HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES
YOUTH OF CAPITALISM - 1830-1850
THE forces and interest whose germination took place about 1814 to 1819, came into full view during this period. It was a time in which economic interests were maneuvering to strengthen their position and prepare for coming struggles.
Population was shifting rapidly, and the direction of that shifting was perhaps the most important feature of the period. Until this time settlement west of the Alleghenies had been confined almost exclusively to the neighborhood of the Ohio River. Michigan, Wisconsin, northern Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana were still almost as completely in the possession of the Indians as when the continent was discovered. Chicago was only a trading post in the midst of a swamp. The whole line of lake ports that have become such a prominent, and indeed almost dominant feature of the social and industrial life of this nation were largely but meeting places for fur traders and Indians.
Immigration had flowed down the Ohio River and up through Cumberland Gap from the slave states of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia. Stephen A. Douglas, discussing the admission of Kansas in the United States Senate, February 29, 1860, spoke as follows of the immigration into Illinois prior to 1830: -
The fact is that the people of the territory of Illi-
nois, when it was a territory, were about all from the southern states, particularly from Kentucky and Tennessee. The southern end of the state was the only part at first settled. . . . The northern part . . . was then in the possession of the Indians, and so were northern Indiana and northern Ohio ; and a Yankee could not get to Illinois at all, unless he passed down through Virginia and over into Tennessee and Kentucky. The consequence was that 99 out of 100 of the settlers were from the slave states. They carried the old family servants with them and kept them. . . . When they assembled to make the constitution of Illinois in 1818 . . . nearly every delegate to the convention brought his negro along with him to black his boots, play the fiddle, wait upon him and take care of his room. . . .
This attitude of indifference on the slavery question was soon to pass away. Upland cotton was carrying the slaveholding planters in great numbers into Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. Here slavery was immensely profitable. The slave owners therefore wished to control the national government, to defend and advance slavery.
By 1830 a new and northern gateway to this region had been opened up, and through this a throng of settlers from New England, New York, and later from Europe
1 T. Flint, "Condensed Geography and History of the Western States,"
p. 227. 2 J. N. Peck, "A Gazetteer of Illinois" (1834), P. 41
3 John Macgregor, "Progress of America " (1847) ; Semple, "American History and its Geographic Conditions," p. 358.
was then bought by the packers, who maintained establishments in close proximity to the slaughter houses.1Illinois was in the "ranch stage" of cattle raising until about 1840. Great herds of cattle were fed on the prairies and then rounded up and driven into Ohio to receive further feeding prior to the final drive to the stall feeders of Pennsylvania.2 This is the same combination of ranch, pasture, and feeders that existed on the eastern slope of the Alleghenies prior to the Revolution. These stages were continually moving west, and the ranch stage had already entered Missouri3 by 1830, and reached Texas a few years later.4 In Tennessee, Ohio, and Kentucky another stage had been reached. Here the first steps were being taken in the introduction of improved breeds of cattle.6
The products of these states were all pressing for a market, and competition marked out lines of communication and influence along which were to be waged industrial and political struggles.While agriculture was still the oldest and largest of the industrial family, manufacturing had already grown to a lusty, clamoring young giant, boastful of achievement, lustful of power, and eager for government influence. Iron and the textiles had grasped the leading position and were directing tariff policies. Each of these
1 Macgregor, loc. cit.
2 J. N. Peck, "A Gazetteer of Illinois" (1834), P. 40; Flint, "Condensed Geography and History of the Western States," p. 128.
3 Flint, loc. cit., Vol. II, p. 73.
4 Census, 1880, Vol. III. Special article by Charles Gordon, "The Production of Meat," p. ii.
5 Census 1860, volume on "Agriculture," "Cattle and the Cattle Trade," p. cxxxiii.
had settled in the localities that they now occupy. By 1830 the United States was second only to England in the cotton industry. In 1840 three fourths of all American cotton goods were produced in New England.1
Two great inventions revolutionized the iron industry and gave it a tremendous impetus. The hot blast process was first applied in 1834, and at once increased the production of each furnace 40 per cent, with a saving of the same percentage in fuel.2 In 1840 anthracite coal began to be used in the smelting of iron, and within ten years had almost supplanted the more expensive charcoal method.3
In 1831 iron was first used for pillars, window casings, and other general building purposes.4 Wrought iron pipes were first manufactured in 1846, and one year later the first firm for the production of machinist tools was established in Nashua, New Hampshire.5
The manufacture of power looms reached such a state of perfection that in 1831 they began to be exported to England.6The close proximity of iron ore, limestone, and coal, the three essentials to the production of iron, had already determined that Pittsburg should be the center of the production of this metal.7 At first the entire upper Mississippi Valley expected to be the seat of manufacturing, a destiny which it was
1 E. L. Bogart, "Economic History of the United States," p. 249.
2 M. D. Swank, "History of the Manufacture of Iron in all Ages," p. 453.
3 Ibid., pp- 178,354-362.
4 L. Bishop, "History of American Manufactures," Vol. II, p. 402.
5 Ibid., p. 422.
6 Ibid., p. 363.
7 M. D. Swank, "History of Iron in All Ages," pp. 176-178.
The next season after its opening 19,000 boats were counted as passing West Troy on the road to New York, most of which came from the West, over the Erie Canal.2 These bore the products of the West to market. An equal number of boats carried a human cargo in the other direction. This new flood of immigration changed the current of history in the West, and later of the whole country. The Erie Canal "shifted the great trans-Allegheny route away from the Potomac, out of the belt of the slaveholding, agricultural South, to the free, industrial North, and placed it at the back door of New England, whence poured westward a tide of Puritan immigrants, infusing elements of vigorous conscience and energy into all the northern zone of states from the Genesee River to the Missouri and Minnesota."3The whole district around the Great Lakes that had lain so long almost untouched by settlement was filled
1 T. Flint, "Condensed Geography and History of the Western States," Vol. I, p. 224.
2 Ellen C. Semple, "American History and its Geographic Conditions," pp. 268-269.
with eager immigrants. From 1830 to 11840 the population of Michigan increased from 311,639 to 2112,267, nearly all coming through the Erie Canal. Wisconsin and northern Illinois grew with almost equal rapidity, and received their increase by the same route.1 Many of these immigrants came direct from Europe, thus introducing a new element into the population of this region.
The general application of steam to boats upon the Great Lakes which was taking place at this time served to accentuate nearly all the movements just described. It brought population to the lake ports, added to the importance of the Erie Canal, and built up the small farmer and trader and manufacturing class in the upper Mississippi Valley.
Then came the most revolutionary of all the inventions of a century of invention. Steam was applied to the hauling of cars upon rails.
At once the "circle of the market" - the space within which an article can be profitably sold-was multiplied several fold.2 A factory could now deliver its product at much more distant points. It could reach more customers. It could grow to an hitherto inconceivable size.The first railroads reflected all the crude anarchy that is characteristic of the effect of inventions under competition. It was not simply that the roads were mechanically crude, although the defects in that line were innumerable. All the problems of track, and rolling
1 "History of the Great Lakes" (no author given), pp. 183-189.
2 I. L. Ringwalt, "Development of Transportation Systems in the United States," p. 129.
1 John Macgregor, "The Progress of America " (1847), Vol. II, p. 699
No two railroads are constructed alike. The fish-bellied rails of some, weighing forty pounds per lineal yard, rest upon cast-iron chains, weighing sixteen pounds each; in others plate rails and malleable iron, 21 inches broad and 2 inch thick, are fixed by iron spikes to wooden sleepers; in others a plate rail is spiked down to tree-nails of oak or locust wood, driven into jumper holes bored in the stone curb; in others longitudinal wooden runners, one foot in breadth, and from three to four inches in thickness, are imbedded in broken stone or gravel, on these runners are placed transverse sleepers, formed of round timbers with the bark left on, and wrought iron rails are affixed to the sleepers by long spikes, the heads of which are countersunk in the rail; in others round piles of timber, about 12 inches in diameter, are driven into the ground as far as they will go, about three feet apart; the tops are then crosscut, and the rails spiked to them.
2 N. S. Shaler, "The United States of America," Vol. II, p. 72; American Railroad Journal, Vol. I, No. 1, Jan. 2, 1832.
3 I. L. Ringwalt, loc. cit., p. 75, gives following table of railroads constructed annually : -
Total mileage built in decade, 2264.67.
but natural that railroads should be constructed in the same manner. Many of the state governments went heavily into debt to secure funds for railroad construction. Cities vied with one another in the same way.1
The panic of 1837 brought many of these projects, and with them the states that had financed them, to the verge of bankruptcy.2 Indeed, in some instances the bankruptcy came before the railroads were even started. So it was that there came a strong reaction against government enterprise in railroad building. It could not have been different, in a society that was filled with the narrow individualism of youthful capitalism.While the railroads constructed directly under municipal or state governments were insignificant, the struggle of various cities for commercial advantage had a far-reaching influence upon all forms of communication. The three great gateways through the Allegheny barrier had each a seaport at the eastern end. At first Baltimore, with the Cumberland Gap and the National Turnpike, had the advantage. Then Philadelphia, with her system of canals and inclined planes connecting her with the mouth of the Ohio, seemed destined to control the trade of the great trans-Allegheny region.3 The completion of the Erie Canal had a revolutionary effect upon this struggle of cities on the Atlantic seaboard, as it had upon the forces struggling for supremacy at its
1 McMaster, "History of the People of the United States," Vol. VI, pp. 347-350.
2 McMaster, loc. cit., Vol. VI, pp. 527, 530.
3 H. S. Tanner, "General Outline of the United States" (1825), p. 67.
western end. New York leaped forward in wealth and ?population as if by magic.1
The whole route of the canal through New York State was transformed. New cities sprang up. Real estate values multiplied at a rate that brought a golden harvest to dealers in that commodity. Not only in New York, but in Pennsylvania, The local politics of the time hinged on questions of canal building and maintenance.2
The coming of railways strengthened the tendencies set in motion by the Erie
Canal. Although Baltimore was the first to make use of the new means of
transportation to connect her with the West by means of the Baltimore and Ohio
Railroad, and Philadelphia hastened to construct the Philadelphia and Columbia,
connecting her with Pittsburg, yet when New York had once laid the rails that
followed the route of the Erie Canal, low trades, and connection with the Great
1 The following table from Hunt's Merchant Magazine, Aug., 1868, p. 113, shows the effect upon Philadelphia and New York:
2 Julius Winden, "The Influence of the Erie Canal upon the Population along its Course"; quoted in A. B. Hulbert, "Great American Canals," Vol. II, Chap. V. See also Charles McCarthy, "The Anti-Masonic Party," in American Historical Association Reports, 1902, passim; Wm. Grant, in Hudson River Railroad Reports, pp. 9-10.
influence as avenues of commerce was now being felt, renewed the advantage given by the canal and which she has retained to the present day.1
New Orleans was another competitor for this western trade. Already she was losing the advantage which a favorable river current had given her, and this change in trade routes was building up forces that were determining the outcome of the great conflict between the North and the South.
In the midst of this industrial struggle, certain fairly well defined interests can be traced. New England, while still possessing powerful commercial interests, was dominated by the new manufacturing and financial class. The Middle states were more closely affiliated with her than with any other section, but the strong manufacturing influence of Pennsylvania was already making her the leader in all demands for high tariff. The South, fairly prosperous and contented with the rapid extension of the cultivation of upland cotton, was united, but by no means aggressive in defending its interests save in regard to the tariff. The most striking interest was undoubtedly the young, virile, belligerent West. It played so prominent a part that most historians speak of this time as the "Rule of the Frontier." The frontier that ruled, however, was not that of the pioneer settler of the land, but the little-capitalist, petty trading, social frontier. How this outlook came to dominate is the real story of this period.
In the decade preceding 1830 New England had be
1 Chauncey M. Depew (editor), "One Hundred Years of American Commerce"; chapter on "Interstate Commerce," by Edward A. Moseley, p. 27.
come manufacturing and high tariff 1 The South had become agricultural and free trade.
In the beginning the West sided with the North Atlantic states for the
tariff,1 and Henry Clay was "the Father of the American System." But
by 1832, when Calhoun had evolved from a protectionist to a "Nullifier," ready to
urge his native state to leave the Union rather than endure a high tariff, and
Webster had undergone an identical evolution in the opposite direction from free
trader to protectionist, Henry Clay had also undergone a change. He now appeared
as "the Great Compromiser," with the Compromise of 1832 providing for a gradual
reduction of the tariff, much more in accord with the ideas of the South than of
New England. The evolution of Clay, like that of Webster and Calhoun, was due to
economic changes in the district from which he came. Until about 1830 the West
thought itself destined to become quickly a great manufacturing district. The
crying need for the upper Mississippi Valley was a market for its crops This
market was to be furnished by the great manufacturing centers soon to be
established. So it was that the "home market" argument made the West
protectionist. But as time passed the manufactures of the West grew slowly. At
the same time it became possible to export the agricultural products over the
improved transportation routes. The West grew indifferent to protection. Other
interests tended to alienate it still further from its former ally, New England
and the Middle Atlantic states, where manufacturing was increasing by stupendous
leaps, wanted cheap wage labor. The West wanted settlers;
1 F. J. Turner, " Rise of the New West," pp. 314-317.
and every western pioneer who left the manufacturing centers reduced the supply of labor power and raised its price. Therefore the manufacturing states opposed the development of the West. They sought to restrict settlement, and opposed all measures looking to a liberal land policy. At the time when the West was quivering in the balance in its allegiance to the protective policy and the northeastern states, there came a dramatic incident whose significance has been almost completely overlooked by those who are familiar with some of its phases. Tens of thousands of American schoolboys have declaimed Daniel Webster's great peroration, with its conclusion of "Liberty and the Union, now and forever, one and inseparable"; but how many of these know that this speech was delivered in support of a resolution offered by Senator Foote of Connecticut, proposing to stop the survey of public lands, limit the sales to those already in the market, and abolish the office of surveyor-general?
When this resolution was presented in the Senate, Benton of Missouri, long the spokesman of western interests, attacked it bitterly. Hayne of South Carolina, seeing an opportunity to draw the West from its alliance with the Northeast, came to Benton's support, and pointed out that the object of this resolution was to restrict the expansion of population until a servile and helpless wageworking class should develop to supply cheap labor for manufactures. Webster accepted the challenge, and, ignoring Benton, whose support he wished to retain, attacked Hayne in the orations that have become so famous. Although generations of elocutionists have sung the praises of Webster and celebrated his victory in forensic fireworks, yet he tem-
porarily lost the cause for which he fought. The West was the ally of the South for the next generation.1
There were other causes of hostility between the West and the Northeast. The fish of New England and the flesh of the Mississippi Valley came into competition in the markets of the world, and competitors never love one another. The temper of the West was not improved on this question by the fact that the salt which was so necessary to the packing of western meat was subject to a high tariff, which was rebated to the fishers of New England. This rebate, in the form of a bounty, was a dearly loved privilege of the fishermen, which gave them a great advantage in the markets of the world and was another illustration of the value of class influence upon government?
The whole Indian question caused further friction. The traders who exchanged the
cheap trinkets, flimsy fabrics, and poor whisky for the rich furs of the Indians,
objected to the advance of settlement that interfered with
1 McMaster, "History of the People of the United States," Vol. VI, pp. 11-29; Thomas H. Benton, "Thirty Years' View," Vol. I, pp. 130-143. Woodrow Wilson, "A History of the American People," Vol. IV, p. 22: "The New England men wanted the settlement of the West held back as much as possible. So long as land was to be had there almost for the mere asking, at no cost except that of a journey and of a few farmers' tools and a beast or two for the plough, the active men of their own section, whom they counted on as skilled workmen in building up their manufactures, must be constantly enticed away by the score and hundred to seek an independent life and livelihood- in the West ; high wages, very high wages, must be paid to keep them, if indeed they could be kept at all; and the maintenance of manufactures must cost more than mere protective tariffs could make good." See also Thomas Donaldson, "The Public Domain," p. 205; and Charles H. Peck, "The Jacksonian Epoch," p. 162.
2 Benton, loc. cit., pp. 143-148, 154-157.
their trade. This trade was now at its most profitable stage. The American Fur Company of John Jacob Astor was making enormous profits, and had become a power in politics.1 It was especially active in Michigan and Wisconsin, although its representatives had now reached the Pacific coast.
An elaborate commercial system had developed with the far western tribes of Indians and with the Mexicans over the famous Santa Fe Trail, that was at its height from 1820 to 1840.2
There was in addition the long-standing antagonism between debtors and creditors that had always been a source of friction between the frontier and the coast. This antagonism found a convenient and conspicuous target in the second Bank of the United States that had been chartered in 1816.
Daniel Webster had opposed the granting of the charter. At that time New England
was still commercial, and, being opposed to the war and the policy of the
national government, which was controlled by the South, was also opposed to all
measures strengthening the power of the national government. At this time the
overwhelming majority of the shares were owned in the South.' By 1831 the general
shifting of industrial conditions had reversed attitudes on the bank question, as
well as on the tariff, and many other questions. In this year a meeting of the
stockholders was held in
1 Gustavus Myers, "History of Great American Fortunes," Vol. I, pp. 124-125, et passim; F. J. Turner, "Rise of the New West," p. 113.
2 H. M. Chittenden, "The American Fur Trade of the Far West," Vol. II, p. 518.
3 McMaster, "History of the People of the United States."
Philadelphia, with Stephen Girard as president. It was then officially reported that of the 350,000 shares of $100 each the United States held 70,000, that 79,000 were held abroad, and that the remainder were owned in the following states in the order given : Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Maryland, New York, and Massachusetts, while scarcely a share was owned west of the Appalachians.1
Webster was now the champion of the Bank, the South was indifferent and becoming hostile to it, while to the West it typified all that the words "Wall Street" conveyed to the mind of the Populist of 1890. The West was young, vigorous, militant, and took the lead in the fight. Therefore the Bank became the principal issue of the period.
It was not difficult for the opponents of the Bank to show that it had been conducted in a fraudulent manner in its very beginning.2 It had entered politics secretly from the first, and when attacked, threw off the mask and fought with the weapons that powerful financial interests have always used in a country of universal suffrage.
The Bank, in the eyes of the debtor West, stood for the whole hated creditor
class. It had loaned heavily on western mortgages, and had foreclosed many of
these mortgages, until it was alleged that it owned great tracts of farm and city
property.3 It had favored the Eastern land speculator rather than the
1 J. Schouler, "History of the United States," Vol. VI, p. 48.
2 William M. Gouge, "Short History of Paper Money and Banking," pp. 31-32; Horace White, "Money and Banking"; Gustavus Myers, "History of Great American Fortunes," Vol. I, pp. 89-90. I T. Benton, "Thirty Years' View," Vol. I, p. 198.
in the matter of loans, and had refused to extend credit to the residents of the West as freely as the state banks. Thus the state banks, to whom the United States Bank stood in the relation of a powerful competitor, were anxious to fan the antagonism of the frontier.
The South had favored western expansion, and was now ready to make an alliance
with the West in the attack upon the Bank in return for support in reducing the
tariff. In this alliance the West, being the more virile rising element,
dominated, and Andrew Jackson, who was largely typical of the speculative, small
farmer and trader frontier, became President. In 1834 he finished his fight upon
the Bank by removing the funds deposited with it by the national government. This
so crippled the Bank that it sank into obscurity, and failed within a few years.
The tremendous flood of immigration to the West had been accompanied, as such
movements have always been, by a wild speculation in land. Starting immediately
after the panic of 1819, this craze grew steadily, save for a brief setback
following the withdrawal of the deposits from the Bank in 1833-1834, until it
climaxed and collapsed in the panic of 1837. Shares in canals and the newly
projected railroads added to the insanity, fanned still faster by the willingness
of the "wildcat" banks to issue "scrip" which was accepted as payment for public
lands, until at a time when every one was buying land, they were all too crazy to
farm, and wheat was actually imported from Russia and sold to land speculators in
the West for $2 a bushel.1
1 J. B. McMaster," History of the People of the United States," Vol. VI, pp. 323-389; Anon., "Eighty Years' Progress," pp. 147-152.
The income from the sale of public land leaped from less than four million dollars in 1833 to more than $24,000,000 in 1836.1 The public income was so great that a surplus accumulated in the United States treasury, and was distributed to the several states. In short, there were all the phenomena of inflation that precede a competitive crisis. Just as the bubble was blown to the bursting point, President Jackson furnished the pinprick that burst it by issuing his famous "Specie Circular." This simply stated that nothing but specie would be received in payment for land. All the vast quantities of bank notes, being no longer received by the government, lost much of their value, and the whole industrial structure came tumbling down.
Bad harvests in the wheat country and a simultaneous panic in England completed
the prostration of industry. There were new investigations of the cause of
distress. More charity societies were organized. The unemployed filled the
streets. Mobs in New York City stormed the shops of those who were alleged to
have monopolized breadstuffs, and destroyed great quantities of wheat and flour.
The new corporation stocks set the example that has been followed by generation
after generation of similar stocks, and promptly lost all value. Failure after
failure of banks, merchants, and manufacturers were heralded in the journals.
Prices of all goods fell rapidly, but no one had the means to purchase at any
price. Specie payments were suspended by all the banks, these being the only
establishments that, even at this early date, were allowed to refuse to pay their
debts and still continue to do business. As money disappeared from
1 Donaldson, "The Public Domain," pp. 201-203.
circulation, all sorts of expedients were resorted to. Individuals issued scrip, and checks for subsidiary coins ; and the larger portion of the population, especially in rural districts, relapsed once more to the stage of barter.1 Then came the slow process of recovery. There was a great western movement of actual settlers, a slow readjustment of industry, a growing discontent which found expression, as it has so often done since, by changing political rulers; and then industry started upon another upward climb toward another plunge into the depths.
On the basis of the industrial stage just described there developed a peculiar mental attitude, and a set of social and political principles and institutions that set their stamp upon all subsequent history.
The common interpretation of this period is that it was the rule of the frontier, and that it was an example of perfect democracy. There is more than a semblance of truth in these statements.
The two largest elements of the population that possessed that sense of coming social power which alone gives the class consciousness necessary to effective action were the frontiersmen and the wageworkers of the cities. The latter fired into brief activity, and were then swallowed up in other classes, largely in that of the pioneers of the Northwest. Those who remained at home accepted the mental attitude of the small manufacturers, - the rising bourgeoisie. Those who went west developed much the same psychology.
Out of this industrial condition sprang that peculiar thing that has been called
1 J. B. McMaster, loc. cit., Vol. VI, Chap. LXV.
It was neither frontier, nor wageworking, nor even purely capitalist in its mental make-up. It can be better characterized as the "democracy of expectant capitalists." It borrowed something from the frontier. Its brutality, crudeness, coarseness, admiration for boorishness and ignorance, have been especially ascribed to the frontier, but they belong equally well to crude, competitive capitalism. These were the features that impressed such foreign visitors as Charles Dickens,1 Harriet Martineau,2 and Alexander De Tocqueville.3
It was a society made up of units each of which believed that it was destined to become rich and powerful. Its democracy was based upon the idea of equality in the struggle for office. Office was considered as a goal to be fought for. Public office was a private snap. Therefore it should be passed around. Hence the pernicious idea of rotation in office that has cursed American politics until the present time.
The only way to secure office was to deceive a majority of the voters. Hence the deification of majorities. The one idea which is met with over and over again in all the literature of the period is that the majority is always right. Whoever could get a majority of the votes was therefore right. The hardest way to get majorities being through appeals to reason, that method was neglected. Political machines, whose origin in Tammany Hall we have already traced, now spread from this germ until they controlled the whole national political field.
1 Charles Dickens, "American Notes."
2 Harriet Martineau, "Society in America" (1837).
3 Alexander De Tocqueville, "Democracy in America" (1833).
mad rush for wealth, the deification of success, the fierce competition of the early days of capitalism, combined to make politics a trade.1 The workers could not, the madly competing little capitalists had no time to, enter politics directly. Besides, the whole end and aim of life being to make money, why should not politics be left to individual initiative in the pursuit of profit?
The national political convention, originating nominally in a gathering of the "Anti-Masonic" party in 1820, first became a national force when Jackson was nominated in 1828. By this time Van Buren, pupil of Aaron Burr and Tammany, had extended the system he had helped create in New York City first to the state and now to the nation.
This machine existed for the purpose of getting majorities, and through these the spoils of office. It did not try to teach the voters. The more ignorant they were, the easier to manage. Hence the exaltation of ignorance, the glorification of the "horny hand," that has been a part of the stock in trade of every demagogue to the present day.
Principles are a distinct handicap to a political party working on these lines.
Hence they are avoided as much as possible. Personalities are emphasized.
Trickery, cabals, bribery, and intrigue are used within the party to determine
nominations. After the nominations are made, the majority are to be swayed by
phrases, shibboleths, "blessed words," appeals to party solidarity, and
principally by infusing the multitude with a sort of hypnotic enthusiasm and the
1 I. M. Ostrogorski, "Democracy and the Organization of Political Parties," Vol. II, p. 78.
2 Ostrogorski, loc. cit., Chap. II.
These methods were first seized upon by the Democratic party. By their use Jackson and Van Buren were elected. Then others learned the lesson. Webster and New England, shut out of the Van Buren-Jackson political combination, proceeded to manufacture a machine of their own, - the Whig party. It never had any principles.1 The whole country was so uniformly small-capitalist, save in the chattel-slave-owning localities, whose interests were as yet not challenged, that there was little on which politicians disagreed.
But the Whigs had, from the start, greater resources than the Jackson and Van
Buren combination. Henry Clay had quarreled with Jackson and gone over to the new
party, and was its logical candidate. He was cast aside on the ground that,
having a public record, he had enemies, and might not be the most available
votegetter. William H. Harrison was nominated instead. His only claim to fame was
that he had been a general in a successful battle against the Indians some thirty
years before. The machine then proceeded to make full use of the new methods of
arousing enthusiasm. Enormous meetings were worked up, whose size was measured by
acres, and not by the arguments presented. Monster processions passed through the
streets of the cities, led by members of Congress who came from all parts of the
Union for this purpose. An excellent phrase for the purpose of arousing the
ignorant, unthinking vote was created for the Whigs when some opponent
1 Charles H. Peck, "The Jacksonian System," p. 420: "John Randolph once remarked that the principles of the Whig party were seven -five loaves and two fishes. This sarcasm contained much truth. The party was a heterogeneous composition."
sneeringly declared that Harrison would be content if he could sit in the door of a log cabin and drink hard cider. Although there is no evidence that he had ever so sat, and while he was, for that time, a comparatively wealthy man, this phrase was seized upon, Harrison became the "log-cabin candidate," and was swept into the highest office in the nation.
Unfortunately for the Whigs, in their anxiety to secure a victory they had selected John Tyler for Vice-President. He was more nearly a Democrat than a Whig (another illustration of the disregard of principles for expediency); and when Harrison died after a few weeks in office, Tyler became President, and the Democrats were once more in places of power. Before Tyler's term had expired, the long-blurred class lines again became distinct in the field of politics. The new divisions were wholly different from the old ones, and were along the lines that were later to lead to Civil War.
It would be a mistake to conclude that the democracy of this period was all a sham and a cover for scheming demagogues. It did strike heavy blows at all forms of privilege. It extended the suffrage and the public school system, and developed many things that had been set in motion by the labor movement of the preceding period.
It was a time of strange, erratic, hysterical, and violent social movements. Antirent riots in New York secured the abolition of the remnants of the old patroon privileges that had remained from the days of Dutch control. The anarchistic competitive industrial atmosphere produced extreme individualism in religion, resulting in hysterical revivals, and the growth of strange sects that
214 SOCIAL FORCES IN AMERICAN HISTORY
were fiercely persecuted, as in the case of the Mormons. Political parties fought violently over strange issues. An anti-Masonic party threatened to capture several of the Northern states, and was a deciding influence in the local politics for several years.
New England stood a little apart from this confusion. The old commercial class had lost its industrial and political power. It was dying out in a blaze of intellectual fireworks, commonly known as the "Transcendental movement," because of its metaphysical base. To this movement belonged Emerson and Channing and Ripple and Thoreau, and several other of the brightest names in American literature.
As in Europe, so here, this small competitive stage of capitalism was accompanied by a wave of communistic Utopian Socialism. It was during this period that Brook Farm was established, Brisbane was preaching the gospel of Fourier, and the followers of Cabet were preparing to build "Icarias" in the new world, with the assistance of local sympathizers.
This communistic movement was a natural outgrowth of the combination of bourgeois democracy, New England liberalism in theology, metaphysical transcendentalism, and the small-capitalist ideal of equality transmuted into transcendental phraseology. All of these things were most pronounced in their development in New England. Elsewhere there were disturbing currents that prevented the appearance of this intellectual and social efflorescence of the industrial trunk of American society.
The whole tendency of bourgeois democracy and primitive communism is to level down, not up; to praise what
is common to all, though it be base and degrading, rather than to aim at building up in the many what at first was the property of the few. This political power of the small bourgeoisie was now to be momentarily submerged in national affairs by the chattel-slave interests, then, after a period of development and growth and change, to seize the reins of social control, and wield them until it handed them over to its legitimate heirs in the line of social succession.