Andrew Jackson, Presidency, Indian Removal, Martin Van Buren, John C. Calhoun
This effort to publish the papers of Andrew Jackson began thirty years ago. Since that time, the editors of the volumes have located over 100,000 documents in archives and libraries around the world. Harold Moser edited the first six volumes, which covered Jackson's life through 1828, when the people of the United States elected the Tennessee lawyer, warrior, and politician president of the United States. With Moser's retirement, a new team of editors at the University of Tennessee, led by Daniel Feller, assumed responsibility for the project. (Moser continues to serve in an advisory capacity and remains a named editor on volumes 7 and 8.)
According to Feller and his assistants, Laura-Eve Moss and Thomas Coens, "Our aim is to systematically present Andrew Jackson's full extant literary remains. We define 'papers' broadly, to mean everything written to, by, and for Jackson, or annotated by him—every piece of paper, so to speak, on which Jackson left his fingerprints" (7: ix). That is not to say that every one of those documents is published in these volumes. Because of the dramatic increase in the number of papers produced when Jackson assumed the presidency, Feller's team was required to adopt a rigorous selection strategy for the series. First, in what must [End Page 290] have involved extremely difficult editorial choices, they decided to publish what they deemed "the most significant papers, defining significance by the widest possible criteria—those documents that most illuminate Jackson, his presidency, his country, and his times" (7: xii).
The original editorial team had determined to produce sixteen volumes: six on Jackson's life before his inauguration, one for each of his eight years in presidential office, and two for his years in retirement. The volumes under review, 7 and 8, cover the first two years of Jackson's administration. Feller's team decided not to reproduce documents one could find in the Serial Set; in the Senate Executive Proceedings, which are available on the "American Memory: A Century of Lawmaking" website; or in the two volumes covering Jackson in James D. Richardson's ten-volume A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents (which are also included in the Serial Set). Also excluded from the collection are military and civil commissions, land patents, appointment letters, and printed forms with Jackson's signature; hearsay reports of comments by Jackson; communications from the president by others in his name; and published materials addressed to, but unread by or undelivered to Jackson.
Feller and his team reckon that they provide for reading approximately one-fifth of the papers to or from Jackson during the period covered by these volumes. However, in appendices to each volume, they do include a calendared list of every Jackson document that archivists and scholars have recovered and information on where one might find that particular source; the result is what can best be described as a beautiful and scholar-friendly compilation that enables students of Jackson to locate, with a minimum of effort, every single pertinent document in print. Feller's team also includes in each volume a table identifying where Jackson's public presidential papers can be found, a schedule of repositories where documents were discovered, a two-page general chronology of events relevant to Jackson's life, and a list of the "principal characters" significant to him during each year.
Jackson was notorious for his creative spelling and syntax, and the editorial team did not try to rehabilitate the style of the president or his correspondents. They also retained for examination Jackson's notations on incoming letters; these brief comments demonstrate that the president was particularly interested in molding his own historical legacy. The editors provide brief introductions to documents, where necessary, and annotations identifying individuals named in the documents with their [End Page 291] birth...