The Politics of Long Division

The Birth of the Second Party System in Ohio, 1818–1828

Donald J. Ratcliffe

This sequel to Donald J. Ratcliffe’s Party Spirit in a Frontier Republic investigates the origins of the important series of political contests now known as the Second Party System. Whereas recent historians claim that the mass parties of the antebellum era emerged in the 1830s, Ratcliffe argues that already by 1828 the battle lines had been laid down in Ohio that would dominate local and national politics until the eve of the Civil War, and even persist into the twentieth century.

This cleavage in popular political loyalties first emerged, Ratcliffe contends, in the wake of the Missouri crisis and the Panic of 1819. In 1824 the struggle to control the federal government saw many voters make choices to which they subsequently clung. Then in 1828, with the rise of the Jacksonian opposition, the excitements of the first closely contested presidential election in Ohio brought unprecedented numbers of voters into the electoral contest.

The choices that voters made at this critical time reflected, in part, the energetic organizational work of ambitious politicians and the persuasive scurrility of the media. But, more significantly, it revealed not only the economic hopes and political attachments but also the cultural attitudes, ethnic antagonisms, and social tensions that divided Ohioans in the much- neglected decade of the 1820s.

Donald J. Ratcliffe teaches American history at the University of Durham in England.

May 2000
American History
344 pp.  6 x 9  7 maps, 2 line drawings

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