Tennessee played a critical and vital role in national politics in the mid-nineteenth century. Two Tennesseans, for example, served as president and two others were presidential candidates. Such prominence be-speaks the importance of politics in the state's antebellum culture. For the first time in its history Tennessee developed a two-party system, one that was vigorous and exciting. In his study Paul H. Bergeron examines the development of this two-party competition by focusing on statewide contests. Two-party politics in Tennessee was marked by intense and evenly balanced competition, so much so that the outcome of virtually every election was un-certain. In such an environment each party worked diligently to stir the voters; that they were successful is indicated by the exceedingly high levels of turnout for elections. Paul H. Bergeron, the first scholar to study the development of the two-party system in Tennessee, presents a detailed narrative of this period coupled with a quantitative analysis of electoral behavior. He relates the peculiarities of Tennessee's experiences to other states during the antebellum decades.
Bergeron also offers fresh insights and information on Tennessee's defections from Jacksonianism in the pre-Civil War period. His book is an important contribution to the growing list of state studies, north and south, that are steadily building a greater appreciation of the complexities of politics in Jacksonian America.
Paul H. Bergeron is professor of history at the University of Tennessee. He is the author of Paths of the Past: Tennessee 1770-1970 and was coeditor of the first two volumes of the Correspondence of James K. Polk.
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