The Civil War Party System: The Case of Massachusetts, 1848-1876

The Civil War Party System: The Case of Massachusetts, 1848-1876

The Civil War Party System: The Case of Massachusetts, 1848-1876

The Civil War Party System: The Case of Massachusetts, 1848-1876


Baum combines sophisticated statistical analysis with traditional historical methods to analyze the internal dynamics of Massachusetts politics and the structure of the Republican party, especially the "Bird Club," a dominant radical faction that flavored Bay State politics for more than a decade. He investigates innovations in party strategy, electoral behavior and voter perceptions of the political system and, extending the analysis through Grant's administration, shows how the rise of new issues transformed the system.

Originally published in 1984.


The search for a single election in a series is...akin to the vain quest for principal causes that has so concerned philosophers of history. -- John L. Shover, "Emergence of a Two-Party System"

G enerations of Americans have transmitted party preferences to their children, but none have done so as successfully as the voters of the Civil War era. When antislavery journalist William S. Robinson, or "Warrington" as he was known to the readers of the Springfield Republican, returned home from casting his vote in the 1864 presidential election, he brought back with him extra Republican and Democratic ballots. Summoning his children outside into the garden, "he stuck the McClellan ticket on a hook, and set fire to it, while the children gave three cheers for 'old Abe.'" His behavior was intended to teach his children "their political duty in their youth."

Undoubtedly, such fathers and sons would rely on party loyalty when making future choices at the polls. Observers later in the century commented on this retention of voter allegiance. the "great mass of voters," wrote George S. Merriam, are bound to their party because of "habit, sentiment, and finally of inheritance; so that John Smith is a Republican or a Democrat because his father was one before him; and hardly asks himself seriously why he prefers his party any more than he asks why he prefers Mrs. John Smith to other women, or John Smith, Junior, to other boys."

This deep-seated commitment to parties provides a clue to understanding the Massachusetts electorate and the political history of the state in the second half of the nineteenth century. Voter loyalties were . . .

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