Rift in the Democracy
The Little-known Story of Political Personalities and Intrigue in the Annexation of Texas Which Led to the Civil War
Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
200 pages, 0.00 x 0.00 x 0.00
- ISBN: 9781512805369
- Published: November 2016
"Autumn 1840. It seemed as if the American people had gone mad. Across the land, bonfires and torchlight parades lighted the night skies. Mobs chanted silly ditties to express their purpose—'Tippecanoe and Tyler, too,' or 'Van, Van is a used up man.' The wildest election in the sixty some years of the history of the Republic was inspiring citizens to new heights of humbuggery."
So writes James Paul in the lucid manner of modern scholarship that aims as much to communicate as to authenticate. Developed rapidly and logically, abounding in color, Rift in the Democracy tells the story of how a handful of politicians used the question of the annexation of Texas as campaign capital and consequently set the stage for the major tragedy of the Civil War.
By sheer power of leadership Jackson had welded a coalition of factions into a disciplined party. But for all his forcefulness Old Hickory had never fully confronted and settled the more difficult and challenging problems of his time. As a result, his successors found themselves in deep disagreement over the matter of public finance, the tariff issue, and the ominous question of slavery. When President Tyler was purged from the Whig Party in 1841 and left politically impotent, a few ambitious politicos used this situation to effectuate a scheme of territorial expansion. It was this scheme—materialized as the cry for annexation of Texas—which fell like a "terrible swift sword" into the midst of the Democratic Party's trembling unity.
The time of Jackson was intensely one of vivid personalities. With a keen sense of the dramatic James Paul writes intimately and at length of the leaders-great and small—whose hopes, fears, successes, and failures were both the inspiration for and the result of intraparty strife and political intrigue. More than other studies which have been made of this momentous period, Rift in the Democracy emphasizes political realities and shows exactly how there occurred a schism within the Democratic Party during the year 1844 which altered the political history of America.
Coming almost entirely from primary sources, newspapers, letters, and government documents, this is a revisionist work. But in a larger sense, it provides a fuller understanding of the American two-party system.
In order to write this significant study, the author examined the records and papers of not only the leading politicians of the period but also those of the lesser party figures whose names today are nearly forgotten. "It is this latter group," says James C. N. Paul, "that particularly interested me. I feel that I came to know some quite intimately, to sympathize with their problems. That type of experience makes the historian's the most fascinating of all professions."