Toward the Second American Party System: Southern Jacksonians, the Election of 1832, and the Rise of the Democratic Party
- Ohio Valley History
- The Filson Historical Society and Cincinnati Museum Center
- Volume 14, Number 1, Spring 2014
- pp. 28-50
- Additional Information
28 OHIO VALLEY HISTORY Toward the Second American Party System Southern Jacksonians, the Election of 1832, and the Rise of the Democratic Party William S. Belko T hree years into his first term, Andrew Jackson’s administration remained little more than a brittle coalition of disparate factions. The rivalry between John C. Calhoun and Martin Van Buren, two key architects of Jackson’s 1828 election and the two obvious successors of Old Hickory, revealed the fissures and the fragile alliances within Jackson’s ranks. A sensational cabinet reorganization in 1831 and the replacement of the Telegraph with the Globe as the official organ of the administration exacerbated cleavages in the party. The intensifying confrontation between the administration and the Bank of the United States and a tariff debate threatening disunion further undermined Jacksonian unity. With a presidential election looming in 1832, Jackson and his closest supporters took action. In order to prevent the potential fracture of the president’s party, two of the most prominent and trusted advisers in Jackson’s inner circle, Amos Kendall and William B. Lewis, called for a national gathering of administration men, to meet in Baltimore in the spring of 1832. The Baltimore Convention would select Martin Van Buren (1782-1862). THE FILSON HISTORICAL SOCIETY John C. Calhoun (1782-1850). CINCINNATI MUSUEM CENTER WILLIAM S. BELKO SPRING 2014 29 a vice-presidential candidate who could help unify the friends of the administration . Yet even on this question, division threatened the party, as Jacksonians from various geographic regions, and with varied economic interests and personal loyalties rallied around their favorite vice-presidential candidate whom they believed best represented the policies and perceived principles of Jackson’s Democracy. Choosing an acceptable vice-presidential candidate to accompany Jackson, therefore , became a crucial step in establishing a unified national political party, one with a recognizable and popular platform supported by a clear ideology.1 Jackson men ultimately forged a cohesive party, but not at the Baltimore Convention. Even after the nomination of Van Buren for the second spot, Jackson’s Democracy remained precarious. The president’s uncompromising endorsement of Van Buren as his 1832 running mate perturbed many of Old Hickory’s southern supporters. For a number of reasons, from the New Yorker’s ostensible acceptance of the American System to his repugnant stance on the admission of Missouri, many southern politicians disliked and distrusted the “Magician.” In January 1832, some of the president’s supporters in Virginia embarked on a campaign to replace Van Buren with one of the Old Dominion’s favorite sons, Philip Pendleton Barbour. This coterie of influential Virginians supported the reelection of Old Hickory, but they opposed putting Van Buren on the ticket. The Jackson-Barbour crusade divided southern Jackson men during the 1832 campaign, threatening party unity and electoral victory. The future of a unified, national party remained far from certain throughout the election, and only after the administration successfully suppressed and then incorporated the Barbour movement into Jackson’s Democracy did the second party system coalesce.2 In December 1831, a caucus of Virginia Jacksonians could not agree on a vice-presidential candidate, which spurred to action several of the state’s proJackson leaders averse to Van Buren. The recognized leader of the Barbour movement, Virginia Governor John Floyd, disdained Van Buren and preferred Calhoun. However, Thomas Ritchie, the editor of the Richmond Enquirer, proved the real power broker in selecting the vice-presidential candidate. Ritchie alone had the influence to sway Jackson partisans in Virginia, but he remained indecisive about Barbour’s nomination. According to Floyd, “Ritchie and his party” worried about the prospect of a Barbour candidacy, yet since the indecisive December caucus “they have been frightened and Philip Pendleton Barbour (1783-1841), from J. A. C. Chandler, et al., eds., The South in the Building of the Nation…, 13 vols. (Richmond, Va.: Southern Historical Publication Society, 1909-1913), 11: 42. THE FILSON HISTORICAL SOCIETY TOWARD THE SECOND AMERICAN PARTY SYSTEM 30 OHIO VALLEY HISTORY are willing nay solicitous to urge him forward.” Indeed, throughout January 1832, a hesitant Ritchie appeared to favor Barbour over Van Buren. As Ritchie floundered, Jackson men in Virginia intervened and set the editor straight...