The Magic of the Many: Josiah Quincy and the Rise of Mass Politics in Boston, 1800-1830

The Magic of the Many: Josiah Quincy and the Rise of Mass Politics in Boston, 1800-1830

The Magic of the Many: Josiah Quincy and the Rise of Mass Politics in Boston, 1800-1830

The Magic of the Many: Josiah Quincy and the Rise of Mass Politics in Boston, 1800-1830


A study of partisan politics and class conflict in early nineteenth-century Boston, this book traces the history of a popular revolt against an entrenched ruling elite. Led by an unlikely populist, patrician Josiah Quincy, the rebellion against the reigning Federalist party not only altered the political landscape of Boston but also signalled the advent of the Jacksonian Age.

According to Matthew H. Crocker, Boston in the early republic was a city divided by opposing conceptions of democracy. While the Federalist elite struggled to uphold traditional notions of deference to authority, anti-Federalist insurgents rejected the idea of hierarchy and embraced a commitment to political equality. The challenge to the established order eventually coalesced around Josiah Quincy, who reversed his longstanding political loyalties and forged a popular coalition that broke the hegemony of the Federalist party. Elected in 1823 as Boston's second mayor, Quincy dominated the city's politics for nearly a decadebefore the,people who had brought him to power turned against him.

In the end, Crocker argues, Quincy and the insurgency he led left an ambiguous legacy. On the one hand, as Boston's "Great Mayor, " Quincy established himself as one of the nineteenth century's most powerful and dictatorial city executives. On the other, the populist movement that toppled the Federalist party in Boston presaged a new kind of American politics that would soon spread throughout the nation.


This is a book about the growth of democracy in an American city during the early nineteenth century. It is an account of a politically disabled citizenry demanding and gaining inclusion in a political structure that, up until then, functioned more like a restrictive private club than an engine for democracy. Through grass-roots activism and political realignment, this discontented urban citizenry fought for and won an influential voice in the workings of government. While, in essence, this book explains how democracy worked in one city during one period of time, it also provides insight into a larger national phenomenon--the rise of popular Jacksonian politics. Indeed, the forces discussed in this work proved to bethe harbingers of Jacksonianism.

Yet, as much as this illustrates the triumphs of popular democracy, it also demonstrates many of democracy's failures. Coinciding with populist victory, the process of democratization immediately began to deteriorate at the hands of many of the movement's most ardent champions. the political solidarity that had been forged from a common democratic vision and put into motion to subdue a limited democracy--replete with exclusionary practices, procedures, and traditions-- broke apart at the very moment of its success. With the advent of a more inclusive democratic system came the democratization movement's unraveling. a once unified campaign for inclusive democracy shattered under the very weight of its success. the consequences were the complete transformation of an American city's political structure and, ironically, an American city whose government looked remarkably undemocratic.

The city I have focused on is Boston between 1814 and 1829. I have chosen Boston because democratization erupted there with such acceleration and speed that within three years (1819-22) the guardians of the political status quo found themselves shaken, overpowered, and their party dismantled. Part and parcel of . . .

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