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Mr. Jefferson's Hammer

William Henry Harrison and the Origins of American Indian Policy
Written by: Robert M. Owens
Narrated by: Doug McDonald
Length: 11 hrs and 2 mins

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Publisher's Summary

Often remembered as the president who died shortly after taking office, William Henry Harrison remains misunderstood by most Americans. Before becoming the ninth president of the United States in 1841, Harrison was instrumental in shaping the early years of westward expansion. Robert M. Owens now explores that era through the lens of Harrison’s career, providing a new synthesis of his role in the political development of Indiana Territory and in shaping Indian policy in the Old Northwest. 

Owens traces Harrison’s political career as secretary of the Northwest Territory, territorial delegate to Congress, and governor of Indiana Territory, as well as his military leadership and involvement with Indian relations. Thomas Jefferson, who was president during the first decade of the nineteenth century, found in Harrison the ideal agent to carry out his administration’s ruthless campaign to extinguish Indian land titles. 

More than a study of the man, Mr. Jefferson’s Hammer is a cultural biography of his fellow settlers, telling how this first generation of post-Revolutionary Americans realized their vision of progress and expansionism. It surveys the military, political, and social world of the early Ohio Valley and shows that Harrison’s attitudes and behavior reflected his Virginia background and its 18th-century notions as much as his frontier milieu.

Mr. Jefferson’s Hammer offers a much needed reappraisal of Harrison’s impact on the nation’s development and key lessons for understanding American sentiments in the early republic. 

The book is published by University of Oklahoma Press. The audiobook is published by University Press Audiobooks.

"A cogent and compeling addition to the scholarship....” (Journal of America’s Military Past)

©2007 University of Oklahoma Press (P)2019 Redwood Audiobooks

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  • William Jenks
  • 2019-06-18

Title = Truth in Advertising

I picked this book in part because there are so few on presidents from roughly Harrison through Pierce. It is read very very well, and the author has a dry sense of humor that comes from time to time. It's clearly an academic work of a professor (or perhaps deriving from a PhD dissertation), but the text is well written and with as good as narrative as one can imagine for the topic. The strength and weakness is how well the book adheres to the the subtitle.

Anyone really interested in Indian policy in the early 19th century will love the detail here. As one with more casual interest in that topic in particular, I was pleased to learn the big picture particularly well, but I got a little bogged down here and there with all the names, etc. A more general interest study of Harrison would have spent some more time on the latter part of his life, for example.

In any case, I can strongly recommend this book to anyone who finds the title intriguing ... others looking for a more general biography of Harrison should just be aware of what they are getting into.

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