“Liberty and Power, The Politics of Jacksonian America” Short Summary

Table of Content

Watson argues that American political parties originated and gained significance due to economic disparities resulting from the “Market Revolution” and a perceived threat to American freedom. This led citizens to politically unite in support of a President who prioritized the majority’s interests. These developments had a profound effect on American politics, shaping enduring electoral practices. The end of the War of 1812 marked a pivotal moment in America, paving the way for transformative changes within the nation.

Citizens of America fully capitalized on the novel technology, manufacturing advancements, and communication and transportation developments. This led to a higher profitability in the production of agricultural and manufactured goods, which could now be sold and transported to markets that were previously inaccessible. Consequently, the economy experienced an unprecedented boost, significantly altering the lives of its citizens. Historians often refer to this transformation as the “Market Revolution,” as it introduced capitalism into the daily lives of Americans.

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Manufacturers opted for the latest machines over skilled workers, and farmers embraced commercial agriculture for significant profit. Nevertheless, not everyone benefited from capitalism. Small subsistence farmers, unable to compete with commercial farmers, faced the sudden risk of losing their farms. Numerous men ended up in laborious jobs that offered no prospects. While a few individuals were amassing wealth, others were descending further. According to Watson (28), this led to a constant tension between relative self-sufficiency and wholesale commitment to the market in rural life during the antebellum period.

The American mindset traditionally associated liberty with strength, virtue, and independence. The subsistence farmer saw the Market Revolution as a danger to their liberty and responded accordingly. Watson suggests that politically engaged citizens were ready for a political party system to safeguard their independence and liberty. Andrew Jackson emerged as a candidate who attracted voters concerned about the shifting economic landscape.

According to Jackson and his supporters, the Republican/Whig party was seen as a government that favored the interests of the wealthy elite and prioritized economic growth and personal profit over the well-being and freedom of the majority. Jackson believed that the key to success and the sustainability of the Republic rested on the majority. He argued that this majority was composed of independent farmers who were benefiting the least from the Market Revolution.

In light of the fact that any government formed based on aristocracy has the capacity to become corrupt, he advocated for treating all citizens equally and transferring governing power to the majority. This majority, led by General Andrew Jackson who possessed great passion, served as the cornerstone of the Democratic Party. The focus on political parties in chapter 6 constitutes a crucial aspect of this book as it bolsters Watson’s contention and provides valuable perspectives into present-day politics.

The importance of political parties during the Jacksonian era cannot be overstated. Although there were previous disputes between parties such as the Federal and Democratic-Republican parties before Jackson, the conflicts between Democrats and Whigs in the 1830s and 1840s were considerably fiercer. These political rivalries were more advanced and had a greater impact on every aspect of the political scene at that time.

The text emphasizes that politicians in the past and present have come to understand the necessity of party support and effort for winning elections. It also highlights the significance of party politics, while granting citizens the right to vote. This not only increased political awareness among citizens but also encouraged their active participation in choosing leaders. As a result, citizens realized their ability to shape the country’s path and they fully utilized this opportunity.

According to Watson, the combat that resulted from the party was incredibly significant for the government and would have a lasting impact for decades to come (Watson, 6). This combat could even be considered the most important one ever. It continues to be revisited during every election. Watson’s book is a crucial addition to the Era of Jackson and is highly valuable for both historians and political scholars. It provides an accurate historical account and presents a strong and persuasive argument.

However, the book fails to address a crucial aspect. The Democratic landscape described by Watson only applied to white men and neglected the African-American and Native American communities. Andrew Jackson had to confront challenges concerning the rights of slave states and the removal of Native Americans during his presidency, and many of his decisions were influenced by these issues. Watson largely disregards the significant role racism played in Jacksonian era politics and within the Democratic Party.

The author fails to address a crucial aspect of Jacksonian America despite trying to present a positive view of Andrew Jackson. This book has an easy-to-understand format and uses storytelling instead of a formal historical approach. It is highly recommended for scholars studying history and politics, as well as those interested in understanding the beginnings of American politics.

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“Liberty and Power, The Politics of Jacksonian America” Short Summary. (2018, Jan 29). Retrieved from


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