Ohio History Journal

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The Bank Wars, the Idea of "Party,"

and the Division of the Electorate

in Jacksonian Ohio



Among the recent interpretations that have reinvigorated Jacksonian

studies, two in particular have proved to be central to understanding that

period: first, that the Bank of the United States and banking in general were

issues with more political than economic significance; and second, that it

was during the Jacksonian era that Americans learned to accept the

legitimacy and competitive spirit of a two-party political system.

Exemplifying the first of these, Robert Remini's Andrew Jackson and the

Bank War describes the Jackson-Biddle confrontation in 1832 as political,

though the author acknowledges that the Bank's "octopus-like" tentacles

also reached into economic and fiscal policy, precipitated clashes between

individuals, classes, and sections, and juxtaposed the social and ideological

views of the major antagonists.' In another recent study of banking, The

Politics of Jacksonian Finance, John M. McFaul maintains that even

though banking was part of a pro verus antibusiness controversy,

economic interests remained subordinate to political interests, and that the

"significant event during the Jacksonian era was not the triumph of laissez

faire or a protoregulatory state but the emergence and establishment of a

new political party system."2 In a final illustration, Banks Or No Banks:

The Money Issue in Western Politics, 1832-1865, William G. Shade

extends the political dimension of banking even further by arguing that

conflict over banking was only part of a broader struggle between political

"subcultures."3 As for the theme of party growth and competitiveness,

books and articles by Richard P. McCormick and Richard Hofstadter

have shown historians the importance of the Jacksonian years to the

development of America's two-party system.4



Stephen C. Fox is Professor of History at Humboldt State University, Arcata, California.

1. Robert Remini, Andrew Jackson and the Bank War: A Study in the Growth of

Presidential Power (New York, 1967), 9.

2. John M. McFaul, The Politics of Jacksonian Finance (Ithaca, 1972), 211.

3. William G. Shade, Banks or No Banks: The Money Issue in Western Politics, 1832-1865

(Detroit, 1972), 11, 18.

4. Richard P. McCormick, "New Perspectives on Jacksonian Politics," American