The 1828 presidential election, which pitted Major General Andrew Jackson against incumbent John Quincy Adams, has long been hailed as a watershed moment in American political history. It was the contest in which an unlettered, hot-tempered southwestern frontiersman, trumpeted by his supporters as a genuine man of the people, soundly defeated a New England "aristocrat" whose education and political resume were as impressive as any ever seen in American public life. It was, many historians have argued, the country's first truly democratic presidential election.
Lynn Hudson Parsons argues that it also established a pattern in which two nationally organized political parties would vie for power in virtually every state. During the election of 1828 voters were introduced to a host of novel campaign tactics, including coordinated media, get-out-the-vote efforts, fund-raising, organized rallies, opinion polling, campaign paraphernalia, ethnic voting blocs, "opposition research," and smear tactics.
In The Birth of Modern Politics, Parsons shows that the Adams-Jackson contest began a national debate that is eerily contemporary, pitting those whose cultural, social, and economic values were rooted in community action for the common good against those who believed the common good was best served by giving individuals as much freedom as possible to promote their own interests. It offers fresh and illuminating portraits of both Adams and Jackson and reveals how, despite their vastly different backgrounds, they had started out with many of the same values, admired one another, and had often been allies in common causes. Both were staunch nationalists, and both shared an aversion to organized parties and "electioneering."But by 1828, caught up in a shifting political landscape, they were plunged into a competition that separated them decisively from the Founding Fathers' era and ushered in a style of politics that is still with us today.
The “Pivotal Moments in American History” series seeks to unite the old and the new history, combining the insights and techniques of recent historiography with the power of traditional narrative. Each title has a strong narrative arc with drama, irony, suspense, and – most importantly – great characters who embody the human dimension of historical events. The general editors of “Pivotal Moments” are not just historians; they are popular writers themselves, and, in two cases, Pulitzer Prize winners: David Hackett Fischer, James M. McPherson, and David Greenberg. We hope you like your American History served up with verve, wit, and an eye for the telling detail!
The Birth of Modern Politics is a small gem of a historical study, exploring the presidential campaign of 1828 as the first to employ the methods that, as they developed through time, continue to propel campaigns to this day. Narrator Milton Bagby performs a fine fiddle of a book reading, his deep and resonant narrative voice always in sync with the professor emeritus author and his popular historical study. Bagby has a Southern accented voice with an expressive range and narrative control that ranks with the best practitioners of the trade. And his voice is very pleasing to the ear he has considerable musical and dramatic gifts shaping his performance.
For most of the audiobook Bagby reads in the straight third-person mode, that of the historian author describing characters and scenes and themes and events. In this Bagby excels: he is disciplined, energized, and authoritative. But the common man and the political broadsiders stroking his passions are about to have their day. As the historical weave expands and the plot of political passions thickens, Bagby’s expressive and emotional ranges expand. It is when the political broadsiders begin their cannonades that the listener has the joy of Bagby sounding their written and verbal booms.
What opened the gates to this transformative historical era? The answer is in the depths of Parson’s study. But here’s who turned the key: Andrew Jackson supporter Martin Van Buren (a.k.a. The Little Magician) who created the political organization that in 1828 became the Democratic Republican Party (renamed the Democratic Party in 1832). It was the first party of the masses (of white men) that was formed at a time when the standards for political enfranchisement were expanding to include the non-land owning classes and shifting from presidential voting by state legislators to voting by the people via the Electoral College. The two-party system that resulted turned on its head the founding fathers’ injunction to avoid the destructive influences of party factions. The United States had entered The Age of Jackson. David Chasey
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