Jacksonian Democracy: Myth or Reality?

By James L. Bugg Jr. | Go to book overview

BRAY HAMMOND ( 1886- ) has launched an attack on Schlesinger's interpretation of the Jacksonian opposition to the national bank, first in a review of the Age of Jackson and later in an article, both published in the Journal of Economic History ( 1946 and 1947). His book, from which the following section is taken, amplified and documented his charges and developed his "entrepreneural" thesis. The Jacksonian revolution, declared Hammond, placed in power a group of incipient entrepreneurs who employed agrarian ideology to accomplish nonagrarian objectives. The bank was destroyed because its power to regulate credit posed a threat to the Jacksonians in reaching their objectives.*


The Jacksonians

I

During the half century that ended with General Jackson's election, America underwent changes perhaps the most radical and sweeping it has ever undergone in so short a time. It passed the climacteric separating a modern industrial economy from an older one of handicraft; it passed from colonial weakness through bare independence to actual power and from an unjostled rural culture to the complexities of populousness, sectionalism, urban slums, mechanized industry, and monetary credit. Men who had spent their childhood in a thin line of sea-board colonies, close even in their little cities to the edge of the westward continental wilderness, spent their late years in a tamed and wealthy land spread already to the Missouri and about to extend beyond it. They lived to ride on railways and steamships, to use the products of steam-driven machinery, to dwell in metropolitan centers, and to feel within their grasp and the grasp of their sons more potential and accessible wealth than had ever before excited the enterprise of man.

An outstanding factor in the changes that came about was the flow of immigration from Europe. Between 1790 and 1840 the population grew from 4,000,000 to 17,000,000. In the latter year an average of 230 immigrants entered the

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*
From Bray Hammond, Banks and Politics in America: From the Revolution to the Civil War. Copyright © 1957, by the Princeton University Press. Reprinted without footnotes by permission of the author and his publisher.

-92-

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