Jacksonian Democracy: Myth or Reality?

By James L. Bugg Jr. | Go to book overview

For the Reader Who Wishes to Probe Further

An indispensable introduction to the subject is Charles G. Sellers, "Andrew Jackson versus the Historians," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, XLIV ( March 1958), 615- 634. A helpful guide in the selection and organization of the extensive literature is the bibliographical essay in Glyndon Van Deusen , The Jacksonian Era, 1828-1848 ( New York, 1959), 267-283.

The various works from which the selections in this volume have been taken should be read in full. The reader who consults the published sources will not only familiarize himself with the writings of Jackson and his contemporaries, but will obtain a better perspective from which to judge the varied interpretations. The correspondence, diaries, and memoirs of several of the leading participants will be found listed in Van Deusen, page 269. New editions of the works of John Q. Adams, Calhoun, Clay, and Madison are now being published and will eventually supplant the older collections of these men cited by Van Deusen. Two convenient and worthwhile source collections not cited are Joseph L. Blau (ed.), Social Theories of Jacksonian Democracy ( New York, 1954), and Harold C. Syrett (ed.), Andrew Jackson: His Contributions to the American Tradition ( Indianapolis, 1953). Both contain helpful introductions.

Lest the reader mistakenly assume, from the organization of this volume, that the five interpretive schools cited here constitute the entire literature of the subject, or that all writers within a particular school agree completely with one another, he should consult additional representatives of each school. William G. Sumner, Andrew Jackson As A Public Man: What He Was, What Chances He Had, and What He Did With Them ( Boston, 1882), spoke for the patrician school as did Parton, included in this pamphlet, and Herman E. Von Holst, The Constitutional and Political History of the United States, 8 vols. ( Chicago, 1876- 1892). Yet each differed in his appraisal of Old Hickory and his followers. M. Ostrogorski two volumes entitled Democracy and the Organization of Political Parties ( New York, 1902) should be added to the list. Yet, in several respects, he differs from each of the others.

No student of Jackson can ignore Frederick J. Turner. His interpretation, embodied in The Frontier in American History ( New York, 1920, 1962), and The United States, 1830-1850: The Nation and Its Sections ( New York, 1935), influenced all later writers of the Democratic agrarian school. Even such transitional figures as Woodrow Wilson, A History of the American People, 5 vols. ( New York, 1902), and William MacDonald , Jacksonian Democracy, 1829-1837 ( New York, 1906), whose interpretations were in part influenced by the patrician school, acknowledged their debt to Turner by emphasizing the influence of the West in the democratic upheaval they believed an integral part of the movement. Both Vernon Parrington, included in this pamphlet, and Charles and Mary Beard, The Rise of American Civilization, 2 vols. ( New York, 1927), owed a similar debt, although their accounts noted the significance of classes as well as sections in the movement. And thanks, at least in part, to Turner, Carl R. Fish, The Civil Service and the Patronage ( Cambridge, Mass., 1904), would interpret the removal policies of the Jacksonians in a completely different manner than did Parton and Von Holst. Later biographers reflect the same influence. Bassett emphasized Jackson's "masterly leadership of the democratic movement," and Marquis James, The Life of Andrew Jackson, 2 vols. ( Indianapolis, 1933, 1937), painted a warm and highly sympathetic portrait of Old Hickory as soldier, patriot, and democrat. The height of pro-Jackson partisanship was reached with the publication of Claude G.Bowers

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