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"The magic of the many that sets the world on fire": Boston elites and urban political insurgents during the early nineteenth century

Matthew H Crocker, University of Massachusetts Amherst


"The Magic of the Many Which Sets the World on Fire": Boston Elites and Urban Political Insurgents During the Early Nineteenth Century is a broad analysis on social class and political culture in Boston and Massachusetts between 1800 and 1830. I have consciously focused on the political odyssey of congressman, Massachusetts legislator, and Boston's second mayor, Josiah Quincy, to investigate the political and cultural evolution of Boston during these three crucial decades. Quincy's political career--though central to the story--is utilized as a narrative hook that helps unveil the dramatic changes in the political and social culture that Massachusetts faced in between the first and second party systems. During the first three decades of the nineteenth century, Massachusetts and Boston, in particular, faced a dramatic period of political, cultural, and economic transformation. At the beginning of the century, the politics, economy, and culture of the state were controlled almost exclusively by a close-knit elite which ran roughshod over the ordinary citizenry. By the mid-1820s this elite faced an onslaught of serious challenges to its hegemony in Massachusetts. By 1823 the political arm of the elite, the Federalist Party, was gutted by a united lower-to-middling class electorate led by ex-Federalist and Brahmin, Josiah Quincy. This newly charged electorate refused to abide by the political standards of the past, resulting in the passing of the first party system. This study investigates the emergence of a dramatically new sort of political culture while also providing an analysis of a highly popular caesarist who helped destroy the first party system in Massachusetts, but could not survive the advent of the second.

Subject Area

American history|American studies|Political science

Recommended Citation

Crocker, Matthew H, ""The magic of the many that sets the world on fire": Boston elites and urban political insurgents during the early nineteenth century" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9809323.