The Magic of the Many: Josiah Quincy and the Rise of Mass Politics in Boston, 1800-1830

Synopsis

A study of partisan politics and class conflict in early nineteenth-century Boston, this book traces the history of a popular revolt against an entrenched ruling elite. Led by an unlikely populist, patrician Josiah Quincy, the rebellion against the reigning Federalist party not only altered the political landscape of Boston but also signalled the advent of the Jacksonian Age.

According to Matthew H. Crocker, Boston in the early republic was a city divided by opposing conceptions of democracy. While the Federalist elite struggled to uphold traditional notions of deference to authority, anti-Federalist insurgents rejected the idea of hierarchy and embraced a commitment to political equality. The challenge to the established order eventually coalesced around Josiah Quincy, who reversed his longstanding political loyalties and forged a popular coalition that broke the hegemony of the Federalist party. Elected in 1823 as Boston's second mayor, Quincy dominated the city's politics for nearly a decadebefore the,people who had brought him to power turned against him.

In the end, Crocker argues, Quincy and the insurgency he led left an ambiguous legacy. On the one hand, as Boston's "Great Mayor, " Quincy established himself as one of the nineteenth century's most powerful and dictatorial city executives. On the other, the populist movement that toppled the Federalist party in Boston presaged a new kind of American politics that would soon spread throughout the nation.