Title: The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815-1846
Author: Charles Sellers
Categories: Social History, The Market, Commerce, Jacksonian America, Political History
Place: United States
Time Period: 1815-1846
Charles Sellers describes the Jacksonian Era as one driven by a tension between market and democratic forces, rather than the traditional liberal ideology of seeing the two as twin sides of the same coin. In doing so, he works in the historiographical tradition of class conflict historians such as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. As the market grew after the Revolution and extended its reach from eastern cities westward into the countryside, Sellers argues that this caused immense stress for Americans having to adapt to its new realities. He characterizes this showdown as in part a cultural one between "antinomian" democracy and an "arminian" middle-class bourgoise. The antinomian side emphasized New Light religious revivalism, communalism, and traditional patriarchal forces. The arminian bourgeoise emphasized a more restrictive Moderate Light evangelicalism that stressed restraint, control, and bolstering the role of the market. However, as the Jacksonian era progressed the middle-class arminians learned to co-opt elements of antinomianism to extend their bourgeoise cultural hegemony.
This tension emerged most forcefully in the aftermath of the War of 1812 and in particular with the twin crises of 1819: the financial panic and the Missouri Compromise. During the 1820s National Republicans advanced the cause of antinomian commerce, but their efforts were already under siege by the 1824 election. The tension reached its peak clash during Andrew Jackson's presidency in 1828, when Sellers argues that Jackson led a democratic insurgency against capitalism and achieved more in this struggle than it would ever have again - primarily through Bank Wars and money policy. For Sellers, this is a "what could have been" moment - when bottom-up democratization reached the peak of its control over monied interests. This dissolved, however, as Jackon's hard-money policies could only maintain their coherence at the federal level and left state-level democratic insurgencies vulnerable. With the Panic of 1837 and the Whigs' adoption of popular politicking in the 1840 election, the pendulum swung solidly back towards the capitalist bourgeoise.
Key Themes and Concepts
- Market revolution of late 18th and early 19th century pre-ordained course of Jacksonian politics
- Vilifies the idea of capitalism imposed by above by a cabal of bankers - bourgeois hegemony
- Andrew Jackson has to redeem democracy from capitalists and restore promise of American Revolution (insurgent democracy vs. capitalism)
- Importance of CLASS conflict spurring on democratic movement (Marxist interpretation, Schlesinger-esque)
- * Protestant tensions between Arminian commercial bourgeoise vs. antinomian masses
U.S. History Qualifying Exams: Book Summaries
by Cameron Blevins
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