The Jacksonian Heritage: Pennsylvania Politics, 1833-1848

The Jacksonian Heritage: Pennsylvania Politics, 1833-1848

The Jacksonian Heritage: Pennsylvania Politics, 1833-1848

The Jacksonian Heritage: Pennsylvania Politics, 1833-1848


Another study of the Jackson Era requires no apology. While the scene at Washington has been described many times, the history of the states in this period remains a fertile field for research. Issues emanating from the nation's capital had repercussions in the states; and local issues, in turn, sometimes reached the halls of Congress and the White House.

This work is an evaluation of this cause and effect in Pennsylvania between 1833 and 1848. It begins with the impact of Jackson's veto of the recharter of the Second Bank of the United Statesand closes with the Whig triumph in the State and national elections of 1848.

Jackson's challenging veto of the Bank Bill was only the starting point of this controversy in Pennsylvania. Philadelphia was the home of the Bank, and Pennsylvanians were proud of it. Yet the fortunes of politics plunged it into the vortex of party strife; and before the issue receded, the Bank received a State charter and precipitated a political furor seldom equaled in the State's history.

During this era the Democratic party, with Jackson's prestige to bolster it, was the dominant political organization. But Democratic discord enabled a coalition of Antimasons and Whigs to elect a Governor and at times to control the legislature. Party strife boiled over briefly to produce the famous "Buckshot War."

During the 1840's the tariff tended to overshadow other issues. The unparalleled expansion of business enterprise during this decade was identified with protection and the Tariff of 1842; and the tariff issue shaped the elections of 1844, 1846, and 1848. Each ton of coal mined and each furnace lighted in the State weakened the force of agrarianism and strengthened the power of business. The Walker Tariff of 1846 tipped the balance to give the Whigs a temporary ascendancy in 1848.

Few of Pennsylvania's politicians in this era became national figures. Exceptions were James Buchanan, George M. Dallas, Simon Cameron, and Thaddeus Stevens. Of this quartet, Buchanan merits greatest emphasis here. He was the most prominent Democrat and his party's choice for President in two elections. Dallas was Buchanan's chief rival for preferment, and was elected to the Vice Presidency in 1844. Cameron played the game of politics to the hilt, but lacked stature in his party, then the Democratic. But he managed to combine Whig and dissident Democratic votes to win election to the United States . . .

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