The Democratic Machine, 1850-1854

By Roy Franklin Nichols | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER I
THE DEMOCRACY IN CHAOS

ANDREW JACKSON had been the personification of the Democratic party; around him it united. He attracted personal admirers, true lovers of the ideal of democracy, and men who felt it expedient, from motives of personal ambition, to be among the associates of a powerful leader. His animosities and his prejudices determined the platforms of the Democratic party; his personal enemies became its opponents. For nearly a decade, under the rallying cry of "Old Hickory," the party won a series of unbroken victories. It weathered the storm of Calhoun's withdrawal and lived to receive him back. And as the Old Hero had planned, in the heyday of his power, to be succeeded by Martin Van Buren for two terms and by Benton for two more, the faithful with but slight objection accepted "Little Van" as their leader's chosen successor.

But thereafter Jackson's party came upon evil days. Economic conditions were bad. Van Buren, shrewd politician that he was, had neither the heroic mold nor the personal appeal of the Old Hero of the Hermitage. As 1840 drew on, after the reverse of 1838, the weakening party had recourse to principles and laid down a platform. It formulated a creed, the articles of which were the lessons learned behind the banner of Old Hickory. According to the platform, the federal government was one of limited powers: it could neither undertake a system of internal improvements nor assume state debts contracted for that purpose:

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