OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

Daniel Feller

Portrait of Daniel Feller

Daniel Feller is a Distinguished Professor in the Humanities, a professor of history, and the editor and director of the Papers of Andrew Jackson at the University of Tennessee. His books include The Public Lands in Jacksonian Politics (1984), The Jacksonian Promise: America, 1815-1840 (1995), and an annotated abridgement of Harriet Martineau's Retrospect of Western Travel (2000). He was the lead scholar for the PBS biography "Andrew Jackson: Good, Evil, and the Presidency" and has been featured on television series "History Detectives," "Ten Things You Don't Know About," "Who Do You Think You Are?," and CNN's "Race for the White House." Since 2004 Feller and his team have published five volumes of the Jackson Papers, covering the presidential years 1829 through 1833. The 1832 volume won the Society for History in the Federal Government's Thomas Jefferson Prize.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

This talk confronts an old conundrum about Jackson: the relationship between his will, his temper, and his intellect. Some historians have seen his actions, particularly as president, driven by high principle and considerations of policy; others by uncontrollable personal passions. This presentation evaluates both possibilities with special attention to events of Jackson's first presidential term, including the Eaton affair, the Bank War, the nullification crisis, and the Seminole War controversy.
The Papers of Andrew Jackson is a project to gather and publish the complete documentary record of Andrew Jackson's life and presidency. This talk describes our work and divulges some of the startling new things we've discovered about Jackson. It also explains how we've solved mysteries, exposed forgeries, and helped catch thieves. This talk, with accompanying Powerpoint, is especially suitable for general audiences.
The election of 1824, ending in the famous "corrupt bargain" between Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams that denied the presidency to Andrew Jackson, is one of the most pivotal elections in American history, and perhaps the most misunderstood. This talk strips away the legend and mythology to reveal what really happened.
Americans in the Jacksonian era aspired to lead the world in the practice of democracy and also in the pursuit of scientific knowledge. The attempt to merge these two missions into one produced political clashes between the Whig and Democratic parties, inspired the creation of the Smithsonian Institution, and defined a dilemma that still persists today.
Few episodes in American history inspire more bitterness and misgiving today than Indian removal and the Cherokee Trail of Tears. This talk explains what happened and why, and offers a reassessment of Andrew Jackson's personal role and responsibility.
The causes of the Civil War are still hotly debated, and often deliberately concealed or misrepresented. This talk goes back to the primary sources to explain definitively, in their own words, why southern states seceded from the Union and formed a new Confederacy in 1860-61.
Both President Donald Trump and his severest critics have touted his resemblance to President Andrew Jackson, although for nearly opposite reasons. While the president and his acolytes celebrate Jackson’s swaggering nationalism and insurgent populism, opponents condemn his chauvinism, xenophobia, bigotry, and racism. Thus Jackson has become the vehicle to propagate dueling images of America’s historical legacy and national character. Yet neither portrait bears much resemblance to the real Jackson. Looking at Jackson’s actual record can restore some balance to our understanding and some humility to our judgments. Further, pondering how and why our current debate has distorted Jackson for contemporary ends can provide some cautionary lessons about the uses and misuses of history.