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Chasing Mountains, Brews, Books, and Byron
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Nov 29, 2008
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Greetings all. I’m volksmarschall. Some may know me, others not, for those that don’t, hopefully we’ll be able to better acquaint ourselves in this AAR.

This project, an endeavor of vanity really, concerns itself with the country I live in, and study in—the United States. The Victoria series is a gem for me—personally—in part because this timeframe is the formative era of American history, culture, and mythology. The colonial era was important. The modern era after World War I also important. But no era, the nineteenth century, is as important to understanding the development of American culture, politics, and scope of historical development.

For those familiar with my AAR style, I prefer history book. Text driven, with intersplicing pictures—generally historical paintings or engravings, occasional a screenshot to keep us all familiar with the game developments—but deeply wedded to historicity. I have a terrible conscience of not being able to divorce historical reality, even in an AAR project. As such, this will be no different. While the history is driven by in-game developments, the manner in explaining such developments will retain a strong resemblance of historicity. I’ve always believed that when I undertake an AAR project, that one can simultaneously impart the in-game developments and pair them with a strong historical reality to paint a full picture of what’s going on.

The goals of this AAR are threefold:

1) Win the game for the sake of it being a game, but do so with some resemblance of historical flavoring. As such, I’m not going for World Conquest or even an American North American Union. We might take Quebec, and some extra Mexican states, etc., but I don’t want to deviate entirely from the picturesque reality of the nineteenth century on the whole.

2) Although an AAR, the choice of playing as America is not because I’m a flag waving jingoistic patriot who loves to dominate the AI with the United States, but because of my AAR project style. I find American history, culture, and politics, to be wildly misunderstood, misappropriated, and subject to terrible mythologizing. As such, this AAR will present a picture of American culture and history embedded behind all of the in-game developments. As mentioned, I hope we can take away both the game as it progressed, as well as a deeper infatuation and knowledge of American history and culture in this transformative century.

3) Actually complete this AAR since I have a terrible habit of engaging in impossibly long projects that I eventually grow tired of. (Sorry for everyone who was eagerly waiting for, and reading, The Presidents and The Presidents: Redux, the first taking 4 years to complete and the spiritual successor being cast aside because of boredom.) For those who have been slowly slugging with me in EUIV with The Decline and Fall of Roman Civilization, it is with great delight I can say it is now completed.

As such, I hope all readers will enjoy this ride. And so without further ado, I present to you my last AAR endeavor:


List of Presidents (1789-1885)



Antecedent Rivalries: Jefferson, Hamilton & Randolph
Rivalries: Monroe, Adams, and Clay vs. Jackson
Adams and the Forging of American Destiny
Lion in the White House
Fighting the Bank or Fighting for Democracy?
(and the Big Block of Cheese Incident)
Westward Expansion and the Road to Texas
The Texas Revolution and the Rise of Pan-American Nationalism



Albion's Seeds: The Legacy of the Puritans and Cavaliers in America
The Quaker Capitulation and Restless Scotch-Irish
War! The First Mexican War
Texas Joins the Union and the Election of 1844
The Second Mexican War, I
The Second Mexican War, II

Manifest Destiny by any Other Name
Westward Flight or Westward Expansion?
The Great Triumvirate, I
The Great Triumvirate, II

Reformism, the Once and Future Ideology, I
Reformism, the Once and Future Ideology, II
Reformism, the Once and Future Ideology, III
The Election of 1856
The Rise of Abolitionism

Cultural Division and Animosity
The Myth of States' Rights
The Birth of the Confederacy


The Civil War Begins
The Union Army Forms
The End of the Old South

The Election of 1860
The Rise and Fall of the Copperheads
The Refugee Crisis in the South and the Rise of Southern "Tories"
The Republican Ascendancy
Politics in the Army of the Potomac & Emancipation
Rise and Triumph of the Radical Republicans

The Tale of the Smith Family
The Tale of the Kane Family
The Tale of the Mather Family
The Tale of The Meyer Family
The End of the Old South and the Battle of Wilmington
The Fall and Burning of Charleston
Sherman Captures Savannah and the End of the War

Foreign Volunteers During the War and the Mexican Crisis
The Alabama Affair and the Place of the UK in the Civil War
The Civil War and the Transformation of America


The Beginning of Reconstruction
Passing the Thirteenth Amendment
Sherman's Holy War: The War for Reconstruction
The Southern Reaction
Jefferson vs. Hamilton, Round 2
America's Long History of Labor Radicalism
The Christian Roots of Middle West Populism

Organizing the Labor Unions
The Great Railroad Strike of 1877
The Labor Blues
Nativism and the Fall of Labor

The Expulsion of the Chosen People
The Farming Strikes of 1879
The Cost of the Civil War

The Idea of American History as Episodic
The Origins of American Progressivism and Urbanism
The Populist Revolt as a Revolt Against the Constitution
The Progressive Historians and Historiography
The Third Mexican War (the Baja War)
The Homestead Strike
Industry and Science, I
Industry and Science, II

The Indian Wars
Of Outlaws and Lawmen
The Little House on the Prairie


A Cross of Gold
Running For President
The Election of 1896
An Administration for the Forgotten Half
The Venezuelan Crisis
The 18th Amendment: Women's Suffrage
Bryan and the Populist Legacy in Tatters

Theodore Roosevelt and Understanding Progressivism
The Making of a Legend
The Accidental President

The Causes of "Progressivism"
The International President
Domestic Reform and the Election of 1908
American Foreign Policy in Perspective
Moving Toward World War
The Guns of April

The Great War Begins, American Isolationism, and the Election of 1912
False Peace, False Hopes
America Goes to War
"Over There"
Retreat and Return, the German Spring Offensive in 1915
On to Paris, the American Counter Offensive
The Liberation of Paris
The German Revolution and the Armistice
The Peace of Paris and the Election of 1916 (I)
The Peace of Paris and the Election of 1916 (II)
The New York Naval Conference
The League of Nations
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Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.

~ Saint Augustine of Hippo, Confessions.

A famous French existentialist once said that the American proletariat slumbers in the dull comforts that capitalism grants it. The ruminations of others, Martin Heidegger especially, loathed America—seemingly free from the existential alienation and worry of the destruction of the deep roots of culture, or Bodenständigkeit. This, I wish to inject, is a terrible misreading and misunderstanding of the restless nature of American culture and national aspirations.

True, America was free from the structures of the ancien régime, Christendom, and the union of church and state, but this didn’t impede the deeply restless soul of the dissenting Puritan Fathers in their quest for a New Jerusalem in the untainted virgin lands of the North American continent. Existential America existed long before existentialism flourished in Europe. In fact, it is impossible to understand the nature of America’s restless culture without first recognizing the deep insecurity of the Puritans, to the insecurity of the patriots during the War of Independence when, even in that final year of major action—1781—the picture was still bleak with Washington stagnated in New York, facing mutinies, and Lord Cornwallis having shattered the American army of the South at Camden. The project of America, it seemed, was on the cusp of ruination from the times the Pilgrims arrived to the months before its triumph over Britain. This is true too, not just in the bloody American Civil War, but the decades preceding it, and the decades succeeding it.

That “Era of Good Feelings,” between 1814-1828, itself had contained in it the seeds of bitter fighting and internal controversy. The jockeying of multiple coalitions of the Democratic-Republican Party finally gave way to the formation of the Second Party System in which the Democratic Party, believing itself to be the heir of the Jeffersonian ideology of democratic and egalitarian nationalism, took to the streets with its champion Andrew Jackson to do battle against the sinful leviathan that was the economic nationalism of Alexander Hamilton, John Quincy Adams, and Henry Clay. Such a narrative, however, masks the reality that both the newly emergent Whig and Democratic parties defied this normative reading. In the Mid Atlantic: Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York especially, there were the Hunkers—pro-business and pro-merchant economic nationalists who were Democrats. In the Midwestern frontier, the war hero William Henry Harrison, “Tippecanoe,” embodying the same “common man” ethos supposedly said to be embodied by Andrew Jackson and the Democrats, was a Whig. This only testifies then, to the inherent contradictions of the American political culture, a constant war between democratic nationalist—whom we might term “populist,” and economic nationalists; devoted to some amalgam form of early state capitalism. Both groups are found in both parties. This doesn’t include, even, the deeply moralistic and pietistic Protestant nationalists, skeptical of Papists especially, as enemies of God’s divinely ordained democracy—but whom we can more broadly understand as being part of the democratic nationalist camp, bringing with a unique mixture of divinely inspired politics with it; something America has never been able to escape, for good and bad.

This also doesn’t expose the deep anxiety of American national pretensions. Even in the waning years of Jackson’s presidency, there was an unnerving reality that America’s “empire of liberty” that Jefferson so thoroughly promoted had yet come true. British presence in North America seemed to be a wall against further westward expansion. The Monroe Doctrine, a paper tiger if there ever was one, couldn’t be enforced with any effectiveness. British merchants still dominated trade and commerce in the Western hemisphere despite America’s yearning for the Western Hemisphere to be hers. The newly formed republics in South America were comrades in arms, except for the fact that they were mostly heretic pagans following that religion of Babylon and not the true religion of the Protestant. This itself caused deep confusion in the hearts and minds of many Americans whom wanted to see their fellow Latin republicans as brethren in the cause for the emancipation of liberty, but who—as I’ve alluded too—struggled to reconcile the idea of Catholic republicanism with Protestant republicanism.

Thus, as Shakespeare said, the stage was set.

I have taken the liberty to breakdown this work in topical themes, which should not be taken as perfectly reflective of the whole American situation in the timeframe in which I have set them, but that—I think—allow for some basic understanding of the crises facing the country.

The first part will bring us up to speed through the Era of Good feelings to the election of Andrew Jackson. I have aptly dubbed this “The End of Good Feelings.” In bringing us up to speed then, to the election of Jackson and the second party system, I have conceived this era of antebellum America as the era of the “Impending Crisis.” That impending crisis of course, is self-explanatory and needs no introduction. No history of America can be understood without the bloody civil war that ensued. In lieu of one of the more popular songs of that conflict, I have presented it as “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.” The era after the Civil War, including the age of Reconstruction and second Industrial Revolution, I believe garners too much attention in our national mythology. The era after the Civil War, which saw the incredible rise of populist movements in the West, the formation of new parties, and extensive labor movements, I would like to view as “The Agrarian Revolt.” The final section of this work, in the aftermath of astonishing rise of William Jennings Bryan—now a folklore legend of sorts, a hero and demon to many just like Jackson—led to the most misunderstood movement in American history: progressivism. This “Age of Reform” closes American history in the “long nineteenth century.” I hope I can, in the coming pages, be able to sufficiently portray this picturesque landscape of American history, from the conquest of Quebec to the push to the Pacific, from the Civil War to rise of progressivism, in the most accessible and enjoyable manner possible.


~ volksmarschall.


George Cotkin, Existential America

George Dangerfield, The Era of Good Feelings and The Awakening of American Nationalism

Richard M. Gamble, The War for Righteousness: Progressive Christianity, the Great War, and the Rise of the Messianic Nation

Lawrence Goodwyn, The Democratic Promise: The Populist Movement in America and The Populist Moment: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America

Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform

James McPherson, The Battle Cry of Freedom

David Montgomery: The Fall of the House of Labor

David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis
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We recur with pleasure to all the circumstance which attended the demonstrations of good feelings.
- Centinel Newspaper, July 12, 1817


The Antecedent Rivalries: Jefferson, Hamilton, and Randolph

The “era of good feelings” is often misunderstood. It is not, as often conceived, a long period of time between the end of the War of 1812 until the election of Andrew Jackson. Far from it, it is a brief period of only about five years, 1814-1819, in which the nation experienced a sort of unitive healing in the aftermath of the Mr. Madison’s War and the collapse of the Federalist Party in New England, who, in meeting at the Hartford Convention, were tainted as traitors when a small group of delegates discussed the prospects of secession since the industrial and commercial economy of New England elites were suffering from a war that these men perceived was launched as a blatant land grab attempt for yeoman farmers of the frontier and southerly states.

The folding of the Federalists meant the folding of this business-minded political class into the Democratic-Republican Party[1] founded by Thomas Jefferson, a man who was vehemently opposed to the corrupting forces of capital and industry. This would play itself out by the disintegration his own party between the lines forged between him and Alexander Hamilton, at the dawn of the American republic.

It is here I would like to take the time to explore the ideologies of both men, so integral to the formation of America in the first place, also so integral to the formation of political ideology at the same time—after all, both men are hailed as the founders of the first two political parties in American history. I would not like to be seen as painting a rosy picture of either, it is easy to criticize faults, but to do so distracts from the reality of their own ideas and ideologies, which formed the basis of American political culture and the American political process.

Jefferson was, by any standard, an aristocrat. Or at least the closest thing that could pass for an aristocrat in America. He was part of the privileged Virginia gentry. An agronomist, scientist, and philosopher, his fidelity to Enlightenment ideology is often overstated. He was a mixture of Enlightenment idealism, along with what we now call “Romanticism.” An awkward pairing if there ever was one.

He pushed the notions of liberty and equality to the fore, while not including these notions to African-Americans or Natives. He was a democrat at heart, but an agrarian democrat at that. He believed the yeoman farmer to be “God’s chosen people, if he ever had one.” That meant that Jefferson believed the toilers of the ground, destined forever to toil the earth since God’s curse befell Adam in the Garden of Eden, were inherently virtuous. The farmer, the laborer, the craftsman, the “commoner” was the backbone of virtue and republicanism, by his nature democratic, and by this virtue and democratic nature, inherently egalitarian in his politics too. Jeffersonian ideology became the cornerstone of American democratic nationalism, a belief in the inherent superiority of democratic governance and that America is, or should be, a nation wedded to the ideals of democracy. He believed in the inherent goodness of the laborer, but not the goodness of the merchant or the banker, whom he believed to be the embodiment of sin, corruption, and loyal only to the pursuit of money rather than his fellow human. This is made all the more ironic considering the stature and familial lineage of Jefferson himself.


Thomas Jefferson (left) and Alexander Hamilton (right), the two most important figures for American political culture and its political process. The two men were bitter rivals in their visions of America.

Hamilton, in sharp contrast, was the exact opposite of Jefferson. He was born of a prostitute in the Caribbean. Poor and destitute, he made his way to America. Joining the revolutionary cause, by merit, he rose through the ranks of the Continental Army while serving under George Washington—quickly attaining a close relationship with America’s future first president.

Hamilton believed strongly in merit, but believed only a seldom few—“the natural ruling class”—as he put it, were destined to be meritorious individuals. The masses, he despised. He saw the laborer and farmer as envious and prone to being controlled by their passions. Hamilton believed that the central government, rather than being an instrument to allow individuals to fulfill their lives, was an instrument of control—through welfare. The masses should be given bread every now and again, but shouldn’t be allowed to join the ranks of the natural elite—they were by their nature brutish animals, after all. He was a devotee of Thomas Hobbes, not John Locke.

Whereas Jefferson saw the untapped lands of North America as suitable lands for the conquest of virtuous democratic farmers, thus expanding democracy from coast to coast, Hamilton and his supporters saw the virgin lands of North America as suitable for the domination of industry. He was an Enlightenment man at heart, that is, he fundamentally accepted the Enlightenment axiom that man had mastery over nature. Hamilton was convinced America’s future was mastery over North America—through the ingenuity and natural talents of merchants, bankers, and entrepreneurs; the people, like him, who could be born poor but through their natural superiority as the intrinsic elite, could die a rich man. The government should do everything possible to aid these people in transforming America into a meritocratic and industrious nation.

Hamilton’s acceptance of immigration was from among these lines. He understood, from his own experience, that not all the natural rulers and naturally meritorious individuals were to be born in America. Many would be born elsewhere. Their journey to America, to fulfill their destiny as it were, should be sped up with assistance from the American government. He envisioned an America that would mirror Britain’s merchant system. But he also sought America to be superior to the British system he so strongly admired. As Jefferson was a proponent of democratic and egalitarian nationalism to the 90% mass of farmers and laborers, Hamilton was a proponent of economic meritocratic nationalism for the 10% of meritorious individuals wherever they could found.

Yet, Hamilton was equally moved by a Christian humanism. While he feared the masses and that government should have checks and balances against the plebeian masses, he also was so deeply moved by their suffering. His commitment to their welfare, not only as a means to try to keep them from the halls of power, was also from a commitment to Christian humanism—that these living, breathing, toiling people of the ground, likely to be eternally poor since agrarianism couldn’t produce the wealth needed for social mobility, needed the wealthy to aid them not because of charity, but from Christian compassion.

But, these two ideologies—these two competing nationalist visions for America—came crashing into one another after brief respite in the “Era of Good Feelings.”

As mentioned, Hamilton founded the Federalist Party to implement his ideology. Jefferson founded the Democratic-Republicans to implement his. Both sought to use the political process to bracket out the other, of which both saw the other as inherently hostile to their own visions.

The collapse of the Federalist Party in 1814 meant not the demise of Federalist ideology, but the chameleon infiltration of Federalist devotees into only party of any political prominence. As the era of Good feelings dissipated, this tension between opposing forces was made manifest. Jackson led the “Jeffersonian” wing of the Jefferson’s former party. John Quincy Adams became the epitome of “Hamilton’s adopted son.” Various others, the “Tertium Quid” Republicans, led by another Virginia gentry aristocrat John Randolph of Roanoke, embodied a classical conservative agrarianism—anti-expansionist and anti-capitalist. He broke with Jefferson because he found Jefferson’s “Empire of Liberty” concept, the expansionist element of his democratic nationalism, wanting. As Randolph noted, Jefferson was misguided. He believed that expansionism necessitated the collapse of democratic virtue. Jefferson then, was blinded by his embrace of democratic expansionist imperialism. But like Jefferson, he equally loathed the Hamilton vision, the adoration of the merchant and banker—like Jefferson, only the farmer was virtuous, bond by tribal loyalty to kin and town; by nature democratic and egalitarian, seeking the equality of his fellow farmers against the oppression of government and bankers.


John Randolph of Roanoke, another Virginia gentry "renaissance man." He is an often forgotten third wheel to the troika of early American politics. He opposed the encroaching expansionist nationalism of later Jeffersonianism and explicitly opposed Hamiltonianism from the beginning.

Here, I should note the “nationalism” inherent to all strands of early American thought, although it went off in different directions. Jefferson’s democratic nationalism was expansionist in character. Randolph’s nationalism was local in character, and anti-expansionist. He thought the further west Americans moved, the weakening of nationalist bonds would increase exponentially. Hamilton’s nationalism was economic and elitist in nature, but like Jefferson, deeply expansionist. One can see, I hope, why all three were destined for conflict with each other—bringing about the end of the “era of good feelings.”

[1] In reality, it was just called the Republican Party. However, because another party formed in 1854 was called Republican (in honor) and Jackson came out of the Republican Party to form the Democratic Party (which considered itself the heir of Jefferson), historians have come to refer to this party as the Democratic-Republican Party to avoid confusion of it with the modern Republican Party, and also invoke the lineage of the Democratic Party from this party too.


Richard Brookhiser, Alexander Hamilton: American

Michael Federici, The Political Philosophy of Alexander Hamilton

Russell Kirk, John Randolph of Roanoke

Garrett Ward Sheldon, The Political Philosophy of Thomas Jefferson

Charles Wiltse, The Jeffersonian Tradition in American Democracy
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This period of American history is very interesting and I'm sure that with volskmarschall as the authAAR it will be a great read. Right now I'm actually reading Ron Chernow's popular biography of Hamilton, and having read Brookhiser's comparatively shorter biography of Hamilton I was delighted to see it among the suggested reading. Consider myself subbed.
Subscribed! Out of curiosity, is it the recent election that inspired you to start this, or has it been a project you had in mind for a long time? Are you using PDM or any other mod?
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How exciting! And on a topic I actually know a bit about!

Any chance of a discussion of the California revolution? It's unlikely to trigger in game, but from what I can recall from my state history unit many many years ago, the story itself is somewhat hilarious (well, if you overlook how it just brought more horrors down on the Native Americans already there, but that's American history all over, sadly).
Ah, this will be a triumph of AARgineering! I might read decline and fall of roman civilisation, but the amount of detail might break my brain.
This period of American history is very interesting and I'm sure that with volskmarschall as the authAAR it will be a great read. Right now I'm actually reading Ron Chernow's popular biography of Hamilton, and having read Brookhiser's comparatively shorter biography of Hamilton I was delighted to see it among the suggested reading. Consider myself subbed.

Why tanks for the high praise! :) Chernow's biography is good, but I have some serious reservations about it--not in the least because of a certain Broadway play, that I've seen, mythologizes Hamilton too much. Brookhiser's is, in my better, a better portrait. (Also not as long ;)) The "Suggested Reading" sections that I'll be included are relevant to the era/themes or individuals covered--it also shows what sources I lean on when including the "historicity" that motivates game play.

Subscribed! Out of curiosity, is it the recent election that inspired you to start this, or has it been a project you had in mind for a long time? Are you using PDM or any other mod?

I've always wanted to complete an marathon U.S. AAR in Vic 2 (one of my favorite games because of the time period) since my Presidents in Vic 1. One attempt to achieve this failed when I just totally became uninterested. So the want has been around for a long while. But yes, the election put me over the edge. Because U.S. History (besides philosophy) is my field of study, I want to also embed as much American history and culture as possible because the 1800s are the formative years for understanding what "America is."

Not in the least also, because so many "progressives" in America don't realize what "progressivism" was really about during the turn of the century. It was the monstrous combination of democratic nationalism and economic nationalism to forge a new nationalist identity in America. You can probably tell, in this early opening, I'm trying to set this as the background going forward: just how nationalist America has always been and still is.

Hope you enjoy it loup! :)

How exciting! And on a topic I actually know a bit about!

Any chance of a discussion of the California revolution? It's unlikely to trigger in game, but from what I can recall from my state history unit many many years ago, the story itself is somewhat hilarious (well, if you overlook how it just brought more horrors down on the Native Americans already there, but that's American history all over, sadly).

Yes. In part, because not everything I want to cover will be "strict game play" only per se. It's just like Decline and Fall in that respect. Author's license to bring out as much as possible. It would be covered during the proper moment in-game however. Like when I seize California, whether that's in 1837 or 1850 or sometime in between! :p

Ah, this will be a triumph of AARgineering! I might read decline and fall of roman civilisation, but the amount of detail might break my brain.

Thanks! :) Unless you're really really interested in Byzantine history, even though I'm the authAAR, don't bother. It's something like 40+ pages now. Text-driven. This will be much the same. Don't burden yourself with two of my AARs at the same time! :p (Plus you'll see I'm not a Byzantine "fanboy" and I go to great lengths to highlight just how bad Byzantine society really was.)

Hope you enjoy this endeavor.

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Thanks! :) Unless you're really really interested in Byzantine history, even though I'm the authAAR, don't bother. It's something like 40+ pages now. Text-driven. This will be much the same. Don't burden yourself with two of my AARs at the same time! :p (Plus you'll see I'm not a Byzantine "fanboy" and I go to great lengths to highlight just how bad Byzantine society really was.)
How big is byzantium currently?
Looks interesting, subbed!

Thanks! Glad that you're interested.

How big is byzantium currently?

I own Greece and Macedon, the Black Sea coast, Georgia, Armenia, some other territories like Crete and Rhodes and Cyprus. But the house has to come tumbling down to fulfill my promise of "Decline and Fall" :p

Awakening Rivalries: Monroe, Adams, and Clay vs. Jackson

The election of James Monroe is generally viewed as the beginning of the Era of Good Feelings. In the aftermath of the American “victory” in the War of 1812, and the collapse of the Federalists as a national political force, there was a sweeping emotionalism across America for unity and healing after the last two and half years of bitter war and political factionalism. In reality, the Era of Good Feelings merely masked the tensions embedded from the rivalry of Jefferson and Hamilton, and the shifting dynamics of the growing American economy after the war. Monroe held together a disparate party. Monroe was something akin to another Virginia gentry, but less Renaissance man as other notables from his class. He portrayed himself an heir of Jefferson, but at best his politics was one of nationalist management—overseeing the late economic nationalist policies of James Madison. At worst, at least if you were Jeffersonian, Monroe was a nationalist—and an economic one, not a democratic one.

Madison had re-authorized the national bank, and had begun to establish and dispense tax funds for the construction of roads and canals in the Mid-Atlantic states at the end of his presidency. When Monroe entered the White House, he simply continued to oversee Madison’s mildly “Federalist” policies, even as the Federalist Party quickly dissolved after Rufus King was routed in the election. Monroe toured the former Federalist strongholds, especially Massachusetts, the strongest enclave of American Calvinism and Federalism that was so bitterly opposed to the Jeffersonianism that Monroe theoretically represented. As he visited New England however, the purpose of Monroe’s visits were clear—he wanted to extend the olive branch to the region of the country that never liked the War of 1812 to begin with, and in the Hartford Convention, briefly discussed the possibility of secession.[1]

One Boston newspaper said of Monroe’s visit, “We recur with pleasure to all the circumstance which attended the demonstrations of good feelings.” The era was born then, with the national unity of America emerging after the war, exemplified by Monroe’s goodwill gesture to the northeast. But this was mostly hyperbole, at least in the sense of this being an era of “good feelings.” The Era of Good Feelings was an era of searching for a national identity, which centered principally around the emerging democratic nationalism of Jefferson—slowly finding a hero in Andrew Jackson—and the economic nationalism of Hamilton having been tacitly accepted by the likes of Madison, continued by Monroe, and now being passed on to John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay. One must remember, despite Americanist language during the Revolution, up through the War of 1812, even the division of Jefferson and Hamilton’s parties reflected the colonial nature of American heritage: 13 different, often irreconcilable, states that had conglomerated together to form “the United States of America.”


A painting depicting the "Era of Good Feelings." Economic growth and the want for national unity following the War of 1812 prompted this period to be mythologized as an era of national unity, rather than an era for national unity. In reality, various political factions were intensifying their rivalries to provide that want of national identity of what kind of national America would be.

The Articles of Confederation originally embodied this “united but divided” mentality. The genius of the Constitutional framers was to codify this divided nation under a strong central government—ultimately paving the road for a sort of political nationalism that infused with it, elements of Protestant Calvinism (especially) and belief that democracy could be the binding glue to a disparate community of states. The Era of Good Feelings then was really a faux unity—all Americans were longing or desiring to find a national identity, despite that, they remained bitterly divided as to what identity that ought to be. (But which lines of identity: Jeffersonian democratic nationalism, or Hamiltonian economic nationalism, or even the anti-expansionist republicanism of the Quid Republicans, who broke with Jefferson’s expansionist tendencies late in his presidency?)

Ultimately, Monroe’s political management was something that all Federalists could tacitly accept. Jeffersonians, insofar that internal development and economic politics of national improvement centered in Maryland and Pennsylvania, were equally content since the southern and western frontier remained firmly in their grasp. Monroe managed a bitterly divided Democratic-Republican Party. John Quincy Adams, a northerner, was a former Federalist. He embodied in his politics the economic nationalism of Hamilton and the Federalist Party. Also re-emerging were the Quid Republicans.

John Taylor of Caroline, of Virigina, was an old-school agrarian Republican like Randolph. Elected back to the Senate by the state legislature in 1822 in response to the growing threats of the “Monroe Doctrine,” he revived Quid Republican opposition to not only Monroe’s economic modernization policies, he actively excoriated Quincy Adams and attacked the growing nationalism of the democratic populists gathering around Andrew Jackson. In short, Taylor—like Randolph—adamantly opposed both forms of expansionist nationalism he saw creeping to the fore.

In 1823, Monroe put America on a path of new engagement in the Western Hemisphere. It marked the first major move, since the Louisiana Purchase, of the expansionist nationalism deeply interlinked with emergent American politics. The Monroe Doctrine, aptly called (even though it was envisioned by John Quincy Adams as Secretary of State), warned European powers (target was specifically Britain) to keep away from interventions in the Western Hemisphere. The Monroe Doctrine’s real intent was to bring about another confrontation with the British Empire in the Western Hemisphere. The Monroe Doctrine embodied America’s new nationalist aspirations of an empire for liberty across the whole of North America and the Western Hemisphere in general. This put America and Britain on high alert, and something that John Quincy Adams, Monroe’s successor, had to deal with throughout his presidency.

Monroe was caught between a rock and hard place. All within the same party, perhaps nominally, these men were vying as potential successors.

John Taylor of Caroline was exceedingly dangerous. He was, like Jefferson, a renaissance man. A theorist and philosopher, a scientist and agronomist, he integrated Locke and Aristotle with anti-nationalist Jeffersonian idealism. Whereas Randolph sought not the presidency, Taylor openly questioned to enter such a contest to counter what he, rightly, perceived as the growing nationalism in the Jacksonian wing of the party, and the Adams’ wing of the party. Monroe was complicit in all of this. However, his death in August of 1824 ensured the removal of a major thorn in Monroe’s side, as well as the side of Adams and Jackson—although he was not part of the wild nominating contest that year.


Senators John Taylor of Carline (left, Senator - Virginia) and Nathaniel Macon (right, Senator - North Carolina) were among a loose band of anti-expansionist nationalists who called themselves the Tertium Quid Republicans (old Republicans). These men were agrarian communitarians and strong defenders of republican principles and virtues, but opposed the nationalist capitalism of Adams and Clay as well as the emerging expansionist democratic nationalism of Jackson (and of later Jeffersonianism). Their commitments to localism and agrarianism, and anti-centralization tendencies of government to achieve expansionism have led many classical conservative scholars to assert this is the true origin of anything that might be called "conservatism" in America.

Adams was clearly the favored successor. He was, in a way, promising to continue the soft economic nationalism of the preceding decade. Andrew Jackson however, the populist hero, crusaded against all of these developments. The Bank, canals, industrial labor, all came under the focus of Jackson’s populist message that favored the yeoman farmer. He was a man of the common people. The commoners were slowly gaining more political rights as various states began abolishing property requirements for White voters. This was gaining major steam with Jackson’s rise in popularity. There was resentment among northeastern elites for this, since it clearly would tip electoral advantages to Jackson.

Apart from Jackson, the formal nominee of the party, William H. Crawford, was seen as another Monroe—a manager. He was so deeply unmoving to voters, that the other candidates: Adams, Jackson, and Henry Clay, were also slated onto state ballots to give voters a fuller choice of candidates. This would have dire consequences for Jackson.

When the election votes were tallied, it became clear that Jackson had won the popular vote over Adams by a 10-point margin, 41-31, the rest of the vote scattered among the other candidates. This is even as several states didn’t have the popular vote (all votes were from the electors and only the electors), and that Jackson had not been permitted to run on the ballot in several states. It was a sweeping endorsement of Jackson. But Jackson didn’t carry the Electoral College, so the vote swung to the House of Representatives.

The “Corrupt Bargain” then occurred. Henry Clay hated Jackson. Clay was a believer in Hamiltonian meritocracy, plus envisioned an ambitious national economic plan similar to that of Alexander Hamilton—while Adams’ nationalist policies of internal improvements was close to his, Clay feared the prospects of a Jackson presidency and what that would do to the National Bank and internal infrastructure improvements. As he said of Jackson, “I cannot believe that killing 2,500 Englishmen at New Orleans qualifies for the various, difficult, and complicated duties of the Chief Magistracy.”

Seeing in Adams an economic plan that was similar to his—he returned to the House and told his supporters to back Adams. Clay used his leverage of Speaker of the House, and his popularity in the west: Ohio, Illinois, and Kentucky, to swing the election to Adams. Even Congressmen from states that Jackson had carried in the popular vote, because of Clay’s strong-hand as House Speaker, voted for Adams which produced his victory. Clay was subsequently given the position of Secretary of State. This irked Jackson partisans. But the decision for Clay to be Secretary of State is often misunderstood. Clay, the economic nationalist par excellence among all other politicians—even Adams—was appointed Secretary of State so as to deal with liberal Toryism of Lord Liverpool in Britain and the British trading system that moved goods and resources from the Caribbean and Canada back to England and then shipped to East Asia for huge profits. Clay’s economic nationalism had a wall in the British Empire, and it’s no surprise then, following the declaration of the Monroe Doctrine, and Clay seeing an ally in Adams, that he was appointed to this position.

The “Corrupt Bargain” surely marked the end of pretending there ever was an era of good feelings. Jackson’s supporters, probably the most enthusiastic of all crowds in American history up to that moment, felt betrayed. And the collision between Jackson’s democratic nationalism and economic nationalism of Adams and Clay were hurdling toward another with great steam and speed. Beyond this, the election of John Quincy Adams established quite forcefully, a trend toward economic nationalist identity and bid for Western Hemispheric economic hegemony.


Left to Right: John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, and (General) Andrew Jackson. These three men were vying for domination in early American politics. As such, they were considered the American Triumvirate. Clay allied strong with Adams to prevent Jackson from winning the presidency in the 1824 election. Jackson's supporters called the alliance the "corrupt bargain." It was an example of politicking at its finest.

[1] Jeffersonian partisans have overstated the nature of the secession debate. The Hartford Convention was mostly a meeting for Federalists to address their grievances against the war. A very small, radical, faction proposed secession to resolve their grievances. This was immediately shut down by the majority of Federalists. However, when word of this leaked, in conjuncture with Jackson’s victory at New Orleans and news of the end of the war, Jeffersonian partisans propagated the myth that secession was the primary debate at the convention. It wasn’t.


Henry Ammon, James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity

George Dangerfield, The Awakening of American Nationalism

David Heidler, Henry Clay: Essential American

Daniel Howe, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848

Walter McDougall, Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter with the World since 1776
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A good treatment of the Era of Good Feelings and the contentious election of 1824. Clay's ambition for the Presidency was what often prevented from gaining his ultimate goal in life. Although the Corrupt Bargain was mainly a creation of the Jacksonians I'd think that Clay would have the foresight to see the negative reaction to his becoming Secretary of State after his large hand in getting Adams elected in the House. At least Clay did not place in the top three and subsequently get himself elected in the House, and instead lost sadly to Crawford (who had a stroke yet did better than Clay :( ).
The famous Monroe Doctrine is established. That will certainly shape the foreign policy of the years to come in this alternate history too.
A good treatment of the Era of Good Feelings and the contentious election of 1824. Clay's ambition for the Presidency was what often prevented from gaining his ultimate goal in life. Although the Corrupt Bargain was mainly a creation of the Jacksonians I'd think that Clay would have the foresight to see the negative reaction to his becoming Secretary of State after his large hand in getting Adams elected in the House. At least Clay did not place in the top three and subsequently get himself elected in the House, and instead lost sadly to Crawford (who had a stroke yet did better than Clay :( ).

Who's to say I don't have plans for Clay for this AAR? :p

Certainly one of the best things about the 1800s is that there are a myriad of "great" statesmen that ran for President and lost, and have many adoring fans, who would like to see them have been President. This is a great opportunity to achieve this! :cool: (Or to deny them yet again in alternate history.)

Thanks. Glad to have you for this marathon!

The famous Monroe Doctrine is established. That will certainly shape the foreign policy of the years to come in this alternate history too.

Yeah. In part, the Monroe Doctrine is often overlooked. No single piece of American foreign policy prescription so changed the potential paths of early American foreign policy than the Monroe Doctrine. I want to emphasize just how important it was, so here is it in its infancy, and we'll be looking at it more significantly and practically, in the next update looking at Adams. (Another president widely considered to have had disproportionate influence in shaping the future of American policy in the first half of the 1800s despite one term and being largely forgotten.)

Adams and the Forging of American Destiny

No president is more forgotten, but more important, in the formation of American culture and political identity than John Quincy Adams. The son of John Adams, the only explicitly Federalist President of the United States (although George Washington was a Federalist in all but name), the election of John Quincy Adams represented—to the Jefferson-Jackson partisans, the frightening triumph of the “natural aristocracy” Hamilton spoke of as being the talented and foreordained leaders of the country. Factor in that Adams had become president while losing, by significant margins, the popular vote—Jacksonites understandably felt betrayed.

When John Quincy Adams walked into the White House, he exhibited a sense of calm but also cunningness. He knew, in his nomination of Clay to Secretary of State, he owed Clay a debt for the bargain to win the presidency. While Adams did not share the in-depth, point by point, economic plan that Clay had, both were of the same opinion that building national infrastructure, expanding commercial businesses, and limiting British influence in North America and the western Atlantic, was in the interest of the economic America both envisioned. (After all, this want to limit British power and influence had propelled the “war hawks” in 1812, of which Clay was among one of the most vocal proponents for the war.)

Adams was a short ruddy man. At 5’7” he was taller only than the miniscule James Madison, who stood 5’4”. Washington, to contrast, was 6’2”. And Adams’s principal rival, Andrew Jackson, was like Samson by comparison—a strong and sturdy 6’1” who could, if the two ever were to meet face to face, rip him apart. What Adams lacked in physical strength, he certainly made up for intellectual acumen.


At left, John Quincy Adams, President of the United States from 1825-1829. At right, Henry Clay, who during his political career was a Congressional representative, Speaker of the House, Secretary of State, and President of the United States. Both men were ardent American nationalists of the economic stripe. Clay was also a strong expansionist and internationalist who called for American intervention in the Greek War for Independence. "Wherever liberty flourishes, America flourishes" Clay said, in the lead up to the Quebec War. Ironically, many scholars assert that the Monroe Doctrine, which under Adams kept his eyes on North America rather than Europe, forced Clay's hand to look westward for the expansion of America's "empire of liberty."

As mentioned earlier, he, not Monroe, was the true architect of the Monroe Doctrine. While he may have lacked the statistical fortitude of Clay in factoring in a national economic policy, he was—as one historian has said of him, “the finest diplomatic statesman” America ever produced. Perhaps that is debatable, but Adams himself was more influential than any of his predecessors in steering a future course for the United States for the rest of the nineteenth century despite holding office from 1825-1829. He may have very well won again in 1848 considering the deep unpopular of the Quebec and Mexican Wars that embroiled America before he died (but he was 80 years old, and had told the Whig Party he lacked the resolve to want to president again). But the irony of this is that Adams was partially responsible for the outbreak of both wars that he passionately condemned before his death.

Adams was a schemer and planner. He agreed with Hamilton, and more recently with Clay, that America’s future was one of economic industrialization and modernization. As such, he devoted much of his presidency to internal improvements: the building of roads, canals, and laying the first railroad tracks of the Baltimore-Ohio track. Likewise, his steadfast fidelity to the Monroe Doctrine led to conflict with Lord Liverpool in Britain.

The Triangle Trade was very much still in effect (despite Jefferson having banned the slave trade while president—which was still on the books despite lack of American naval pressure against slave trading ships following Jefferson’s departure from the presidency). It irked Adams to a large degree, the same as it did to Clay. British merchants in the Caribbean had free control of sugar and various other Caribbean plantations and shipped these resources back to Britain, where they fed the engines of the British imperial economy. What was more embarrassing was the nature of the cotton trade. While cotton was also sold north to New England textiles, the preferred manner of economic nationalism envisioned by Hamilton and his disciples, the Southern gentry exported more significant amounts of cotton to England. In England they were worked on in textile mills for mere shillings. The free cost of cotton growth and gathering, the minimal coast of transport and milling in Britain, the selling of these goods to the “Crown Jewel” in India, where the Indians paid for the textiles with opium, the opium was subsequently forced into China—sold at high prices against Chinese wishes—which made the British Empire a fortune, and thereby able to sustain her empire under this system of “free trade.”

This preferential colonial trading system, later known as “Imperial Preference,” which utilized upwards of 70% cotton exports from America, was a major impediment to American ambitions in the Western Hemisphere. The lack of a quality navy, a small standing army, and the looming presence of British warships and soldiers in Canada and the Caribbean was—in this way—maintained by the low-tariffs desired by Southern plantation owners and farmers, who gained more by trading with England with minimal barriers than be forced to send all of their goods to New England, which lacked the same industrial infrastructure as Britain did to sustain the cotton industry. From Adams’ perspective, America—despite independence—was still a leg holding up the British imperial system; and what better way to dislodge the British system than from internal destruction by detaching the American leg propping up the table?

The struggle between Adams and the southern plantation system was really a struggle between the future directions of American national ambitions. The economic nationalism, of which Adams and Clay supported, was constrained by British economic hegemony. They figured, much like Jefferson in 1807, that high tariffs that limited trade with Britain would be to the benefit of American industries. Additionally, it would weaken the British economic and political system in the Western Hemisphere, which very much depended upon American cotton (although not exclusively).


A cartoon of the Opium Trade. The Opium Trade made Britain an extremely wealthy and powerful nation able to maintain her superpower status after the Napoleonic Wars. Cheap cotton from America was a major leg in the British imperial system. Cotton from America came to England, churned into fabrics at Textile mills, sent to India and purchsed for opium, then the opium was forced into the Chinese heartlands at high profits to maintain the Imperial System. American economic nationalists loathed British economic dominance in the Western Hemisphere, to which the low tariff/free trade doctrines of the Jeffersonians played a role in propping up British power. Part of the American economic nationalist plan was to dislodge British hegemony in the region, and was one of the major reasons for the want to implement high tariffs by various presidents during the 19th century.
But Adams’s economic nationalism was not as expansionistic as Clay and Hamilton. Adams proclaimed neutrality from European affairs, even as his Secretary of State called for American intervention into the Greek War of Independence. Clay, as Hamilton, even Jefferson (albeit from a different side of the coin), all envisioned America as an “empire of liberty.” It would be better understood as an empire “for” liberty in the cases of Clay and Hamilton, whereby a strong and energetic American republic would play an active role fostering democratic movements wherever they were found—and in Clay’s case, especially where they could break the backbone of British hegemony (although Greece was not a case in this).

Much has been made too, of Hamilton’s love of Britain. Clay’s views of a future America were quintessentially Hamiltonian. Hamilton sought not a closer relationship with Britain per se, but he wanted America to emulate the more industrial Britain than sustain itself with the idyllic agrarian republicanism of Jefferson. Hamilton sought to undermine British influence in North America, in part, because North America should be the domain of the United States, not the British some 3,000 miles away across the Atlantic.

There entails the irony of Adams’s administration. In steadfastly holding to the Monroe Doctrine, with economic confrontations with Britain, with internal improvements and the growth of the American national economy, and with the declaration of non-intervention, Adams steered American expansionism to its only conceivable destination: west. Where Clay may have sent American warships and marines to Greece, Adams’s opposition ensured the expansionist dreams of spreading liberty were focused westward—of which Mexico was in the way. Additionally, the economic rivalry emerging with Britain ensured neither side would freely, and cheaply, back down from one another. The British presence in Canada and the Caribbean was an embarrassment for American nationalists who foolishly envisioned the Western Hemisphere as their God-given domain.

Thus, in just four years—and four critical years—Adams set the path for America’s future national destiny of westward expansion more than Jefferson ever did despite the Louisiana Purchase. By maintaining American non-interventionism in Europe, he directed all energies of expansionist liberty westward, setting America on a crash course with Mexico that broke out in late 1845. Also, in his despising of Britain’s economic and commercial hegemony in the Western Hemisphere, he also ensured that conflict with Britain was on the horizon. When diplomatic measures failed, the Quebec War broke out to determine which country would gain an advantage in North America. But in maintaining non-interventionism abroad, he also ensured the cementing of American “isolationism” at the same time. His commitment to internal economic improvements and modernization earned him the scorn of agrarian nationalists who sought the virgin lands of the west as ripe ground for the Jeffersonian ideal of agrarian democracy. And lastly, the “Corrupt Bargain” remained on the minds of all Jacksonites, who equally saw Adams’s soft economic nationalism as antagonistic to their dreams of expansionist democratic nationalism.

It follows then, when he left the White House on a gray day for the last time, and the exhilarating excitement for Andrew Jackson’s inauguration was approaching, that energy of emotionalism for Jackson was just as much his doing as steering America’s course from across the Atlantic to the Pacific Coast. Many scholars are thereby divided if Adams was a great president, or a president who was unable to control the emerging factional tensions that grew out of the collapse of the Era of Good Feelings. I am otherwise unconcerned with such trivial debate, for, as I’ve hoped to highlight, no president prior to him, and no president after him with the exception of Lincoln and Bryan, had done so much in shaping the course of American history and identity. And there’s no denying that Adams was probably the most consequential diplomatic statesman in American history.

He may adamantly opposed two wars he saw as harmful to the soul of America, but in these wars—a consequential result of his foreign policy, mixed with his economic vision for American hegemony on the continent—he ironically also ensured the very hope of Hamilton and Clay, the birth of a strong and industrious America as becoming a reality.


A cartoon depicting Andrew Jackson en route to Washington D.C. Not only was his inauguration the most anticipated, then, in American history, but reports tell of tens of thousands of common Americans coming out to meet his carriage as he moved to Washington to take up residency in the White House.


Samuel Bernis, John Quincy Adams and the Foundation of American Foreign Policy

Fred Kaplan, John Quincy Adams: American Visionary

Richard Immerman, Empire for Liberty: A History of American Imperialism from Benjamin Franklin to Paul Wolfowitz

Walter McDougall, Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter with the World since 1776

William Weeks, John Quincy Adams and American Global Empire
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I always feel conflicted about the presidents of this era. I dislike the way JQA got into office, but I like his policies. Whereas I like how Jackson's election represented a better democratic system, but I abhor his actions as president. Though maybe I'll adjust my opinions a bit after you write about him. We'll see.
I always feel conflicted about the presidents of this era. I dislike the way JQA got into office, but I like his policies. Whereas I like how Jackson's election represented a better democratic system, but I abhor his actions as president. Though maybe I'll adjust my opinions a bit after you write about him. We'll see.

Yeah. I understand that sentiment. All the more intrigue about characters in this time frame. One of the contentious problems we have, as historians, is trying to prevent any retrojecting of contemporary sensibilities into the past which obviously cloud pictures. While not to be read as a sort of apologetics, "we have to remember in the 1800s..." etc etc etc. At the same time, however, there were abolitionists already in motion. Native American advocates. Suffragists, and so on. Granted, perhaps a minority, but their presence indicates rather clearly that more humane thoughts were around.

It's like the problem with Jefferson. Jefferson was the most ardent anti-slavery politician in America before Lincoln. His original draft of the Declaration condemned the slave trade. This clause was removed. In the Northwest Ordinances, Jefferson ensured that slavery would never expand into these territories. As president, he banned the Slave Trade and sent American warships to Africa to prevent trade smugglers from entering American waters. Why isn't this Jefferson taught or known? We all know the usual Jefferson story regarding the fact that he was a "hypocrite" for owning slaves, not freeing his slaves on his deathbed, fostering biracial children (shock!), and so on and so forth. Ultimately, it comes down to perspectivism, especially since, as Max Weber said, there are no saints in politics. This, I think, is a more enlightening phrase--idolatry of our politics and politicians is deeply unhealthy for a myriad of reasons.

But who's to say Jackson will get any better a reputation in what I decide to focus on? :p After all, I'm painting the very deliberate picture, often never brought forth, that Hamilton-Adams-Clay economic policies were underlined by a strong nationalist, if not imperialistic, sentiment--one combative, militant, and expansionist. Of course, painting a false picture that Hamilton's helpful government was meant as a form of social welfare is disingenuous to the extreme; it nevertheless doesn't prevent pro-Hamilton historians and writers from crafting that picture of him.

It's like the Women's Suffrage Movement in the 1900s. Many nationalist Protestants, vehemently anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic, came to see Women's Suffrage (since it would be mostly White Protestant women who would earn the right to vote) as a means to offset Catholic and Jewish immigration which they perceived to be threats to Americanism. No one is told this, unless you're studying at higher levels at places like Yale! :p Just like the "Progressive Movement" in this country too. It was championed by corporate business owners to foster a closer union between government and business, the regulation of business was seen as a means of ensuring protection and preventing upstart entrepreneurial rivals from slicing into their market shares. Of course, the story of the reformers fighting on behalf of the "little guy" is a more enthralling (and feel good) story, so that's what most historians decide to highlight.

In this AAR, we'll be looking at both, although I feel obligated--not in the slightest because I think it paints a better understanding of America--to highlight "the other side" of academic scholarship that rarely leaves the halls of publication and student-professor seminars.
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