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Charles Fenton Mercer and the trial of national conservatism /
Douglas R. Egerton.
Jackson, MS : University Press of Mississippi, c1989.
xiii, 343 p. : ill.
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Jackson, MS : University Press of Mississippi, c1989.
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Includes bibliographical references.
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Appeared in Choice on 1990-02:
In this long-overdue biography of Mercer, Egerton casts additional light on that transitional period in American history from the end of the War of 1812 to the rise of the Jacksonian political system. As he emerges from Egerton's sensitive treatment, Mercer is a bundle of contradictions. Industrious, prideful, and 12-times elected to the US House of Representatives, he was also thin skinned, priggish, and wary of the lower classes. As a young Federalist, Mercer realized the importance of party organization; yet he also despised the democratic milieu in which the two-party system operated. A Tidewater-raised slaveholder, Mercer was, in Egerton's view, a southern man with northern principles who tried unsuccessfully to promote a national conservative industrial state in a precapitalist, antibourgeois South. Ironically, Mercer realized that industrialization would intensify class divisions, and so he promoted reforms (education, colonization) for (and not of) the lower classes in order to promote social stability. Throughout his study, Egerton raises questions about interesting issues, such as the nature of political conservatism; the relationship between Federalist programs and the Whiggish "American System"; southern moderates and the problem of slavery. Serious scholars will find Egerton's work challenging; undergraduates and general readers will find it informative. -M. A. Morrison, Indiana University--Purdue University at Indianapolis
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, February 1990
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