Lowell Gallery owner and all around good guy Guy Lefebvre sent me this nugget from an old Lowell newspaper. Some of the party platform planks have flopped and flipped through the years, but the rhetoric remains modern. This is from 1834, when Lowell was still a town, two years before incorporating as a city. In a note to me, Guy wrote, “I guess we aren’t progressing as fast as we think.”—PM
Lowell Mercury, Lowell, Mass., Friday, Feb. 21, 1834, Vol. 5, Number 8
“The most unprincipled and reckless party in the country is the democracy, so called of New England. Not that the members are bad men or unprofitable citizens, but that the leaders are destitute, either of true political science, or of common honesty, while they have sufficient cunning to win approbation and support from a respectable portion of the people, whose trust is abused and whose honest purpose is misled.
“It is by pretending great friendship and regard for the poor, for the laborers, for the producers, that these leaders cajole the public. Little do they care or say about the support of morals, the spread of intelligence, the maintenance of republican liberty, the preservation of our institutions in their purity, and of our nation in its strength and happiness. ‘Down With the Aristocracy’ is the watchword, and the whole argument is in the humble perverted declaration, “We are the friends of the poor,” uttered by hypocrisy, and enforced by falsehood.”
Here’s what Wikipedia says about the origins of the Democratic Party:
The modern Democratic Party was formed in the 1830s from factions of the Democratic-Republican Party, which had largely collapsed by 1824. It was rebuilt by Andrew Jackson of Tennessee in alliance with his top supporter in the North, Martin Van Buren. [Jackson was president from 1829 to 1837.] The spirit of Jacksonian Democracy animated the party from the early 1830s to the 1850s, shaping the Second Party System, with the Whig Party the main opposition. After the disappearance of the Federalists after 1815, and the Era of Good Feelings (1816–24), there was a hiatus of weakly organized personal factions until about 1828-32, when the modern Democratic Party emerged along with its rival the new Whig Party. The new Democratic Party became a coalition of farmers, city-dwelling laborers, and Irish Catholics. It was weakest in New England, but strong everywhere else and won most national elections thanks to strength in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia (by far, the most populous states at the time), and the frontier. Democrats opposed elites and aristocrats, the Bank of the United States, and the whiggish modernizing programs that would build up industry at the expense of the yeoman or independent small farmer.
From 1828 to 1848, banking and tariffs were the central domestic policy issues. Democrats strongly favored expansion to new farm lands, as typified by their expulsion of eastern American Indians and acquisition of vast amounts of new land in the West after 1846. The party favored the War with Mexico and opposed anti-immigrant nativism. Both Democrats and Whigs were divided on the issue of slavery. In the 1830s, the Locofocos in New York City were radically democratic, anti-monopoly, and were proponents of hard money and free trade. Their chief spokesman was William Leggett. At this time labor unions were few; some were loosely affiliated with the party.