The Rise of Andrew Jackson: Myth, Manipulation, and the Making of Modern Politics, by David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler (New York: Basic Books; 448 pp., $32.00).  Andrew Jackson ran for President in 1824 and was defeated by John Quincy Adams, the son of former President John Adams.  In 1828 he tried again and won, owing—the Heidlers argue—to the “Jacksonites”: his political machine, which, having learned from the previous defeat, invented the modern American political campaign by breaking from the more deferential style of politics that had characterized the early Republic and replacing it with a demotic one.  The Jacksonians, as the Heidlers describe them, wanted universal white male suffrage, were keen on territorial expansion, eager for the destruction of the Second Bank of the United States, and anxious about the increasing power of the federal government.  Those whom they call the Jackson-ites were professional political operators eager to translate the hero of the Battle of New Orleans into a popular figurehead behind whom they could combine to achieve political power for themselves.  Andrew Jackson himself was a man of no distinction, beyond his victorious 30 minutes of fighting in 1815.  He was also a crude and unpleasant man with an uncontrollable temper who required careful management on the part of his handlers.  Moreover, he believed in little—if anything—that concerned the Jacksonians.  He thought debtors worthless failures, had no opinion regarding tariffs, and was close friends with many bankers.  Jefferson was appalled by the popular enthusiasm Jackson aroused.  But America after 1815 was a restless and discontented country, and the Jacksonites made the most of this discontent, which seems to have been attributable to the widespread perception that the Republic had been in decline since 1789, and Americans along with it.

At a time when political parties were still considered soiled creatures of faction and parasitic entities that divided the nation, Adams men discovered too late that the tight organization of dissimilar coalitions had become the key to victory. . . . Though historians have looked at the elections of 1824 and 1828 as culturally, politically, and socially transformative, no one has provided a thorough telling of how Jackson and his managers created a candidate and sold him to the American people.

This the Heidlers have attempted to do, and they have done their work well.  What is more, they have told their story in clear and highly readable prose.

Why Humanae Vitae Is Still Right, edited by Janet E. Smith (San Francisco: Ignatius Press; 380 pp., $19.95).  The principal audience for this book is, of course, to be found among Catholics, yet members of many conservative Christian denominations will find it compelling as well.  Until 1930, when the Anglican Church at her infamous Lambeth Council removed her strictures against contraception, the practice was reprobated by the Protestant churches and the majority of their members everywhere; a half-century after the promulgation of Humanae Vitae, it is, as Janet Smith notes,

neither a forgotten nor an embraced document.  There is still much rejection of [its] teaching . . . among many theologians and lay Catholics, but there is also a strong current in the Church of theologians and laity who have developed solid defenses of this magisterial teaching . . .

The present volume upholds and illustrates her claim.  The arguments by various authors are delivered from theological, scriptural, philosophical, moral, medical, psychological, and social perspectives.  Certain of them are substantially technical, others historical and literary.  Taken together, they amount to a compelling case against a practice that, while widely observed historically, had been nearly universally condemned before 1930.  Most notable, in my opinion, is “Come, and Become One Who Sees,” by Christopher West, a senior lecturer in theology and Christian anthropology at the Theology of the Body Institute.

West grounds his essay in the necessity—actually, the obligation—of “seeing”: in this case the human body, which he describes as having the character of a “sign” of the spiritual and divine.  In her miraculous appearance to three children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917, Our Lady warned of Hell, of World War II, and of Russia spreading her errors throughout the world.  Among these errors was Marx’s and Engels’s claim that the relation between men and women, and sexual differentiation itself, are basic to the class struggle.  Lucia, the only one of the visionaries who lived beyond childhood, later wrote (as Sister Lucia) that “a time will come when the decisive battle between the kingdom of Christ and Satan will be over marriage and the family.”  At issue in this fight would be the significance of the human body, Christ’s love for us, His sacrifice, our love for one another, and our participation in the divine love.  The “theology of the body,” as explained by St. John Paul II, is, in West’s phrase, “fundamental to the very logic of Christianity. . . . [I]n the body of Jesus ‘we see our God made visible and so are caught up in love of the God we cannot see.’”  The Bible begins with the original marriage of Adam and Eve, and ends with the ultimate marriage of Christ and His Church.  At the very middle comes the Song of Songs.  Here is the “mad eros” of the divine, and the summa of Christian teaching about our identity and God’s.  Marriage is a sacrament that participates in, as well as signifies, God’s life and love.  This love is life-giving, and contraception prevents and denies life.  Couples who practice it are therefore false prophets and blasphemers, whether they are aware of the truth or not.  “Their bodies are still proclaiming a theology, but it’s a theology that falsifies divine love.”