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American Parties: Shifting from First to Second John J. Duffy and H. Nicholas Muller, III. An Anxious Democracy: Aspects of the 1830s. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1982.172 + xiii pp. David G. Pugh. Sons of Liberty: The Masculine Mind in Nineteenth-Century America. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1983.186+xxiipp. J.C.A.Stagg. Mr. Madison's War:Politics, Diplomacy and Warfarein the Early Republic, 1783-1830. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983. 538+xviii pp. WilliamPreston Vaughn. The Antimasonic Party m the United States, 1826-1843.Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1983.244 + x pp. Major L. Wilson. The Presidency of Martin VanBuren. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1984.252 + xiii pp. David P.Peeler These books are an odd lot. One deals with a war, another with a minor political party, still another with attitudes about sexuality, a fourth with a presidency,and the fifth with something as indefinite as "aspects of the 1830s." Yet beneath this apparent disharmony runs a surprisingly consistent set of concerns, for, in one way or another, these are all books about politics. More specifically, they deal with changes that occurred when the United States movedfrom its first to second party systems, a time when the Republican and Federalist parties of the founders were superseded by the Democratic and Whig parties of Andrew Jackson and his contemporaries. This collection provides a needed corrective, demonstrating that the distance between the two party systems is not as great as many have assumed. A prevailing notion is that the second system was somehow a lesser thing than its predecessor, that differences between political parties in the first system were over "important" things like ideology and values, while parties in the second system were less interested in principles than in the "dirty" business of getting their candidates elected. The books under review do not destroy this standing interpretation as much as they modify it, showing that leaders of the first party system could engage in factional politics and that concerns overvalues and ideas were important parts of the second party system.These works suggest that the greatest changes in American political style may well have occurred below the leadership level, where an expanding electorate Canadian Review of American Studies, Volume 17, Number 2, Summer 1986,201-210 202 David P.Peeler expressed its populist paranoia and vitality in such varied manifestations as an anti-Masonic witch hunt or spontaneous support for a ragtag band of Canadian rebels. Two of these books dominate the field and set the chronological limits of this essay.James Madison was a principal architect of the first party system1 and J.C.A. Stagg concentrates upon Madison's second presidential term and the War of 1812. Stagg begins, though, by tracing the growth of Madison's Republican ideology during the Revolutionary period. Martin Van Buren likewise played an important role in the formation of the second system, and Major Wilson focuses on him during his single term as President, 1837-41.By the time Van Buren left office, over fifty years had passed since Madison and the other founders wrote the Constitution, and the second party system had reached maturity. Democrats and Whigs had replaced the earlier Republicans and Federalistsand, though Van Buren's Democrats and Madison's Republicans went about their business in distinct ways, the two leaders shared important sentiments. Mr.Madison's Waris a scholarly, well-written book, based upon first-rate documentation and composed with a keen eye for detail. Despite some nagging problems with typesetting and proofreading, there is little reason to doubt Don Higginbotham's dust jacket prediction that this will become a standard study of the Madison presidency. Stagg brings new concerns to his study of the War of 1812.Rather than focus on Congress and the sectional alignment of the war vote, he instead concentrates upon the presidency. Nor does he try to catalog the war's many debacles. As he sensibly argues, few policy makers would have wanted a war to go as poorly as this one did, and the much more interesting project is to explain how a reasonable man like Madison could have presided over such an unreasonable course as his administration...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 201-210
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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