Campaigning in America: A History of Election Practices

By Robert J. Dinkin | Go to book overview

Introduction

For more than two hundred years political campaigning has held a special fascination for the American public. As early as the 1750s one of George Washington's correspondents observed that at election time, "the flame of burgessing seemed to enter every heart."1 Three-quarters of a century later the remarks of an English visitor were even more pronounced: "the spirit of electioneering . . . seems to enter as an essential ingredient into the composition of everything."2 Numerous similar statements can be found in subsequent periods as well. Yet despite its pervasive quality vote-seeking never has enjoyed wide esteem nor have most participants in the process truly relished going out on the hustings. Indeed, except in those cases where a candidate forced the public to confront a necessary or otherwise ignored issue, the campaign rarely has been a politician's finest hour. (Sometimes it has been the worst.) Perhaps this is one of the reasons why no one ever has written a history of American electioneering, at least from the standpoint of the practices used. There have, of course, been studies of battles for the presidency and works on the tactics employed in individual contests. There also have been analyses of separate aspects--for instance, campaign finance-- and of the major developments in particular eras. But no full-scale treatment of campaign activities over the entire span of American history has been produced. This book seeks to correct that omission by surveying the changing nature of vote-getting from its rather simple forms in colonial times to the highly complex methods of today.

The book is divided chronologically into seven chapters, the early ones coinciding with traditional political watersheds, especially the rise and fall of party systems, the later ones corresponding more to new directions in campaigning. Although it is difficult to create exact boundaries or cut-off

-ix-

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Campaigning in America: A History of Election Practices
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles In Contributions in American History ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction ix
  • 1- The Colonial and Revolutionary Periods - 1607-1789 1
  • 2- The Early National Period - 1790-1820 11
  • 3- The Jacksonian Period - 1824-52 31
  • 4- The Golden Age of Parties 1854-88 59
  • 5- The Merchandised Style of Campaigning - 1892-1920 95
  • 6- The Merchandised Style--Continued 1920-48 127
  • 7- The Mass Media Age 1952-88 159
  • Notes 199
  • Bibliographical Essay 221
  • Index 225
  • About the Author 233
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