Final 298 Research Paper

Jarod Markle

Forgotten First Ladies: Rachel Jackson and Gender Norms in Pre-Jacksonian America

Due to his prominence in United States history, whether it be horrific events like that of the Trail of Tears, or simply his two terms in the American Presidency, Andrew Jackson has become a controversial figure in American society.  That controversy has cemented the seventh President in the American collective consciousness.  His wife Rachel, however, does not share the same popularity.  The remembrance of American first ladies is highly variable.  Some—like Abigail Adams, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Jacqueline Kennedy—share a spotlight in the historical records alongside their husbands, but these first ladies are typically remembered for political contributions.  Unfortunately, not all first ladies share this level of popularity, and Rachel Jackson is one of those unrepresented first ladies due to the limiting gender norms of her time.  Therefore, in this paper I will argue that despite her lack of prominence in public roles like more popular first ladies, Rachel Jackson’s place in reflecting gender relations of Southern upper-middle class families in the early 1800s deserves greater attention among historians, particularly those who study gender norms. As I will show, her letters to and from her husband, Andrew, qualify Rachel for similar popularity and attention that has been given to other first ladies in United States histories.  While her political prominence was nonexistent, these letters are a prime example of gender relations from 1813-1830, and therefore, they deserve more attention from historians.

The historical record of the Jacksons is home to an ongoing debate of the importance of Rachel’s influence on her husband.  When Rachel has been included in the historical narrative, it has been in an attempt to detail the motivations of her husband; however, there have been many historians that exclude Rachel from Andrew’s story entirely.  Typically, Rachel has been included in histories concerned with the Presidential election of 1828, which saw her name slandered by John Quincy Adams in an attempt to secure his second term in the Presidency and resulted in Rachel’s death, and the Peggy Eaton Affair, which resulted in Andrew Jackson firing his entire cabinet after one of the cabinet wives in his administration received hate that mirrored the previously mentioned slander Rachel experienced.  Beyond these two events, Jacksonian historians have focused on Andrew Jackson’s military career, economic policies, his role in the Trail of Tears, and his administration, while paying little to no attention to Rachel’s impact on his life.  Needless to say, sources focused on Rachel Jackson’s display of gender relations in her time and region are uncommon as they prioritize Rachel instead of her husband.

However, seen from a broader social and cultural perspective, Rachel Jackson’s role in American history comes into much sharper focus. For example, one of the biggest movements in the early 1800s was the Cult of Domesticity.  This belief set dictated the way middle-class women acted both in public and in private.  The main point of the Cult of Domesticity was that the mother was in charge of the children and the household duties; however the mother’s did not get to decide their priorities in parenting.  A mother parenting under the Cult of Domesticity was specifically responsible for raising good Christian children.  Furthermore, there were social aspects to the mindset as mothers were expected to display certain symbols and behavior patterns in their homes, especially when entertaining guests.  The state of the home was seen as the state of the family’s morality.  This movement also placed a new focus on those in poverty.  As the Second Great Awakening swept the United States in the early 1800s, Protestants, the religious group that most commonly adhered to the Cult of Domesticity, grew more convinced that any soul could be saved if it accepted Christianity, and so adoptions of the impoverished became more commonplace among middle class families.  From 1800-1850, the Cult of Domesticity penetrated the lives and priorities of millions throughout the United States and determined the role of women in middle class society.

The Jacksons were not exempt from the rapidly spreading movement that was the Cult of Domesticity.  Nowhere is this more evident than Rachel’s letters to her husband between the years of 1813-1814.  Though Andrew Jackson was fifteen years away from the Presidency, these letters provide insight into the couple’s relationship dynamic. The setting behind the letters themselves give insight into how the Cult of Domesticity impacted the couple’s relationship.  The letters from Rachel were written while her husband was stationed in Mississippi; therefore, Rachel was writing from where she was expected to be, inside their Tennessee home while Andrew worked outside of it.  However, the contents of the letters also reflected the ideas of the Cult of Domesticity.  In each letter Rachel mentioned the status of their children along with the occasional anecdote detailing the upbringing of said children.  The unbalanced gender roles, in terms of raising children, were prevalent in these stories.  The majority of the stories involved Rachel having to comfort her children because of their father’s absence.  This also ties into the motherly role of raising good Christian children as Rachel also includes mentions of “God,” “prayer,” “angels,” and “grace” in all of her letters.  It is clear that many people deemed Rachel’s household a moral one because her letters also always include information and news of the Jackson family’s wide variety of friends.  The Jackson’s had an extensive network of friends and their approval of the Jacksons’ home reinforces the idea that Rachel adhered to the Cult of Domesticity.  All of Andrew and Rachel’s children were adopted as well.  The true reason remains uncertain, but the choice to adopt matches the beliefs of the Cult of Domesticity and improves the image of the Jacksons as well.

Rachel may have been motivated to adhere to the Cult of Domesticity due to the expectations of her husband.  A common trend in Andrew’s letters to Rachel was that she was responsible for duties within the home, and he was responsible for the external jobs.  All of Andrew’s letters discuss his military life, an external affair, and some also discuss the management of the plantation.  Andrew had the final say on the selling of his plantation’s crops even though he was away at war.  All other external duties on the plantation were left to the Overseer.  Andrew explicitly gave instructions for the unnamed Overseer to attend to Rachel and the future president was distraught to learn his employee had not been doing so.  The Overseer’s position was to ensure Rachel could focus on her responsibilities within the home.  These responsibilities, as outlined by Andrew, mirrored the Cult of Domesticity.  Andrew Jackson ended every letter to his wife with instructions for the children, most often Andrew Jr. whom they had adopted five years prior.  While these instructions were kind hearted, whether it be to kiss the children or have them write to him, the implication was that Rachel was to fill the nurturing role, or in other words, Rachel was raising the children.  This role, as detailed above, was a defining factor of the Cult of Domesticity.

Another movement also swept through the United States during the spread of the Cult of Domesticity and offers context of Rachel’s roles within the household based on her gender.  This sweeping movement was known as Romanticism.  The main point of Romantic beliefs was to restore full cultural dominance to men.  Originating first in Britain before it spread to the United States in the early 1800s, Romanticism encouraged “hyper-femininity” in women.  In other words, women were expected to act with heightened emotions.  It was believed that women that did not exhibit signs of hyper-femininity were subject to infertility and manic episodes.  If a woman exceeded her intellectual or physical limits, she may become useless to her society as the Cult of Domesticity dictated women’s purpose was to raise children.  It is important to note that these limits were determined by male doctors.  To continue, a woman was seen as valued if a man showed sexual interest in her, but there was a caveat: a woman could only give her heart away once.  In order to attract their true love, single women in the early 1800s attempted to appear as innocent as possible to avoid judgements of infertility, as physical and mental scarring was believed to negatively affect women’s fertility.  These medical and social myths were supported by countless medical journals in both Britain and the United States for approximately 200 years.  In this time, Romantic beliefs and characteristics permeated both British and American societies.

These traits manifested themselves in Rachel Jackson’s letters as well.  Rachel’s hyper-femininity was shown through the excessive concern she expressed for Andrew in each of her letters.  This heightened emotion was displayed specifically in a letter to her husband where Rachel responds to Andrew’s description of a battle scene as detailed in an earlier letter.  Rachel claimed the horror of the scene stuck in her mind, made her cry aloud, and caused sleep to elude her.  Of course the battle had threatened the life of her husband, and while she did obviously care for her husband, her reaction did not match the result of the battle.  When the smoke had cleared, Andrew Jackson was unharmed and had won the day by leading his soldiers in a successful defense of their position.  This is not to say Rachel’s response was entirely illogical, but her letter did reflect the gender norms outlined by Romanticism.  By responding with heightened emotion, Rachel practiced hyper-femininity, while her horrified response to fighting also reinforced the belief that women were physically weak.  This harsh reaction to battle also displayed Rachel’s innocence to her husband, as previously mentioned, this was how women endeared themselves to men.  Another reason Rachel may have been fearful of war was the threat of scarring.  Women with physical scars were also judged as infertile, so if Rachel was truly as empathetic as her response suggests, fear of her own scarring may have also motivated her emotional response.  Another reason Rachel may have responded so fearfully to Andrew’s description was the fear of becoming a widow.  While obviously the vast majority of wives would prefer not to lose their husband, Romanticism did give Rachel more to lose than women of other eras while also proving her an outlet to express those intense emotions.  Under Romanticism, society had determined that women could only give their hearts to a man one time in their lives; therefore, if Andrew Jackson were to die in battle, Rachel would be expected to never remarry.  This threat of seemingly endless loneliness may have also contributed to Rachel’s inability to sleep.  Regardless of speculation, Rachel’s response expressed hyper-femininity, as was common in the Romantic Era, and further consideration of society’s expectations during the era rationalizes Rachel’s worries.

Rachel’s exhibition of Romanticism did, however, extend beyond a single letter.  Rachel ended the majority of her letters with the following phrase: “Your faithfull [sic] wife untill [sic] death.”  The wording of Rachel’s closing statement implies a subservience to her husband considering he closed his letters with the simple: “Your affectionate husband.”  Furthermore, the way Rachel chose to end her letters reflects the ideal of Romanticism, specifically the part dictating a woman could only give her heart to a man one time in her life.  Therefore, each of Rachel’s letters to her husband ended with a final reminder of her subservience to Andrew, thus mirroring Romantic Era characteristics.

While women’s behavior was impacted by the Romantic Era, those behaviors were influenced by male expectations, such was the case with the Jacksons.  Andrew’s insistence on having Rachel cared for by an overseer, in addition to reflecting the gender roles of the Cult of Domesticity, had Romantic Era implications as well.  While Rachel was expected to perform her duties inside the home, the outrage Andrew expresses when he learned his overseer had not been providing Rachel ample attention suggests a deeper frustration.  Andrew’s dissatisfaction did align with Romantic Era expectations towards women.  Romanticism dictated that a woman was in poor health unless provided social and medical attention by men.  Therefore, Andrew’s frustration with his overseer was the result of how he perceived his wife: she was in need of a man’s assistantence.  Moreover, Andrew trusted his wife enough to leave her under the attention of another man.  This trustworthiness reflects Andrew’s expectations of his wife.  By leaving Rachel with the Overseer of the family plantation, Andrew expected his wife to follow the one love trait of Romanticism, suggesting Andrew found his wife to be a moral spouse as defined in their society by the Romanticism movement.

The varying expectations between the Jacksons can also be seen in other exchanges between the couple.  Specifically, the expectations of travel favor the husband as was common during the Romantic Era.  In an 1813 letter, Andrew urged his wife to come visit him at Fort Stuther, which is located in modern day Alabama, despite the Jackson plantation being located in Tennessee.  Jackson’s diction was particularly important as he wrote, “I will send for you.”  Andrew’s wording was more commanding rather than inviting and gave little importance to Rachel’s preference of interstate travel.  These actions of superiority continue in an 1824 letter from Andrew in which he has been invited to visit a friend in Philadelphia.  Andrew wrote of his acceptance of the invitation, implying he would travel from Washington D.C., where his letter was mailed from, to Philadelphia for leisure. Both of the Jacksons claimed to dearly miss one another in their letters, but Andrew never wrote about going out of his way to see his wife.  Of course the career of a General during wartime was demanding, but the implication of gendered expectations remains.  Rachel was expected to visit Andrew with urgency, while Andrew made time to visit acquaintances in other cities while appearing to not make those same sacrifices for his family.  Therefore, the Jacksons further reinforce the wife’s subservience to the husband, a common aspect of relationship dynamics in the Romantic Era.

The internalization of women under the Cult of Domesticity and modern misconceptions of the weakness of Romantic era women are possible explanations for the inconsistent coverage of first ladies in the historic record.  While commonly remembered first ladies like Abigail Adams were known for attempting to sway their husbands political opinions, first ladies like Rachel Jackson were more concerned with fulfilling their duties inside the home and meeting the expectations of their husbands and societies. Even less popular first ladies like Laura Bush have pushed to improve women’s rights in the United States, and these women have been remembered for their political contributions. While these women still hold an important place in history, the historians that focus primarily on politics when discussing first ladies have only helped to perpetuate the myth that history is a subject of politics.  As fields like gender focused histories gain recognition, this myth loses credibility.  Therefore, as new fields of history evolve the subject as a whole, coverage of first ladies who lived during the Era of the Cult of Domesticity and Romanticism gain more importance to history.  First ladies like Rachel Jackson typically have more surviving documents than average women of the time; therefore, first ladies are a great source of gender relations information for not only the Jacksonian Era, but for all of United States history.  The current lack of coverage of Rachel Jackson not only implies that she did not matter, but also that multiple generations of women did not matter simply because they lived their lives in accordance to popular movements like the Cult of Domesticity and Romanticism, which is of course illogical.  Women of the Jacksonian era are just as useful to the historic record as women that were part of more outspoken societies like that of Abigail Adams and Laura Bush.  Gender relations and first ladies are a combination that is primed for further research, historians only need to alter their focus. 

The letters between Rachel and Andrew Jackson mirror popular gender roles and expectations of the early to mid 1800s, and while Rachel may not have been as politically active as more renowned first ladies, by exemplifying gender norms of her era, she does have a significant importance to the historic record that has gone unrealized.  The current historic climate implies a lack of importance to approximately fifty years of women’s history and gender studies.  Therefore, historians that conduct further research into this topic could benefit from the lack of coverage that betrays Rachel’s legacy. 

Bibliography

Primary Sources:

Jackson, Andrew, and Rachel Donelson. Andrew Jackson Papers. Washington D.C.: Library of Congress, n.d. https://www.loc.gov/resource/maj.01016_0340_0342/?sp=1&st=text.

Secondary Sources:

Abram, Susan M. Forging a Cherokee-American Alliance in the Creek War: From Creation to Betrayal. Tuscaloosa, AL: University Alabama Press, 2015.

Adams, Abigail, John Adams, and L. H. Butterfield. The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family 1762-1784. 4th ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1976.

Basch, Norma. “Marriage, Morals, and Politics in the Election of 1828.” The Journal of American History 80, no. 3 (1993): 890-918. Accessed February 10, 2020. doi:10.2307/2080408.

Berelson, Bernard. Voting; A Study of Opinion Formation in a Presidential Campaign. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1954.

Cheathem, Mark Renfred. “Republicanism, Self -Interest, and Failure: The Political and Private Struggles of Andrew Jackson Donelson, 1799–1871.” PhD diss., Mississippi State University, 2002.

Cole, Donald B. The Presidency of Andrew Jackson. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1994.

Dubriwny, Tasha N. “First Ladies and Feminism: Laura Bush as Advocate for Women’s and Children’s Rights.” Women’s Studies in Communication 28, no. 1 (2005): 84-114.

Ellis, Richard E. The Union at Risk: Jacksonian Democracy, States’ Rights, and the Nullification Crisis. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Fitts, Robert. “The Rhetoric of Reform: The Five Points Missions and the Cult of Domesticity.” Historical Archaeology 35, no. 3 (2001): 115-32.

Hilton, Mary. “Revisioning Romanticism: Towards a Women’s History of Progressive Thought 1780–1850.” History of Education 30, no. 5 (September 2001): 471-87.

Lackey, Dee. “The Hermitage Reflects Spirit of Admired, Sometimes Reviled President Andrew Jackson.” Ranch and Rural Living 98, no. 2 (November 2016): 27-29.

Latner, Richard B. The Presidency of Andrew Jackson: White House Politics, 1829-1837. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1979.

Magliocca, Gerard N. Andrew Jackson and the Constitution: The Rise and Fall of Generational Regimes. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2007.

Meredith, Rachel, Rebecca Conard, and Mary Hoffschwelle. “‘There Was Somebody Always Dying and Leaving Jackson as Guardian’: The Wards of Andrew Jackson.” PhD diss., Middle Tennessee State University, 2013.

Miles, Edwin A. Jacksonian Democracy in Mississippi. New York: Da Capo Press, 1970.

Owsley, Frank Lawrence, Jr. Struggle for the Gulf Borderlands: The Creek War and the Battle of New Orleans, 1812-1815. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1981.

Parsons, Lynn H. The Birth of Modern Politics: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and the Election of 1828. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Pessen, Edward. Jacksonian America: Society, Personality, and Politics. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1969.

Ross, Safari, Hogle, Jerrold, Aiken, Susan, and Brown, Meg Lota. Pathology and Performance: The Female Body in the Romantic Era. The University of Arizona, 2018, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.

Satz, Ronald N. American Indian Policy in the Jacksonian Era. Norman, OK: Red River Books, 2002.

Schloesser, Pauline E. The Fair Sex: White Women and Racial Patriarchy in the Early American Republic. New York: New York University Press, 2002.

Whaples, Robert. “Were Andrew Jackson’s Policies ‘Good for the Economy’?” The Independent Review 18, no. 4 (Spring 2014): 545-58.

Wolfson, Susan J. “Romanticism & Gender & Melancholy.” Studies in Romanticism 53, no. 3 (2014): 435-456.

“I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.”

X   Jarod Markle

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The First Lady That Never Was: A Literature Review on Andrew and Rachel Jackson

From the current twenty dollar bill to the remembrance of the Trail of Tears, Andrew Jackson’s legacy is rarely forgotten; however, his wife, Rachel, does not share her husband’s level of fame or infamy.  Despite other first ladies like Abigail Adams and Elenor Roosevelt being commonly remembered in histories of the United States, other first ladies, or would-be first ladies like Rachel Jackson, are often left on the sidelines of United States History. Historians only mention these mostly forgotten first ladies in an attempt to examine the motivations of their husbands.  This is the case in the literature detailing Andrew and Rachel Jackson.  Therefore, in this literature review, I will argue the literature covering the Jackson’s mostly focuses on Andrew’s political and military accomplishments, and while some historians prioritize Jackson’s wife more than others, an indepth look at the gender relations between Andrew and Rachel has yet to be provided by historians.

Firstly, the debate on Rachel’s impact on Andrew Jackson must be noted.  In Donald B. Cole’s 1994 book entitled The Presidency of Andrew Jackson, the author attempted to provide proper context to the Jackson presidency in order to best examine the administration itself.  In order to achieve this, Cole’s first page started by telling the story of Rachel Jackson’s death.  While hardly a discussion of gender relations between the couple, its inclusion and its place at the front of the text implies a high importance in the text and in Jackson’s life.  However, other historians approach Andrew Jackson with an eye on politics and do their best to avoid his personal life.  For example, Richard B. Latner’s 1979 book entitled The Presidency of Andrew Jackson: White House Politics 1829-1837.  Latner, who was cited and served as an advisor in Donald B. Cole’s book, focused his text around the influence cabinet members, legislators, and others involved in government had on President Jackson.  Similar to Cole, Latner also chose Andrew Jackson’s victory in the election of 1828 as the starting point of his book, but Rachel Jackson is not mentioned once, therefore implying she had a negligible impact on Jacksonian policy.  Edward Pessen’s 1969 book Jacksonian America: Society, Personality, and Politics contradicts Latner’s implication.  Pessen, along with other historians of similar approaches, have detailed Jackson’s personal life to humanize the president and his actions.  Pessen mentioned Rachel Jackson in five separate instances throughout his book: detailing Rachel as an example of Southern gender expectations, covering John Quincy Adams slander of her in the 1828 presidential election, describing her effects on Andrew’s motivations, and connecting her death’s influence to her husband’s way of handling the Peggy Eaton affair.  As Pessen’s focus was on society and politics, he did not delve into independent relations between the Jackson couple; however, the author did come much closer than Cole or Latner to a true gendered approach covering the Jacksons.  Pessen’s work would later be cited in the aforementioned work by Donald B. Cole in 1994. The importance of Rachel Jackson in the Andrew Jackson presidency has varied among historians, from minimal influence, as seen in Latner’s text, to vast coverages of multiple scenarios involving Rachel Jackson, like that of Pessen’s book, with other historians like Cole lying somewhere between the two extremes.

As evidenced in the coverage of Cole and Pessen, many historians name the death of Rachel as an influential moment in Andrew’s life, Norma Basch and her 1993 article would agree with this significance.  Basch’s article focused entirely on the election of 1828, and gave much attention to Rachel’s role in the campaigning process.  However, the text makes Rachel out to play a similar role to that of Cole’s book: Rachel’s life and death had impacts on Andrew Jackson’s political life.  However there is a key difference between how Rachel is implemented in each author’s texts. Cole mentioned Rachel to establish Jackson’s mindset as he entered his first term in office, but Basch outlines the personal attacks John Quincy Adams launched on Rachel Jackson as a turn in American campaign politics.  While Basch does include Andrew Jackson’s increased ferocity following his wife’s death, the scope of Basch’s writing is wider than Cole’s as it details a political system as a whole and not just one presidential administration. Despite this difference, neither text delves into the relationship of the presidential couple themselves due to another more political focus in their writing.  However, the inclusion of Rachel’s slander gives Basch’s article more focus on gender than Latner’s book but does not compete with Pessen’s attention to gendered detail.  

While many other historians have had more focus on gender in their coverage of Andrew Jackson, Latner’s approach has allies as well.  For example, Robert Whaples 2014 article examining economics under the Andrew Jackson administration includes no mention of Rachel. While it may seem natural for an economic historian to exclude a first lady that died before her husband was inaugurated, Rachel Jackson’s death did influence Andrew Jackson’s handling of the Peggy Eaton affair, which resulted in the firing of Jackson’s entire cabinet, as Pessen pointed out.  Needless to say, the turnover of an entire executive cabinet would inevitably affect economic policy, yet Rachel Jackson nor the Peggy Eaton affair are mentioned in Wharples article.  Therefore, it is clear Wharples’ approach to a history that avoids gender politics with a higher focus on policy is much akin to Latner’s approach thirty-five years prior.

The impact of Rachel Jackson’s death appears to be a point of contention between historians, yet even among those that find importance in Rachel’s demise, none have delved specifically into the couples relationship prior to her death, nor have they compared it to common gender roles of the time period and region.  Edward Pessen’s 1969 book has come the closest to this approach, and though it is better than most, it’s scope is too wide to give the attention needed to fully detail the aforementioned subject. Given the fact that the most fulfilling gender history on the Jackson’s was written fifty-one years ago, there is work to be done in terms of writing a gendered history on the Jackson’s marriage.

Bibliography

Abram, Susan M. Forging a Cherokee-American Alliance in the Creek War: From Creation to Betrayal. Tuscaloosa, AL: University Alabama Press, 2015.

Basch, Norma. “Marriage, Morals, and Politics in the Election of 1828.” The Journal of American History 80, no. 3 (1993): 890-918. Accessed February 10, 2020. doi:10.2307/2080408.

Berelson, Bernard. Voting; A Study of Opinion Formation in a Presidential Campaign. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1954.

Cheathem, Mark Renfred. “Republicanism, self -interest, and failure: The political and private struggles of Andrew Jackson Donelson, 1799–1871.” PhD diss., Mississippi State University, 2002.

Cole, Donald B. The Presidency of Andrew Jackson. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1994.

Ellis, Richard E. The Union at Risk: Jacksonian Democracy, States’ Rights, and the Nullification Crisis. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Hilton, Mary. “Revisioning Romanticism: towards a women’s history of progressive thought 1780–1850.” History of Education 30, no. 5 (September 2001): 471-87.

Lackey, Dee. “The Hermitage Reflects Spirit of Admired, Sometimes Reviled President Andrew Jackson.” Ranch and Rural Living 98, no. 2 (November 2016): 27-29.

Latner, Richard B. The Presidency of Andrew Jackson: White House Politics, 1829-1837. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1979.

Magliocca, Gerard N. Andrew Jackson and the Constitution: The Rise and Fall of Generational Regimes. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2007.

Meredith, Rachel, Rebecca Conard, and Mary Hoffschwelle. “‘There Was Somebody Always Dying and Leaving Jackson as Guardian’: The Wards of Andrew Jackson.” PhD diss., Middle Tennessee State University, 2013.

Miles, Edwin A. Jacksonian Democracy in Mississippi. New York: Da Capo Press, 1970.

Owsley, Frank Lawrence, Jr. Struggle for the Gulf Borderlands: The Creek War and the Battle of New Orleans, 1812-1815. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1981.

Parsons, Lynn H. The Birth of Modern Politics: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and the Election of 1828. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Pessen, Edward. Jacksonian America: Society, Personality, and Politics. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1969.

Satz, Ronald N. American Indian Policy in the Jacksonian Era. Norman, OK: Red River Books, 2002.

Whaples, Robert. “Were Andrew Jackson’s Policies ‘Good for the Economy’?” The Independent Review 18, no. 4 (Spring 2014): 545-58.

“I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.” X    Jarod Markle

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The Role of Environmental History

More recent fields of history, like environmental history, provide an alternate perspective from which academics can view various events throughout history.  These perspectives tend to be focused on cultural history, but can also explain how environment can shape politics. Ted Steinberg explained this example of environmental history within cultural history: “Rather, West Africans, especially women, domesticated one important species of [rice] and later successfully brought the knowledge necessary to grow the crop to the North American continent.” Furthermore, more traditional history can be explained by environmental history, as seen when William Sewell writes: “‘The core procedure of capitalism—the conversion of use value into exchange value or the commodification of things—is exceptionally transposable. It knows no natural limits; it can be applied not only to cloth, tobacco, or cooking pans, but to land, housework, bread, sex, advertising, emotions, or knowledge, each of which can be converted into any other by means of money.’” Sewell argues that capitalism is built on the basis of the limited resources that make up nature.  Every part of history occurs in an environment, so that same environment inevitably plays a role in all parts of life in politics.

    Unfortunately, environmental history is limited because historians tend to think of people as the actors in history, rather than non scentiant forces, like environment.  Women make up half of the world’s population, so their involvement in history is undeniable and active, but the environment itself, though ubiquitous, does not appear consciously active the way women or various ethnicities do.  As seen when Steinberg writes, “For the vast majority of the profession, nature is little more than a pretty scene or, at most, a preface to the more important social and political story that is about to unfold.” The current history climate is simply based around human interaction with other peoples or things, and change is a slow moving process.  Environmental history may break from this current limit, but it will take time and additional support.

Ted Steinberg, “Down to Earth: Nature, Agency, and Power in History,” The American Historical Review 107, no. 3 (June 2002): 798-820

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Fourth Blog Post

“Boxers and Saints” by Gene Luen Yang is an effective tool for teaching the events of the Boxer Rebellion in a nonspecific, entertaining way.  This graphic novel set is best used by students that either do not need to know the fine details of the rebellion and just need to know the overarching concepts, or already know what occurred and need another creative way to approach the material.  However, students should use additional resources when reading the graphic novel. The “Boxers” book follows the character of Little Bao to tell the tale of the Boxers using fantastical elements to provide the Boxer perspective during the conflict. For example, the ritual causes a physical change in the Boxers, this provides a visual on how the Boxers saw themselves after their spiritual possessions.  The fact that Little Bao is possessed by the first emperor of China tells the reader that the Boxers supported traditionalism. Of course no physical change occurred in real life, but the transformation works well as a metaphor. The narrative uses fictional characters to portray actual actors in the Boxer Rebellion, so a student that only needs to know the poor, rural people stood up to the westernization of China would be encouraged to read this graphic novel.  However, if a student were to need more detail and facts about the events in question, they should look elsewhere for more academic works. For students reading the graphic novel, it is massively important to know not all characters and events in the set actually happened, some are merely relatable ways to portray difficult concepts, like the opera masked girl, her existence is simply a way to show the sacrifices the Boxer had to make for their country. “Boxers and Saints” by Gene Luen Yang would be best used in an early high school/middle school classroom, provided the teacher is there to point out the true and the made up.  Any classes of higher grades should have additional readings to appropriately cover the Boxer Rebellion. In other words, readers should readers should enjoy the graphic novel, but they should also have a more trustworthy source to be able to identify the important points in the text, something like “History in Three Keys” by Paul Cohen.

Yang, Gene Luen, and Lark Pien. Boxers and Saints: Boxed Set. New York: First Second, 2013.

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Third Blog Post

I have chosen to do my literature review on works that describe early Jamestown’s interactions with Native Americans and vice versa. The first text I have found is “Pocahontas and the English Boys” by Karen Ordahl Kupperman. While the title of the book does sound informal, the contents of the book are purely academic. The main focus of the book is to highlight the important role the young played in the colonizing of Virginia. The book is the most modern work on the subject, being opened to the public in March of this year. The perspective provided by the text is the most interesting part. Kupperman did the work to put together the Native perspective on Jamestown, and it is truly fascinating. Most texts on this topic are western based, and this text provides each sides view and reminds the reader that everyone involved were actually people. My biggest issue with the book is that I want to read every word, not just skim it. I am actually a little excited for this project now, whereas before I got this book, I was dreading it.

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Second Blog Post

In Robert Citino’s Military Histories Old and New: A Reintroduction, Citino highlights three main approaches to military history: new military history, traditional operations history, and a newer approach that focuses on memory and culture within military history. The major points about new military history are that it better covers marginalized groups and that it is much more storied an approach than its name puts off. The longevity of new military history is seen as Citino writes, “Until fairly recently, historians of the medieval and early modern periods were much more in touch with the symbiosis between war and society” (Citino). Citino’s big point about operational history is important because essentially people like to read it, as seen when Citino writes, “Millions of people continue to read these books, and someone is going to be writing them” (Citino). He then goes on to further exemplify his superiority complex over popular history authors because why not? Citino’s major point about the newest military history approach is that by looking at what societies choose to remember and what they choose to forget, a greater snapshot of their culture is provided. This stance is evident as Citino writes, “Standing alongside these histories of memory, and intertwined with them, has been a growing recognition of the determining role of culture in military affairs” (Citino). I found Citino’s need to constantly hold himself over the popular history interesting and amusing. He just kept coming back to it. You’d think winning awards as an author would quell all that insecurity, guess not.

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First Actual Blog

Academic history demands much more focus on the truth than popular history. Of course, verified sources are massively important to academic history. The only way to obtain any true credibility is to base research on actual fact, and popular history is less likely to follow this requirement. The reasoning for this difference comes down to audience and the person writing the history. A non historian is more likely to use a less legitimate source and a popular audience is less likely to catch this. However, a historian’s works are more likely to be scrutinized by those in the know (their audience), so they spend more time verifying their sources. Furthermore, non historians are more likely to succumb to emotion and myth than true historians. Humans like to either see all the good or all the bad when looking back in time, so an untrained writer is likely to unintentionally bleed more of their biases into their writing than a historian. Don’t get me wrong, historians are definitely biased as well; however, they should be better at focusing on hard fact than a popular history writer. All of these differences come down to one key characteristic: academic history should be more reliable than popular history. All of the standards that have been mentioned are important because they make academic history, ideally, more accurate.

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Welcome!

My name is Jarod Markle. I’m a student at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia and a historical interpreter at Patrick Henry’s Scotchtown. I am also a member of the Patawomeck Tribe based in Stafford, Virginia. This site contains coursework for my History 297 course, and should have more of my earlier papers in the future. Thanks for visiting the site!

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