The Young America Movement and the Transformation of the Democratic Party, 1828-1861


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Civil War History

Bibliography Includes bibliographical references and index. Contents Introduction: the spirit of Young America-- 1.

Young America movement

Orthodox Jacksonianism, 2. Trade and improvements: the economic orientation of Young America Democrats-- 3. Rails, canals, and a new commercial spirit-- 4. Young America Democrats and the revolutions of 5. A new international consciousness-- 6.

The fires of perfection revisited-- 7. The anti-slavery democracy-- 8.

During the years leading up to the Civil War, it permeated various parts of the Democratic party, producing new perspectives in the realms of economics, foreign policy, and constitutionalism. Led by figures such as Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois and editor John L. They challenged a variety of orthodox Jacksonian assumptions, influencing both the nation's foreign policy and its domestic politics. This is the first book to offer an exclusively political history of Young America's impact on the Democratic Party, complementing existing studies of the literary and cultural dimensions of this group.

This close look at the Young America Democracy sheds light on the political realignments of the s and the coming of the Civil War, in addition to showcasing the origins of America's longest existing political party. Subject Democratic Party U. Bibliographic information. Publication date ISBN hbk. Browse related items Start at call number: JK E93 Librarian view Catkey: While many National Republicans went on to become Whigs, I am not entirely convinced that they left the Jeffersonian-Jacksonian tradition bereft of support for economic growth through federal power until the days of Young America.

Rather than such a stark opposition between "orthodox Jacksonianism" and Eyal's New Democrats, I wonder if it might be better to see Young America as a moment in a much longer argument within the Democratic-Republican and Democratic parties. Eyal's analytic paradigm, in which Young America consistently revolts against Jacksonian orthodoxy, is even more dubious in the case of foreign policy. In place of Jacksonian insularity, he argues, Young Americans pursued an aggressive foreign policy, supporting democratic uprisings in Europe and democratic expansion at home.

But it seems a misnomer to describe Jacksonianism, with its deep roots in the expansion of the early republic and the conquest of Native American tribes, as "insular. In their support for democracy in Europe and conquest in the West, Young America seems to express less a novel "cosmopolitan perspective" than a traditional theme in Democratic-Republican and Democratic political ideology. Similar problems attend Eyal's arguments about Young America and antislavery.

Here too, he contends, Young America broke with the Jacksonian past, and adopted a moderate antislavery stance. Building on work by Jonathan Earle and others, Eyal argues for a "strong antislavery tradition" p. Since much of the antislavery agitation in the Democratic Party came in reaction to the ascendancy of the Young American James Polk and his prosecution of the Mexican-American War, it would seem opposed to important strains of the New Democracy.


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Moreover, as Earle has argued persuasively, Democratic antislavery often took root among constituencies far less open to the capitalist market--and thus far different from the New Democratic constituencies and politicians Eyal argues for early on. Eyal acknowledges this contradiction, but he does not sufficiently explain it see p.

Young America movement - Wikipedia

Many of his examples of Young Americans opposed to slavery, moreover, are less than convincing. O'Sullivan did at times oppose slavery in the abstract, but among his antislavery beliefs was the hope that Texas annexation would lead to the diffusion of slavery--an old and, by the s, fundamentally untenable Jeffersonian fantasy. The case Eyal makes for Stephen Douglas is equally unpersuasive: "Popular sovereignty," he argues, "symbolized a weakening of old Democrats' proslavery rigidity" p.

This may have been true from the perspective of some Southern fire-eaters, but the numerous antislavery Democrats who vilified Douglas for the Kansas-Nebraska Act would disagree with Eyal here.

In his final chapter, Eyal argues that Young America had a "healthy and unifying" effect on the Democratic Party, and suggests that their romantic nationalism forestalled political disintegration in the s and the early s pp. But they were limited by sectional controversy, which was exacerbated by their own nationalist ambitions. Following Michael Holt, Eyal argues that Young America's move toward Whig-like economic policies diminished partisan difference, thus destabilizing the Second Party System. But he believes that New Democrats "left behind valuable precedents" for the future of their party and their country p.

In terms of economic development and federal power, this contention seems plausible, though I expect that many scholars more attached to the Jacksonian egalitarian tradition will object to such an argument. From the perspective of the post-Reconstruction South and late nineteenth-century imperialism, the value of Young America's precedents is far harder to discern. Eyal is clearly part of a recent scholarly trend that seeks to restore a more positive and complex portrait of the Jeffersonian and Jacksonian tradition.

Antebellum Democrats, says Eyal, were "progressive and forward-looking," rather than simply "racists and imperialists" p. In the case of economic policy, internal improvements, and political reform, Eyal supports this claim fairly well, and in a manner that should cause some important debate among historians.

Further Reading

But when it comes to the issues of expansion and slavery, he is both overly sympathetic to his characters and frequently unpersuasive. In portraying the Young Americans in an optimistic light, Eyal pays too little attention to what often seems their callous disregard for those who bore the brunt of western expansion and American slavery. In this respect too, Young Americans might be described as forward-looking, but the future that they anticipated provides little ground for retrospective sympathy or appreciation.

Citation: Padraig Riley. May, For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff at hbooks mail.


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The Young America Movement and the Transformation of the Democratic Party, 1828-1861 The Young America Movement and the Transformation of the Democratic Party, 1828-1861
The Young America Movement and the Transformation of the Democratic Party, 1828-1861 The Young America Movement and the Transformation of the Democratic Party, 1828-1861
The Young America Movement and the Transformation of the Democratic Party, 1828-1861 The Young America Movement and the Transformation of the Democratic Party, 1828-1861
The Young America Movement and the Transformation of the Democratic Party, 1828-1861 The Young America Movement and the Transformation of the Democratic Party, 1828-1861
The Young America Movement and the Transformation of the Democratic Party, 1828-1861 The Young America Movement and the Transformation of the Democratic Party, 1828-1861
The Young America Movement and the Transformation of the Democratic Party, 1828-1861 The Young America Movement and the Transformation of the Democratic Party, 1828-1861
The Young America Movement and the Transformation of the Democratic Party, 1828-1861 The Young America Movement and the Transformation of the Democratic Party, 1828-1861

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