Journal of a graduate student in military history and the American Civil War

The Invention of Party Politics Requires a Page of Its Own

with 5 comments


"Soliciting a Vote" Probably drawn by John L. Magee. Source: RN: LC-USZ62-14075 Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/p.print

Studying Antebellum America, as I’m doing this term, provides a fascinating look at the development of the notion of “political parties.” Keeping track of all of the political groups in Antebellum America has become a challenge. I need a list or a matrix. That said, I’ve decided to build a new page called “The Political Groups.”  The only content so far is as follows but I’ll be adding over time.

Federalists, Silver Grays, Whigs, Democrats, Free Soil Party, Unionists, Liberty Party, Know Nothings (American Party), American Republicans, Anti-Masonic

To all of my readers, your input on information, books, and links to good sites with information on 19th century political groups before, during, and after the American Civil War will all be enthusiastically received. The list above should not be in any way construed as complete. State as well as national parties are game.

By the way, there is an interesting book I’ve run across on the subject, The Invention of Party Politics: Federalism, Popular Sovereignty, and Constitutional Development in Jacksonian Illinois, by Gerald Leonard, University of North Carolina Press, 2002. 328 pgs. I’ve quoted Mr. Leonard in at least one of my posts this term: On Slavery, Sectionalism, and the First and Second Party Systems here.


To house this an other books on the topic, I’ve added a page titled Political Groups to my virtual bookshelves here. I’ve remapped some of the books on the Antebellum America shelf to this one as well since the topics overlap.

Leonard provides an outstanding list of books and articles on this topic in his bibliography. Some I own including both of Holt’s books: The Political Crisis of the 1850’s and The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party, and thanks to reader elektratig, Nativism and Slavery: The Northern Know Nothings and the Politics of the 1850s, by Tyler G. Anbinder 9See earlier post on Anbinder’s book here). Others, I’d like to obtain. I may load the entire bibliography to my virtual bookshelves over time as reference and have started that effort here. It’s a long and fantastic list so will take some time.

About the Image: “A cynical view of party competition for the working man’s vote in the presidential campaign of 1852. In a polling place, four candidates struggle to force their own election ticket on a short, uncouth-looking character in a long coat. The latter holds a whip, suggesting that he is either a New York cabman or a farmer. The candidates are (left to right): Whig senator from Massachusetts Daniel Webster, Texas Democrat Sam Houston, Illinois Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, and Whig general Winfield Scott. The cartoon must have been produced before the June 5 nomination of dark-horse Franklin Pierce as the Democratic candidate, as Pierce is not shown. Webster: “My honest friend, these men are interested parties, I have no further interest in this matter myself, than the inclination to ‘Serve my beloved Country,’ My Family cannot subsist on less than 25,000 $ a year.” His comment may refer to his own personal financial straits or to the nepotism involved in securing his son Fletcher’s lucrative appointment as surveyor of the Port of Boston in 1850. Scott (in uniform, grasping the man’s coat): “My good Friend, allow me to present you this Ticket, I am ‘Old Genl. Scott’ you know me, I licked the British & the Mexicans, if elected I shall probably lick all Europe.” Houston: “This is the ‘Ticket’ for you, my good friend, I am ‘Old Sam Houston’ if elected I shall not only ‘lick all of Europe,’ but all ‘Creation’ to boot.” Douglas (his arms around the man): “There, there, go away, go away, don’t worry the man, leave him to me, leave him to me.” Affixed to the wall at right are two posters or signs marked “DEMT.” and “WHIG.” In the left background stands Henry Clay leaning against a chair observing the scene, along with President Millard Fillmore who looks in through a window.”

Quoted from the Library of Congress.


5 Responses

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  1. Rene,

    Two other suggestions that would go on this shelf:

    William E. Gienapp’s The Origins of the Republican Party, 1852-1856, and Eric Foner’s Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War. Both are outstanding, and they complement each other nicely.


    February 9, 2009 at 5:38 pm

  2. Rene,

    You’ll definitely want to check out Elektratig’s blog on antebellum U.S. history:


    He’ll have plenty of suggestions for you I’m sure.

    Brett Schulte

    February 9, 2009 at 7:06 pm

  3. elektratig – good suggestions. I’ve added both to the shelf! Foner’s book was excellent!

    Brett – I too am a fan of elektratig who always has GREAT book suggestions!

    Thanks to you both.


    Rene Tyree

    February 9, 2009 at 8:18 pm

  4. Rene,

    If you’re willing to include factions, another candidate is Herbert D.A. Donovan’s The Barnburners. It dates to 1925, and badly shows its age, but remains a principal source of information on the early history of the factional tensions in New York politics that resulted in the Barnburner-Hunker rupture in the fall of 1847.


    February 10, 2009 at 7:53 pm

  5. elektratig – Cool. I’m very interested in factions. Will definitely add Donovan’s work.

    Hey speaking of Barnburners and Hunkers, do me a favor and take a look at the page “the political groups” here
    https://wigwags.wordpress.com/political-groups/. I added quite a bit to it over the weekend but would appreciate your letting me know if you’re aware of other groups – local, state very ok – that I might have missed.

    My thanks!!


    Rene Tyree

    February 10, 2009 at 8:08 pm

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