Jacksonian and Antebellum Age: People and Perspectives

Jacksonian and Antebellum Age: People and Perspectives

Jacksonian and Antebellum Age: People and Perspectives

Jacksonian and Antebellum Age: People and Perspectives

Synopsis

This volume in the Perspectives in American Social History series highlights the extraordinary contributions of ordinary men, women, and children in the transformation of the country in the time of Andrew Jackson.

Excerpt

Nothing seems more suited to exciting and nourishing curiosity than the
aspect of the United States. Fortunes, ideas, and laws are constantly changing
there…. Eventually, however, the sight of this much agitated society appears
monotonous, and after having contemplated this very changeable spectacle
for some time, the observer becomes bored…. The aspect of American
society is agitated because men and things change constantly, and it is
monotonous because all the changes are alike (de Tocqueville 2000, 268).

Many Americans in the Jacksonian period would likely have disagreed with this observation of Alexis de Tocqueville. Monotonous was not a word that Americans would have recognized as applying to their society during these years. The Jacksonian era was one of the most significant times of transformation in American history. Often hailed as the “Age of Egalitarianism,” the period brought positive changes for many Americans, who found themselves with the opportunity to expand their political, social, economic, and gender roles. At the same time, many of those same individuals experienced significant opposition to these changes, and some even discovered that their place in American society regressed.

In recent years, historians have proposed that the substantial changes that occurred during the Jacksonian period were due in large part to the Market Revolution. According to one historian, the Market Revolution occurred in the early 1800s when “a largely subsistence economy of small farms and tiny workshops, satisfying mostly local needs through barter and exchange, gave place to an economy in which farmers and manufacturers produced food and goods for the cash rewards of an often distant marketplace” (Stokes and Conway 1996, p. 1). This economic change was very complex and had important implications for the social life of Americans.

One of the major precipitating factors for the Market Revolution was the increasing amount of land under American control. In 1803, Thomas Jefferson was able to purchase the Louisiana Territory from France, a purchase that roughly doubled the size of the nation. During and after the War of 1812, Andrew Jackson forced Native Americans to cede millions of acres to the United States, then compelled Spain to sell Florida when he invaded that . . .

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