Lewis Cass and the Politics of Moderation

By Willard Carl Klunder | Go to book overview

Chapter Five
Candidate for the Presidential Nomination (1842-1844): "The Best Man, Undoubtedly, for the Democrats"

AT THE TIME Lewis Cass had left Andrew Jackson's cabinet for France, a two-party political system was developing in the United States that pitted the Democrats and Whigs in fairly even national campaigns for two decades. With a nucleus of National Republicans who followed John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay, the Whig party drew additional support from old-line Federalists, Antimasons, and opponents of "KingAndrew." The Democrats rallied behind the banner of Old Hickory and his handpicked successor, Martin Van Buren, the architect of political party organization. Both major parties were in a state of flux during these years, as the nation underwent a tremendous economic and social transformation. Transportation and technological advances, westward expansion, and a revitalized spirit of reform -- including abolitionism -- swept the country, with the South lagging behind in these movements. The Whigs generally came to grips better than their opponents with the momentous changes and the new political issues that arose, but they were not a unified national organization as the presidential campaign of 1836 approached. The Democrats contrastingly spoke of "principles, not men," although a debate raged within their ranks over economic issues in particular. The radical antibank, hard-money Van Burenites such as Thomas Hart Benton, Silas Wright, and Francis Blair struggled with conservative supporters of paper currency and state banks, who counted among their leadership William Rives and New Yorkers Nathaniel Tallmadge and

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