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Notes: Give Me Liberty! An American History: Chapter 10

Eric Foner: Book Outline Notes for Give Me Liberty! An American History Second Edition

Eric Foner: Book Outline Notes for Give Me Liberty! An American History Second Edition


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Chapter 10: Democracy in America (1814-1840)

Focus Questions

  1. What were the social bases for the flourishing democracy of the early mid-19th century?
  2. What efforts were made in this period to strengthen the economic integration of the nation?
  3. What were the major expressions of nationalism and sectionalism in this period?
  4. In what ways did Andrew Jackson embody the democratic nationalism of this period?
  5. What was the Bank War so central to the Jacksonian period?

Democracy in America

  1. Introduction
  1. Andrew Jackson was sworn in (on 3.4.1829). 20,000 ppl poured into the white house and destroyed a lot of things
  2. Very polarized followers: he was either the most popular man we’d ever known, or a tyrant. He was a self-made man though

The Triumph of Democracy

  1. Property and Democracy
  1. Market revolution and territorial expansion were intimately connect with a third element of AM freedom: political Democracy
  2. Everyone insisted that they had the right to vote
  3. Property requirements for voting slowly went away; the personal independence necessary in the citizen now rested not on ownership of property, but on ownership of one’s self

The Dorr War

  1. Exception to trend towards democratization = Rhode Island. It was a center of factory production with property-less wage earners

Ratifiers of constitution formed a Peoples Convention, drafted a new const, enfranchised all adult white men, but President John Tyler sent troops to take out Thomas Dorr (governor) Tocqueville on Democracy

  1. 1840: 90% of white men could vote
  2. Alexis T (Frenchman): wrote an account of the society amidst a political transformation
  3. He noted that Democracy was crucial to American freedom
  4. Democracy reinforced a sense of equality among those who belonged to the political nation

The Limits of Democracy

  1. The axiom that “the people ruled had become a universally accepted part of AM politics
  2. As well, the “principle of universal suffrage”, meant that “white males of ae constituted the political nation” question: how could it be universal and barred from blacks and women?? ya it’s not universal bra!

The Information Revolution

  1. The application of steam power added to increased output in newspaper production
  2. Low postal rates led to easier transfer of information: Each party need to have some sort of control over newspapers to have any chance at all
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Women and the public Sphere

  1. They did take part in the reading public
  2. Women deemed not intelligent enough (nor able to make their own decisions)j to exercise political power.

A Racial Democracy

  1. “Equality” had become an American obsession
  2. Racist imagery became the stock-in-trade of popular theatrical presentations (like minstrel shows” where white actors act like black ppl and be stupid)
  3. In the revolutionary era, there was an elaborate ideology of racial superiority and inferiority, but all blacks could vote in the northern states

Race and Class

  1. Pennsylvania: raised the sum of money for blacks to vote to $250
  2. America was described as “a political community of white persons.”
  3. No state accorded free blacks what would be considered today equality under the law. Race replaced class as the ppl who were entitled to political freedom
  4. Voting was central to the meaning of freedom...something to note: White male immigrants could vote in some states almost from the moment they landed in AM, while nearly all free blacks could not vote at all

Nationalism and its Discontents

  1. The American System
  1. The War of 1812 fought to a draw and inspired tons of AM pride.
  2. The AM gov didn’t have a money system afterwards, though. It lacked a uniform currency, making it hard to raise funds for the war effort
  3. Likewise, transportation was inefficient at the time
  4. The AM System was put forward by James Madison, and coined by Henry Clay. It rested on 3 pillars
  1. A new national bank
  2. A tariff on imported manufactured goods to protect industry, and
  3. Federal financing of improved roads and canals

Gov sponsored “internal improvements” were the most controversial part of the plan. The other two parts, however, became law Banks and Money

  1. Second Bank of the United States became the focus of public resentment: it was a private, profit-making corporation that served as the gov’s financial agent
  2. Banks often printed far money money than the specie in the vaults, so the value of paper currency fluctuated wildly

The Panic of 1819

  1. Basically, land speculators got huge loans from banks to buy western land, then land prices went down, so many land speculators and other ppl had to declare bankruptcy

The Politics of the Panic

  1. Severely disrupted the political harmony of the previous years (lasted little more than a yr). Many ppl asked the sate and nat gov for help
  2. Ppl started to distrust the banks, believed that the Bank was responsible for the crisis
  3. Several states began retaliating against the nat bank by taxing it’s local branches
  4. Marshall (Sup Ct) declared bank powers as “necessary and proper” laws

The Missouri Controversy

  1. James Monroe defeated Rufus King for Pres in 1816 (last of the Virginia presidents)
  2. Congress considered a request from Missouri, an area from the Louisiana Purchase, to form a const in preparation for admission to the Union as a state
  3. James Tallmadge, Republican congressman from NY, moved that the introduction of further slaves be prohibited and that children of those already in Missouri be freed at age 25.
  1. It passed the House but died in the Senate

Maine was admitted into the Union to maintain the sectional balance btwn free and slave states Missouri presented to Congress its new constitution, which not only protected slavery but prohibited free blacks from entering the state. A second const was written to solve the problem The Slavery Question

  1. Thomas Jefferson tried to keep slavery out of Missouri
  2. Missouri Controversy raised for the first time one fatal issue - westward expansion of slavery
  3. Republicans provided the bulk of the votes against slavery in Missouri

Nation, Section, and Party

  1. The Monroe Doctrine
  1. Spain’s Latin American colonies rose in rebellion, and the rebellions inspired a wave of sympathy in the United States. Monroe administration became the first gov to extend diplomatic recognition to the new Latin American republics.
  2. Monroe Doctrine had 3 principle:
  1. The US would oppose any further efforts of colonization by European powers in the Americas
  2. The US would abstain from involvement in the wars of Europe, and
  3. Monroe warned European powers not to interfere with the newly independent states of Latin America.

Sometimes called America’s diplomatic declaration of independence The Election of 1824

  1. Monroe Doctrine = rising sense of AM nationalism.
  2. Election of 1824 = Only Andrew Jackson could claim truly national support. Crawford = South’s Old Republicans (limited gov and states rights), Clay = West. Andrew Jackson mainly won b/c of his military victories
  1. Clay gave his support to Adams in order to become Sec of state
  1. Known as the “Corrupt bargain” (bartering critical votes for piblic office

The Nationalism of John Quincy Adams

  1. Adams = Started out life in warfare and politics, abandoned the Fed party
  2. He wasn’t a very engaging figure, and he wanted to increase AM commerce throughout the world

“Liberty is Power”

  1. Adams set a comprehensive plan for an activist national state
  2. Called for legislation promoting agriculture, commerce, manufacturing, and “the mechanical and elegant arts.”
  3. He received little support in Congress, and alarmed strict constructionist ppl

Martin Van Burren and the Democratic Party

  1. Van Burren represented the new political era
  2. He said that political parties were a necessary and indeed desirable element of political life
  3. Political parties formed a bond of unity in a divided nation - Burren

The Election of 1828

  1. Van Burren established the political apparatus of the Democratic Party, complete w/ local and state party units and a network of local newspapers devoted to the party.
  2. 1828: volunteers chose the presidential electors (not legislature), so voter turnout was high.
  3. The US had entered into the age of Jackson

The Age of Jackson

  1. Intro
  1. He was a man of many contradictions, a strong nationalists, and a man of common beginnings (common man)

The Party System

  1. At this point in time, politics had become a form of entertainment
  2. Politics seemed to enter into everything...Loyalty to the party was the main qualification for political jobs
  3. Jackson's Kitchen Cabinet - mostly consisted of newspaper editors (they were an informal group of advisors who helped him write speeches

Democrats and Whigs

  1. Central elements of political debate were the gov’s stance towards banks, tariffs, currency, and internal improvements, and the balance of power btwn national and state governments
  2. Democrats tended to be alarmed bu the widening gap btwn social classes, and they attracted the aspiring entrepreneurs
  3. Whigs, however, were united behind the AM System. Northern colonies/states were more for the Whigs

Public ad Private Freedom

  1. Different definitions of fredom duing the Jacksonian period
  1. Democrats = liberty was a private entitlement best secured by local gov’s and endangered by powerful national authority. Said weak nat authority = good
  2. expenditures reduced a lot during JAckson’s presidency, lowered tariff, killed the nat bank, and refused please for federal aid to internal improvements

Politics and Morality

  1. Democrats = considered individual morality a private matter, not a public concern
  2. Whigs = Insisted that liberty and power reinforced each other. Believed that liberty required a prosperous and moral America. Morality = important
  1. Rejected the premise that gov must not interfere with private life.

South Carolina and Nullification

  1. Andrew Jackson’s tariff of 1828 created opposition in the South... called the “tariff of abominations” by South Carolina
  1. The Legislature threatened to nullify it b/c they didn’t like it
  2. SC was controlled by large planters (state const gave them more power)

Calhoun’s Political Theory

  1. John C. Calhoun soon emerged as the leading theorist of nullification
  2. Calhoun described that the national government had been created by an agreement among sovereign states, each of which retained the right to prevent the enforcement of acts of Congress not specifically spelled out in the Constitution
  3. Weightier matters soon divided Calhoun (he was the Vice President for Jackson) and Jackson.
  4. Calhoun eventually became a leader in states rights

The Nullification Crisis

  1. It was not a purely sectional issue, SC stood alone during the crisis.
  1. And Calhoun argued that it would ensure stability of a large, diverse nation

To Jackson, nullification amounted to nothing less that disunion

  1. South Carolina declared a tax on imported goods null and void, so Jackson got Congress to enact a Force Bill authorizing him to use the army and navy to college customs duties
  2. It’s ironic that Andrew Jackson did more that any other individual to give an emotional aura and offer willingness to go to war to preserve what he considered the national gov’s legitimate powers
  1. Even though he was a strong believer in states rights and limited gov!

Indian Removal

  1. Indians tried to reclaim land in Illinois, but militiamen stopped them.
  2. Expansion led to changing of Indian territory to slave territory
  3. Indian Removal Act of 1830: Provided funds for uprooting the so called 5 Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Chikasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminoles)
  1. Jackson referred to Indians as “savages” and not able to be assimilated

The Supreme Court and the Indians

  1. Said that Indians were not owners of the land; just had a “right of occupancy”
  2. Marshall believed strongly in the supremacy of the fed gov over the states, so he ordered them out essentially. Indians had no choice but to leave.
  3. Indians were forced to go to present day Oklahoma: Called the Trail of Tears
  1. The Seminoles of Florida resisted, but the Second Seminole War forced them (most of them) to go east of the Mississippi

William Apess - fought for American and Indian friendship The Bank War and After

  1. Birde’s Bank
  1. Central Political Struggle in the Age of Jackson was the president’s war of the United States
  2. The bank symbolized the hopre and fears inspired by the market revolution
  3. HEading the Bank was Nicholas Biddle of Penn, who used the power of overissuing money in order to create a stable currency throughout the nation
  1. Many called it a Monster Bank

Jackson’s veto message is perhaps the central document of his presidency The Bank War reflected how Jackson enhanced the power of the presidency The Pet Banks and the Economy

  1. “Pet banks” were created: Jackson authorized the removal of federal funds from its vaults and to deposit it into local banks
  2. Roger B Taney appointed chief justice when John Marshall died
  3. US Bank lost its ability to regulate the activity of state banks, so they issued more and more money
  4. Prices thus rose dramatically, and wages were not rising fast enough to keep pace

The Panic of 1837

  1. Government sold 20 million acres of federal land in 1836 (10x the amount in 1830) started to only accept gold and silver for payment.
  1. Similarly, BR was hesitant about AM’s bank notes, so they only accepted gold and silver as well

This all led to an economic collapse in the US (Panic of 1837), followed by a depression that lasted until 1843 Van Burren in Office

  1. Martin Van Burren was forced to deal with the election (Whig)
  2. His administration removed federal funds from the pet banks and held them in the Treasury Department in Washington
  1. Making funds unavailable to use for investment would have dampened economic growth had not the discovery of gold in California happened

Democratic party was split over the Independent Treasury

  1. Agrarian types favored Van Burren
  2. Business-Oriented favored the state banks, so they did NOT like Van Burren

The Election of 1840

  1. Whigs nominated William Henry Harrison (w/out a platform, champion of the common man)
  1. His running mate was John Tyler (states-rights guy)

Harrison won a sweeping victory In this election, selling the images was as important as the positions for which they stood “His Accidency”

  1. Whig success proved short-lived: Harrison got pneumonia and died a month after taking office. John Tyler succeeded him
  2. John Tyler was also called the Executive Ass..haha! this was b/c he vetoed almost everything
  3. He had no political party behind him, so he accomplished practically nothing
  4. Great way to end the chapter!

Review Questions

  1. Ho did John Quincy Adams envision the United States becoming the “freest and mightiest nation in the world”?
  2. How did Democrats and Whigs differ in their understanding of American freedom and its relationship to governmental power?
  3. What were the main characteristics of the “American System”?
  4. What were the main arguments for and against Indian removal?
  5. How did the Missouri Compromise and the nullification crisis demonstrate increasing sectional differences in antebellum America?


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oscar on November 12, 2014:

what does BR stand for

Bane on October 28, 2012:

Thank you so much!!!

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