Politics of Individualism : Parties and the American Character in the Jacksonian Era
In the fifty years following the Revolution, America's population nearly quadrupled, its boundaries expanded, industrialization took root in the Northeast, new modes of transportation flourished, state banks proliferated and offered easy credit to eager entrepreneurs, and Americans foundthemselves in the midst of an accelerating age of individualism, equality, and self-reliance. To the Jacksonian generation, it seemed as if their world had changed practically overnight. The Politics of Individualism looks at the political manifestations of these staggering social transformations. During the 1830s and 1840s, Americans were consumed by politics and party loyalties were fierce. Here, Kohl draws on the political rhetoric found in speeches, newspapers, periodicals, and pamphlets to place the Democrats and the Whigs in a solid social and psychological context. He contends thatthe political division between these two parties reflected the division between Americans unsettled by the new individualistic social order and those whose character allowed them to strive more confidently within it. Democrats, says Kohl, were more tradition-directed, bound to others in morepersonal ways; Whigs, on the other hand, were more inner-directed and embraced the impersonal, self-interested relationships of a market society. By examining this fascinating dialogue of parties, Kohl brings us bright new insight into the politics and people of Jacksonian America.
- Electronic book text | 279 pages
- 01 Dec 1991
- Oxford University Press
- Oxford, United Kingdom
- Revised ed.
"One of the many virtues of Kohl's analysis is that it points a way to reintegrate our rather splintered understanding of the relationship between social change and political agendas in the Jacksonian era....More persuasively than any historian since Arthur Schlessinger, Jr., Kohl shows why Andrew Jackson really did deserve his place at the center of Jacksonian politics."--Reviews in American History"Kohl has an excellent grasp of how it felt to be a Jacksonian Democrat or Whig....Sensitive and gracefully written."--The Journal of Southern History"Offers an intriguing perspective on the political world of Jacksonian America....Fascinating."--Journal of the Early Republic"Kohl does an outstanding job of documenting his case....An extraordinarily worthwhile book."--Choice"Kohl's explanation for the ideological differences between the Jacksonians and the Whigs is the most perceptive and persuasive one that I have ever encountered. It will surely influence all future accounts of the period."--J. Mills Thornton, III, University of Michigan