I bounced around panels on Saturday, not something I normally do, but there were different papers that I wanted to hear in different panels. For that reason, I wasn’t able to take notes like I had been.
The only paper that I took notes on was WVU’s Joseph M. Rizzo’s “Antipartyism, American Republicanism, and the Remembrance of William Henry Harrison and Andrew Jackson.” He discussed his dissertation, which uses evidence from eulogies, sermons, speeches, etc., to explore cultural acts of mourning. His paper focused on the 1840s and the deaths of two presidents: William Henry Harrison and Andrew Jackson. Northern evangelicals discussed the sins of the second party system (slavery, alcohol, etc.) and saw Harrison as the nation’s political salvation. Whigs depicted themselves as the Christian party, using religious symbolism in party posters, and voted for Harrison as Christian patriots. Harrison’s death was an omen of national sins to Whigs and demonstrated the need to lessen ties of partisanship and rid nation of slavery.
Jackson’s supporters connected him to the founders, emphasizing his manliness, Christianity, patriotism. Democrats saw their party as a vehicle to spread these ideals. Jackson’s death led to him being compared to George Washington militarily, personally, and politically. Sermons made him a strong example of Christianity [which flew in the face of reality, as least in terms of official practice on Jackson’s part–mc]. Interestingly, George Bancroft’s description of Jackson’s last words to his slaves as he lay dying was used to undercut criticism of Democratic views on slavery. [This was an interesting observation, given my paper on Hannah, who was present at both Andrew and Rachel Jackson’s deaths. mc]
I didn’t stay to hear the other papers on this panel, but I made two suggestions on Twitter. The first is that Rizzo should read Aaron Crawford’s article on the use of Jackson’s image during the secession crisis. The second is that he should look at the comments by the other party to the two men’s deaths. In other words, what did Democrats say about Harrison’s death and its meaning for the nation, and what did Whigs say about Jackson’s passing?