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Encyclopedia > Second Party System

The Second Party System is the term historians give to the political system existing in the United States from about 1824 to 1854. It was characterized by rapidly rising levels of voter interest, as shown in election day turnout, rallies, partisan newspapers, and a high degree of personal loyalty to party. It replaced the First Party System, and was followed by the Third Party System. The major parties were the Democratic party, led by Andrew Jackson, and the Whig party, (originally the National Republican Party) led by Henry Clay. Minor parties included the Anti-Masonic Party, which was an important innovator from 1827–34, the Liberty Party in 1840, and the Free Soil Party in 1848 and 1852. The Second Party System reflected and shaped the political, social, economic and cultural currents of the Jacksonian Era. The First Party System is the term historians give to the political system existing in the United States from about 1792 to 1820. ... The Third Party System, which began in 1854 and changed over to the Fourth Party System in the mid-1890s revolved around the issues of nationalism, modernization, and race. ... The History of the Democratic Party is an account of a continuously supported political party in the United States of America. ... Andrew Jackson (March 15, 1767 – June 8, 1845) was the seventh President of the United States (1829-1837), first governor of Florida (1821), general of the Battle of New Orleans (1815), a co-founder of the Democratic Party, and the eponym of the era of Jacksonian democracy. ... . ... -1... Henry Clay Henry Clay (April 12, 1777 in Hanover County, Virginia – June 29, 1852 in Washington, D.C.) was a leading American statesman and orator who served in both the House of Representatives and Senate. ... The Anti-Masonic Party (also known as the Anti-Masonic Movement) was a 19th century minor political party in the United States. ... The Liberty Party was a political party in the United States during the mid-19th century. ... The Free Soil Party was a short-lived political party in the United States organized in 1848 that petered out by about 1852. ... Jacksonian democracy refers to the political philosophy of President Andrew Jackson and his followers in the new Democratic Party. ...

Contents

Patterns

McCormick is most responsible for defining the system. He concluded (McCormick 1966 pp 14-16):

  • It was a distinct party system.
  • It formed over a 15 year period that varied by state.
  • It was produced by leaders trying to win the presidency, with contenders building their own national coalitions.
  • Regional effects strongly affected developments, with the Adams forces strongest in New England, for example, and the Jacksonians in the Southwest.
  • For the first time two-party politics was extended to the South and West (which had been one-party regions).
  • In each region the two parties were about equal--the first and only party system showing this.
  • Because of the regional balance it was vulnerable to region-specific issues (like slavery).
  • The same two parties appeared in every state, and contested both the electoral vote and state offices.
  • Most critical was the abrupt emergence of a two-party South in 1832-34 (mostly as a reaction against Van Buren).
  • The Anti-Masonic party flourished in only those states with a weak second party.
  • Methods varied somewhat but everywhere the party convention replaced the caucus.
  • The parties had an interest of their own, in terms of the office-seeking goals of party activists.
  • The System brought forth a new, popular campaign style.
  • Close elections brought out the voters (not charismatic candidates or particular issues).
  • Party leaders formed the parties to some degree in their own image.

Leaders

Among the best-known figures (on the Democratic side) were: Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, John C. Calhoun, James K. Polk, Lewis Cass, and Stephen Douglas. On the Whig side, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, William H. Seward, Thurlow Weed, and Abraham Lincoln. Andrew Jackson (March 15, 1767 – June 8, 1845) was the seventh President of the United States (1829-1837), first governor of Florida (1821), general of the Battle of New Orleans (1815), a co-founder of the Democratic Party, and the eponym of the era of Jacksonian democracy. ... Martin Van Buren (December 5, 1782 – July 24, 1862), nicknamed Old Kinderhook, was the eighth President of the United States. ... John Caldwell Calhoun (March 18, 1782 – March 31, 1850) was a prominent United States politician from South Carolina during the first half of the 19th century. ... James Knox Polk (November 2, 1795–June 15, 1849) was the eleventh President of the United States, serving from March 4, 1845 to March 4, 1849. ... Campaign poster for 12th United States Presidential campaign, 1848. ... Stephen A. Douglas Stephen Arnold Douglas (April 23, 1813 - June 3, 1861), American politician from Illinois, was one of the Democratic Party nominees for President in 1860 (the other being John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky). ... Henry Clay Henry Clay (April 12, 1777 in Hanover County, Virginia – June 29, 1852 in Washington, D.C.) was a leading American statesman and orator who served in both the House of Representatives and Senate. ... Daniel Webster (January 18, 1782 – October 25, 1852) was a leading American statesman during the nations antebellum, or Pre-Civil War, era. ... William Henry Seward, Sr. ... Thurlow Weed Thurlow Weed (November 15, 1797-November 22, 1882), was a New York political boss. ... Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865), sometimes called Abe Lincoln and nicknamed Honest Abe, the Rail Splitter, and the Great Emancipator, was an American politician who served as the 16th President of the United States (1861 to 1865), and the first president from the Republican Party. ...


The 1824 presidential election, operated without political parties, came down to a four man race. Each candidate (Henry Clay, William Crawford, Andrew Jackson, and John Quincy Adams), all of whom were nominally Democratic Republicans, had a regional base of support involving factions in the various states. With no electoral college majority, the choice devolved on the House of Representatives. Clay was not among the three finalists, but as Speaker of the House he negotiated the settlement. Jackson, who had the most popular votes and the most electoral votes, was counted out. John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams, was elected, and he immediately chose Clay as Secretary of State. Jackson, the most famous of the nation's Indian fighters, and an authentic hero of the War of 1812, loudly denounced the "corrupt bargain." The Adams-Clay wing of the Democratic-Republican Party became known as the National Republicans, while the Jackson wing of the Democratic-Republican party became known as the Democrats. Campaigning vigorously, and appealing both to local militia companies and to state political factions, Jackson assembled a coalition that ousted Adams in 1828. Martin Van Buren, brilliant leader of New York politics, was Jackson's key aide, bringing along the large electoral votes of Virginia and Pennsylvania. His reward was Secretary of State and (1832), Vice President and heir to the Jacksonian tradition. Presidential electoral votes by state. ... Henry Clay Henry Clay (April 12, 1777 in Hanover County, Virginia – June 29, 1852 in Washington, D.C.) was a leading American statesman and orator who served in both the House of Representatives and Senate. ... Famous people called William Crawford include: William H. Crawford, American politician Colonel William Crawford, American soldier This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the same title. ... Andrew Jackson (March 15, 1767 – June 8, 1845) was the seventh President of the United States (1829-1837), first governor of Florida (1821), general of the Battle of New Orleans (1815), a co-founder of the Democratic Party, and the eponym of the era of Jacksonian democracy. ... John Quincy Adams (July 11, 1767 – February 23, 1848) was an American lawyer, diplomat, politician, and President of the United States (March 4, 1825 – March 4, 1829). ... The Democratic-Republican party was a United States political party, which evolved early in the history of the United States. ... Combatants United States Native Americans United Kingdom Canadian colonial forces Native Americans Native Canadians Commanders James Madison Winfield Scott Andrew Jackson Isaac Brock George Prevost Tecumseh† Strength •U.S. Regular Army: 35,800 •Rangers: 3,049 •Militia: 458,463* •US Navy & US Marines: (at start of war): •Frigates:3 •Other... Two deals cut in contested United States presidential elections have been known as Corrupt Bargains. ... Presidential electoral votes by state. ... Martin Van Buren (December 5, 1782 – July 24, 1862), nicknamed Old Kinderhook, was the eighth President of the United States. ...


Jackson's reforms

Jackson considered himself a reformer. More exactly he was committed to the old ideals of Republicanism, and bitterly opposed anything that smacked of special favors for special interests. While Jackson never engaged in a duel as president, he had shot political opponents before and was just as determined to destroy his enemies on the battlefields of politics as his adversary on the battlefields of war. The Second Party System came about primarily because of Jackson's determination to destroy the Second Bank of the United States. Headquartered in Philadelphia, with offices in major cities around the country, the federally chartered Bank operated somewhat like a central bank (like the Federal Reserve System a century later). Local bankers and politicians annoyed by the controls exerted by Nicholas Biddle grumbled loudly. Jackson did not like any banks (paper money was anathema to the Old Republican--God intended only gold and silver ["specie"] to circulate.) After Herculean battles with the wily Henry Clay, the chief protagonist, Jackson finally broke Biddle's bank. The examples and perspective in this article or section may not represent a worldwide view. ... The Second Bank of the United States was founded in 1816, five years after the expiration of the First Bank of the United States out of desperation to stabilize the currency. ... Nicholas Biddle (1750-1778) was an officer in the Continental Navy. ...


Modernizing Whigs

Meanwhile economic modernizers, bankers, businessmen, commercial farmers, many of whom were already National Republicans, and Southern planters angry at Jackson's handling of the Nullification crisis were mobilized into a new anti-Jackson force; they called themselves Whigs. In the northeast, a moralistic crusade against the highly secretive Masonic order matured into a regular political party, the Anti-Masons, which soon combined with the Whigs. Jackson fought back by aggressive use of federal patronage, by timely alliances with local leaders, and with a rhetoric that identified the Bank and its minions as the greatest threat to the Republican spirit. Eventually his partisans called themselves "Democrats." The Whigs had an elaborate program for modernizing the economy. To stimulate the creation of new factories, they proposed a high tariff on imported manufactured goods. The Democrats said that would fatten the rich; the tariff should be low--for "revenue only" (thus not to foster manufacturing). Whigs argued that banks and paper money were needed; no honest man wants them, countered the Democrats. Public works programs to build roads, canals and railroads would give the country the infrastructure it needed for rapid economic development, said the Whigs. We don't want that kind of complex change, said the Democrats. We want more of the same--especially more farms for ordinary folks (and planters) to raise the families in the good old traditional style. More land is needed for that, Democrats said, so they pushed for expansion south and west. Jackson conquered Florida for the US. Over intense Whig opposition, his political heir, James Polk (1844-48) added Texas, the Southwest, California, and Oregon. Next on the Democratic agenda would be Cuba. The Nullification Crisis was a sectional crisis during the presidency of Andrew Jackson centered around the question of whether a state can refuse to recognize or to enforce a federal law passed by the United States Congress. ... . ... The Anti-Masonic Party (also known as the Anti-Masonic Movement) was a 19th century minor political party in the United States. ... James Knox Polk (November 2, 1795–June 15, 1849) was an American politician and the eleventh U.S. President, serving from March 4, 1845 to March 4, 1849. ...


Party organization

The Whigs built a strong party organization in most states; they were weak only on the frontier. The Whigs used newspapers effectively, and soon adopted the exciting campaign techniques that lured 75 to 85% of the eligible voters to the polls. Abraham Lincoln emerged early as the leader in Illinois--where he usually was bested by an even more talented politician, Stephen Douglas. Douglas was the dominant figure in the Democratic party throughout the late 1840s and 1850s. While Douglas and the Democrats were somewhat behind the Whigs in newspaper work, they made up for this weakness by emphasis on party loyalty. Anyone who attended a Democratic convention, from precinct level to national level, was honor bound to support the final candidate, whether he liked it or not. This rule produced numerous schisms, but on the whole the Democrats controlled and mobilized their rank and file more effectively than the Whigs did. Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865), sometimes called Abe Lincoln and nicknamed Honest Abe, the Rail Splitter, and the Great Emancipator, was an American politician who served as the 16th President of the United States (1861 to 1865), and the first president from the Republican Party. ... Stephen A. Douglas Stephen Arnold Douglas (April 23, 1813 - June 3, 1861), American politician from Illinois, was one of the Democratic Party nominees for President in 1860 (the other being John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky). ...

Whig parade in 1840
Whig parade in 1840

One of the biggest problem for the Whigs was not lack of leadership or organization. Rather it was that they were always a close second. Party loyalty was strong, and it was hard to convert 48% of the vote into 51%. Clay was the towering leader of the party, but he repeatedly lost (in 1824, 1832, 1844). The Whigs had their most luck with famous generals (like William Henry Harrison, winner in 1840, and Zachary Taylor, winner in 1848), but even that did not always work (Harrison lost in 1836; Winfield Scott lost in 1852). Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (1187x1548, 298 KB) 1840 print USA This image is in the public domain in the United States. ... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (1187x1548, 298 KB) 1840 print USA This image is in the public domain in the United States. ... William Henry Harrison (February 9, 1773 – April 4, 1841) was an American military leader, politician, and the ninth President of the United States, (1841). ... Zachary Taylor (November 24, 1784 – July 9, 1850) was an American military leader and the twelfth President of the United States. ... Winfield Scott Winfield Scott (June 13, 1786 – May 29, 1866) was a United States Army general, diplomat, and presidential candidate. ...


The Whig party's other fundamental weakness was its inability to take a position on slavery. As a coalition of Northern National Republicans and Southern Nullifiers, Whigs in each of the two regions held opposing views on slavery. Therefore, the Whig party was only able to conduct successful campaigns as long as the slavery issue was ignored. By the mid-1850s, the question of slavery dominated the political landscape, and the Whigs, unable to agree on an approach to the issue, began to disintegrate. A few Whigs lingered, claiming that, with the alternatives being a pro-Northern Republican party and a pro-Southern Democratic party, they were the only political party that could preserve the Union. In 1856, the remaining Whigs endorsed the Know-Nothing campaign of Millard Fillmore and in 1860 they endorsed the Constitutional Union ticket of John Bell, but, with the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, the Whig party ceased to exist. The Know-Nothing movement was a nativist American political movement of the 1850s. ... Millard Fillmore (January 7, 1800 – March 8, 1874) was the thirteenth President of the United States, serving from 1850 until 1853, and the last member of the Whig Party to hold the nations highest office. ... The Constitutional Union (French: Union Constitutionelle) is a liberal conservative political party in Morocco, aligned with the ruling monarchy. ... John Bell is a common name. ...


Most of the prominent men in most towns and cities were Whigs, and they controlled local offices and judgeships, in addition to many state offices. Thus the outcome of the political process was mixed. By the 1850s even the Democrats were starting to accept Whiggish ideas, and no one could deny the economic modernization of factories and railroads was moving ahead rapidly. The old economic issues died about the same time old leaders like Calhoun, Webster, Clay, Jackson and Polk passed from the scene. New issues, especially the questions of slavery and religion came to the fore. 1852 was the last hurrah for the Whigs; everyone realized they could win only if the Democrats split in two. With the healing of the Free Soil revolt (1848), Democratic dominance seemed assured. The Whigs went through the motions, but both rank and file and leaders quietly dropped out. The Third Party System was ready to emerge. In the United States, Free Soil was a position taken by northern citizens and politicians in the 19th century advocating that all new U.S. territory be closed to slavery. ... The Third Party System, which began in 1854 and changed over to the Fourth Party System in the mid-1890s revolved around the issues of nationalism, modernization, and race. ...

See also: American election campaigns in the 19th Century
See also: Third Party System

In the 19th century the United States invented or developed a number of new methods for conducting American Election Campaigns. ... The Third Party System, which began in 1854 and changed over to the Fourth Party System in the mid-1890s revolved around the issues of nationalism, modernization, and race. ...

References

  • Altschuler, Glenn C., Stuart M. Blumin (December 1997). ""Limits of Political Engagement in Antebellum America: A New Look at the Golden Age of Participatory Democracy"". Journal of American History 84: 878–79.
  • Altschuler, Glenn C. and Stuart M. Blumin. Rude Republic: Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century (2000)
  • Baker, Jean (1983). Affairs of Party: The Political Culture of Northern Democrats in the Mid-Nineteenth Century.
  • Benson, Lee (1961). The Concept of Jacksonian Democracy: New York as a Test Case.
  • Beveridge, Albert J. (1928). Abraham Lincoln, 1809–1858, vol. 1, ch. 4–8.
  • Brown, Thomas (1985). Politics and Statesmanship: Essays on the American Whig Party.
  • Brown, David. "Jeffersonian Ideology And The Second Party System" Historian, Fall, 1999 v62#1 pp 17-44
  • Carwardine Richard. Evangelicals and Politics in Antebellum America . New Haven: Yale University Press, (1993)
  • Cole, Arthur Charles (1913). The Whig Party in the South.
  • Dinkin, Robert J. Campaigning in America: A History of Election Practices. (Greenwood 1989)
  • Foner, Eric (1970). Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War.
  • Formisano, Ronald P. (Winter 1969). "Political Character, Antipartyism, and the Second Party System". American Quarterly 21: 683–709.
  • Formisano, Ronald P. (June 1974). "Deferential-Participant Politics: The Early Republic's Political Culture, 1789–1840". American Political Science Review 68: 473–87.
  • Formisano, Ronald P. (1983). The Transformation of Political Culture: Massachusetts Parties, 1790s–1840s.
  • Hammond, Bray. Banks and Politics in America from the Revolution to the Civil War (1960), Pulitzer prize; the standard history. Pro-Bank
  • Hofstadter, Richard (1969). The Idea of a Party System: The Rise of Legitimate Opposition in the United States, 1780–1840.
  • Holt, Michael F. (1992). Political Parties and American Political Development: From the Age of Jackson to the Age of Lincoln.
  • Holt, Michael F. (1999). The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-505544-6.
  • Holt, Michael F. "The Antimasonic and Know Nothing Parties," in History of U.S. Political Parties, ed. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. (4 vols., New York, 1973), I, 575-620.
  • Howe, Daniel Walker (March 1991). "The Evangelical Movement and Political Culture during the Second Party System". Journal of American History 77: 1216–39.
  • Jaenicke, D.W. "The Jacksonian Integration of Parties into the Constitutional System," Political Science Quarterly, (1986), 101:65-107. fulltext in JSTOR
  • Kruman, Marc W. (Winter 1992). "The Second Party System and the Transformation of Revolutionary Republicanism". Journal of the Early Republic 12: 509–37.
  • Marshall, Lynn. (January 1967). "The Strange Stillbirth of the Whig Party". American Historical Review 72: 445–68.
  • McCarthy, Charles. The Antimasonic Party: A Study of Political Anti-Masonry in the United States, 1827-1840, in the Report of the American Historical Association for 1902 (1903)
  • McCormick, Richard L. (1986). The Party Period and Public Policy: American Politics from the Age of Jackson to the Progressive Era.
  • McCormick, Richard P. (1966). The Second American Party System: Party Formation in the Jacksonian Era.
  • McCormick, R.P. (1967), "Political Development and the Party System," in W. N. Chambers and W. D. Burnham, eds. The American Party Systems (1967)
  • Meyers, Marvin. The Jacksonian Persuasion: Politics and Belief (1957)
  • Mueller, Henry R. The Whig Party in Pennsylvania (1922)
  • Pessen, Edward (1977). The Many-Faceted Jacksonian Era: New Interpretations.
  • Pessen, Edward (1978). Jacksonian America: Society, Personality, and Politics.
  • Remini, Robert V. (1959). Martin Van Buren and the Making of the Democratic Party.
  • Remini, Robert V. (1991). Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-31088-4.
  • Remini, Robert V. (1997). Daniel Webster.
  • Riddle, Donald W. (1948). Lincoln Runs for Congress.
  • Schurz, Carl (1899). Life of Henry Clay: American Statesmen, vol. 2.
  • Sellers, Charles. The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815-1846 (1991.)
  • Shade, William G. (1983). “The Second Party System”, Paul Kleppner, et al. (contributors) Evolution of American Electoral Systems.
  • Sharp, James Roger. The Jacksonians Versus the Banks: Politics in the States after the Panic of 1837 (1970)
  • Silbey, Joel H. (1991). The American Political Nation, 1838–1893.
  • Van Deusen, Glyndon (1973). “The Whig Party”, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (ed.) History of U.S. Political Parties. Chelsea House Publications, 1:331–63. ISBN 0-7910-5731-3.
  • Van Deusen, Glyndon G. Thurlow Weed, Wizard of the Lobby (1947)
  • Vaughn, William Preston (1983) The Antimasonic Party in the United States, 1826-1843. Lexington, Ky: University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-1474-8
  • Watson, Harry L. Liberty and Power: The Politics of Jacksonian America (1990) (ISBN 0-374-52196-4)
  • Wilentz, Sean (2005). The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln.
  • Wilentz, Sean. "On Class and Politics in Jacksonian America" Reviews in American History, Vol. 10, No. 4, The Promise of American History: Progress and Prospects (Dec., 1982) pp. 45-63
  • Wilson, Major L. Space, Time, and Freedom: The Quest for Nationality and the Irrepressible Conflict, 1815-1861 (1974) intellectual history of Whigs and Democrats

Robert V. Remini (b. ... Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. ...

Primary sources

  • Blau, Joseph L. ed. Social Theories of Jacksonian Democracy: Representative Writings of the Period 1825-1850 (1947), 386 pages of excerpts
  • Hammond, J. D. History of Political Parties in the State of New York (2 vols., Albany, 1842).
  • Howe, Daniel Walker (1973). The American Whigs: An Anthology.

External links

Political eras of the United States of America

"Pro-Administration Party" | First Party System | "Era of Good Feelings" | Second Party System | Third Party System | Fourth Party System | Fifth Party System | A Sixth Party System? | "Republican Revolution" Pro-Administration Party is a term used by historians to describe the supporters of the policies of George Washingtons administration — especially Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamiltons financial policies — prior to the formation of the Federalist and Republican Parties; it is also sometimes used to describe the supporters of the... The First Party System is the term historians give to the political system existing in the United States from about 1792 to 1820. ... The Era of Good Feeling is a phrase first used in the Boston Columbian Centinel newspaper on July 12, 1817 following the good-will visit to Boston of the new President James Monroe, is generally applied to describe the national mood of the United States from about 1815 to 1825. ... The Third Party System, which began in 1854 and changed over to the Fourth Party System in the mid-1890s revolved around the issues of nationalism, modernization, and race. ... The Fourth Party System is a term generally used by historians and political scientists to cover a period in American political history from about 1896 to 1932 (see Third Party System). ... The Fifth Party System, also called the New Deal Party System, refers to the era of United States politics which began with the New Deal in 1933. ... The Fifth Party System, also called the New Deal Party System, refers to the era of United States politics which began with the New Deal in 1933. ... The Republican Revolution refers to the triumph of Republican Party in the 1994 U.S. midterm elections, which resulted in a net gain of 54 seats in the House of Representatives, and a pickup of eight seats in the Senate. ...


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The major parties were the Democratic party, led by Andrew Jackson and the Whig party, led by Henry Clay.
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