Jacksonland by Steve Inskeep


Steve Inskeep

Harrowing, inspiring, and deeply moving, Steve Inskeep’s Jacksonland is the story of America at a moment of transition.  

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Jacksonland is the thrilling narrative history of two men—President Andrew Jackson and Cherokee chief John Ross—who led their respective nations at a crossroads of American history. Five decades after the Revolutionary War, the United States approached a constitutional crisis. At its center stood two former military comrades locked in a struggle that tested the boundaries of our fledgling democracy. Jacksonland is their story. 

One man we recognize: Andrew Jackson—war hero, populist, and exemplar of the expanding South—whose first major initiative as president instigated the massive expulsion of Native Americans known as the Trail of Tears. The other is a half-forgotten figure: John Ross—a mixed-race Cherokee politician and diplomat—who used the United States’ own legal system and democratic ideals to oppose Jackson. Representing one of the Five Civilized Tribes who had adopted the ways of white settlers—cultivating farms, publishing a newspaper in their own language, and sending children to school—Ross championed the tribes’ cause all the way to the Supreme Court. He gained allies like Senator Henry Clay, Chief Justice John Marshall, and even Davy Crockett. In a fight that seems at once distant and familiar, Ross and his allies made their case in the media, committed civil disobedience, and benefited from the first mass political action by American women. Their struggle contained ominous overtures of later events like the Civil War and set the pattern for modern-day politics. 

At stake in this struggle was the land of the Five Civilized Tribes. In shocking detail, Jacksonland reveals how Jackson, as a general, extracted immense wealth from his own armies’ conquest of native lands. Later, as president, Jackson set in motion the seizure of tens of millions of acres—“Jacksonland”—in today’s Deep South. 

Jacksonland is the work of renowned journalist Steve Inskeep, cohost of NPR’s Morning Edition, who offers here a heart-stopping narrative masterpiece, a tragedy of American history that feels ripped from the headlines in its immediacy, drama, and relevance to our lives. 

Harrowing, inspiring, and deeply moving, Inskeep’s Jacksonland is the story of America at a moment of transition, when the fate of states and nations was decided by the actions of two heroic yet tragically opposed men. 

CANDICE MILLARD, author of Destiny of the Republic and The River of Doubt
“Inskeep tells this, one of the most tragic and transformative stories in American history, in swift, confident, colorful strokes. So well, and so intimately, does he know his subject that the reader comes away feeling as if Jackson and Ross’s epic struggle for the future of their nations took place yesterday rather than nearly two hundred years ago.” 

Advance Galley Reviews

I love history, biographies not so much. Jacksonland started as a tough one for me, but in the end I enjoyed it. I truly never heard of Ross till now. It is always fascinating to learn new old things. The struggle Jackson and Ross had helps paint a picture of the past. It gives meaning to the issues we have today. The writing was a bit dry in places; however, Inskeep makes that up by not being too preachy (which for me is the worst part of biographies). This is a keeper for your nonfiction book collection!

Still working through 'Jacksonland', but it's a compelling read and portrait of both Andrew Jackson and John Ross, the latter of whom I had never learned about in my many American History courses. The way Inskeep captures the hypocrisy of the period is mind-boggling, as well as how both men go about trying to do what they think is right and just.

"It is about my country, which makes it a love story. Of the many ways to show one’s love, one of the best is to tell the truth." This is a controversial story about one of our most beloved Presidents and his adversary John Ross of the Cherokee Nation. Most books gloss over Andrew Jackson's treatment of the American Indian saying it was the way it was in those times, or manifest destiny made it inevitable. This book however takes it on headlong without a helmet. I found this history hard to read sometimes in the real words of Andrew Jackson and his abhorrence of the American Indian as a people. To them he was "the devil" and for good reason. "Even when we won, we lost." John Ross was said to have uttered after the Supreme Court overruled Jackson's removal act because Jackson refused to follow the Supreme Court as the law of the land. While John Ross was no saint to his people, I believe he tried to do his utmost best for them knowing it was a losing cause. Jackson was beloved by the people and his influence was felt decades after his death. I don't think it makes him a good president though as his policies with the Cherokee and other tribes or his banking policies almost destroyed our country while it was still relatively young. This book is well written and I was happy to receive it as part of the Penguin First to Read Program. I highly recommend it to anyone ready to look beyond the myth and seek the truth.

I received an ARC of "Jacksonville" through Penguin's First to Read program. I listen to Steve Inskeep nearly every day on NPR, so I was excited to read his work. The book offers a powerful look at the motives behind both of these men. What I found most inspiring was Ross' leadership and adaptability to the new reality. I'll continue to pick up anything Inskeep writes!

Well written book, it took me a little bit at the start of the book to adjust to it, but i gained a better understanding the more i read, enjoyed it a great deal.

At the beginning, this felt like a side-by-side summary of Ross' and Jackson's lives. Each had a perfunctory chapter towards the beginning to get at their background and what drove their characters. And there was a great deal of discussion of real estate that I didn't catch, not understanding the boundaries that were clearly described but not drawn out. But then after the first 100 pages, the book developed and blossomed into a true biography of an idea -- the baffling democratic (or not-so-democratic) process by which the Trail of Tears came about. It's a model of historical context. Instead of going out of his way to describe small details from the ain player's lives, he describes the social and cultural situation at the time. He introduces us to the characters involved, including the minor ones. What role did the early women's movement play? How was this related to slavery and states' rights and the build up to the Civil War? So this isn't really the story of two men, although they form a nice scaffolding for the story. It's the story of a removal of a people from their homes, an event that was controversial even in its time, and one that split political parties and individuals' consciences. I didn't necessarily expect to learn much that was new to me, but I did pick up a greater understanding of the competing interests surrounding the issue at the time. And, as expected, it was very well written, so the story came through clearly.

This book was great! An illuminating read on a time period in US history that I was unfamiliar with. Inskeep does a great job of keeping the material engaging and detailed without being too tangential.

This book is so rich in the details of the era, and all of the underhanded business that built the country as we know it. I loved every bit of this, and was sad when it ended.

To read Steve Inskeep's JACKSONLAND is to read about one Presidential era while surrounded by the very same underhanded skullduggery that forms America's present-day political fabric. Andrew Jackson is a fascinating character, in large part because of his ancestry. A product of the Ulster Plantation migrated to America in search of religious freedom, he brought with him the same mindset that led to The Troubles and the oppression of Catholics in Ireland for centuries. Land taken by conquest, followed by punitive laws, worked for the British as they took the property of Catholics who refused to give up their faith. And so too did Andrew Jackson set out to take the land of the American Indian nations who happened to be living in a part of the expanding United States that Mr. Jackson wanted for his fellow whites. The book can be dense in places, but it is well worth crawling through the forest of details to get a strong grasp of the underhanded methods employed by the Jacksonians, and the brilliant strategies employed by the Cherokee leader John Ross in doing all he could to stop the land grab. Mr. Inskeep traces the relationship between the two warring parties from its origin, the War of 1812, when American rule over the North American continent was sealed with England's retreat from its former colonies. Andrew Jackson is shown as a ruthless man who would use any tool available to him to achieve his goal, and he used an alliance with the Cherokee in that war to further his own aims. The way in which he then turned on a former ally forms the heart of the tale, and it is not a pretty story. The author does not shy away from presenting a less-than-admirable treatment of the real estate sales that Jackson arranged to his own benefit, making himself wealthy in the process, leaving the natives to an ever-shrinking world. Honesty between whites and Indians was not seen as a necessary component in business transactions for those who saw pots of gold strewn across Cherokee territory. Indeed, the book is a litany of abuse that was accepted by those who believed that they had a right to land. Where the past meets the present is in Jackson's complete disregard for the law, including a refusal to abide by a Supreme Court ruling on the rights of the Cherokee to not be forced off their homeland. JACKSONLAND is a very timely read in this era of political gamesmanship, with various tribes in use as pawns by politicians who seek to retain the power they hold. At the same time it is a history that has its roots in Ireland, where a similar scenario played out and followed the same path charted by another mighty empire that sought to wipe out the existing culture. The book is worth reading for its lessons in history, which tend to repeat because so much of the history has been forgotten. (Dear FTC: My copy of JACKSONLAND was provided by Penguin's First To Read Programme. In case you're wondering.)

I received a digital copy of this book to read through the First to Read program. I enjoyed reading this book. The details of the time and area is rich and rewarding. I almost felt like I was sitting among the background, watching the events take place. Hopefully, this history is not forgotten or repeated.

I am throughly enjoying reading this book. I took several Native Anerican studies classes for my Sociology undergrad. I think this book should be add to UALR required text for those classes. This has enlightened me even more to the plight and struggle of Native Americans. It shows how the greed to force growth brings out the worst in any person no matter what high regard they are held in. The way he writes each event piece by piece gives an accurate depiction of what it was like for Native Americans through Ross. Many may gain a greater understanding by reading this than any History textbook ever gave them.


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