But the Whigs gained significant public support after the Panic of , and they became increasingly well organized. In late , they held their first national convention in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Andrew Jackson portrayed himself as the defender of the common man, and in many ways he democratized American politics. Anonymous, c. Harrison was known primarily for defeating Shawnee warriors led by Tecumseh before and during the War of , most famously at the Battle of Tippecanoe in present-day Indiana. Whig leaders viewed him as a candidate with broad patriotic appeal.
To balance the ticket with a southerner, the Whigs nominated a slave-owning Virginia senator, John Tyler, for vice president. Harrison became ill for unclear reasons, though tradition claims he contracted pneumonia after delivering a nearly two-hour inaugural address without an overcoat or hat and died after just thirty-one days in office. Harrison thus holds the ironic honor of having the longest inaugural address and the shortest term in office of any American president. The Whig Party succeeded in electing two more presidents but remained deeply divided.
Its problems grew as the issue of slavery strained the Union in the s. Unable to agree on a consistent national position on slavery, and unable to find another national issue to rally around, the Whigs broke apart by The Whig coalition drew strength from several earlier parties, including two that harnessed American political paranoia.
The Anti-Masonic Party formed in the s for the purpose of destroying the Freemasons. Later, anti-immigrant sentiment formed the American Party, also called the Know-Nothings. The American Party sought and won office across the country in the s, but nativism had already been an influential force, particularly in the Whig Party, whose members could not fail to notice that urban Irish Catholics strongly tended to support Democrats.
Freemasonry, an international network of social clubs with arcane traditions and rituals, seems to have originated in medieval Europe as a trade organization for stonemasons. Prince Hall, a free leather worker in Boston, founded a separate branch of the order for African American men. In s upstate New York, which was fertile soil for new religious and social reform movements, anti-Masonic suspicion would emerge for the first time as an organized political force. The trigger for this was the strange disappearance and probable murder of William Morgan. They launched a series of attempts to prevent the book from being published, including an attempt to burn the press and a conspiracy to have Morgan jailed for alleged debts.
In September, Morgan disappeared.
Slavery and Sectional Strife in the Early American Republic, 1776-1821
He was last seen being forced into a carriage by four men later identified as Masons. The Morgan story convinced many people that Masonry was a dangerous influence in the republic. The publicity surrounding the trials transformed local outrage into a political movement that, though small, had significant power in New York and parts of New England. In , local anti-Masonic committees began meeting across the state of New York, committing not to vote for any political candidate who belonged to the Freemasons.
In , Anti-Masonic politicians ran for state offices in New York, winning 12 percent of the vote for governor. In , the Anti-Masons held a national convention in Philadelphia. But after a dismal showing in the presidential elections, the leaders of the Anti-Masonic Party folded their movement into the new Whig Party. Others, called nativists, blamed immigrants. Nativists detected many foreign threats, but Catholicism may have been the most important. Nativists watched with horror as more and more Catholic immigrants especially from Ireland and Germany arrived in American cities.
Slavery and Sectional Strife in the Early American Republic, 1776–1821
The immigrants professed different beliefs, often spoke unfamiliar languages, and participated in alien cultural traditions. They feared that Catholics would bring religious violence with them to the United States. In the summer of , a mob of Protestants attacked a Catholic convent near Boston.
The rioters had read newspaper rumors that a woman was being held against her will by the nuns. Angry men broke into the convent and burned it to the ground. Later, a young woman named Rebecca Reed, who had spent time in the convent, published a memoir describing abuses she claimed the nuns had directed toward novices and students. Many Protestants saw the Catholic faith as a superstition that deprived individuals of the right to think for themselves and enslaved them to a dictator, the pope, in Rome.
They accused Catholic priests of controlling their parishioners and preying sexually on young women. They feared that Catholicism would overrun and conquer the American political system, just as their ancestors had feared it would conquer England. The painter and inventor Samuel F. Over several decades, state governments had lowered their property requirements so poorer men could vote. But as northern states ended slavery, whites worried that free black men could also go to the polls in large numbers.
In response, they adopted new laws that made racial discrimination the basis of American democracy. At the time of the Revolution, only two states explicitly limited black voting rights. By , almost all states did. The four exceptions were all in New England, where the Democratic Party was weakest. In , a similar constitution in Pennsylvania prohibited black voting completely.
The new Pennsylvania constitution disenfranchised even one of the richest people in Philadelphia. James Forten, a free-born sailmaker who had served in the American Revolution, had become a wealthy merchant and landowner. He used his wealth and influence to promote the abolition of slavery, and after the constitution, he undertook a lawsuit to protect his right to vote. But he lost, and his voting rights were terminated. Almost four hundred thousand free blacks lived in America by the end of the decade. And the new Irish Catholic immigrants, along with native working-class whites, often despised nonwhites as competitors for scarce work, housing, and status.
Racial and ethnic resentment thus contributed to a wave of riots in American cities during the s. In Philadelphia, thousands of white rioters torched an antislavery meeting house and attacked black churches and homes. Near St. Louis, abolitionist newspaper editor Elijah Lovejoy was murdered as he defended his printing press. Racial tensions also influenced popular culture. Some whites in the s, however, joined free black activists in protesting racial inequality. Usually, they lived in northern cities and came from the class of skilled laborers, or in other words, the lower middle class.
Most of them were not rich, but they expected to rise in the world.
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In Boston, for example, the Female Anti-Slavery Society included women whose husbands sold coal, mended clothes, and baked bread, as well as women from wealthy families. In the nearby village of Lynn, many abolitionists were shoemakers. They organized boycotts of consumer products like sugar that came from slave labor, and they sold their own handmade goods at antislavery fund-raising fairs.
Debates about slavery, therefore, reflected wider tensions in a changing society.
The ultimate question was whether American democracy had room for people of different races as well as religions and classes. Some people said yes and struggled to make American society more welcoming. But the vast majority, whether Democrats or Whigs, said no. Missouri Controversy documents, Rhode Islanders protest property restrictions on voting, Many poor white men gained voting rights, also known as suffrage, for the first time in the s.
These changes in American democracy did not take place without conflict. Voting rights in Rhode Island only changed after poor Rhode Islanders raised a militia and threatened violence. Below is the proposal of many of the men who seven years later took up arms to right for voting rights. The expansion of voting rights to poor white men brought a loss of voting rights for black men.
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Race, rather than class, quickly became the most important social distinction in the United States. Some wealthy black men, like James Forten and Robert Purvis of Pennsylvania, lost voting rights that they previously enjoyed. In this document, Philadelphians protest the loss of their voting rights.
He blamed the bank for the Panic of and for corrupting politics with too much money.
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After Congress renewed the bank charter, Jackson vetoed the bill. The following was the message he gave to Congress after issuing his veto. Some Americans accused him of acting like a dictator to redistribute wealth.
Others saw the act as an attack on a corrupt system that only favored the rich.
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