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Andrew Jackson & Henry Clay in Antebellum America

Harry L. Watson's book Andrew Jackson vs. Henry Clay: Democracy and Development in Antebellum America is an exploration of the two politicians who embodied American culture at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The books thesis, at heart, is that this fecund era in American political history occurred at a time of fundamental tension between the democratic ideals of the eraùconfined as they were to white menùand the nascent nation's preoccupation with fostering economic development. Jackson and Clay's numerous debates on these topics, and the popular followings they created, gave rise to some of the country's most important developments, including the creation of political parties, the first national political campaigns, and the political crisis that eventually led to the secession of the South. Along the way, Watson draws on a wide array of original documents from the era to provide readers with a perspective on the thoughts of these two important American historical figures.

Watson seeks to introduce American students to the major subjects that were debated by politicians in the early nineteenth century, including the role of tariffs, internal improvements, and the banking system. Though Watson's book is a contemporary work first published in 1998, it nevertheless steers clear of the issues that scholars have come to consider important in the periodùmost notably the issue of slavery. As Watson acknowledges in his preface, "these subjects are worth treating because they were important to contemporaries and had significant consequences for the future. An exclusive focus on the issues that later eclipsed them can distort our understanding of the age" (Watson, viii).

However, in focusing his analysis so closely on the issues that were considered important during this era, Watson is at best exposing himself as a scholar content to pigeonhole himself into writing works that will only be read by other scholars, and...

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Andrew Jackson & Henry Clay in Antebellum America. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 20:32, May 27, 2020, from