Harry L. Watson, Liberty and Power;
The Politics of Jacksonian America
Hill and Wang, N.Y.
Review written by Richard Foust Book Review Harry L. Watson’s book, “Liberty and Power, The Politics of Jacksonian America”, takes an analytical look at America and her politics during the Age of Jackson. Watson uses the economy and the ideological mindset of the people, to support a powerful argument about the beginning of American political parties and their importance in defining the political direction of the country. Watson argues that economic inequalities caused by the “Market Revolution” and a threat to American liberty caused Americans to organize politically in support of a
…show more content…
There had been political parties and party rivalry before. The Federal and Democratic-Republican parties had opposed each other before Jackson, but their rivalry paled in comparison to the Democrat-Whig political wars of the 1830s and 1840s. The political sophistication of these rivalries far outreached the previous ones and came to dominate nearly all aspects of the political makeup of the era. More importantly it made the politicians realize then, as now, that they stood no chance of winning elections without the support and work of the parties. Party politics became just as important as the politician running for office. More importantly, it gave the vote to the citizens and made them more politically aware and involved in the selection of their leaders than ever before. The citizens realized that they could have a say in the direction of the country and took it. Watson states that “The party combat that resulted was the single most important combat that resulted about government for decades to come.” ( Watson, 6) While his statement is true, one could add that it was the single most important combat ever. It is a combat that is relived each election to this day. Watson’s book is an important contribution to the Era of Jackson for both historians and political scholars. It is historically accurate and presents a very compelling and solid argument. However, the book misses the target on a major issue. The Democratic landscape that Watson writes about was