Jacksonian America Essay

Jacksonian America Essay-13
The Jacksonian code of honor is made up of several parts.The first principle of Jacksonian honor is self-reliance and respect for those who embody it.

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Theodore Roosevelt and other boosters of empire, insisting that national honor was at stake, urged the use of Jacksonian measures of total war to “subdue the savages.”But this was not a war that Jacksonians wanted to fight.

The rank-and-file soldiers, Jacksonian nationalists all, had serious doubts about their mission and wanted nothing more than to go home.

Jacksonianism is, in Mead’s words, “an expression of the social, cultural, and religious values of a large portion of the American public,” and is characterized by “a strong sense of common values and common destiny.”Jacksonianism is poorly understood because its members are poorly represented in the cultural elites of Hollywood, the media, and academia. Mencken onwards have dismissed Jacksonians as “Boobus Americanus” mired in ignorance, religious zealotry, jingoism, and racism, while Rush Limbaugh and a host of conservative commentators have raged against the “pointy headed academics in their ivory towers” as self-righteous snobs who are contemptuous of the values and institutions that ordinary Americans hold dear. Chesterton’s classic observation expresses the conventional wisdom of many historians and commentators who define American identity in terms of ideology—Lieven’s American Creed—and mulitculturalism.

Listening to talk radio, the voice of contemporary Jacksonian populism, you can find that antipathies are mutual. Anti-intellectualism, the legacy of Scots-Irish resentment of the educated elites in England and New England, has been one of the less attractive sides of Jacksonian culture. Mead, followed by Lieven and Anderson and Cayton, while recognizing the importance of the American Creed of civic nationalism, reject it as the sole basis of American identity.

The core value of Jacksonian populism, according to Mead, is honor.

The Scots-Irish settlers of the American backcountry were a people of great pride despite their poverty.Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way, by Emanuel Leutze, 1862.A classic allegory of Jacksonian America and one of the most ambitious statements of Jacksonian nationalism and empire building in the nineteenth century. celebrated the idea of Manifest Destiny just when the Civil War threatened the republic.Jacksonian populist nationalism is central to understanding American empire in all three of these works.The authors also place Jacksonian nationalism alongside other streams of thought in American culture: Mead contrasts Jacksonianism with the Hamiltonian, Wilsonian, and Jeffersonian “schools” of foreign policy; Lieven conceives of the Jacksonian “tradition,” which incorporates Frontier, Nativist, White South, and Protestant Fundamentalist traditions, as an antithesis to the American Creed of civic nationalism; Anderson and Cayton look at Jackson’s “vision” of a populist empire in light of the imperial visions of William Penn, George Washington, Ulysses Grant, and Douglas Mac Arthur.In large part this is due to the debate over the meaning of American empire that has taken on great urgency since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.The question of whether America is a republic or an empire is an old one.The war to suppress the Philippine insurgency soon fell into the pattern of Jacksonian wars against the Indians.American generals had spent their early careers fighting the Sioux and the Apache.While the Founding Fathers, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, frequently described the new republic as a rising empire, critics of American foreign policy from the opponents of the Mexican War in the 1840s to the opponents of the current war in Iraq have insisted that the United States betrayed its republican ideals and institutions in pursuit of world power.In their recent works, Walter Russell Mead, Anatol Lieven, and Fred Anderson and Andrew Cayton examine the historical roots of America’s impulse to empire.


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