The Young America Movement and the Transformation of the Democratic Party, 1828–1861

The Young America Movement and the Transformation of the Democratic Party, 1828–1861

This book investigates a particular group, called Young America, within the U.S. Democratic Party during the 1840s and 1850s. It argues that members of this group changed what it meant to be a Democrat. They moved the party toward new economic thinking, greater engagement with the world, a more active reform attitude, and a new view of the U.S. Constitution, thus playing a role in the coming of the American Civil War. This is the first full-blown examination of Young America’s impact in the realm of politics, as opposed to merely literature and culture.


"Yonatan Eyal has written a smart and subtly provocative new book on the political ideology, aims, and long-term effects of the Young America movement in the Democratic Party. His study should prove both useful and challenging for specialists in antebellum political history and the history of the Democratic Party."
-Padraig Riley, H-CivWar

"This book makes an important contribution to our understanding of antebellum political party development, particularly of the Democrats; and for some time it will likely be an important resource for information about the lives and political activities of the still-underappreciated New Democrats of the Young America Movement. Rethinking the relationship between Democrats and the market revolution, Yonatan Eyal argues for splitting the antebellum period in two. . . . This is the book's primary contention, and it is convincing."
-Stewart Winger, American Historical Review

"De Alva Stanwood Alexander, the noted journalist, politician, and historian, memorably described the politics of 19th-century New York as 'a labyrinth of wheels within wheels . . . understood only by the managers.' In THE YOUNG AMERICA MOVEMENT AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY, Yonatan Eyal brings clarity and understanding to the momentous changes wrought by the political realignments of the 1850s. This work sheds considerable light on how America's longest existing party survived the crisis of the Union."
-Jonathan Earle, University of Kansas, and author of Jacksonian Antislavery and the Politics of Free Soil, 1824-1854

"A sympathetic portrayal of a nationalistic movement within Jacksonian Democracy: the expansionist, pro-business, and internationally interventionist 'Young America.'"
-Daniel Walker Howe, University of California at Los Angeles, and author of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848


“Yonatan Eyal’s new book on the Young America Democrats offers a fresh interpretation of the party of Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren. . . . By undertaking a study of the political Young America, he offers a new perspective that is important for scholars of the second American party system to assess.” -Mark Cheathem, Journal of Southern History

“This impressive first book challenges us to look anew at the Democratic party of the late antebellum period and thereby to appreciate the profound influence of the party’s self-styled progressive vanguard . . . . Eyal has written a thought-provoking book, one that demands the attention of historians of the nineteenth-century United States. Eyal’s book seeks to keep us honest--to insure that we will not fall back on easy, one-dimensional characterizations of the complex and contentious antebellum Democrats. It can and should provoke continued debate on whether it is fair to label the antebellum Democrats as the party of slavery, and it raises that debate to a new level of sophistication. By showing how responsive the party was to constituent pressures, and how it elaborated its own reform agenda, Eyal accounts, persuasively, for Democrats’ electoral strength in the North; the book is an important reminder that the perfectionist middle-class culture of the North was not inherently Whiggish but instead a site for partisan competition. Most important, this book can serve as an example for graduate students of how to write a dissertation that matters.” - Elizabeth R. Varon, Reviews in American History

"This book is a welcome challenge to the prevailing historiographical paradigm of partisan competition....a remarkable achievement in recovering the diversity of visionary and progressive ideals that emerged within the Democratic Party and reshaped the nation in the Civil War era." - Matthew Isham, Civil War History

"Persuasive and revealing . . . . Eyal presents a skilled, thorough study of Young America that should be on every specialist's shelf and in advanced classes and seminars on antebellum politics." -Everett W. Kindig, THE HISTORIAN