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eBook Liberty and Power: The Politics of Jacksonian America download

by Harry L. Watson

eBook Liberty and Power: The Politics of Jacksonian America download ISBN: 0809065460
Author: Harry L. Watson
Publisher: Hill & Wang Pub; 1st edition (January 1, 1990)
Language: English
Pages: 275
ePub: 1475 kb
Fb2: 1807 kb
Rating: 4.9
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Category: History
Subcategory: Americas

Harry L. Watson, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is the author of Jacksonian .

Harry L. Watson, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is the author of Jacksonian Politics and Community Conflict and An Independent People. This book is a very insightful examination of the political thinking and alignments of the Jacksonian era - the two-plus decades after the Monroe presidency through the Polk years. The author's analysis draws upon the 18th century concept of republicanism, a somewhat nebulous notion with wide-ranging interpretations and implications.

Liberty and Power book. A concise survey of relevant scholarship and key trends of Jacksonian America, this book did a great job of clarifying for me some of the key economic, political, social and cultural events and trends of the 19th century. The book is also well-written and astonishingly easy to follow for a professional historian. I would recommend it for anyone who is interested in the forcesThis is precisely the kind of book that I enjoy most and that is most beneficial to me as a high school history teacher. Watson is an American historian of the antebellum American South, Jacksonian America, and the history of North Carolina. He is formerly the Director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina

Harry L. He is formerly the Director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina. He also holds the title of the Atlanta Distinguished Professor in Southern Culture in the Department of History at UNC-Chapel Hill. Watson is an alumnus of Brown University and received a P. from Northwestern University in 1976.

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Kansas State University.

Liberty and Power : The Politics of Jacksonian America. More than two decades after its first publication, Liberty and Power remains one of the most definitive sources on Jacksonian America to appear in the last century

Liberty and Power : The Politics of Jacksonian America. More than two decades after its first publication, Liberty and Power remains one of the most definitive sources on Jacksonian America to appear in the last century.

University Harry L Watson. In this enduring and impressive work, Watson examines the tension between liberty and power that both characterized the period and formed part of its historical legacy. Book Format: Choose an option. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H). 8 x . 4 x . 6 Inches.

Watson, Harry L. (1990). Liberty and Power: The Politics of Jacksonian America. New York: Hill and Wang. Peacock, James L. (2005). Harry L. Watson; Carrie R. Matthews (ed. The American South in a Global World. Watson, Harry L. (1998). Andrew Jackson vs. Henry Clay: Democracy and Development in Antebellum America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

As an engaging and persuasive survey of American public life from 1816 to 1848, Harry L. Watson's Liberty and Power remains a landmark achievement. Now updated to address twenty-five years of new scholarship, the book brilliantly interprets the exciting political landscape that was the age of Jackson-a time that saw the rise of strong political parties and an increased popular involvement in national politics.

Liberty and Power: The Politics of Jacksonian America [hardcover] Watson, Harry L. [Jan 01, 1990]
Comments: (7)
Samowar
This book is a very insightful examination of the political thinking and alignments of the Jacksonian era - the two-plus decades after the Monroe presidency through the Polk years. The author's analysis draws upon the 18th century concept of republicanism, a somewhat nebulous notion with wide-ranging interpretations and implications. The different political factions of the era all claimed to be "republicans," yet their different understandings were such that by 1836 two well-defined political parties - the Whigs and the Democrats - had emerged based on those differences. Though the Southern system of enslavement loomed large throughout this period, the reactions to the commercial advances of the period, the Market Revolution in the author's words, proved to be most contentious as it intersected with republicanism.

Republicanism is a creed that has no tolerance for monarchy, dictatorship, nobility, aristocrats, and the like. It posits equal, free, independent, and virtuous self-governing citizens as the basis of the political community. The Jeffersonian ideal of such a person was the small, mostly self-subsisting, farmer. Liberty, above all, was emphasized but was compromised if a person was not independent, or, in other words, dependent on others for his well-being. In addition, a central tenet of republicanism was that a "common good" existed. Society with its various elements constituted a harmonious whole with no need for factions or political parties to represent "interests." Perhaps a cherished ideal, especially among Jacksonians, such an ideal social state has never existed in America. Dating from the founding, the landed gentry and commercial elites were more powerful socially and politically and certainly formed alliances. Of course, it was simply assumed that equality applied only to white men.

Most small farmers were drawn into the world of banks, currency, and credit as some of their production was directed to the marketplace. But the US financial system throughout the 19th century was unstable, subject to speculation and panics with those at the end of the credit chain being squeezed the most. Despite the obvious impact of these financial injuries, many contended that America needed to advance commercially for the overall strength of the nation. At a minimum, the manufacturing base had to be protected through tariffs, the development of transportation infrastructure was required to facilitate the movement of goods, and a robust banking and credit system was needed with paper money flowing through the economic system. This was Henry Clay's American System and was a core principle of the Whig party. Though such a system implies greater interdependence, it was claimed that individual prosperity, and thereby independence, would be enhanced.

Drawing upon his own financial setbacks due to speculative overextension, Andrew Jackson adhered to ideals of agrarian simplicity with virtually no place for a strong financial sector. He contended that issuing charters for banks and corporations and favoring the financial interests of one element of society versus another created a powerful elitist element, in direct violation of the equal liberty tenets of republicanism. In perhaps the most significant undertaking of the Jackson presidency, the Jacksonians waged a controversial war against the United States Bank of Philadelphia, headed by Nicholas Biddle and the sole depository of federal funds, throughout his presidency. His veto of the USB rechartering, his transfer of federal funds to "pet" state banks, and his insistence of specie payment for federal lands had the unintended consequence of creating financial instability in the absence of the restraining money management policies of the USB, the ramifications of which were fully realized in the panics of 1837 and 1839 after he left office.

Jackson's veto of the USB rechartering was only one instance of his assertion of presidential power. Jackson's presidential activism was derived not only from his supreme self-confidence and personal magnetism, but was also based on his contention that he was the most legitimate representative of the will of the people, having been elected nation-wide, and therefore by definition was entitled to act with few restraints. Upon assuming office, he took the unprecedented action of rooting out a significant percentage of entrenched bureaucrats and replaced them with supporters, with party strengthening implications for the fledgling Democratic Party. Toward the end of his first term he completely replaced his cabinet. All of these actions by Jackson were roundly denounced by the opposition as being an example of the exercise of tyrannical authority.

Jackson's era is often seen as the age of democracy. Without subjecting that notion to withering analysis there is no doubt that he favored the many, the ordinary man, over the few, with the caveat that he included only white men. Completely consistent with that view is Jackson's obsession with relocating Indians and expanding the nation's boundaries. He wanted cheap land for those wishing to establish independence, as well as the extension of the Southern plantation system. Clay and his supporters advocated high land prices to gain revenue for internal improvements and were at best lukewarm supporters of expansion, worried that social harmony would be compromised, not to mention their dislike for the Southerner's nefarious institution and the ignoring of numerous Indian treaties guaranteeing their lands.

There is no doubt that the Whigs emphasized the virtuous citizen more so than the Jacksonians. Not only did they call for infrastructure improvement, but they were concerned with individual improvement and social reform. Many of the evangelicals of the period came to be in the Whig party with calls for temperance. They tended to be nativist with a dislike for Roman-Catholic Germans and Irish and their use of alcohol. The Whigs did see society as being ordered based on merit, though they were not anti-democratic. But virtuous citizens had obligations to act for the betterment and reinforcement of society. Any exercise of authority was to be reasonable and in accordance with institutional rules. The Whigs particularly objected to concealed or arbitrary authority as represented by the Masons or Jackson in his various policies.

The author argues that the political alignments of the Whigs and Democrats came to be very stable and accepted by the late 1830s, despite earlier republican warnings against parties. They were hardly doctrinal, accepting those with a variety of concerns. The parties took the attention off of sectional issues as party discipline exerted overriding control. But as the author says, that stability did not last as the lurking issue of the Southern economic system exploded in the mid-1850s.

The book is very informative and concisely written. The summary above barely scratches the surface. It definitely provides clarification to the Age of Jackson, as an age of democracy. The author captures the nuances of the republican thinking that placed someone in one camp or the other. It is interesting to compare the party alignments of today with those that first appeared in the time of Jackson, as well as the authority asserted by Jackson compared with modern presidents.
Haracetys
If 1776 marks the birth of the American democracy, the young Republic came to age during the antebellum years of the early 1800s. The period is one of the most colorful in American history, its characters rowdy, its politics partisan, and its age one of incredible change. Classifying and explaining these changes has been a task American historians have taken to with gusto. Harry L. Watson's LIBERTY AND POWER: THE POLITICS OF JACKSONIAN AMERICA is an exemplary model of what the best of these historians can write.

Watson's thesis rests on the claims made by another historian of early America, named Charles Sellers, in his book The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815-1846. Sellers argues that antebellum America was profoundly changed by a 'market revolution'. Americans of this time were witness to many great societal and economic changes: canals, roadways, and railways were built, foreign capital and credit flooded the economy, communications technology and methods improved dramatically, and industrialization began to change the face of America's cities. These collective changes transformed an agrarian American economy that had been built on the isolated yeoman farmer into a economy whose driving engine was capitalism and whose markets tied Americans to economic shocks across the world.

In crafting his thesis Watson takes all of these claims at face value. Those who argue with the idea of a 'market revolution' will thus have much to disagree with in this book. I have little reason to disagree, however; Watson devotes the first chapter of the book to explaining the economic changes of the period, and does so in an entertaining, informative, and convincing fashion. He focuses on how Americans themselves felt about the economic changes of their period. Some saw it as a time of great improvement and progress; others saw in these changes a deterioration of what had made the United States great. Watson contends that these opposite reactions to America's social transformation were fuel behind the divisive partisan politics of the day and the party system these politics created.

The drama came about, Watson contends, because of the lens Jacksonian statesmen used to understand political realities of their world: republicanism. As with their revolutionary fathers, men of the antebellum looked upon liberty as the highest aim of state, and understood it to be "the power of self control in self governing communities" (44). The purpose of the statesmen, therefore, was to facilitate those conditions in which liberty could thrive and tyrannical power could not take root. They saw the issue in (for the average 21st century American) a very moral way. Only a 'virtuous' and 'moral' people would appreciate freedom, and only they would have the strength and independence to ward off corruption and tyranny. Thus anything that sapped the independence or reduced the virtue of the citizenry should be opposed, and anything that strengthened the citizenry's free exercise of their rights was to be championed.

The problem was that antebellum politicians did not agree on whether the vast social changes of their time were promoting virtue and liberty, or if they were sowing the seeds of dependence and corruption. Those hostile to the economic transformation feared that if yeoman farmers lost their economic independence they would lose their political independence as well, forfeiting their freedom to the whims of the market and ominous 'monied interests' that aimed to dominate the government and the country. These folks tended to vote for the Democrat Party. The Whigs, in contrast, attracted to their cause those who saw an exciting new world being created on American soil; for them, it was the government's duty to support these "improvements" in every way it could. For these men progress was empowering: these changes would bring increased wealth and personal freedom to everybody, even if it came at the cost of economic independence. These tensions drove the unsettled American people to the polls as politics had never hitherto done, and created the truly democratic two-party political system that America still calls her own.

I found Hanson's arguments convincing and I am grateful he was able to weave his thesis into a narrative accessible as this one is. Moreover, LIBERTY AND POWER forced me to reevaluate several assumptions that had been guiding my thoughts about the antebellum world. I am particularly grateful for his description and analysis of the origins of the two party system. It changed the way I think about men like Martin van Buren and Andrew Jackson. Knowing, as we do, that their side was fighting against the tides of history and that the economic changes that were sweeping America were there to stay, it is easy to see them and their political movement as reactionary and out of touch. But as Hanson points out, they were really very visionary men. Between the two of them American mass democracy was born. I had previously assumed that van Buren's adoption of hard-lined party politics was simply a cynical ploy for power, Hanson shows that the Democrats' practice was rooted in a well thought out political philosophy that sought to empower the common man and to create a system where the electorate did not get caught up in the politics of personality but in platforms and issues. Towards this end Jackson and van Buren were visionary indeed. The system they set up still runs, relatively unchanged, nearly 200 years later.

LIBERTY AND POWER: insightful in its analysis, concise in its presentation, Hanson clearly is not trying to write a 'popular' narrative, but manages to write an engaging and convincing work of political history. It is well worth the read if that is your kind of thing.