JEFFERSONIAN IDEOLOGY AND THE SECOND PARTY SYSTEM.
While George Washington and John Adams also were national icons, their brand of deferential Roman republicanism did not survive the eighteenth century. Washington, the "Patriot King" believed his role as president elevated him above party machinations and ideological debates, and he left very little for his partisan supporters to use but his name. To a large degree, Washington's influence in shaping the political culture of the new nation did not extend beyond his death. His Federalist successor, John Adams, suffered the ignominy of electoral defeat by Jefferson in 1800, and the nation's first party government rarely competed effectively for national office afterwards. Jefferson, on the other hand, bequeathed to partisan heirs James Madison and James Monroe the blueprint for a republican political economy of westward expansion promoted by the activist agrarian state. The "Virginia dynasty" of Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe won six consecutive presidential elections from 1800-24 and enjoyed the benefit of a Democratic-Republican-dominated Congress throughout.
While it is true that Federalists maintained a viable opposition to the Jeffersonians in the early nineteenth century, Democratic-Republicans never lost control of the executive or legislative branches of government. Even for the next three decades, most Americans, whether Jacksonian or Whig, considered themselves Jeffersonians. This paper will consider the ideological and partisan roles played by Jefferson, his followers, and the shapers of historical memory in the second party system. Statesmen from all sides found something in a selectively reconstructed Jeffersonianism upon which to build platforms, such that Jefferson and his coalition created or contributed to all the political ideologies in mid-nineteenth-century America. The Jefferson legacy, in other words, served both the proponents of radical egalitarianism and the champions of Southern slavery.
In 1826, America witnessed the passing of one political generation and the rise of another. On July Fourth, Thomas Jefferson, the spiritual leader of the Democratic-Republican party that had dominated American politics for nearly three decades, died at the age of 83 in his home at Monticello. Later that year, the realignment of congressional alliances that led to the second party system began in earnest. Considering Jefferson's role as the dominant statesman of his day, it was fitting that aspirants to public office invoke his name, from the states' rights oriented Virginia aristocrats to the New England Brahman John Quincy Adams.
Simply put, Jefferson was many things to many people. To some, he was the "Apostle of Liberty," author of the Declaration of Independence and the architect of a democratic vision of American society predicated on the westward expansion of autonomous farmers beyond the reach of intruding institutional restraints. In sum, this was the Jacksonian interpretation of the Jeffersonian movement. Men like Andrew Jackson (1829-37), James Polk (1845-49), and Martin Van Buren (1837-41) located the crystallization of the Democratic-Republican party as far back as the 1790s, when Jefferson and his followers opposed Federalist Alexander Hamilton's push toward economic centralization. Van Buren recorded his Autobiography that "my earliest political recollections were those of the day when I exulted at the election of Mr. Jefferson, as the triumph of a good cause over an Administration and Party, who were as I thought subverting the principles upon which the Revolution of founded."(1) Jackson revealed the depths of such partisan division when he wrote in 1817 that the "kind of men ... [presently] called Federalists; are really monarchists, & traitors to the constituted Government."(2)
To the heirs of Federalism, however, Jeffersonian principles meant the administration of government by the kind of statesman aristocrats who chartered the Second National Bank in 1816 and promoted federally financed improvements in education and transportation in the years immediately following the War of 1812. In the opinion of one such heir, National Democratic-Republican party (1824-34) and Whig party (1834-54) leader Henry Clay, Jefferson was a farsighted proponent of internal improvements who overcame constitutional doubts to implement a national transportation system. In a congressional speech on domestic manufacturing in 1818, Clay concluded that "it was the opinion of Mr. Jefferson that, although there was no general power vested by the Constitution in Congress to construct roads and canals, such a power might be exercised."(3) Seven years later, President John Quincy Adams concurred with Clay's summation in his inaugural address, calling for the promotion of internal improvements "within the limits of constitutional power of the Union."(4) Such limits, of course, were those defined during the previous 25 years of Democratic-Republican party rule. Thus, to the future Whigs Clay and Adams, Jeffersonian Republicans were nationalists who developed the country's strength through government paternalism.
That widely diverse political factions could claim to be Jefferson's political heirs was possible because the Jeffersonian coalition changed significantly over its lifetime, attesting both to the popularity of that movement and to the difficulty the Democratic-Republicans experienced in establishing a fixed ideology. The key to party affiliation was a commitment to broad principles of personal liberty, social mobility, and westward expansion. The Jeffersonian coalition retained an eclectic heritage, evolving from a decentralized agrarian opposition to Federalism in the 1790s to a ruling party of vigorous nationalists in 1816. As a young man, Jefferson feared government encroachment on private liberties, yet as he grew older, he became equally apprehensive that a weak United States would invite foreign intervention and destroy the republican experiment.
As president, Jefferson watched Britain and France, the "tyrants of the sea" as he called them,(5) disregard American neutrality in the Napoleonic Wars and confiscate U.S. merchant ships. Traditionally, historians have recorded that Jefferson's response to European violations of American neutrality was the Embargo Act of 1807, an effort of "peaceable coercion" that stopped all export of American goods and prohibited American ships from clearing for foreign ports. This, however, tells only part of the story. More significantly, the conflict in Europe and America's inability to adequately assert its rights as a neutral prompted Jefferson to back a comprehensive national system of internal improvements that Henry Clay later termed the American System. Introduced to the Senate by Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin, the proposal included a turnpike from Maine through what was then the western frontier to Georgia, canals around the falls of the Susquehanna, Potomac, and James rivers, and roads leading from the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Tennessee rivers at an estimated cost of $20,000,000. As Gallatin explained to Jefferson in the spring of 1807, the turnpike, known as the Cumberland Road would be "the main communication for the transportation of all foreign or Atlantic articles which the Western states consume."(6) Neither was Jefferson's support for internal improvements in the final years of his presidency unprecedented. As early as 1801, in his first inaugural address, Jefferson counseled that "revenue ... may, by a just repartition among the states, and a corresponding amendment of the constitution, be applied, in time of peace, to rivers, canals, roads, arts, manufactures, education, and other great objects within each state."(7) In 1802, he signed a bill authorizing the creation of the National Road, which by 1818 connected Cumberland, Maryland, to Wheeling, Virginia. He also proposed a constitutional amendment to empower Congress to appropriate funds for public education and internal transportation, which would have increased dramatically the power of the federal government.(8)
Jefferson's nationalism survived through the Madison presidency (1809-17) as continued fear of American dependence on European markets prompted the Democratic-Republicans to become aggressive champions of domestic manufacturing. In his inaugural address, Madison urged Congress "to promote by authorized means, improvement friendly to agriculture, to manufactures, and to external as well as internal commerce."(9) After the War of 1812, Madison oversaw a nationalist program of economic development predicated upon the government's protection of manufacturing. Significantly, Madison's proposals caused little dissent within his party. Democratic-Republicans understood in 1816, the year Congress instituted the first protective tariff and chartered the Second National Bank, that the country needed a diversified economy, dependable home market, and military security. In general this meant manufactures and specifically the development of a nationwide internal improvement network. The issue was no longer how America could keep the machine out of the garden, but rather how the machine could be integrated into the nation's rapidly evolving heritage. In a letter to an associate written in 1816, Jefferson concluded that:
He ... who is now against domestic manufacture, must be fore reducing us either to dependence on [a] foreign nation, or to be clothed in skins, and to live like wild beasts in dens and caverns. I am not one of those; experience has taught me that manufactures are now as necessary to our independence as to our comfort.(10)
In the 1820s, however, Jefferson's fear of European domination of the American market gave way to apprehension that federal promotion of the emerging commercial economy would lead to inequality within American society by favoring economic elites. A decade of peace and the end of 25 years of presidential rule by Virginians prompted Jefferson to criticize John Quincy Adams's inaugural address in 1825 that called for federal expenditures for education, roads, and canals, even though Jefferson had asked Congress for similar funds during his own presidency. Writing to William Giles in 1825, Jefferson complained that "the federal branch of our government is advancing towards the usurpation of all the rights reserved to the states, and the consolidation in itself of all powers, foreign and domestic."(11)
Jefferson's statements reveal an inherent flexibility or perhaps ambiguity in Democratic-Republican thought: Jefferson and Madison were content to promote economic nationalism as long as it originated in the states. When Jefferson and his Virginia successors were in power, government-funded projects were deemed appropriate and necessary. When Federalists and later Quincy Adams occupied the presidency, however, Jefferson interpreted such projects as attempts to enhance the power of the federal government over the states. Jefferson based his periodic support for domestic manufactures on America's need to defend against the Napoleonic Wars. His partisanship forbade him from considering that Federalists operated from similar motives, that John Adams interpreted the crisis with France in 1797-99 in much the same way that Jefferson and Madison viewed America's drift to war with Britain between 1806 and 1812.
Though second-generation Jeffersonians--the Democrats (1812-28)--believed that they had revived the basic tenets of Jeffersonian agrarianism, it appeared to many members of the original Democratic-Republican coalition that the issues facing the young nation in the 1790s were not the same as those following the War of 1812. Madison, who as a war president was painfully aware of America's need for a more diverse economy, articulated this position in 1823, noting that Jeffersonians were "reconciled to certain measures and arrangement which ... [might] be as proper now as they were premature and suspicious when urged by the champions of federalism."(12) Madison himself promoted one of the greatest expansions of government power in the history of the republic. While Madison's nationalism was qualified in that he vetoed the Bonus Bill, which sought to apply government funds toward building roads and canals, he nevertheless stated that federal laws for internal improvements would bring "signal advantage to the general prosperity."(13) In a similar vein, Madison praised Henry Clay's congressional speech, "In Defense of the American System" and even supported Clay's 1832 presidential bid.(14)
Madison's successor, James Monroe (1817-25), disapproved of Andrew Jackson, who became something of a personal rival. Monroe opposed Jackson's unsuccessful candidacy for president in 1824, and Jackson further resented Monroe's criticism of his military performance in New Orleans during the War of 1812. The Jacksonian press published unsigned reports that General Jackson had been forced to defend New Orleans without adequate supplies due to President Monroe's negligence. Monroe's antipathy toward Jackson was restrained by his reluctance to demean the presidency, but during Jackson's presidency (1829-37) Monroe openly criticized the general.(15) He believed that his petition to the Jacksonian-dominated Congress for claims of services rendered as secretary of war were held up for partisan reasons. Reinforcing this impression was Jackson's system of political patronage, which removed Monroe's political allies. In a letter to John Calhoun in the spring of 1829, Monroe lamented "the removal of my many friends from office.... My attachment to them was not of a transient nature."(16) Monroe's uneasiness with the Jacksonian regime was encouraged by Postmaster John McLean, who confided to Monroe that his successor was "deficient in requirement and capacity for the station that he falls. He is influenced by those who are about him. His firmness is not that which arises from a mature investigation and enlightened conclusion, but of impulse."(17)
Concern over Jackson's patronage policy and Madison's sympathy for a nationalized vision of internal growth reflect the Virginia dynasty's increasing reservation about Jacksonianism: despite egalitarian leanings, it contained the seeds of authoritarianism. The leaders of the Jeffersonian coalition were wary of Jackson, whose reputation as a duelist, executioner of mutinous American soldiers in the Creek War, and invader of Spanish Florida in 1818 indicated to them the mindset of a despot. In their hearts, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe were patricians who believed in rule by what the Master of Monticello referred to as the "natural aristocracy" Temperamentally and intellectually, these men had more in common with a Quincy Adams than a Jackson. While Jacksonian Democracy appealed to the hearts of older Democratic-Republicans, National Republican and Whig statesmanship appealed to their minds. Jackson's two-time opponent for the presidency, Quincy Adams, saw his political career flower under Jeffersonian patronage. Under Madison, he served as envoy to Russia and was one of the commissioners to conclude a peace treaty with the British at Ghent. Returning to America, Adams pursued his vision of Democratic-Republican nationalism as Monroe's secretary of state.
Many Jacksonians viewed themselves as outsiders to the old Jeffersonian political order, which they believed had strayed from true republican principles. Part of their attack was aimed at Quincy Adams, not because he deviated from the Democratic-Republican ideals of 1816, but because he embodied them all too well. If, as William Ward has asserted, Jackson was the "symbol for an age,"(18) it was largely alien to the old Democratic-Republicans. Jackson's America was more democratic and more egalitarian than the one experienced by Jefferson and proposed by Quincy Adams.
Moreover, Jefferson himself disapproved of Jackson. To Monroe's suggestion in 1807 that the general be appointed to the Russian Mission, Jefferson refused, responding "Why good God! He would breed you a quarrel before he had been there a month"(19) In 1824, Jefferson opposed Jackson's presidential bid, confiding to Daniel Webster and George Ticknor that the general "one of the most unfit men I know of for such a place. He has had very little respect for laws or constitutions,--& is in fact merely an able military chief.... He is a dangerous man."(20)
The general fared no better with Madison and Gallatin. In 1832, both men supported Henry Clay, citing Jackson's temper and military background. Gallatin concluded that "whatever gratitude we owe [Jackson] for his eminent military services, he is not fitted for the office of first magistrate of a free people to administer a government of laws."(21) Jackson likewise contemplated the temperamental gap that separated him from Virginia Democratic-Republicans. While acknowledging to Monroe in 1817 that "Mr. M[adison] was one of the best of men and a great civilian," Jackson nevertheless could not support the Virginian. "I always believed that the mind of a philosopher could not dwell on blood and carnage with any composure," he remarked, lamenting that Madison's temperament was "not fitted for a stormy sea."(22)
The old Democratic-Republicans, that is, those who formed the nucleus of the original Jeffersonian movement in the 1790s, felt little kinship with the second generation of Democrats, who based their claim to political power on democracy, or worse, mere popularity. Surveying the political landscape of the 1820s and 1830s, many older Jeffersonians found the new Democratic party too egalitarian for their liking. James Barbour, a former Jeffersonian Democratic-Republican and later organizer of the Whig party in Virginia, pronounced it "terrible that an impetuous military man ... had been elevated to the country's highest elective office" a position for which "by education and character, he was totally unfit."(23) A Whig state convention in Indiana broadened Barbour's critique to include the entire Jacksonian movement, concluding that "for the sake of popularity, [Democrats] unite contempt for the experience of the past [and] violate every principle and desecrates [sic] every institution which Jefferson and Madison developed, cherished, and sustained."(24) By allying their political principles to a heritage of patrician rule, those opposed to the Jacksonians naturally found a model in the Jeffersonian past.
If older Democratic-Republicans shared a similar temperament and ruling philosophy with the Whig party, then on what grounds could Jacksonians claim to be heirs to the Jefferson coalition? The Jacksonians chose to ignore the nationalism of the mature Democratic-Republican party of 1816, concluding instead that the infant Democratic-Republican coalition of the 1790s represented true Jeffersonian principles. By selecting various episodes in the conflict between the Federalists and the Jeffersonians in the eighteenth century, Jacksonians argued that the battle between "agrarians" and "aristocrats" was reborn in the nineteenth century. In the 1790s as well as the 1830s, the Democratic coalitions invoked egalitarian ideals and were the most popular.
Moreover, the defining struggle for both parties was opposition to a national bank. As Major Wilson notes in a recent article, "each side claimed to be the true Country party, standing in defense of the Constitution and the liberties of the people against a conspiracy at Court."(25) Referring to the bank war of 1832, in which Democrats attempted to end the national government's employment of public and private funds housed in the national banking system for internal improvements, Democrat James K. Polk noted that "the political principles of Thomas Jefferson ... can never be overturned or destroyed by the corrupt power of an irresponsible corporation which seeks by its money to control public affairs, and rule the destinies of the nation."(26) Polk did not consider, however, that from 1801 to 1825, Presidents Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe managed to live with national banks for all but five years. An opponent of the National Bank in the 1790s, Jefferson nevertheless employed it extensively during his presidency. He voiced no public constitutional objections to Madison's signing of the bill creating the Second National Bank, and he turned to the Richmond branch of that bank in 1817 to secure a personal loan of $3,000.(27) Neither did Madison, Monroe, or Gallatin question the viability of the Second National Bank; it was not an issue for them.
Further, Democratic-Republican antipathy to the original bank must be interpreted in the context of the Federalist era. In the 1790s, Jeffersonians believed Federalists were attempting to enhance the power of the federal government at the expense of the states. The bank issue did not stand alone but was part of a series of measures that included Jay's Treaty, a controversial agreement with Britain that many felt primarily benefited the merchant class; and the creation of a new military. In addition, they criticized the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which allowed the president in time of war to deport or imprison any foreigners suspected of dangerous intentions toward the nation, and made it a criminal offense for any American to "maliciously" criticize the president. By the 1830s, both the Executive office and Congress had been dominated by southern agrarians for decades. While the dangers interpreted by Jeffersonians toward government centralization were real in the 1790s, the Jacksonian attack on the Second National Bank 40 years later reflected no comparable fears. By that time Jacksonians controlled the national government and could crush the power of the bank at any time, which they did in due course. Moreover, the bank's director, Nicholas Biddle, had neither the vision nor the following that made centralizing nationalist Alexander Hamilton such a potent political figure. When Polk wrote to Jackson in 1834 that "our past observation proved ... that any incorporated Bank will probably become an engine of political party," his thoughts were in the past.(28)
Rather, it was the absence of the bank, destroyed by Jackson's presidential veto, that created not just the engine of political party, but a new political system. Probank Jacksonians, seeing the American System threatened by the destruction of the bank, gave flesh to their opposition by joining the Whig party. The bank war did more than solidify opposition to the Jacksonians: it also solidified the Jacksonian party. As the acid test of Jacksonian Democracy, the bank war strengthened the hand of anti-bank Democrats within the party and encouraged some advocated of easy credit to leave the coalition and join forces with the Whigs. Thus the bank war allowed Democrats to swear allegiance to the Democratic-Republicans of the 1790s while using the destruction of the bank to cement their political base and provide Jackson with a winning campaign issue in 1832. Not even the original Jeffersonian coalition accomplished this much; Democratic-Republican opposition to the first National Bank was not enough to challenge Washington in 1792 or to defeat Adams in 1796.(29)
If the Jacksonians gave a new twist to the Jeffersonian distaste for centralized banking, they also exaggerated Jefferson's opposition to internal improvements. In his Autobiography, Van Buren noted that Jefferson's opposition to internal improvements was voiced "with some feeling, as a mode of wasting public revenues, without the probability of adequate returns, and involving violations of the constitution injurious to the interests it professed to advance.(30) In reality, Jefferson's position on federally subsidized improvements was not as consistent as Van Buren suggested. While Jefferson never embraced manufacturing, his program of aggressive westward expansion necessarily meant the expansion of eastern industry. This, in turn, created a need for the rapid development of roads and canals that could only be met by the federal government.
By and large, Democratic-Republicans acquiesced in this process. Jefferson overcame constitutional scruples to purchase the Louisiana Territory, which one day would be opened by government subsidized railroads, and he established the National Road. The largest federally funded internal improvements project of its era, the National Road enjoyed consistent, if not always enthusiastic support from the Virginia dynasty. Madison signed several bills extending the road, including a $100,000 appropriation in the last weeks of his presidency. Monroe seriously questioned the constitutionality of its upkeep and extension, but he concluded that federal funding of the road was permissible since, as historian Harry Ammon has noted, "the land used for the Highway had been obtained by the states" and because "tolls had never been collected nor had federal patrols been used to police the road."(31)
The banking and internal improvement debates illustrate the mixed legacy of Jeffersonianism. The Democratic-Republican opposition of the 1790s expressed many of the sentiments toward centralized power that Jacksonians would invoke in the 1830s. On the other hand, the Whig position on these questions followed the lead of the ruling Democratic-Republican party as it had evolved, the one that had dominated American politics during the first quarter of the nineteenth century and had become progressively nationalist. The flexibility of Jeffersonian rhetoric allowed both parties to make solid claims to being the true heirs to the Democratic-Republican throne. The Jacksonians, for example, correctly located their faith in strict construction of the Constitution and states' rights in the old Democratic-Republican cause. The Democrats of the 1830s could also appreciate Jeffersonian fears of concentrated power and hopes that through aggressive territorial expansion, democracy would spread throughout the continent. Moreover, both coalitions were dominated by Southerners who believed America's western lands should be opened to the plantation-agriculture system and both coalitions believed that a party structure would prove to be the most powerful national device to promote this vision.
During the presidencies of Virginia Democratic-Republicans Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, the Louisiana Territory, Florida, and the Oregon Territory became part of the new nation. Under "Tennessee Democratic-Republicans" Jackson, Polk, and Sam Houston, the Cherokees were removed from their lands in the Southeast, Texas entered the Union at the cost of war with Mexico, and California and the New Mexico territory quickly followed. Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans and Jacksonian Democrats were the only political groups to oversee territorial acquisitions. Non-Democratic-Republican and non-Democratic Presidents Washington, Adams, Quincy Adams, William Henry Harrison (1841), Zachary Taylor (1849-50), and Millard Fillmore (1850-53) did not. Recognizing that expansion would absorb the nation's energy while limiting opportunities for improvements at home, Horace Greeley summed up the National Democratic-Republican and Whig view of territorial acquisition: "Opposed to the instinct of boundless acquisition, stands that of Internal Improvement. A nation cannot simultaneously devote its energies to the absorption of others' territories and the improvements of its own."(32) Progress, in other words, was a measurable process requiring deliberate and ordered attention. As Quincy Adams' Secretary of the Treasury Richard Rush put it, "excellent is of slow growth."(33)
For the Democratic-Republican and Democratic coalitions, however, rapid expansion meant the peopling of distant territories, which presumably would promote equality for freemen in America. In this spirit, Jefferson's "Empire of Liberty" was extended to the Pacific under Monroe, cleared of Native Americans by Jackson, and reached the southwest under Polk. The continuity of the expansionist policy followed by the Jeffersonians and Jacksonians in the first half of the nineteenth century was sealed as early as 1803 when Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory. Preaching to the already converted, Jefferson wrote to Jackson in the autumn of that year that "the acquisition of [this territory] is of immense importance to our future tranquillity.... [T]he world will here see such an extent of country under a free and moderate government as it has never yet seen."(34) As president, Jackson declared in his Fourth Annual Message that "the speedy settlement [of public lands] constitutes the true interest of the Republic."(35)
From the Virginia dynasty through the Tennessee Democratic-Republicans, Democrats were consistently aggressive, to the point of war, in carving out new territory. Unfortunately this legacy left Southern Democrats ill-prepared to deal with Whig and Democratic-Republican obstruction to expansion in the 1850s. When once loyal Northern Democrats understood that future territorial acquisitions might promote slavery in the West, they abandoned their party's commitment to empire. In other words, the most consistent link between the old Democratic-Republicans and the Jacksonian Democrats, support for rapid territorial expansion, proved to be the nation's most divisive issue.
On the eve of the Civil War it was not unreasonable for Northerners to conjecture that if the Jacksonian coalition was organized on the principle of federal support for slavery in the West, then somehow the Jeffersonian vision could not have been as inclusive as it once appeared. Federalists had recognized the possibility of a Southern-dominated republic as early as 1804, when secessionists in Massachusetts opposed to the Louisiana Purchase proposed severing New York and New England from the Union. Years later, in 1838, Daniel Webster complained to New York Whig Thurlow Weed that Southern power was encroaching on the federal government: "[R]allying the whole South & South west, against the North, its concentrated capital, its commercial monopoly, its abolition sentiments ... are to be the leading objects, of [southern interests].... To this end," Webster concluded, "much use will be made of Mr. Jefferson's authority."(36)
While Whigs generally opposed slavery and were less aggressive than old Democratic-Republicans about extending the boundaries of the nation, nevertheless they laid equal claim to the Jeffersonian heritage. The anti-Democratic parties of the 1820s and 1830s sounded like Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans in their invectives against executive usurpation. In a speech in Norfolk, Virginia, Henry Clay argued that "the Democratic party of the present day profess to be of the Jefferson School, and yet they are carrying out the principles against which he warned them many years ago: They are upholding the extension of Executive power."(37)
To moderate Whigs, government was best when it operated as an evenly balanced coalition between executive and Congress. This principle had largely won out in previous administrations and finally assumed the character of precedent. Jackson's extensive use of veto power, combined with his partisan distribution of patronage and his nearly single-handed destruction of the American System, represented sharp deviations from this precedent. Democratic-Republican rule called for compromise, which jarred with Jackson's temperament. Jackson's role as party leader, moreover, left him vulnerable to charges that he was a partisan president who responded to the will of a political machine rather than to national interests. The Jeffersonian coalition, like the Whigs, enjoyed a loose party structure that did not rely as much on mass support as the Jacksonian Democrats.
While Jackson vetoed the Bank Bill in the name of "the farmers, mechanics, and laborers," the anti-Democratic coalition complained that the president had broken traditional bonds of political propriety by attempting to run the government by popular will.(38) To Jackson's opponents, a presidential veto meant an unwillingness on the part of the executive to compromise. The American Review concurred: on the issue of executive powers, Whigs were "precisely on the ground occupied by Mr. Jefferson ... [who] acting in conformity with these principles, never in the course of eight years of public administration, put his veto upon a single act of the legislature ... [S]uch things belong only to the era of the new Democracy."(39) Thus for Whigs, as for many socially conservative Democrats, Jackson's dramatic expansion of presidential power, his self-appointed role as party leader, and his willingness to become a symbol of the popular will of the people were not continuations of old Democratic-Republican principles but rather the formation of new Democratic values.
As the ideological battle between Jacksonians and Whigs demonstrates, the Democratic-Republican image changed over time, during and beyond Jefferson's lifetime. The eclectic nature of Jeffersonian vision of vigorous westward expansion, promoted by patrician statesmen and deferential democracy, was large enough to resonate with the Jacksonians and with the more socially conservative Whigs. Never before or since have competing partisans embraced the same founder. Washington, Jackson, Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt each represented a particular party or political culture that encountered bitter partisan opposition. In the aftermath of the War of 1812, however, nearly everyone claimed to be a Jeffersonian republican. Circumstances, of course, were vital. Between 1809 and 1824, competing party ideologies were subdued, as Madison and Monroe dutifully served as keepers of the Democratic-Republican faith. Southern domination of the federal government, a hallmark of the early Republic and antebellum years, was personified by the Virginia dynasty.
Historical memory also played a part, as an increasingly complex market dislocated traditional social and economic relationships and caused many Americans to look back to the Jeffersonian period as a time of yeoman innocence. Historian Marvin Meyers insists that this appeal to lost agrarian roots was basic to Democratic party belief. Meyers identifies this longing with the "Jacksonian persuasion,"(40) but a similar longing persisted among Whigs, who looked back to the deferential style of government personified by Jefferson.
The Jeffersonian consensus shows the fragile nature of popular political agreement. Unlike the vision of the founders, Americans have preferred partisan opposition to Washington's "Patriot King." Such an image of unified rule conjures fears of uncontested power. But Jefferson transcended such suspicions because his experiences could serve all sides of an emerging democratic electorate. Slaveholder, educational pioneer, territorial expansionist, promoter of internal improvements, and party leader of a democratic coalition that was run by patricians, Jefferson embodied the ideological diversity that ran through American society in the first half of the nineteenth century.
(1) John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., Autobiography of Martin Van Buren (Washington, 1920), 139-49, 142.
(2) Jackson to James Monroe, 6 January 1817, in The Papers of Andrew Jackson, ed. Harold D. Moser, David R. Hoth, and George H. Hoemann, vol. 4 (Knoxville, 1961), 81.
(3) Clay speech on internal improvements, 13 March 1818, in Clay, The Papers of Henry Clay, ed. James F. Hopkins, vol. 2 (Lexington, 1961), 479.
(4) John Quincy Adams, "Within the Limits," in A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1789-1897, ed. James Richardson, vol. 2 (1898; reprint, New York, 1913), 864.
(5) Quoted in Dumas Malone, Jefferson the President, Second Term 1805-1809 (Boston, 1974), 80.
(6) Gallatin to Jefferson, 13 April 1807, in The Writings of Albert Gallatin, ed. Henry Adams, vol. 1 (Philadelphia, 1879), 334-35.
(7) Thomas Jefferson, Public and Private Papers by Thomas Jefferson (New York, 1990), 192-97.
(8) Merrill D. Peterson, Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation (New York, 1970), 857.
(9) Gaillard Hunt, ed. The Writings of James Madison, vol. 8 (New York, 1908), vol. 8, 47-50; see also Drew R. McCoy, The Last of the Fathers: James Madison and the Democratic-Republican Legacy (Cambridge, 1989); Lance Banning, The Sacred Fire of Liberty: James Madison and the Founding Fathers of the Federal Republic (Ithaca, 1995).
(10) Jefferson to Benjamin Austin, 9 January 1816, in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. H. A. Washington, vol. 7 (New York, 1855), 387-92.
(11) Jefferson to William B. Giles, 26 December 1825, in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 8, 426.
(12) Madison to William Eustis, 22 May 1823, in The Writings of James Madison, ed. William Eustis, vol. 8 (New York, 1908), 135-36.
(13) Veto message of the Bonus Bill to the House of Representatives, 3 March 1817, in A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, ed. Richardson, vol. 1, 569-70.
(14) Daniel Walker Howe, The Political Culture of the American Whigs (Chicago, 1979), 91.
(15) Monroe to T. Ringold, 8 May 1826, in The Writings of James Monroe, ed. Stanislaus Murry Hamilton, vol. 7 (New York, 1908), 82.
(16) Monroe to John C. Calhoun, 1827 (no specific date given), in The Writings of James Monroe, vol. 7, 141.
(17) McLean to Monroe, 4 April 1829, Monroe Papers, Library of Congress.
(18) John William Ward, Andrew Jackson, Symbol for an Age (New York, 1955).
(19) "Notes of Mr. Jefferson's Conversation at Monticello" 1824, in The Papers of Daniel Webster, ed. Charles M. Wiltse and Harold D. Moser, vol. 1, Correspondence 1, 1798-1824 (Hanover, New Hampshire, 1974), 375-76.
(21) Gallatin to Walter Lowrie, 22 May 1824, in The Writings of Albert Gallatin, vol. 2, 189-91.
(22) Jackson to Monroe, 6 January 1817, in The Papers of Andrew Jackson, ed. Harold D. Moser (Knoxville, 1994), 82.
(23) Niles Register 41:308, quoted in Charles D. Lowery, James Barbour: A Jeffersonian Democratic-Republican (Tuscaloosa, 1984), 217.
(24) "Address of Whig State Convention" [Indiana], quoted in Rush Welter, The Mind of America, 1820-1860 (New York, 1975), 14.
(25) Major Wilson, "The `Country' versus the `Court': A Democratic-Republican Consensus and Party Debate in the Bank War," Journal of the Early Republic 15 (Winter 1995): 619.
(26) Polk to Philadelphia Committee, 10 April 1834, in The Correspondence of James K. Polk, ed. Herbert Weaver, vol. 2 (Nashville, 1972), 381.
(27) Dumas Malone, The Sage of Monticello (Boston, 1981), 302.
(28) Polk to Jackson, 23 August 1834, in The Correspondence of James K. Polk, vol. 2, 456.
(29) Marc W. Kruman, "The Second American Party System and the Transformation of Revolutionary Democratic-Republicanism," Journal of the Early Republic 12 (Winter 1992): 511.
(30) Van Buren, Autobiography, 185.
(31) Harry Ammon, James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity (New York, 1971), 391.
(32) Horace Greeley, Why I am a Whig (New York, 1852), 102.
(33) Annual Treasury Report, Register of Debates, 20th Congress, 1st sess., Appendix, 2826-29.
(34) Jefferson to Jackson, 19 September 1803, in Jackson, Papers of Andrew Jackson, ed. Sam B. Smith and Harriet Chappel Owsley, vol. 1 (Knoxville, 1980), 365.
(35) A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, ed. Richardson, vol. 2, 1164.
(36) Webster to Weed, 23 June 1838, in Webster, Correspondence 1: 1798-1824, vol. 4, 310-11.
(37) Clay speech in Norfolk, 22 April 1844, in Papers of Henry Clay, vol. 10, ed. Melba Porter Hay, 50.
(38) Veto message of the Bank Bill to the Senate, 10 July 1832, in A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, ed. Richardson, vol. 2, 1139-54.
(39) John P. Kennedy, "Origin of the Two Parties," The American Review, January 1849, 10.
(40) Marvin Meyers, The Jacksonian Persuasion: Politics and Belief (Stanford, 1957), 16-23.
David Brown is an assistant professor of history at Elizabethtown College. S3
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