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Formation of the Union By Albert Bushnell Hart Characters: 4363

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


[Sidenote: Adams's policy.]

[Sidenote: New political forces.]

John Quincy Adams's principles of government were not unlike those of his father: both believed in a brisk, energetic national administration, and in extending the influence and upholding the prestige of the United States among foreign powers. John Adams built ships; John Quincy Adams built roads and canals. Both Presidents were trained statesmen of the same school as their English and French contemporaries. The outer framework of government had little altered since its establishment in 1789; within the nation, however, a great change had taken place. The disappearance of the Federalists had been followed by a loss of the political and social pre- eminence so long enjoyed by the New England clergy; and in 1835 the Congregational Church was disestablished in Massachusetts. The rise of manufactures had hastened these changes, both by creating a new moneyed class, and by favoring the increase of independent mill-hands having the suffrage and little or no property. Cities were growing rapidly, especially in the Middle States: in 1822 Boston gave up the town-meeting; in 1830 New York had two hundred thousand inhabitants, and Philadelphia one hundred and seventy thousand; and the voters in the cities were more easily controlled by a few master minds. In the South alone was the old principle of government by family and influence preserved; but even here the suffrage was widely extended, and the small planters had to be tenderly handled.

[Sidenote: Power of the West.]

The West was the most important new element in the government. The votes of the States west of the mountains elected Jefferson in 1800, and Madison in 1812, and gave Jackson his preponderance of electoral votes over Adams in 1824. The West was at this time what the colonies had been half a century earlier,-a thriving, bustling, eager community, with a keen sense of trade, and little education. But, unlike the colonies, the West was almost without the tradition of an aristocracy; in most of the States there was practically manhood suffrage. Men were popular, not because they had rendered the country great services, b

ut because they were good farmers, bold pioneers, or shrewd lawyers. Smooth intriguers, mere demagogues, were not likely to gain the confidence of the West, but a positive and forcible character won their admiration. It was a people stirred by men like Henry Clay, great public speakers, leaders in public assemblies, impassioned advocates of the oppressed in other lands. It was a people equally affected by the rough and ruthless character of men like Jackson. An account which purports to come from Davy Crockett illustrates the political horse-play of the time. In 1830 he was an anti-Jackson candidate for re-election to Congress. He was beaten, by his opponents making unauthorized appointments for him to speak, without giving him notice. The people assembled, Crockett was not there to defend himself, his enemies said that he was afraid to come, and no later explanations could satisfy his constituents.

[Sidenote: General ticket system.]

The political situation was still further complicated by the adoption in nearly all the States of the general ticket system of choosing electors; a small majority in New York and Pennsylvania might outweigh large majorities in other States. In a word, democracy was in the saddle; the majority of voters preferred a President like themselves to a President of superior training and education. Sooner or later they must combine; and once combined they would elect him.

[Sidenote: Democracy vs. tradition.]

There was practically but one issue in 1828,-a personal choice between John Quincy Adams and Jackson. Not one of the voters knew Jackson's opinions on the tariff or internal improvements,-the only questions on which a political issue could have been made. It was a strife between democracy and tradition. A change of twenty-six thousand votes would have given to John Quincy Adams the vote of Pennsylvania and the election; but it could only have delayed the triumph of the masses. Jackson swept every Southern and Western State, and received six hundred and fifty thousand popular votes, against five hundred thousand for Adams. It was evident that there had risen up "a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph."

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