The nineteenth century was the heyday of furious contention
between American political parties, and Joel Silbey has recaptured
the drama and substance of those battles in a representative
sampling of party pamphlets. Political parties mapped the landscape
of electoral and ideological warfare, constructing images of
themselves and of their adversaries that resonate and echo the
basic characteristics of America's then reigning sets of ideas. The
nature of political controversy, as well as the substance of
politics, is embedded in these party documents which both united
and divided Americans. Unlike today's party platforms, these
pamphlets explicated real issues and gave insight into the society
at large. Andrew Jackson's Democrats, Millard Fillmore's Whigs,
Abraham Lincoln's Republicans, and other, lesser-known parties are
represented here. The pamphlets demonstrate how, for this
fifty-year period, political parties were surrogates for American
demands and values. Broad in scope, widely circulated, catalysts
for heated debate over the decades, these pamphlets are important
documents in the history of American politics.
In an excellent introduction, Silbey teases out and elucidates
the themes each party stressed and took as its own in its fight for
the soul of the nation.
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