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In recent decades, American historians have asserted that a broad chasm existed between the rhetoric of equality in Jacksonian America and the actual economic reality that existed. Several years ago, Edward Pessen observed that the so-called "Era of the Common Man" brought no startling social or economic improvements for the common sort of people. More recently, authors like Alan Dawley, Paul E. Johnson, and Sean Wilentz have argued that not only was there no improvement in the conditions for working men, but the universe of options for skilled journeymen was undergoing a radical contraction, which endangered their integrity as an independent productive class.* Furthermore, eroding economic conditions seem to have led to a decline in the commitment to democratic ideology. Michael Holt posits that economic dislocation of the artisan class as a result of the industrial revolution and increased pressure for jobs created by rising immigration led many Americans to support programs which were designed to reduce immigration, or at least to reduce the political influence of incoming immigrants. This support resulted in the rise of such antidemocratic organizations as the nativist societies which eventually formed the American Know-Nothing party.^


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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Yearbook of German-American Studies



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