John Spencer Bassett and Jacksonian Historiography, Part 1

In the process of presenting a paper at the April 2010 OAH about Jackson and slavery and writing a longer historiographical essay on the same topic, I have spent a lot of time this year considering the influence of John Spencer Bassett on Jacksonian historiography.

Bassett received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1894, having studied under Herbert Baxter Adams. He taught at Trinity College (later Duke University), then moved to Smith College in Massachusetts. Bassett published a number of works, but for our purposes, his two most important publications were a two-volume biography of Andrew Jackson, The Life of Andrew Jackson (1911), which was republished as one volume, with minor alterations, in 1916; and the six-volume Correspondence of Andrew Jackson (1926-1935). (I will use the abbreviated CAJ hereafter.)

Unfortunately, on 27 January 1828, less than a month after having finished the introduction to volume 3 of the CAJ, Bassett died as a result of being struck by a street car. J. Franklin Jameson, one of the founders of the American Historical Association and the director of the Department of Historical Research at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, which published the CAJ volumes, took over editing duties. He made clear, however, that Bassett had written “[a]ll the text and annotations for the three remaining volumes . . . some time ago” (CAJ, 3:xvii).

(Part 2 to follow next week)

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