A Cumberland University professor’s recently released book looks at one of Tennessee’s most famous figures from a new perspective.
Mark Cheathem’s book, “Andrew Jackson: Southerner,” looks at how Jackson’s Southern identity affected his actions on the national stage.
“Jackson [did] a lot of things, both as a general and as a president, that are tied very closely to his Southernness,” said Cheathem.
He said the book looks at how Jackson at times made decisions that weren’t altogether just for the benefit of the nation.
Cheathem cited Jackson’s decision to take Native American land after the War of 1812. He said that while part of the decision was likely for national security, it wasn’t entirely so.
He noted that Jackson owned hundreds of slaves and multiple plantations in Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama.
“He want[ed] to protect white society that was developing in what became the ‘Cotton South,” said Cheathem. “He’s also doing it because there [was] a personal benefit to him.”
Cheathem said his interest in Andrew Jackson started while he was an undergraduate student at Cumberland.
“I had a history professor here by the name of Monty Pope who encouraged me to go work at The Hermitage one summer,” said Cheathem.
As a tour guide, Cheathem became fascinated by Jackson’s complexity.
“That’s what makes Jackson so fascinating – he is ‘warts and all,’” said Cheathem. “He’s not very good at disguising his flaws.”
Cheathem admitted that in the realm of Jackson biographies, competition is fierce: there are several biographies already out there, and many are award-winning.
“There are so many Jackson biographies out there…trying to compete with those biographies was a pretty daunting challenge from the beginning,” said Cheathem. “If I didn’t have something new to say, it wouldn’t have a chance.”
But despite the number of biographies out there, none had looked at Jackson quite from this angle.
“No other historian has looked at him as a Southerner; they usually rush past that to talk about him as a president and as someone who supported democracy early on,” said Cheathem.
He said that although he targeted the book largely toward college students and professors, he also targeted a general audience.
“The length of the book is pretty manageable for most people, and I wrote it in a style that is pretty accessible,” said Cheathem. “Most people could sit down in a weekend [and finish it].”
The Hermitage will hold an official book release event Nov. 16, but the book is already available on Cheathem’s website, jacksonianamerica.com, and through the major online book retailers, such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Signed copies are also available at the Cumberland University bookstore, and The Hermitage will carry it in its gift shop.
Cheathem said his next two projects are a book on the origins of the Jacksonian Democratic party and a book on the presidential election of 1840 and how that election helped create today’s American political culture.