Our professor said that The third quiz asks you to think about the developing very different societies in North and South. Those differences, of course, are linked to the larger political issue I raised, and which I address in the Third Essay, about the erosion of political unity. It is easy in Chapters 9 and 11 to get lost in the facts and ids of traditional political history. Your task is to look for the dynamics that are lying underneath the surface of events. What was causing the first part system to break down and then what caused the creation of the second party system – after much realignment – that we basically have today. The Democratic Party appeared as a party of dissent in the 1820s. The Republican Party was also a party of dissent in the 1850s. Each were able to draw broader cross section of voters that enabled them to become mainstream and eventually national parties (though whether or not the Republican Party was ever truly national is a question.) The key dates in the shifting dynamics are the Election of 1824, the Mexican War, 1850 and the Kansas Nebraska Act. One way to follow this is to follow what happened to a party over time. What happened to the Whigs, for example? Their tepid beginning and floundering national activities are evidence of a weak and ungrounded party that never could overcome regional differences. Understanding this gives one some clues as to why the republicans were able to launch a national party (with an obvious northern base).
But pay attention to the dynamics of realignment. When and where you see dramatic realignments happening, you should pay attention to events or political actions that challenged the beliefs and political loyalties of many voters. Some people talk about realignment today. Both major parties, in the eyes of most observers, are moving to the right and left toward more blunt and rigid policies. That leaves a lot of people on the right of the Democratic Party and the left of the Republican Party (if such a thing exists anymore – Richard Nixon was to the center – left of the party) wondering if the national party speaks to their needs. Will this questioning lead some to form a new party? Or are the vested powers in the national parties just too great – compelling most people to go along with whatever the party puts forward in the end. Some politicians tried this in the United Kingdom and it just did not fly. So the fact that not one, but two and perhaps a third major realignment of political parties occurred in the United States in the thirty years between 1824 and 1854 suggests the dynamic turbulence of the times as well as the deepening fissures within the country. Pay attention to these underlying dynamics in Chapters 9, 11 and 12. Another way to navigate through these shifting sands of political alignment, is to follow the trajectory of a single individual.
From the 1830s through the 1850s one can follow the career of Abraham Lincoln. Actually he did not venture very far from his political roots. Although the democratic party pas dominant on the frontier, Lincoln was a Whig and began as an ardent Whig who followed Henry Clay’s ideas and was elected to Congress in 1846 as such, and stayed a Whig until the mid-1850s when the Whig party faltered and he joined those forming the Republican Party. He is often portrayed as a country lawyer, but he was nothing of the sort. Living in Springfield, with an office across from the State House, he came one of the most active and connected lawyers in the state. He tried many cases at the Illinois State Supreme court, in addition to all the cases he worked on while on the circuit court, which he loved. While rising as lawyer, he obliged society and got married to Mary Todd. She desired a better house and they purchased a small one-story house south of downtown Springfield, and then raised the house by adding a second floor. The house, which still stands, is a national memorial. It evokes Lincoln’s simple but aspiring middle class values. But one can tell in the house – I have toured it seven times – a certain superficial veneer or thinness to their middle class life style. Lincoln was, after all, just a country man who married a genteel southern woman and was never particularly comfortable in the company of genteel “society” and, in particular, women. He became a powerful activist in the early party in Illinois, following up on his important role in Illinois politics and at the Bench and Bar. Stephen Douglas, on the other hand, may have had Whig leanings as a New Englander, but on moving to Illinois he became a Democrat and would rise and, in 1858 and 1860, fall with the fortunes of a party that, amid a exodus of northern supporters, tried to hold on to an increasingly difficult regional coalition between North and South. Indeed, his ability to hold or not hold that coalition was critical in the breakdown of national order. To help you through this I have posted a more detailed PP with more focus on the logic of events in Antebellum politics in the Modules for today and tomorrow.
The quiz is :
Please write a two paragraph answer to only THREE (3) of the following four questions. I have uploaded my history book. Every source and quate must use my history book. Use simple footnote references when necessary [i.e. (H&H, p. 64) or (Mahoney PP, Slide 34)] Do keep in mind that because this is an open book quiz, your answers should be more critically interpretative than factual in order to demonstrate that you understand the underlying cause and effect, how and why logic of the text.