The Classification of Americans

Cartoon Celebrating the Death of the Locofoco Movement.

America’s economic development resulted in American workers being classified, creating tension between the classes.

While the industrial revolution was partially brought about in America as a result of “the material resources of a rich continent,” it was particularly a result of the “human resources of the American working class.” Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 542.

The Democrats and Whigs “took very different stands on the subject of class.” Id. at 544. Democrats viewed the working classes, notably plural, as including “farmers and planters,” and Democrats expected those working classes “to oppose the machinations and oppressions of nonproducers.” Id. On the other hand, the Whigs did not rank the classes but instead viewed them as interdependent and constantly changing. Id. More than anything, Whigs viewed the class conflict as demagogic. Id. citing John Ashworth, ‘Agrarians’ and ‘Aristocrats’: Party Political Ideology in the United States, 1837-1846 (London, 1983).

Many working men joined the Democratic Party and were dedicated to it. See Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 545. Some, however, would join other movements, like the Locofoco dissidents, which emerged in New York City in the 1830s. See id. at 545-46. The Locofocos would advocate for their own slate of Democratic candidates, and by 1837, they had achieved getting the Democratic Party to concede to their demands, bringing the Locofocos back into the party. See id. at 546 citing Walter Hugins, Jacksonian Democracy and the Working Class (Stanford, 1960), 39-48.

The division of Americans into classes created tension amongst Americans, which manifested itself in the politics of the 1830s. In this instance, the Whigs were likely on the right side of history, as they identified that the Democrats were exploiting the classes to advance the Democratic agenda. This is demagoguery.

Regardless of the politics, there was no question that a great deal of the American success story was due to the hard work of ordinary Americans, whether they were artisans, mechanics, or farmers.

Leave a Reply