Cover image for Liberty and power : the politics of Jacksonian America
Liberty and power : the politics of Jacksonian America
Watson, Harry L.
Personal Author:
Noonday Press edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Noonday Press, 1990.
Physical Description:
xii, 275 pages ; 21 cm.
General Note:
Includes index.
Personal Subject:
Added Author:
Format :


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E381 .W32 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The raucous political debates of Jacksonian America often seemed to pit those who defended the ideals of liberty against those who asserted power. Harry L. Watson argues that these were serious policy disputes about the future of the Republic and the nature of its society and economy, and they led to intensified public involvement in politics and enduring political parties. His narrative shows how religious revivalism, new waves of immigration, westward expansion, the deeply divisive issue of Afro-American slavery, nascent industrialism, and other socioeconomic forces put strains on America's political framework and, in the end, transformed it.

Author Notes

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

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The relevance of substantial issues to American politics is not a recent phenomenon, according to Watson. Indeed, his study of the Jacksonian era illustrates just how widely real political questions were debated by the parties and the people. As the U.S. began its westward expansion following the War of 1812, the country faced emerging social, technological, and economic change. Watson suggests that many of these conflicts were reflected in the contentious relationship between Andrew Jackson and his enemies, arguing the course of the country's development. In particular, the role of the government in economic development was addressed in Jackson's battle against the Bank of the U.S. Watson develops this story to show not just how this confrontation affected Jackson's immediate political fate but also how it would direct party ideology and struggles far down in history. Essay on sources; index. --John Brosnahan

Library Journal Review

Despite its subtitle, this is much more than just another study of Jacksonian-era politics. Instead, Watson has integrated recent literature and traditional themes to produce a persuasive and well-written survey of public life from 1816 to 1848. He shows how social, cultural, and economic factors interacted with politics, and stresses as a major theme the tension between liberty and power that both characterized the period and forms part of its historical legacy. His explanations of republican theory and the fight over the Bank of the United States are particularly clear, and there are also good sections on slavery, the Indians, and the changing role of women. Recent scholarship has dated well-known previous surveys of Jacksonian America. For now, this should be the volume of choice. For most libraries.-- Jonathan D. Sarna, Hebrew Union Coll.-Jewish Inst. of Religion, Cincinnati (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Watson has written one of those rare historical studies that can serve either to introduce its subject or to stimulate specialists. The author, who has a firm grasp of the secondary literature, provides useful summaries and analyses both of the leading politicians of the period--including Jackson, Clay, and Calhoun--and of such important events as the presidential elections of 1828 and 1840, the nullification controversy, and the Bank War. Solid interpretations abound, e.g., "The debate over federal aid to economic development, and especially the dispute over rechartering the second Bank of the United States, was thus the central event of Andrew Jackson's Presidency." Watson describes the nation's changing economy and politics, explains how such basic institutions as banks and political parties functioned, and indicates that the period is still relevant. Although Watson dates the Second Party System from 1829 to the mid-1850s, he slights the issues after 1844, including those affecting Texas, California, and Oregon. Unfortunately there are no maps, illustrations, or charts. This highly readable synthesis is recommended for both general and academic readers. -G. T. Edwards, Whitman College

Table of Contents

Preface to the Revised Editionp. xi
Introductionp. 3
1 The Great Body of the Peoplep. 17
2 Republican Theory and Practicep. 42
3 A Corrupt Bargainp. 73
4 "Our Federal Union. It Must Be Preserved"p. 96
5 Killing the Monsterp. 132
6 National Parties and Local Politicsp. 172
7 Van Buren, Harrison, and Tylerp. 198
8 The Second American Party Systemp. 231
Afterword: Questions and Controversiesp. 255
Bibliographical Essayp. 281
Indexp. 305