Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Anti-Rent Era

Although I'm working on James Madison, I made the mistake of picking up Charles McCurdy's The Anti-Rent Era in New York Law and Politics 1839-1865 today. What a great, great book. Very dense -- I recommend it only if you're deeply interested in the era. But if you are, the book does an excellent job of immersing you in the politics and worldviews of Whigs and Democrats in a particular state, New York, and providing a close-up examination of the interaction between state and national political and economic developments.

Thanks, Sean!

About the illustration:
A satire on the Democrats' defeat in the fall [1838] New York state elections, here viewed as a referendum on Van Buren's independent treasury, or "Sub-treasury" system. A large ball labeled "Sub Treasury" is pushed down a hill by successful Whig gubernatorial candidate William H. Seward, who says, "A long push, a strong push, and a push all together, and down goes Tyranny and Oppression!" He is assisted by three other men whose arms are linked, one of whom holds a banner with the Whig motto "Preserve Credit and Commerce." Inside the ball is a sleeping Van Buren, who exclaims, "I must be dreaming, for it seems to me, I am going down hill!" The ball rolls onto New York Democratic incumbent governor William Marcy, wearing a uniform with a "50 cents" trouser patch (See "Executive Marcy and the Bambers," no. 1838-5), and several other men, including Missouri senator Thomas Hart Benton. Benton cries, "Push Governor; or down you goes!" Another holds a flag with the words "Trades Union" and cries "Lord ha! Marcy upon us!" In the lower left a crowd of workingmen applaud the scene. Among them are a farmer, a seaman, and a driver or husbandman who waves his hat and says, "Huzza! for the Empire State, she has sent the Ball rolling back again, in double quick time!"

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