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Liberty and Power: The Politics of Jacksonian America
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Liberty and Power: The Politics of Jacksonian America

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  221 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
As an engaging and persuasive survey of American public life from 1816 to 1848, Harry L. Watson's Liberty and Power remains a landmark achievement. Now updated to address twenty-five years of new scholarship, the book brilliantly interprets the exciting political landscape that was the age of Jackson-a time that saw the rise of strong political parties and an increased pop ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published May 2nd 2006 by Hill and Wang (first published 1990)
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Joseph Stieb
Sep 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Do you want to understand Jacksonian Politics and the Second Party System? Do you want to comprehend complex, archaic issues like the Bank of the US controversy or the morphing of republican ideology? Do you not want to read Howe's titanic, if highly entertaining, What Hath God Wrought? Do you want a crisp, well-supported argument about how politics in this era developed? Read this book. It's not really for the general reader, but students of American history will both get a lot out of it and en ...more
Nov 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
This is precisely the kind of book that I enjoy most and that is most beneficial to me as a high school history teacher. A concise survey of relevant scholarship and key trends of Jacksonian America, this book did a great job of clarifying for me some of the key economic, political, social and cultural events and trends of the 19th century. The book is also well-written and astonishingly easy to follow for a professional historian. I would recommend it for anyone who is interested in the forces ...more
Nov 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
I liked this book quite a bit. Watson's narrative is very readable and engaging. His grasp of political development and the inner workings of the "second party system" is very informative, especially when he traces the essential issues and rhetoric into modern political issues, debates, etc. - something he does too rarely unfortunately.
To be honest, I actually decided to read this book to get a better grasp of the historical, political, cultural, etc. context of the beginnings of Mormonism. Too
Eric Michael Burke
Jul 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 19c-america
By far, the most concise yet thorough synthesis on Jacksonian era politics. As Stieb said, this is "What Hath God Wrought" Lite, but very much zeroed in on the political narrative (while placing politics well within the context of social and cultural developments across the early republic). Watson's principal argument is that behind all the boisterous partisan rhetoric of the era was a "serious policy debate" over the future relationship between liberty and power in the young United States. Whil ...more
Sep 19, 2012 rated it liked it
A rather flat read, in terms of writing style, but a very good synthesis of Antebellum American politics. Watson examines (what he terms) America’s exceptional legacy of democracy, through the shaping of antebellum political policy disputes. Watson considers economic issues of banks, the nature of currency, tariffs, and federal surplus, in terms of the professionalization of politics and the solidification of the two party system. He also considers the role of evangelical religion, the cult of d ...more
Gregory Pedersen
Dec 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-read
I didn't think I would enjoy reading this book as much as I did, as it was an assigned reading for one of my graduate-level history classes. I found this book to be highly informative, enlightening, and actually rather readable for a political history format. Watson offers a concise and in-depth analysis of the politics prior to, during, and immediately following the Jacksonian era of American government. That moment in history is where modern American politics was derived from. I would recommen ...more
Jun 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: u-s-history
This book provides concise accounts of the major episodes of the Jacksonian Era -- the Corrupt Bargain, Jackson's struggle against the Bank of the U.S.A., Indian removal, nullification, etc. -- along with abundant details about presidential campaigns and electioneering during that time period. Watson discusses it all with an emphasis on three concepts: Economic change (the so-called Market Revolution), republicanism, and the party system. Although the book is not aimed at the popular history mar ...more
Jan 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I read this book for class, thus was forced to take it at a slower pace than I would have if left to my own devices. Watson does an admirable job including enough background as to not leave his less informed readers behind in the unfamiliarity of the Jacksonian era of US politics. If not for the sometimes jarring insertion of his own opinions (especially on the Presidency of Marin Van Buren), this book may have gotten higher rating from me. All in all, an enjoyable read and a nice place to start ...more
Nov 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Full review coming soon. Suffice it to say that this is an outstanding book on Jacksonian America and a political evolution that still affects Americans today. It's well-written, concise, and covers a plethora of scholarship from the 1980s and early 1990s. It's also organized in such a way that teachers and instructors could easily develop solid argumentative lectures on the period 1815-1850. This book deserves wide readership. Scholars will particularly appreciate the extended afterword and bib ...more
Jul 29, 2008 rated it liked it
Watson does a great job of explaining how the U.S. moved from the Jeffersonian ideal of an Agrarian Economy to a Market Economy and the impact of this change on American politics and culture between 1820-1850. Topics of particuliar interest include; polarization of North/South relationship, increase of Federal power, comparison of wage labor to slavery and the building of transportation infrastructure.
Jul 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-nonfiction
***2.5 stars***

Kind of a flat read. Covered all the details that one would expect about this amazing era, but it felt a little "text-booky." I've gotten spoiled by some of the other historians I've been reading lately (Ellis, Elkins, McCullough), ones who dare to sprinkle some personality into their prose. Makes for a more enjoyable read.

Jared Lovell
A lot of good information packed into a fairly short volume. Does a pretty good job of trying to wade through all of the complexities Jacksonian era politics and the formation of the second two party system. It is not devoid of some of the typical mainstream views of this era. But overall, helpful.
Kyle Worlitz
Feb 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Honestly had to read this one for class. It was a decent overview of the subject. Nothing really to criticize here in that it was a fairly balanced presentation. It reaffirmed my views on Andrew Jackson. He is 25% hero, 75% monster.
Feb 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Super engaging read about Jacksonian politics. Would recommend to nerds.
Jul 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Debbie by: Several professors
Shelves: american-history
One of the best descriptions of Jacksonian American political history. Still relevant today; the basic tension between these two concepts is ever with us.
Tom Mackie
Jul 29, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: u-s-history
This work is a reasonable brief survey but I prefered What God Hath Wrought as a survey.
Drew Dickson
Jun 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Definitely one of those books that shapes how I see the world. A great political history of Jacksonian America that explains the continuing tensions between American concepts of freedom and order.
Christopher Smith
Sep 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Clear, compelling, and educational. I found the afterword, with its blow-by-blow historiographical overview of the concept of a "Market Revolution," especially useful.
Aug 02, 2011 added it
Shelves: history, politics
I would have finished reading it if I had time. A thorough analysis of early 1800s America, following the "agrarians vs. merchants" theory.
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