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Publick Occurrences 2.0

January 27, 2011

Founding Socialists?

Filed under: C-P Politics Issue 2008,Constitutional history,Founders,Government — Jeffrey L. Pasley @ 8:00 am

This post will not live up to its title.

This space has been set to “sporadic” whilst I work out some issues with my nonline writing, but here is something that came almost directly across our very own transom.  The invaluable John Fea alerted us to a minor controversy over Our Founders’ thoughts on government-run healthcare that raged last week – those guys thought of everything. It flared up first at Forbes.com, got mentioned at Media Matters and the Washington Post site, and was eventually linked back, shockingly, to the Common-Place Politics issue that Ed Gray and I put together in late 2008. Specifically, Greg Sargent of the WaPo cited Gautham Rao’s essay on the early republic’s marine hospitals, a publicly funded healthcare system for merchant sailors, paid for through a withholding tax on sailors’ wages.  Not a household word, the marine hospitals, but we can always hope.

Probably the most notable aspect of this issue as far the Founders are concerned is that big names said little or nothing about it (at least as far I know without digging all the way through Gautham’s bibliography). Though public anything on Our Founders’ watch is a moral impossibility as currently popular views would have it, the marine hospitals were not even controversial to the actually existing Founders. The merchant marine was a national resource that needed to be kept supplied with workers, so the Founder-managed government did something that needed to be done: make a low-paying, dangerous but necessary occupation a bit less frightening. As Greg Sargent and the Forbes blogger, Rick Ungar, point out, the marine hospital system was created under John Adams by the same Federalist Congress who brought you the Alien and Sedition Acts, but it also enjoyed the support of Adams’s successor, Thomas Jefferson.  More than supported, in fact: Rao shows that the marine hospitals moved west and south with the frontier, eagerly requested even by good Jeffersonians and future Rand Paul constituents of Paducah, Kentucky.

Admittedly, I myself do not think it should matter that much what the statesmen of two+ centuries ago would think about issues they never had to confront.  The Founders lived in a world where massive intentional bleeding was an advanced medical treatment and basic, ubiquitous modern economic institutions such as corporations, banks and insurance were still rare and controversial in their very existence. If Michele Bachmann could go back and ask Jefferson or Adams what they think about “Obamacare,” assuming they did not flee into the woods at the sight of her, their most likely response would be, “Why are you asking us?”

Still, it was nice to see that the C-P Politics issue was of use to somebody. That was not so clear at the time.

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November 18, 2008

Myths of the Lost Atlantis: Was the Federalist Press Staid and Apolitical? (Kaplan)

This is a guest post, the sixth in our series, running in honor of Philip Lampi and in conjunction with the Common-Place politics issue. See the introduction for an explanation. Click the logo below to see all of the posts in the series.

WAS THE FEDERALIST PRESS STAID AND APOLITICAL?
By Catherine O’Donnell Kaplan
Arizona State University

[BLOGITORIAL NOTE: Just to model the true spirit of democratic pluralism, we wanted readers to know up front that today’s “myth” is one that the proprietor of this blog had more than a hand in promoting. My book “The Tyranny of Printers”: Newspaper Politics in the Early American Republic (University of Virginia Press, 2001) focused heavily on Democratic-Republican political journalism in making the argument that partisan newspapers played a crucial binding and embodying role in the development of American political parties, and democratization more generally. My rather dismissive chapter-and-a-half on the Federalist press sold it decidedly short. Though like most authors I continue to believe I got the story basically right — there were some key differences in the degree and manner that Republican and Federalist newspapers connected themselves to electoral politics — in retrospect it would have taken little away from my argument to grant the Federalists a larger and more creative role in the political press of the Early Republic than I did.  Looking back, the only good reason to short-shrift the Federalists to the extent that I did was the excessive length of my manuscript, though at the time that was a REALLY good reason. In this post, Catherine Kaplan redresses some of the interpretive imbalance left by writers like myself, and graciously does not even attack me for it. — JLP]

The belief that Federalists sat grim-faced and hapless as their nimble Jeffersonian opponents developed ways to shape public opinion runs deep in American historical thought. The Federalist press has been portrayed as entirely lacking the agility and ambition of its Republican counterpart; Federalist politicians have been accused of failing to realize they needed to create a network of believers; and the party as a whole often appears in historical accounts as the horseshoe crab of the early republic: a living fossil that played no role in the nation’s ongoing evolution.Joseph Dennie I’ll leave it to others, including Andrew W. Robertson and Philip Lampi in this very space, to show that Federalists competed electorally — and fiercely — until the War of 1812. What I’d like to discuss is the Federalist press, and I’ll posit something that I hope honors the spirit of this contrarian blog, if not every historical interpretation ever advanced by its management: Federalist literati precociously developed politics as culture, politics as personal expression, politics as a community built through media, and politics as performance. These men and women of letters rejoiced over partisan divisions while other Americans (including more than a few Federalists) still lamented them. And they understood political media to be the art of getting read, discussed, and perhaps even paid, as much as the art of getting things done. Arianna Huffington? Meet Joseph Dennie.

Dennie was a 1790 Harvard graduate who had desultorily set up shop as a lawyer in New Hampshire, all the while trying to establish himself as an essayist and wit, a kind of American Addison. In the mid-1790s, Dennie learned to yoke together the goals and skills of literature and politics, and when he did so, he not only found his voice and livelihood, but also profoundly influenced the Federalist press. Dennie’s two widely read and extracted periodicals were New Hampshire’s Farmer’s Weekly Museum newspaper, which he edited throughout the second half of the 1790s, and Philadelphia’s Port Folio magazine, which he founded and edited from 1801 until his death in 1812.

Politics and Literature: Two Great Enterprises That Went Great Together

Here’s another myth-buster: literature was not a retreat from politics for alienated intellectuals. Literary techniques helped to build the human infrastructure party politics required, and politics offered intellectuals a way to be heard in a country sorely lacking in aristocratic patronage and metropolitan density. Over the course of the eighteenth century, a tradition of witty clubbing — lubricated sometimes by coffee, sometimes by alcohol — had become increasingly entwined with print culture. The educated men and women in England and the colonies who gathered to critique literature, society, and life began to seek publication of their manuscripts in newspapers and magazines. In both their face-to-face gatherings and in print, participants were driven by three desires. They delighted in the sense that their superior judgment and wit differentiated them from the world outside. They wanted to be known to that world outside even as they were convinced of its dull incomprehension. And they wanted to believe that their associations and writings could make that world a better place. These goals — and the tensions between them — readily merged with the intense partisanship of the 1790s. The political parties did indeed have competing understandings of the role of government and competing agendas. But they each also needed to become virtual communities of emotion as well as reason, communities that were simultaneously evangelical and exclusive. Literati, it turns out, were well suited to creating these communities through print. Thomas Jefferson turned to a poet, Philip Freneau, to edit the National Gazette. But it was a Federalist man of letters, Joseph Dennie, who truly excelled.

The literary marketplace in the early Republic had no metropolis, no London to which the aspiring could go and from which power, sales, and influence emerged. In the United States, to convince printers to bring works to press, and to make newspapers achieve anything like a national influence, small but interconnected networks of people worked together to drum up subscriptions. Many of those same people also wished to see their own writing pass through those networks, so they supplied manuscripts to printers and newspapers. Creating a national political party, even a loosely-knit one, required something similar: uniting the work of far-flung networks of amateurs with that of a few professionals, in order to create and circulate ideas and emotions, and to build a community — real as well as imagined — without direct contact.

A page from Joseph Dennie's "Port Folio," 28 May 1803

 

In both the Farmer’s Weekly Museum and the Port Folio, Dennie larded national and international news with brief, mordant commentary, and he also penned longer essays, such as the “Lay Preacher” series, which combined Benjamin Franklin-style moral pronouncements, acerbic critiques of American politics, and an almost campy display of Dennie’s own melancholic unease. Dennie also printed poems, letters, and essays by readers both famous and obscure, many of whom used metaphors and pursued themes the editor himself had introduced.

 

Through his astute use of bylines, introductions, and even inside jokes, Dennie made visible the relationships and networks that produced and circulated literary and political content. Both the content and this revealing of the networks were important. The periodicals drew people into a partisan community in which they spread Federalist-inflected anecdotes and rumors, sent in their own political information, and, significantly, learned to see with Federalist eyes and speak in a Federalist tongue. Politicians such as Jeremiah Smith, Lewis Richard Morris, and Robert Goodloe Harper eagerly participated. More generally, Federalist newspapers — like Republican ones — reprinted each other’s work, “linking” to each other in a way that increased awareness of publications and editors and sped circulation of ideas, animosities, and tropes. Successful editors offered their distinctive worldviews and voices, but also offered a forum in which nonprofessionals — in either literature or politics — could find their comments posted, their battles joined, and their turns of phrase admired and emulated.

Federalist Dittoheads

This was participatory print culture, one that openly tried to create an impassioned, hostile interdependence with Republican newspapers, so that passions and readerships might rise. “Since the Editor has been splashed with the mud of Chronicle obloquy,” Dennie wrote gleefully in the midst of one newspaper war, “he has gained upwards of seven hundred subscribers. He therefore requests…the honour and the profit of their future abuse.” Such a print culture is reminiscent not of a hidebound aristocratic past but instead of today’s political/social/cultural websites such as DailyKos and Redstate. Federalists who participated in these newspapers, moreover, realized that jokes, caricatures, and a heightening of the divide between “us and them,” of the sort that flowed naturally from literary club culture, would gain both readers and political adherents. The point was to make participants feel part of an enclave, even as one justified that gated community by insisting one’s goal was to tear down the wall and reform the nation. Thus in Federalist newspapers, broad insults and scabrous doggerel (even John Quincy Adams indulged) drew laughs, while the creation of a private language of allusions, characters, and metaphors gave readers the thrill of being political participants and members, not simply consumers.

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November 3, 2008

Election Day Sing-along

That’s what I plan be subjecting my “Age of Jefferson” class to in the morning, as a way of explaining the “celebratory politics” of the Early Republic and also keeping my Election Day emotions in check a little better than speaking too much will.  From the 1790s on, highly detailed political songs were a popular and important part of most campaigns and movements. They were published in newspapers and on their own, to be read for amusement and actually sung at banquets, meetings, parades, and taverns. The lyrics were usually written for a particular occasion, but most of the tunes were standards like “God Save the King,” “Yankee Doodle,” or that British drinking song they play at the start of baseball games. Less often but increasingly, original melodies were created and the songs published as sheet music. Paul Erickson at AAS passed on a link to a Library of Congress online collection of campaign sheet music that mostly comes from the middle and later 19th-century when the major parties were in the habit of commissioning official campaign songs. In the earlier Federalist/Democratic-Republican era, where most of my research interests reside, political songs were a considerably more local, informal, and quirky affair. As one example, here (at right) is a song from 1797 New Jersey that is an earlier example of the Republican complaints about female Federalist voting that Rosie Zagarri’s recent book and “Lost Atlantis” post described. There are many, many more political songs where that comes from, and perhaps I will throw a few more of them up here on the blog from time to time.

Interestingly, music has not been a big part of this election cycle, has it? There has been nothing like the outpouring of politically charged pop music that occurred in 2004, in the heydey of MoveOn. Remember The Future Soundtrack for America or the Eminem Internet video “Mosh” ? They seemed pretty powerful at the time, but electorally speaking, not so much, it turned out. I have to say the relative lack of musical activity this time seems like a good sign for Obama. Post-JFK, the entertainment industry’s occasional bursts of enthusiasm for moderately left-wing party politics have not generally coincided with Democratic presidential victories. Quite the opposite. I’m looking at you, McGovern campaign.

P.S. Just to fill out the post, I am also including a Federalist drinking song penned for the “Joe Six-Packs” of Vermont in 1799 by playwright/poet Royall Tyler.

P.P.S. These are from the original newspapers, but you can find these and many other wonderful political songs reprinted in the book Vera Brodsky Lawrence, Music for Patriots, Politicians, and Presidents: Harmonies and Discords of the First Hundred Years (New York: Macmillan, 1975).

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“Lost Atlantis” Update

Filed under: "Myths of the Lost Atlantis",Common-Place — Jeffrey L. Pasley @ 11:07 am

Please excuse the lack of Atlantean soundings since Rosie’s post last week. We have at least three more posts in the pipeline, but it was starting to seem better to let readers absorb them rather than pumping them all out before the current election, when people, and even historians, are probably more focused on the here and now than the Early Republic. So stay tuned for more, and remember you can always use the drop-down “categories” box at the right to select “Myths of the Lost Atlantis” and see all the posts in the series, latest one at the top.

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October 28, 2008

Myths of the Lost Atlantis: Were Early American Elections For White Men Only? (Zagarri)

This is a guest post, the fifth in our new series, running in honor of Philip Lampi and in conjunction with the Common-Place politics issue. See the introduction for an explanation. Click the logo below to see all of the posts.

WERE EARLY AMERICAN ELECTIONS FOR WHITE MEN ONLY?

[BLOGITORIAL NOTE: I asked Prof. Rosemarie Zagarri, author of Revolutionary Backlash: Women and Politics in the Early American Republic (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007), to post on a myth that she and a number of other scholars have already dispelled. The answer to the question posed above is still “mostly,” but there were wider forms of participation in the celebratory politics of the Early Republic and direct participation for some wealthier women and African Americans because of property requirements for suffrage rights. New Jersey is the famous case of this. Zagarri’s post indirectly answers my question, but goes it one better by also drawing an up-to-the-minute parallel between the politics of Jefferson-era New Jersey and the current election cycle. In both cases, the prospect of new or unusual numbers of voters led to charges of voter fraud.– JLP]

On Voter Fraud and the Petticoat Electors of New Jersey

by Rosemarie Zagarri
George Mason University

Recent charges against the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) for registering nonexistent voters have raised the specter that the 2008 election will be marred by voter fraud. But as anyone who has studied American history knows, voter fraud—and allegations of corruption—are as old as the republic itself. The more closely contested the race, the likelier the possibility of fraud and the accusations of fraud.

(more…)

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October 26, 2008

Myths of the Lost Atlantis: Slavery as a Political Issue in Early Republic (Mason)

Filed under: "Myths of the Lost Atlantis",Early Republic,Historians — Jeffrey L. Pasley @ 3:45 pm
In this fourth guest post in our new series, Prof. Matthew Mason gives a personal perspective on political historians’ long-standing habit of ignoring slavery as a major political issue before the traditional survey course opening of the “Sectional Crisis,” with the Missouri Compromise. Mason’s research on the so-called “Era of Good Feeling” showed that actually reading through the press of the time gives a very different impression.
See the introduction for an explanation of the “Lost Atlantis” series. Click the logo below to see all of the posts.

WAS SLAVERY REALLY NOT A MAJOR ISSUE IN AMERICAN POLITICS BEFORE THE MISSOURI CRISIS?

Debunking the Myth Without the Aid of a Method or an Online Database

At my dissertation prospectus defense, one of the committee members posed a question that vexed me even more than the others faced that day. “What,” he inquired, “is the method to your madness here?” He noted that I had listed a whole series of sources but proposed no research method other than to “just read these newspapers and sermons and congressional debates.” I stammered out some half-baked reply, he urged me to find a method, and we moved on.  At some point after this defense, I surely became a more efficient researcher.  But I’m not sure I’ve found a better method than “just reading” the sources with an eye to the research question at hand.

If I had actually obeyed the injunction to find some more selective or systematic approach to the sources, I may not have written this particular dissertation and book, Slavery and Politics in the Early American Republic, in the first place. This because I quite literally began this research by just sitting down and reading the newspaper: Niles’ Weekly Register, one of the very few truly national publications of the early nineteenth century.

My question was whether slavery really disappeared from national politics between the abolition of the slave trade in 1808 and the Missouri Crisis beginning in 1819.  The common wisdom was that the partisan and international fury surrounding Jefferson’s Embargo on foreign trade and the War of 1812 took slavery off the table in national politics.  I thought this national newspaper in particular would be a good place to inquire as to the truth of that historiographical consensus.

Hezekiah Niles published his Weekly Register in volumes and bound them with an index, but fortunately I did not discover that right away.  The lack of index entries for such terms as “slavery” or “negroes” would have confirmed the traditional take on this era, as would a glance at the headlines and topic headings on each page.  But here’s where just reading the thing paid off: I found slavery everywhere in Niles’s coverage of those headline events and issues, even though none of them had anything overtly to do with slavery.  Here was a prowar (Democratic-)Republican comparing the Royal Navy’s impressment of American sailors to Algerian or West Indian or even southern slavery.  There was a Federalist campaign to abolish the Constitution’s three-fifths clause – which they commonly branded “slave representation” – in response to a wicked war the “Virginia dynasty” ruling in Washington had brought on the country.  There in turn was Niles and other Republican editors casting about for good replies to this Federalist attack on the power of slaveholders.  Yet none of these tactics in the larger partisan struggle showed up in the index, which was quite naturally devoted to the main subjects at hand, like the war.

I found the same thing whether I sat down to “just read” fiery sermons from New England Congregationalist divines, antiwar or prowar pamphlets, or the Annals of Congress.  Indeed, ignoring the inadequate index and page headings to the congressional debates paid the same dividends as doing the same for Niles’ Weekly Register.  In the course of their diatribes against the war, for instance, various congressmen warned the southern warmongers that slave insurrection would be a natural and just consequence of their leaving their plantations to invade Canada.  One of the great moments came as I waded through an 1813 debate over expanding the army – yes, there was a bitter partisan dispute over such a radical notion in time of war – when I encountered Josiah Quincy of Massachusetts charging that the expanded army would march north to drag the administration’s political enemies into slavery, yoking them in with the black slaves over which the Virginia despots ruled.  And on and on it went in much this same fashion, as I encountered slavery everywhere in debates that should have borne no direct relationship with slavery whatsoever.  It became clear that the subject of slavery was never truly absent from American public life.

It also became quite clear why so many previous scholars had argued that slavery had subsided as an issue in these years.  The 1810s were manifestly not the 1850s, when slavery was the headline issue around which everything else revolved.  The whole exercise showed that unearthing new documents is not always the Holy Grail of historical scholarship.  In this case, as with so many others, examining old familiar sources with a new question in mind generated surprising conclusions.

While a blog post may be a strange place to air this particular moral to the story, the whole experience makes me tremble just a little for my profession as I see the proliferation of online databases make such sources as early American newspapers more widely available.  This development has undeniable payoffs, which even my (strong) inner Luddite is not inclined to dispute.  But researchers doing only word searches will miss not only context, but also what might lurk just beneath the headlines.

Matthew Mason
Brigham Young University

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October 24, 2008

Back in the saddle, and (intellectually) gunning for Greenspan

Filed under: "Myths of the Lost Atlantis",Common-Place,Economy — Jeffrey L. Pasley @ 10:40 am

Clearly I should not have promised new “Lost Atlantis” posts every 3-5 days and then run off to the land of uncertain Internet access that Italy turned out to be. My apologies. At any rate, I restarted the series Wednesday, almost as soon as I walked back in the door, with Andrew Shankman’s post on Jeffersonian charges of monarchism, below.  (I seem to have figured out how to make footnotes work on the blog on this one occasion, so enjoy.) Matthew Mason’s and Rosemarie Zagarri’s posts will be coming soon after that, and more are looming on the horizon. I am also happy to report that new contributors have volunteered, so the series will be continuing for a while.

As to the blog itself, I will be posting my own comments, but I must say that I am feeling pretty inhibited about commenting on the presidential election right now because of my strict no-gloating and no pre-hatched-chicken-counting rules.

As to Alan Greenspan, in his case, I think we early American historians are entitled to gloat, given that he went up to Capitol Hill and admitted that his and most other economists’ ideology of the market and “private enterprise” as infallible, self-policing mechanisms is wrong, wrong, wrong:

Greenspan called this “a flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works.”

We did tell him so, most recently in the current issue of Common-Place.

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October 22, 2008

Myths of the Lost Atlantis: Jeffersonian Charges of Monarchism (Shankman)

Filed under: "Myths of the Lost Atlantis",Early Republic,Political culture,Presidency — Jeffrey L. Pasley @ 1:59 pm
This is a guest post, the third in our new series, running in honor of Philip Lampi and in conjunction with the Common-Place politics issue. See the introduction for an explanation. Click the logo below to see all of the posts.

WERE JEFFERSONIAN CHARGES OF MONARCHISM REALLY JUST SLEAZY, HYSTERICAL SMEARS?

by Andrew Shankman
Rutgers University, Camden Campus

Every recent presidential election cycle, about the time a campaign goes negative, newspapers run a story like the one in the Sunday New York Times, August 17, 2008 “Week in Review.”[1] These articles suggest that while we should deplore Swift-Boating and innuendoes about Barack Obama’s possible Al-Qaeda sympathies, modern political tactics are mild compared to those of the founding era. Such pieces will often mention the Matthew Lyon/Roger Griswold House floor brawl or the Thomas Jefferson-Sally Hemings scandal before proceeding to the ultimate proof: Jeffersonian accusations that George Washington, John Adams, and the Federalists planned to reimpose monarchy.

The charge sounds absurd to modern ears, and no serious historian credits the claim that any Federalist literally planned to reintroduce a hereditary executive. Thus how could the supporters of Jefferson have been doing anything other than indulging in the 18th-century version of the attack ad when they claimed that John Adams wanted “the presidency [to] be made hereditary in the family of Lund Washington” (cousin of the childless President) and that his desire was part of Adams’s plot “to set up and establish hereditary government”? The scheme was not confined to Adams, insisted Jeffersonians, for his monarchism was symptomatic of the Federalists’ fundamental purpose. Virtually their every action since placing a military chieftain at the head of a republican government stood “in favor of the general cause of monarchy and of aristocracy; a cause in with these gentlemen in some degree partook, and too probably hope still more to partake.” The Federalists were, in short, power-mad aristocrats hostile to republican institutions and values. They abused the people’s rights and gathered together to plot the end of republican institutions with “the levee-room their place of rendezvous.” [2]

Such ripe language should at least leave us contemptuous of the unimaginative negative campaigning that assaults every swing state today. But the news articles precisely miss the point when they imply that nothing changes all that much over time and that modern negative campaigning, among other things, connects us with a venerable political past and with behavior that just might be the price we pay for free speech and democracy. Jeffersonian charges of monarchy, in fact, don’t reveal how connected recent campaigns are to the politics of the early national period. Rather, understanding and contextualizing the charge of monarchy shows just how far removed we are from the concerns of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

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October 17, 2008

Suspending my campaign

Filed under: "Myths of the Lost Atlantis",Common-Place — Jeffrey L. Pasley @ 9:52 am

Technical difficulties here at the Publick Occurrences roving command center have prevented any posts this week. “Myths of the Lost Atlantis° and more will be back next week when my Internet access becomes reliable again, on approximately Tuesday, the 21st.

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October 10, 2008

Myths of the Lost Atlantis: Andrew Jackson and the Election of 1824 (Ratcliffe)

Filed under: "Myths of the Lost Atlantis",Jacksonian Era,Past campaigns,Voting — Jeffrey L. Pasley @ 6:00 am
This is a guest post, the second in our new series, running in honor of Philip Lampi and in conjunction with the Common-Place politics issue. See the introduction for an explanation. Click the logo below to see all of the posts.

WAS ANDREW JACKSON REALLY THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE IN 1824?

by Donald J. Ratcliffe
Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford

[Click here for .pdf version, with footnotes]

Well, of course he was. American historical narratives have always told us so, and recent prize-winning tomes that agree on little else confirm it. Old Hickory’s fame as victor of New Orleans gave him widespread popularity, the story goes, especially with newly enfranchised voters. So when he ran for president in 1824, he came first in the Electoral College but, with four candidates in the race, did not quite win an absolute majority. When the House of Representatives broke the deadlock in favor of the second-placed man, John Quincy Adams, Jackson’s supporters screamed that the people had been cheated of their choice by “bargain and corruption” and avenged the old general with a massive victory in 1828.

But was Jackson’s “stolen” victory in 1824, the emotional heart of this tale, really quite so clear-cut? In 1884 Edward Stanwood pointed out the problem. In six states the choice of presidential electors was in the hands of the legislature and we have no direct indication of how a popular vote would have resulted. In the states where there was a popular vote, not all the candidates were on every ballot, and in some the overwhelming popularity of one candidate-not necessarily Jackson-resulted in very low turnout. All that can be reported with fair certainty is the vote in the fourteen states where there was a popular ballot, either on the district or the general-ticket system. According to Stanwood, those states gave Jackson 153,544 compared to 108,740 for his nearest rival, John Quincy Adams, who was far ahead of the other two, Henry Clay (47,136) and William Harris Crawford (46,618).

Even in these fourteen states, there is really little evidence of Jackson’s nationwide popularity in 1824. He may have won 43 percent of their popular vote, but, as Lee Benson pointed out in 1957, 42 percent of that vote came from winning four-fifths of the popular vote in just three states (Alabama, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania), which together cast 23 percent of the national vote. Local concerns explain his victories in those three states, while his success in the Carolinas followed John C. Calhoun’s decision to throw his support to Jackson in return for becoming vice-president. In other parts of the country-notably New England and New York-Jackson received negligible support in 1824, in the face of Adams’s evident popularity.

Even in some states where the electors were chosen by the people, Jackson was less popular than appears at first sight. In North Carolina, the popular contest was fought between the Caucus ticket (for Crawford) and the People’s ticket (for whoever had the best chance of beating Crawford in the Electoral College), which won by 20,145 to 15,621. The state’s electoral votes were duly cast for Jackson, and it is often assumed that they measure his popularity in that state. But in eleven counties voters followed the pre-election suggestion that they mark their ticket for electoral candidates with the name of their preferred presidential candidate. In those counties Adams men supplied about one-fourth of the People’s vote, which reconciles with contemporary estimates that about 5,000 of the 20,415 were given by friends of Adams. So we need to move 5,000 votes from the Jackson column to the Adams column.

In the case of Georgia, Philip Lampi’s research reveals a measurable popular vote on the presidential question although the decision was made by the assembly. In the election to choose the assembly, candidates were identified as friends of either Crawford or Jackson, and one ticket representing each side was run in each county. The Jackson men lost to the Georgia candidate, but still attracted (on my arithmetic) 15,478 votes, which need to be added to the Jackson column. That takes the calculation to 164,022 for Jackson to 113,740 for Adams.

(more…)

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