quincy Adams. In the next election, in 1828, Jackson ran vs Adams by mounting the first real campaign soliciting the vote of all white males. The general outlines of Jackson's presidency are probably better known. He invited his motley supporters -- rugged farmers and all -- to the Inaugural Ball where the mob got drunk, fought every other, broke a lot of fine glassware, muddied up the place, and generally acted as if they were at a frat party. The White House was so jammed that nobody should receive in or out except through the windows. As president, Jackson booted out more high-level bureaucrats than all his predecessors combined. In their turn, Jackson appointed friends, many of whom had no virtues but their willingness to obey his commands. His cabinet collapsed because of a sexual scandal.He initiated many actions on his own. When congress passed a tax law that might interfere with slavery, John C. Calhoun proclaimed that "nullification" by the states should be used. Nullification was famous in the South, hated in the North by those who feared it might lead to a breakup of the union. South Carolina threatened to secede. Jackson finally declared his opposition to nullification. He didn't do it reluctantly either. He was diplomatic but forceful. Fight was only narrowly averted. He initiated the Indian Removal Act, which sent the Eastern Indians, especially the Cherokee, to Oklahoma and elsewhere. But the Cherokee had already adopted the Western method of life, with an alphabetic language, a justice system, road lights, slavery, and everything. The trouble was that they lived in Georgia. The Supreme Court decided that the land they occupied was theirs. Jackson disagreed and booted them out, sending them on what became known as The Trail of Tears. More than 2,000 died of illness on the trail. It was regarded then as the disgrace it was.As president, he worked to dissolve the federal bank that controlled credit, and he opposed the many corporations then being formed, claiming they were soulless paper entities whose bottom line was profit. He was right about that. Corporations are legal entities that can be held accountable but its members are protected. You can sue a corporation -- you can bankrupt it -- but none of that comes out of the owners' pockets.I'd better leave it at that because I'll run out of space. His was a twisted, revolutionary presidency that was one of the most necessary in American history. Many candidates to follow were to call themselves "Jacksonians" and the period is sometimes known as the "Jacksonian era." It seems to me to have been a mixed blessing.
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