15-27-29 Nov. 2001
The Age of
Martin Van Buren:
Party, Democracy, and Nationalism
of Political Parties
A. Political organization as
a necessity for "responsible" government.
B. Constitutional structure
made parties a nationalizing, sectionally-unifying force.
majority of Electoral College required to win presidency.
of this rule:
a) In most
cases, by end of race, there would only be two serious candidates at
b) Winner had
to be nationally popular.
tendency toward system of 2 national parties that had incentive to find
common ground among different sections.
C. Big Problem: National
party system depended on NOT facing the issue of slavery.
II. The Era of
Problems of Nonpartisan Politics After the War of 1812
A. James Monroe and the
"Era of Good Feelings": became president in 1817, determined to
end party conflict, traveled to Federalist New England.
1. Founders had
not wanted parties, many leaders felt partisanship had gone too far during
war, and that parties were no longer necessary.
2. Evidence that
harmony was only skin deep: Compensation Act of 1816.
Politics of the Monroe Administration
1. Many bold
initiatives taken to strengthen government & develop country, without
much popular support.
disorganized struggle among three Cabinet members (J. Q. Adams of Mass.,
Calhoun of SC, William Crawford of GA) & Speaker of House Henry Clay
to become Monroe's heir apparent.
Frustration and Potential Disunion: Problems arising from lack of national
parties and leadership.
1. The Panic of
1819: Economics and politics
mismanaged & corrupt, 2d B.U.S. failed to restrain state banks
during western boom, then helped cause an economic depression (Panic of
1819) by suddenly restraining them too much.
(esp. in west), much anger in state politics, but no parties to express
anger at national level.
2. The Missouri
Crisis (during depression): Lacking need to keep Southern allies, Northern
congressmen voted to ban slavery from new state of MO.
between slavery & freedom for all future states.
Wake-up call for
South: North was getting larger in population & would act against
slavery when it had the chance.
terrible fears about future of union, just at time when many were feeling
more patriotic about it.
changes setting up the revival of political parties.
1. Westward shift
2. The rise of
"universal" (white male) suffrage in new state constitutions.
women sometimes lost voting rights they possessed under older system of
Van Buren and the Revival of National Political Parties
A. The Election of
1824: Presidential selection by back-room deal and the death of nonpartisan
1. Adams and
Crawford were the front-runners, with Crawford nominated by an
ill-attended congressional nominating caucus (the last one), despite the
fact that he had just had a debilitating stroke.
2. Gen. Andrew
Jackson emerged as popular choice of new voters, West, and areas hit hard
and frustrated by the economic depression.
3. Jackson won
popular vote but no majority in Electoral College; Adams won the election
when he got the support of Speaker Henry Clay in House of Representatives
"Corrupt Bargain": Adams named Clay Secretary of State
(heir-apparent) and Jackson vowed revenge.
Van Buren, Re-Inventor of the Party System
1. Profile of the
"Little Magician." Click
here to watch a short video that will help explain Van Buren.
Tavern-keeper's son, raised in tolerant, rather backward & unhurried
atmosphere of Hudson Valley, rural Dutch area of NY. Rose from humble
beginnings by getting along with everyone.
b) Steeped in
Middle States political culture, long accustomed to competition,
organization, & compromise.
c) Deep down,
an old Jeffersonian, believing that rural life was best, that economic
development should not rushed or allowed to create inequality, that
government should rule w/o coercion.
2. Van Buren's
"Bucktails" among first to defend political parties. Argument
was that politics should be about "Principles, not men" or mere
financial interest. Took NY away from De Witt Clinton despite the Erie
attacked as the "Albany Regency."
4. Van Buren in
national politics: Bring back the old Republican party.
C. The Election of 1828 and
the Birth of the Democratic Party
1. Trying to
resurrect party, Van Buren forces had joined with Virginia "Old
Republicans" behind William Crawford in 1824.
2. For 1828, Van
Buren proposed a new, wider alliance of the "planters of the
South" and the "plain republicans of the north" behind
Andrew Jackson, whose popularity would fuel rejuvenation of party.
elected after first truly popular presidential campaign ("Adams who
can write, Jackson who can fight"), forming basis of Democratic
Party. Swept South, West, & just enough of Middle States.
Parties and the Union under President Jackson
actions in office inspired the organization of a competing national party,
the Whigs. Among major issues (all non-sectional):
removal, very popular in West and South, not as popular in New England or
with those influenced by religious reform movements.
opposition to federal spending on more transportation development within
states ("internal improvements.")
War": Jackson's utter destruction of 2d B.U.S, first by vetoing its
charter, then by removing federal deposits.
Nullification Crisis (1828-1833): Jacksonians and Whigs joined to crush a
political rebellion in South Carolina.
Carolina Exposition and Protest (1828): Vice President Calhoun
used "Principles of '98" to claim that SC had right to nullify
very high Tariff of 1828 within its borders.
2. Helped inspire
new ideas in North about the indivisible & eternal nature of the
Union, rejection of "compact theory": the Webster-Hayne
Calhoun's ideas into practice, SC held convention to nullify the Tariffs
of 1828 and 1832.
4. Jackson's Proclamation
to the People of South Carolina, Dec. 1832.
5. The Force Bill
and Clay's Compromise of 1833.
C. By time Van
Buren replaced Jackson as president in 1836, national political parties were
more popular and better organized than ever before & glue that held