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eBook Jacksonian America: Society, Personality, and Politics ePub

eBook Jacksonian America: Society, Personality, and Politics ePub

by Edward Pessen

  • ISBN: 0256016518
  • Category: Americas
  • Subcategory: History
  • Author: Edward Pessen
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: The Dorsey Press; Revised edition (December 1978)
  • Pages: 379
  • ePub book: 1186 kb
  • Fb2 book: 1473 kb
  • Other: lit mobi doc lrf
  • Rating: 4.7
  • Votes: 663


Pessen, Edward, 1920-1992.

Pessen, Edward, 1920-1992.

Jacksonian America book. Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Start by marking Jacksonian America: Society, Personality, and Politics as Want to Read: Want to Read savin. ant to Read. A perennial choice for courses on antebellum America, Jacksonian.

Society, Personality, and Politics

Society, Personality, and Politics. A perennial choice for courses on antebellum America, Jacksonian America continues to be a popular classroom text with scholars of the period, even among those who bridle at Pessen's iconoclastic views of Old Hickory and his "inegalitarian society. Probably no other single volume will be so useful for undergraduates seeking a lively and reliable treatment of the er. -Richard McCormick, Rutgers University. By far the best book that has ever been written.

Jacksonian America: Society, Personality, and Politics

Jacksonian America: Society, Personality, and Politics. University of Illinois Press.

book by Edward Pessen. Published by Thriftbooks. com User, 14 years ago. In his Jacksonian America, Edward Pessen seeks to dispel what he sees as an unfair glorification of an era and a man, using harrowing statistics and anecdotes concerning the condition of "the common man" to support his thesis that the Jacksonian era was by no means egalitarian.

Pessen, Edward (e. 1969, New Perspectives on Jacksonian Parties and Politics, Boston: Allyn and Bacon

Pessen, Edward (e. 1969, New Perspectives on Jacksonian Parties and Politics, Boston: Allyn and Bacon.


LivingCross LivingCross
In his Jacksonian America, Edward Pessen seeks to dispel what he sees as an unfair glorification of an era and a man, using harrowing statistics and anecdotes concerning the condition of "the common man" to support his thesis that the Jacksonian era was by no means egalitarian. He states that the era was one of "inequality, whether in material condition, status, opportunity, or influence and power." He further contends that the title of the era is a misnomer, in direct contrast with Page Smith, in that Andrew Jackson did not dominate the era in any historically responsible sense, and that it is ironic that an era that is named for a supposed champion of the common man was actually quite harsh for that segment of society.

The book opens with several chapters of social history, based predominately on the observations of foreign travelers and statistical information from domestic sources. The outlook is grim for large segments of society: the Irish, blacks -- free and enslaved -- any other poor, and women. Women (though many contented themselves with what is called the "cult of womanhood") are virtual nonentities in any legal or political sense; property is transferred to the husband upon marriage, and even in divorce due to the husband's infidelity (in those states where divorce exists), the property does not revert back to the woman. If a woman did not marry, she was a perpetual minor in the eyes of the law. Yet by age 25, she was considered an old maid. Free blacks and Irishmen, besides having to contend with extreme discrimination from others, not to mention ethnic riots, also endured a deep antagonism between each other, a by-product of job competition, among other things. The outsiders who came to America and wrote of the egalitarian ideal and how it was apparent in America are not supported by what Pessen presents as the facts. He contends that the possibility of upward mobility was a myth, though fervently believed by Americans and foreigners alike at the time, and virtually no power at all was in the hands of anyone except a very small, privileged elite. The gulf between them and the common man was huge.

Alexis Tocqueville, widely considered the most astute foreign observer of Jacksonian America, is criticized at the base of his thesis; in claiming that egalitarianism was rife in America, he is charged by Pessen with seeing only the surface of the country. Indeed, Tocqueville's glowing reports that he saw no
poverty and want in America belie his rose-coloured glasses.

In the political realm, which occupies the second half of the book, Pressen finds little to praise. Though he concedes that at the beginning of the area general suffrage improved, he writes that Jackson was the beneficiary of this move rather than an instigator. Despite Jackson's reputation as friend to the common man, this was little more than successful political demagoguery.

Indeed, Pessen finds no support for the belief that what can be considered the common man reaped any benefit whatsoever from the reign of Andrew Jackson, although certainly they fared better than the Indians or blacks. On the subject of the latter, Pessen reserves some of his strongest indictments for Jackson, claiming that he and his policies were "anti-black." The only positive notion Pessen puts forth about the era politically is that the 1928 election was the first time that a campaign dealt with actual issues, such as Indian removal, the Bank of America, etc.; still, it was clear to observers that the "issues" were not the issue at all. Instead, a political campaign was won by lavish money spending, partisan newspapers for whom the truth was secondary, and local campaign organizers. Of course, a handsome warrior/hero helped -- someone who would appeal to the brawny masses rather than the thinking minority. Listeners at public rallies would be washed down with free whiskey before being treated to such thoughtful soundbites as: "John Quincy Adams, / Who can Write, / and Andrew Jackson, / Who can Fight."

This pandering to the common man got the politician votes, but the common man didn't get anywhere under that politician's rule. Even the alternatives were useless, as Pressen contends that there was really no difference between the Democrats and Whigs, as far as the impact on the masses was concerned.

Pessen's work is a fascinating study in social history, delving through the countless travelogues produced by the visitors to the country in the Jacksonian era, diaries of American contemporaries, and other meaningful social documentation. He produces a vivid account of the poor at the time, their opportunities (or lack thereof), and how they occupied themselves in their day to day lives. Similarly, he is able to condense the perceptions of outsiders admirably, going beyond such generalizations as "rude" and "uncouth" in the minds of the Europeans and attempting to analyze the insights as well as shortcomings in their observations.

The other accounts of social history are equally compelling, especially the section on medicine; while by no means an exhaustive treatise on American Medicine 1828-1836, the chapter makes for fascinating reading.

Unfortunately, the political history of the era fares less well in Pessen's hands, seeming to be a rather biased account. Jackson, especially, comes under violent attack. While one can applaud a reaction against the hagiographic tendencies of some historians or taking for granted the egalitarian reputation of the era, Pressen seems to have little balance and, indeed, a particular agenda. Furthermore, the era comes under significant fire for being inegalitarian with no question as to whether such a condition is particular to the era. It seems that much of what is criticized in term of equality is as much true today as it was then, and in light of this some of the indictments lose some of their relevance.

Pessen's book is nonetheless a useful examination of the social conditions at a particular time, well researched and well presented, despite the fact that some of the political contentions can be seen as significantly biased, even revisionist. As for "Jacksonian America," it may well be a misnomer in every sense, despite its position as a seminal time in United States history.
Huston Huston
I pity the poor students who are assigned to read this rambling, poorly written exposition on Jacksonian America circa 1825-50. Admittedly the book is packed with facts (many fascinating) depicting this period, but it is a difficult read because it sets forth conflicting data and rambles incessantly. This leaves the reader to do his own screening to separate out important information. What I also found disappointing is that the book fails to present an exposition on Jackson, the father of the modern Democratic party. Rather the book focuses on the political parties at the time (Democrats and Whigs) and their allegedly self-aggrandizing similarity. Pessen also devotes an inordinate amount of time arguing, non-persuasively, that America was and is not a classless society. I found the book a disappointment and cannot recommend it.
Sharpbrew Sharpbrew
This book is by a "new historian" who hates andrew jackson. Pessen endeavors to psychoanalyze the citizenry and contradicts himself constantly while relying heavily on the observations/quotes of alexis de tocqueville. There is obviously a place for this materialistic take of jacksonianism and in that regard it is a more than thorough account. It is no coincidence Pessen chooses the $20 bill portrait for the cover of this book.