Democratizing the Old Dominion: Virginia and the Second Party System, 1824-1861

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Democratizing the Old Dominion: Virginia and the Second Party System, 1824-1861. By WILLIAM G. SHADE. Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1996. xvii, 365 pp. $49.50.

WILLIAM G. SHADE S Democratizing the Old Dominion joins a lengthening list of books treating politics in the southern states from the time of Andrew Jackson's Democratic party to at least the secession crisis. The modern Adam of these studies is J. Mills Thornton III's influential book on Alabama, Politics and Power in a Slave Society, published two decades ago. Since then, notable books have appeared on a number of states, including most recently ones on Georgia and Tennessee, as well as this one on Virginia. The political history of the antebellum South is robust. Shade's volume is the first full history of pre-Civil War Virginia politics. Although there have been solid works focusing on important leaders, such as Craig M. Simpson's biography of Henry Wise, and on critical events, such as Daniel W. Crofts's study of the secession crisis, Dickson D. Bruce, Jr.'s of the constitutional convention of 182930, and Alison Goodyear Freehling's of the slavery debates of 1831-32, no one has heretofore attempted to make a whole of the Old Dominion's politics.

In my view, Shade has written a first-rate book that makes substantive contributions on a number of significant topics. His discussion of Virginia's economy and economic development alone makes this an enormously valuable study. Based on a wealth of information, Shade authoritatively maintains that between 1830 and 1860 the state's economy was not at all moribund. …