The Birth of Modern Politics: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and the Election of 1828

The Birth of Modern Politics: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and the Election of 1828

The Birth of Modern Politics: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and the Election of 1828

The Birth of Modern Politics: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and the Election of 1828

Synopsis

The 1828 presidential election, which pitted Major General Andrew Jackson against incumbent John Quincy Adams, has long been hailed as a watershed moment in American political history. It was the contest in which an unlettered, hot-tempered southwestern frontiersman, trumpeted by hissupporters as a genuine man of the people, soundly defeated a New England "aristocrat" whose education and political resume were as impressive as any ever seen in American public life. It was, many historians have argued, the country's first truly democratic presidential election. It was also theelection that opened a Pandora's box of campaign tactics, including coordinated media, get-out-the-vote efforts, fund-raising, organized rallies, opinion polling, campaign paraphernalia, ethnic voting blocs, "opposition research," and smear tactics. In The Birth of Modern Politics, Parsons shows that the Adams-Jackson contest also began a national debate that is eerily contemporary, pitting those whose cultural, social, and economic values were rooted in community action for the common good against those who believed the common good was bestserved by giving individuals as much freedom as possible to promote their own interests. The book offers fresh and illuminating portraits of both Adams and Jackson and reveals how, despite their vastly different backgrounds, they had started out with many of the same values, admired one another, andhad often been allies in common causes. But by 1828, caught up in a shifting political landscape, they were plunged into a competition that separated them decisively from the Founding Fathers' era and ushered in a style of politics that is still with us today.

Excerpt

His statue still stands in the city of New Orleans, untouched by the hurricane disaster of 2005. In the town square named after him, he sits astride a horse that has risen to an anatomically impossible position and waves his hat in triumph over something or someone—perhaps the British, or the Indians. A replica of the statue faces the White House in Washington, and another may be seen at the state capitol in Nashville, Tennessee. “Jackson” and “Jacksonville” rival “Washington” as place-names for cities and counties in the United States.

Andrew Jackson was a fixture in the American consciousness even before his election in 1828. Often simply referred to as “the Hero” (no other explanation needed), and later “Old Hickory,” he was the first president to be given a nickname. The conqueror of Indian “savages,” the chastiser of the wily Spaniard, and, above all, the defender of the nation’s honor against the British at New Orleans, he is one of the few Americans to have an entire era named after him.

No one speaks of an “Age of Adams.” Towns, counties, and even mountains are named “Adams,” but they usually honor the father, John, signer . . .

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