The Causes of the Colossal Rise of Democracy in the United States of America between the Years 1830 and 1877

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During the period between 1830 and 1877, Americans experienced great democratization when taking into account the years prior to this particular timeframe. Between this period, America witnessed the rise of mass-based political parties and civil society, a Civil War that ended slavery, a monumental address that redefined democracy and gave birth to a new nation and the incorporation of justice and equality into the mainstream of society for all freedmen.

Voluntary associations, or civil society, were a concept that was despised and discouraged from American society. Contrary to popular classification of civil society, political parties are also a kind of voluntary associations. However, before the 1830’s, political parties (especially those seen as oppositional) were obliterated shortly after forming. The idea that part of democracy included giving citizens not only the right to vote, but also options to choose between, was nonsense to the founding fathers. “America’s founders were unwilling to countenance competing political parties, a generally recognized hallmark of democracy” (Schneirov & Fernandez, 2013, p. 19. This was further pushed by the passing of the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 which essentially guaranteed that oppositional political parties to the Federalist Party would have no real political influence or means to gaining supporters.

This act would keep wealthy merchants and American notables in a position of political power and influence. However, the first national democratic party, coincidentally named the Democratic Party, would put an end to the one-party domination of the political system in American society. Following the formation of the Democratic Party was that of the Whig Party, the oppositional party of Andrew Jackson and the Democratic Party. The rise of political parties’ further democratized American society to a much greater extent than it had been before because it gave the Americans who were dissatisfied with the rule of the wealthy an option where there had not really been one before.

Additionally, political parties served numerous democratic tasks, which are listed in Democracy as a Way of Life: “They educated and mobilized voters, recruited candidates and linked them to voters, served as the center of voter identification, formulated public policy, and provided the argument to legitimize it” (Schneirov & Fernandez, 2013, p. 21). All aforementioned functions that political parties took on is great; however, the most notable role of these new political parties was that they checked the power of the wealthy political figures and gave rise to the common men gaining political power.

Equally important to democracy as mass-based political parties, was the formation of voluntary associations. Initially, the formation of such interest groups was feared because it was thought that they would oppress the minority and weaken the relationship between the government and the governed. However, it could be said that voluntary groups did the exact opposite of that. “Volunteering in associations had become the primary tool Americans used to make their voices heard in the public sphere” (Schneirov & Fernandez, 2013, p. 20). Furthermore, in support of this idea that voluntary associations helped citizens’ voices be heard, in Diminished Democracy, Theda Skocpol wrote,” Serving as bridges between local sets of citizens and elected officials, associations could influence both Congress and state legislatures” (p.41).

A prime example of this would be William Lloyd Garrison’s American Anti-Slavery Society, which was founded in 1833. This particular association ignited a movement in different parts of the United States in attempt to reform the way in which American society was set up at that point in time. Additionally, Garrison recruited women to participate in this movement to abolish slavery. This is a dramatic and notable shift from the years prior to the rise of civil society because women were never a part of, at least not significantly, any public affairs. This participation in civic society would eventually spark the Women’s Rights Movement.

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The Causes of the Colossal Rise of Democracy in the United States of America between the Years 1830 and 1877. (2023, May 16). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-causes-of-the-colossal-rise-of-democracy-in-the-united-states-of-america-between-the-years-1830-and-1877/

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