"Consensus Politics,” 1800–1805

The idea goes back to the very beginnings of our national history. Then as now, it was built upon human relationships, and these—as Mr. Jefferson found to his sorrow—make a fragile foundation.

We hear a great deal these days, during an intensely political Presidency, about “consensus politics,” but it is no novelty of modern times. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that Thomas Jefferson was its inventor and master practitioner. Time has all but canonized this Founding Father, so that few associate him with either guile, ruthlessness, or skill in political maneuver. Yet he had all three, and he knew how to use them.

The Peace Of Christmas Eve

At Ghent five Americans—divided and far from home—held firm for a treaty that won their nation new respect, and began a lasting alliance

I t was St. John’s Day, a gentle introduction to summer, and the road, Lowered by leafing elms and poplars and oaks, carved through lush grain fields and meticulous flower gardens. The two reluctant traveling companions had set out from Antwerp at nine that morning. Read more »

Jackson’s Fight With The ‘Money Power’


Old Hickory's attack on Biddle's bank had some unexpected consequences

Editor's Note: Bray Hammond wrote this essay for American Heritage in 1956 and developed it into Banks and Politics in America from the Revolution to the Civil War, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for history in 1958.

“Relief, sir!” interrupted the President. “Come not to me, sir! Go to the monster. It is folly, sir, to talk to Andrew Jackson. The government will not bow to the monster. … Andrew Jackson yet lives to put his foot upon the head of the monster and crush him to the dust.”  Read more »