Pennsylvania Politics, 1817-1832: A Game without Rules

Pennsylvania Politics, 1817-1832: A Game without Rules

Pennsylvania Politics, 1817-1832: A Game without Rules

Pennsylvania Politics, 1817-1832: A Game without Rules

Excerpt

Over a quarter of a century ago Professor P. Orman Ray suggested to members of the American Historical Association that a profitable subject for investigation would be "a careful study of Pennsylvania politics between 1815 and 1828. Such a study would cover the contest between Findlay and Hiester for the governorship, the bickerings and influence of the Irish editors, John Binns of the Democratic Press and William Duane of the Aurora; the beginnings of the convention system of nominations, the early movement for high protection and internal improvements, the decline of the commercial class and the rise of manufacturing interests, and the growth of Jacksonian Democracy in Pennsylvania."

The present volume covers substantially this ground. In addition to working a hitherto untilled field, the author was anxious to discover the manner in which James Buchanan emerged from obscurity into the limelight of national politics. Although especial prominence has not been given to Mr. Buchanan because of this, the study does offer considerable information regarding Mr. Buchanan's early political career which is essential to an adequate appreciation of his later activities.

The book is a historical study of Pennsylvania politics from 1817 until 1832. It is divided into two parts: the first describes the social, economic and political life of the Commonwealth in 1817; the second tells a connected story of the political struggles in the state over a fifteen year period. This period constitutes a distinct era. It opens with the crumbling of old national party lines, develops through a decade of flux and disorder, and culminates in a social and political revolution which creates a new partisan division based on new national issues.

The story which follows shows in detail how the old parties were torn into local and personal factions, how these factions engaged in a balance of power game to win the struggle for dominance in a new political order, how the question of the presidency was gradually adopted by all sides as a major weapon in the fight, and how in Pennsylvania that weapon in the end destroyed the very men who had most used it and who had a right to expect most of it. Woven through this main design is a discussion of the lesser issues of national, state and local politics . . .

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