[Marxism] Sean Wilentz on Whigs and Jacksonian Democrats

Michael Hoover hooverm at scc-fl.edu
Tue Oct 18 21:05:23 MDT 2005

>>> lnp3 at panix.com 10/17/05 6:32 PM >>>
There's an article by Princeton historian Sean Wilentz in Sunday's NY Times 
titled "Bush's Ancestors" that tries to draw analogies between the 
Jacksonian Democrats and the Whigs, who are, as the article's title 
implies, predecessors of the current gang running Washington.

incessant comparing of historical periods is often not very useful, and
can be quite silly to boot, all analogies are suspect, some just more so
than others...

in any event, wilentz's characterization of whigs is bit curious and
suggests unity that simply did not exist...

origins of both jacksonian democrats and u.s. whiggery were as factions
in latter-day jeffersonian republican party, whig faction was led by
clay and webster, both of whom opposed jackon's preference for
strong presidency, each of whom were embodiments of legislative
supremacy (whig theory held that presidency was limited/constrained
office whose occupant was confined to exercise of specifically granted
constitutional authority, in other words, prez has no implicit powers
with which to confront national problems, rather, he is largely administrator
charged with carrying out of congressional will --- almost sounds like
8th grade civics class, 'congress makes the laws, president carries out the

one significant aspect of above is that jeffersonian republicans had been
sufficiently 'federalist' so that whig faction was composed of well-to-do
socio-economic types/interests that had supported federalists in early
republic, as such, whig party favored hamiltonian-like 'internal
improvements' led by national government...

however, throughout its short couple-of-decade life, whig party was
unstable coalition of nativist, propertied, new business/commercial
interests, it was able to win 2 prez elections only by nominating 'war
heroes' - harrison and taylor, both of whom died in office - but it was
never able to develop fervor and loyalty, nor did it prove capable of
building stable constituency or uniting behind 'positive' program...

re. van buren, the architect of jacksonian democratic party as first mass
party, he is sometimes called 'father' of modern political parties...

as for jackson, his principal prez appointments were from ranks of rich
(believe his administration consisted of larger percentage of wealth
than any other administration up to that time except for john adams),
moreover, his trade, finance, and land policies served that class'
interests...   michael hoover
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