The Ninth State: New Hampshire's Formative Years

By Lynn Warren Turner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 21

REFORM AND FREEDOM

The welfare of society requires that the prosperity of the many should be preferred to the conflicting interest of the few. —William Plumer

The last half of the second decade of the nineteenth century was a period of remarkable social advance in New Hampshire. 1 It saw the culmination of some reform movements initiated by the Revolution, a steady but more deliberate development of others, and the first stirrings of still more which were to blossom at a later era. William Plumer, governor of the state from June 6, 1816, to June 5, 1819, had a hand in most of these changes. This remarkable man, strong willed and self-educated, sometimes inscrutable to his contemporaries, often inconsistent but always supremely confident, was the epitome of his age.

With political opposition fading rapidly during the later years of his administration, Plumer might have rivaled John Taylor Gilman for length of gubernatorial tenure had not illness induced him to decline renomination in 1818. 2 In spite of Samuel Bell's connection with the Hillsborough Bank failure, Plumer believed that he was the best Republican available for the governorship and persuaded him to accept the caucus nomination that William Plumer, Jr., had worked hard to obtain for him. 3 Bell was easily elected in March 1819 and was reelected for four successive terms, serving without much criticism during a period of political calm. In 1823 he went to the United States Senate and ultimately became a Whig. 4 Both Plumer and Bell were advocates of moderate reform.

Nature had not been kind to New Hampshire in 1816, which became fixed in folklore as "The Year without a Summer." The spring had been cold and rainy; heavy frosts persisted into June and began again in September ; crops failed and livestock perished. 5 Federalists regarded these disasters, together with their loss of political power, the attack on Dartmouth College, and the removal of the judges, as signals that Providence itself had turned against them and that further struggle was useless. Conservatism became unpopular. Revolutions in Latin America, westward migration, financial panic, and the deadly quarrel over slavery across the Mississippi all contributed to a restlessness and a questioning of old institutions which created a climate of reform, even in staid New England.

Governor Plumer, always something of an enigma to his friends as well as to his enemies, launched a small program of austerity in 1816 by

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The Ninth State: New Hampshire's Formative Years
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Ninth State - New Hampshire's Formative Years *
  • Contents *
  • Foreword *
  • Preface *
  • Chapter 1 - Revolutionary New Hampshire *
  • Chapter 2 - Constitution Making *
  • Chapter 3 - Peace and Depression *
  • Chapter 4 - Personal Politics *
  • Chapter 5 - A Fragment of Social History *
  • Chapter 6 - In the Federal Union *
  • Chapter 7 - Constitutional Revision *
  • Chapter 8 - The Rise of Parties *
  • Chapter 9 - Federalists and Republicans *
  • Chapter 10 - Federalist Decline *
  • Chapter 11 - The Old Order Yieldeth *
  • Chapter 12 - Democracy Triumphant *
  • Chapter 13 - Federalist Collapse *
  • Chapter 14 - Blockade and Embargo *
  • Chapter 15 - Drifting Toward War *
  • Chapter 16 - In the War with England *
  • Chapter 17 - The Indian Summer of Federalism *
  • Chapter 18 - Peace Abroad: War at Home *
  • Chapter 19 - Tribulations *
  • Chapter 20 - The Demise of Federalism *
  • Chapter 21 - Reform and Freedom *
  • Appendix - Maps and Explanations *
  • Notes *
  • Index *
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