A government on the brink of disaster, a nation facing financial ruin and social strife, and even a guest appearance from everyone’s favorite Founding Father with his own musical. The Jacksonian finance system may not be the first subject that one would think of for an interesting episode, but there was more going on than folks are typically aware that had an impact on our world today. Join me on this week’s episode as we finally learn what the Specie Circular was, why Jackson felt he had to kill the Bank of the United States, and how it all fit in to the economic calamity that began in 1837.
As I’m planning an episode devoted to answering listener questions for release on Sunday, September 4th, 2016, I’m inviting anyone with questions to submit them either via email at email@example.com, through the new Harrison Podcast Facebook page, or as a comment on the blog. Be sure to get in your questions by next Wednesday, August 31st and thanks so much for listening!
Corruption, political back-scratching, embezzlement of funds. No, this isn’t a ‘ripped from the headlines’ discussion. This week’s episode takes a look at the evolution of the spoils system in the US up to Harrison’s administration in 1841 including the largest theft of public funds in the antebellum period. We’ll explore how the Postmaster General position became one of the most important offices in the nation at the time as well as how and why William Henry Harrison wanted to reform the civil service over forty years prior to the passage of the Gilded Age civil service reform act. Sources Available by Selecting Link
Silk ribbon for Harrison Rally, courtesy of Wikipedia
Silk ribbon from the Democratic National Convention in Baltimore, MD, courtesy of Wikipedia
This week’s episode provides a general overview of party politics leading up to 1840. While different in many respects from our modern politics, there are some commonalities that listeners in 2016 will pick up on. The primary focus of the episode is on the organization of the Democratic and Whig parties, but I do discuss the third-party option that was available on some ballots in 1840 – the Liberty Party – and its significance in the history of the United States despite the fact that its candidate, James G Birney, only earned just over 7,000 votes in an election where 2.4+ million Americans cast their ballots.
In anticipation of our upcoming episode on Party Politics in 1840, I wanted to share the following political cartoons found on the HarpWeek website with this series of images courtesy of the Library of Congress. There are tons more, but these were just a few of the more interesting ones in my opinion (Seriously, Van Buren being chased by an alligator and a buffalo? It doesn’t get much better than that.). More information on each can be found by clicking on the image.
I promise, I did try to find some anti-Harrison ones, but they were few and far between in this collection. I did find this broadsheet which does illustrate some of the charges used against Harrison:
This episode is dedicated to the memory of my grandmother, a member of another generation that is passing on.
As the idea of legacy is key to understanding William Henry Harrison and his time, in this episode, I examine how the revolutionary generation was considered by folks in 1840 – what they made of their legacy and how their ideas of the past were shaped by the circumstances of their present.
As a sidenote, I wanted to share a link to this article about photos discovered of Revolutionary War veterans that were taken in the Antebellum and Civil War period. One can only wonder what they thought of the changing world around them.
Please feel free to send any questions, comments, or suggestions for the podcast to firstname.lastname@example.org or to comment below, and thanks for listening!
Sources used for this episode:
Arnold, Samuel George. The Life of George Washington: First President of the United States. New York: T Mason and G Lane, 1840.
Bartoloni-Tuazon, Kathleen. For Fear of an Elective King: George Washington and the Presidential Title Controversy of 1789. Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 2014.
Burstein, Andrew. America’s Jubilee: How in 1826 A Generation Remembered Fifty Years of Independence. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2001.
Butler, Lindley S, ed. The Papers of David Settle Reid, Volume I: 1829-1852. Raleigh, NC: Department of Cultural Resources, Division of Archives and History, 1993.
Cappon, Lester J, ed. The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson & Abigail & John Adams. Chapel Hill, NC and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1987.
Carwardine, Richard. “Evangelicals, Whigs and the Election of William Henry Harrison.” Journal of American History. 17:1 (April 1983), 47-75.
Cave, Alfred A. “The Shawnee Prophet, Tecumseh, and Tippecanoe: A Case Study of Historical Myth-Making.” Journal of the Early Republic. 22:4 (Winter 2002), 637-673.
Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton. New York: Penguin, 2004.
Chernow, Ron. Washington: A Life. New York: Penguin, 2010.
Coleman, Mrs. Chapman. The Life of John J Crittenden, with Selections From His Correspondence and Speeches, Volumes I and II. Philadelphia, PA: J B Lippincott & Co, 1873.
Ellis, Joseph J. His Excellency: George Washington. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2004.
Harrison, William Henry. Harrison’s Speech at the Dayton Convention, September 10, 1840. Boston: Whig Republican Association, .
Hopkins, James F, and Mary W M Hargreaves, eds. The Papers of Henry Clay, Volume 4: Secretary of State, 1825. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1972.
Malone, Dumas. Jefferson and His Time, Volume Six: The Sage of Monticello. Boston: Little, Brown & Co, 1981.