32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2012
I loved getting a "behind the scenes" look at the epic battle between Jackson and Adams, which was arguably one of the most interesting and important elections in US history. This book does a great job laying the groundwork of what led up to the bitter rivalry between these men, including what transpired during Adams' first term and how it was used against him, and how Jackson won the support of various organizations who ultimately championed him all the way into the White House. The fact that this was all on the heels of the collapse of the first party system made it even more interesting reading. If you'd like to know more about this watershed milestone in the evolution of modern politics, then read this book.
As a note, I also really enjoyed The Know Your Bill of Rights Book: Don't Lose Your Constitutional Rights--Learn Them!, as it gave me a better understanding of the Bill of Rights than ever before. I like that the author took care to reveal the ORIGINAL meanings of the rights, not the perverted lies that many pundits and politicians are pushing on us today...
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2009
"Coordinated media, fund-raising, organized rallies, opinion polling, campaign paraphernalia, ethnic voting blocs, image making, even opposition research, smear tactics, and dirty tricks". Is this a description of a presidential campaign in the television age? No, it the description by Lynn Hudson Parsons of the practices (some in embryonic form) employed by those who campaigned for Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams in the presidential election of 1828, one of the most fascinating and most important elections in our nation's history.
In this volume, Parsons reviews some of the events in the decade leading up to 1828, such as the Panic of 1819 and the establishment of the Monroe Doctrine, and relates how Jackson and Adams each arrived at their historic clash. The book shows that, then as now, candidates made plans to run for president years in advance, and the public speculated about the outcome of elections years in advance. Another parallel between the 1820s and subsequent generations is that Americans have always wondered if the up-and-coming generation of political leadership will be equal to the challenges that it will face.
One can scarcely talk about the election of 1828 without first analyzing the election of 1824, and Parsons does this masterfully. Parsons thoroughly covers Adams's term in office, leading to the big Jackson-Adams showdown in the 1828 election. He vividly recounts the aforementioned campaign tactics, central issues, and aspects such as race and religion that shaped the 1828 campaign. Included is a state-by-state breakdown of how Jackson won his historic victory, and there is a table containing the final popular vote and electoral vote.
The book asserts that the two-party system established in that era has ever since been the arena in which arguments about the size and role of government have been conducted. Parsons ends with a short discussion of the Jackson presidency and how it changed the presidency and American politics.
I looked forward to this book's release for weeks. It turned out to be a thorough, enjoyable, well-written look at the election of 1828--most readers of American political history will likely find, as I did, that the book is all they thought and hoped that it would be.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This is an enjoyable and enlightening new book on the election of Andrew Jackson in 1828. It does a good job of discussing the coalition of supporters that put Jackson in the White House. It begins, appropriately with the collapse of the first party system and the election of 1824, which shaped fundamentally the 1828 campaign. The author contends that this election served as a watershed in the American political system. We have known this for a long time, but Parsons's goes further by insisting that the election of 1828 forever separated the politicians and people of the second American party system from the era of the Founders and its genteel, Enlightenment political ideals.
The author deals both with the rise of new styles of campaigning--emphasis on popular rallies, etc.--and on the division of American society into divergent pieces that had to be enticed to support the various organizations that could carry on the job of electing officials and formulating policies that reflected the priorities of its adherents. I'm not sure I would say that this election represented the "birth of modern politics," but it is a thought-provoking way to think about the election and its meaning.
While this is a very fine overview of its subject, clearly the author's primary intent, there is not that much new here for those immersed in the history of the era. The class divisions, the sectional influences, the push and pull of political traditions, the economics of the time, and the culture of the Antebellum U.S. are all present, but I looked hard for a new take on this and failed to find it. Instead it is a useful and succinct synthesis that builds on decades of historiographical contributions from a range of scholars, among them Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Robert Remini, Charles Sellars, Sean Wilentz, and others. I would recommend this book as an accessible survey of the election of Andrew Jackson, appropriate for classroom use, but not a benchmark in historical understanding of a well-studied subject.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2010
For most of us public school-educated Americans of a certain age, here is what our history classes sounded like: "Columbus in 1492 ... mumble, mumble ... Plymouth Rock and the first Thansgiving ... mumble, mumble ... Revolutionary War ... George Washington ... mumble, mumble, mumble ... slavery and the Civil War ... mumble, mumble ... cattle drive, cowboys, gold rush ... mumble ... World War I ... League of Nations ... World War II ... mumble, mumble ... zzzzzzzzz."
Most of us can recognize that Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams were presidents and if we really, really concentrated hard we might remember that Jackson gave us a victory at the Battle of New Orleans (though it came after the War of 1812 was concluded). But now Lynn Hudson Parsons has made some of those dusty names come alive in a very readable book that finds the seeds of modern politics in the 1828 presidential race between Jackson and J.Q. Adams.
This is a book that makes memorable a period of time that's often glossed over by teachers (or, more likely, napped through by bored students). There is enough sex, violence and intrigue to keep even the most bored student awake in history class. There's Jackson's famous temper that involved him in several duels in his younger years (and from which he still carried bullets lodged in his body from two of them). Then there's the scandal of Jackson running off with his future bride while she was still married to another man. The repercussions of that followed Jackson into the campaign and may have even contributed to his wife's death before he took the oath of office.
The Birth of Modern Politics draws stark comparisons between Jackson, the Southern little-educated orphan of immigrants, and Adams, the privleged son of the second president. Despite their differences, each man had a respect for the other and shared a sort of friendship. That friendship ended as Jackson and Adams locked horns for the presidency.
By 1828 the rules of the game had changed in elections. While blacks and women still were unable to vote, white males no longer had to be property owners in most states to vote. This brought an unprecedented number of new voters to the polls and Jackson's followers were the first to capitalize on this change. Likewise, the 1828 election saw coordinated political rallies, early attempts at fund-raising, and, perhaps the most lasting legacy, political partisanship.
Though it's a long way from today's 24-hour news cycle, sound bites and candidates racing back and forth across the country (candidates left the campaigning to their supporters in 1828), Parsons makes a convincing case that the election sewed the seeds of change in American politics. One of Parsons' most astute observations is the anti-intellectualism that accompanies tarring one's opponent as an "elitist." That's a tactic that still resonates in today's campaigns.
This is the kind of history book that not only brings history alive, but draws clear connections to the world we see about us today. I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in politics and history.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 2009
The book makes a convincing argument that the election of 1828 is the first to resemble our current process. However aspects of modern politics occurred at different times. The beginning of true partisan electioneering definitely started in the 1800 contest between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. The book does acknowledge this and goes further to point out the changing electorate and the process for selecting electors. This would not be the final revision of these concepts. It's hard to draw a link to modern politics when election results were still factored by the three-fifths compromise. Two states also determined there electors in the state legislatures with no link to the popular vote.
The consensus among historians has been that the Jacksonian age was a revolutionary period in government, commerce, industry and of course politics. One problem I find with anointing this as the birth, is that both parties were not playing the same game using the same rules. Modern politics is a coordinated frenzy of press releases, rallies, debates, town halls and endorsements. The Jackson camp was really the only one using these tactics to their fullest advantage. It would still be years before these practices became the normal operation of political campaigns and evolve into their present state. A huge portion of modern politics is also fundraising and the Jackson's and Adam's did this but were not regulated in the way modern politicians are and since disclosure was not mandatory we can only estimate the influence and where the funds came from in 1828.
It's worth reading if you are not familiar with the period or looking for place to start.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
In this engaging, not too long and well written account, the author provides us with a captivating snapshot of the 1828 Presidential Election. Incumbent John Quincy Adams faced Andrew Jackson in somewhat of a rematch of the election four years earlier - the 1824 election being so close it had been decided in the House of Representatives. Jackson and his supporters believed "Old Hickory" had been robbed of the Presidency then, due to the "Corrupt Bargain" between Speaker of the House Henry Clay and Adams.
Clay "ran" the House proceedings to resolve that election, the results were in Adams' favor and Clay became Adams' Secretary of State soon after the House vote. The run-up to the 1828 election and ensuing campaign was vocal, partisan, entertaining and at times very ugly. The latter a phenomenon we Americans tend to think of as a recent one. This book will dispel that assumption.
Although the book doesn't necessarily prove its title - the 1800 campaign between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson was a very partisan affair between the Federalists and Jefferson's Republicans, with all the associated spin, mud-slinging and manipulation of the press we take for granted today - this is still an excellent book and well worth the read. With quotes and anecdotes the author does a very good job in providing an historical context to the election, painting the issues of the time, and bringing to life the fascinating individuals involved.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2015
The title of this book implies that it explains the birth of modern politics, as in the birth of political parties. But what this book covers is not that, but rather a bio of Jackson and Adams and the 1824 campaign. It says very little about Martin Van Buren and what he did to create the Democratic party. I found the book too verbose with lots of details about things I didn't care about.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2012
Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams have always been two of the more interesting historical figures in american history. Jackson is a man that should be celebrated on one hand, and villanized on the other. John Q. is also fascinating as he was a brilliant man who really accomplished nothing of any value during his four years as President. Parsons does a very unique job weaving the seams of this story together and creating a cohesive and fun read on these candidates. This election of 1828 was one that really fired up the engines of bipartisanship in politics and help to shape the process that is so visible even today.
First, I will start with the positive attributes of the book before discussing the negative. This book is obviously not a biography of either man. The role of this book is to break into the story behind the story which led to a ferocious election in 1828. However, Parsons paints a unique picture of both men. She traces the origins and stories of both in a very clear and linear path. While I have learned about Jackson in history class this gave me some more information about his background. His life as a youth is not one that anyone should envy. He was the son of immigrants who endured the loss of literally everyone in his family. His climb to success was of course perilous as everyone knows that Jackson had a volatile temper. Parsons also laid a nice introduction for John Q. He is one that in some ways had a sad life. While he was born into privilege and well-loved, it seems that his life was not really his own and he was being trained for his future during his entire lifetime.
She also did a nice job developing the storyline as it was neither rushed nor drawn out. She traces the steps and the burgeoning friendship of two unlikely friends. The chasm of differences between Jackson and Adams could not be more pronounced and their mutual admiration is an unusual story. The alliance between them was not merely political and it seems that they had developed a genuine respect for one another. It was in fact the election of 1824 that caused a breach between the two of them. Henry Clay throwing his weight to gets Adams elected enraged Jackson and brought about the accusation that the process had been corrupted, hence the name "corrupt bargaining." Of course, Adam's presidency was able to accomplish very little. His educated manner and polished style really made Americans more disconnected from Adams and his policies as well as ideals widened the rift between he and Jackson. The media and the election process severed their friendship and introduced a more pronounced ugliness in politics.
Parsons makes the argument that this was the election that really shaped modern electioneering with the mudslinging, cheap shots and party bases. To a certain extent she has a valid point. However, she failed to elaborate that the election 1800 with Jefferson was charged with political fire and had its own divisive factions. She did bring up but it seems that she played it down a little. While Adam's father stated that parties were negative for America it does not seem that he meant it and while she gives much of the rhetoric of the early fathers she does not always discuss the ways in which they contradicted their own ideas. It is true however that Martin Van Buren "the little magician" really fired up a base for Jackson and helped institute a set of practices that helped foster strong political partisanship.
Overall, the book was well done. It is a short book in comparison but I think it accomplishes the mission that it sets out to do. All things in the book lead up to the year of 1828. The implications of that year do have long lasting effects on the modern process. I agree that political parties create a situation that is good for the party but not always for the community. Communities are often the victims of the political process and this was one the reasons the fathers were against them.... at least in theory. Unfortunately, it is a fact of human nature that people always find reasons to divide and the story of our nations history is no exception.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is a well written and interesting book. Why only three stars? It had very little to do with the election of 1828, which the author posits as the birth of modern politics. All but the last chapter was about the backgrounds of Adams and Jackson leading up to the election. The title would lead one to think that there would be details about the election that gave birth to the new age. Instead, after good and detailed bios of the two candidates, it glossed over with a broad brush how Jackson's campaigned introduced and began to perfect methods of campaigning used today.
If you want bios of JQ Adams and Jackson, this is the place. If you want to know about the election of 1828, go elsewhere, you'll only get a chapter about it here - and not a long one. It is a shame. The author knows her stuff; it's just that the emphasis was different than the billing. The history is very good. The political science is lacking.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2011
Parsons does a really nice job with this study of the 1828 election, even if the claim of "birth of modern politics" may be a bit of a stretch. She provides all the necessary background on the lives of the two candidates, as well of the issues that were important in that election. It's well researched and well written.
The most interesting part of the book is the second half, focusing on the actual 1828 campaign. JQ Adams almost went out of his way to NOT campaign for the election, while Jackson realized that he could at least allow surrogates to get his message across. Parsons illustrates that an organized party system took shape, and that's her primary basis for her claim that modern politics were born that year -- that and the type of fierce campaigning and popularity-contest type of election that took place. More citizens could vote that year than in previous elections, and it led to a very different type of campaign.
However, there are flaws. It would be many decades before candidates themselves actively campaigned during the months preceding presidential elections. And until the Whig party emerged in opposition to Jackson, this wasn't a typical two-party system; the candidates, in fact, agreed on many issues. The most significant development stemming from this election, to me, was that it essentially signaled the end of intelligence and education as criteria for the presidency. That's not to disparage Jackson, but some of the early presidents were remarkably brilliant men -- both Adamses, Jefferson, Madison -- and since 1828, education been a virtual handicap in presidential elections. Parsons addresses this, but briefly.
In all, there is lots of information here and it's a good read. I recommend it.