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Domestic Speculations: Household Economies in Jacksonian Politics

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Abstract:

Speculative enterprise, it can be argued, characterized the 1830s U.S. political economy. Plantation elites, bankers, politicians, yeoman farmers, white laborers, soldiers, slave traders, military contractors, and land speculators alike engendered their professions in response to varying predictions concerning the political, economic, and territorial shape of the United States. While the 1830s did not mark the emergence of speculation as a driving market force, scholars consistently emphasize the ways in which an increasingly expanding, diversified, and volatile (inter)national marketplace demanded that Euro-Americans and, in certain cases, Native Americans, abandon 18th-century family-based, household economies for risk-based business or military ventures in order to maintain economic solvency or accumulate wealth.
This paper takes a slightly different direction. Rather than assuming the increasing irrelevance of the familial unit in the 1830s political economy, it explores the ways in which the logic of speculation both relied upon stability within race-, class-, and gender-based family formations and, simultaneously, influenced the various “gambles” U.S. elites engaged in relative to the constitution and circulation of those differentially identified as “family.” By examining the “private” lives of Andrew Jackson and Thomas Loraine McKenney – two leading public figures in the expansion of Euro-American slavery into Southeast Indian territory – in relation to their political and economic policies, this paper assesses the ways in which these men’s conjectures about race, gender, class and belonging within their own “families” were inseparable from their speculative enterprises in “public” politics up to the 1830s. Jackson and McKenney’s experiments with the household management of their Euro-American wives and children, the African Americans they enslaved, and Southeast Indian boys they adopted as “sons,” both informed and were directly informed by prerogatives and practices relating to governing non-“white” and non-male subjects within an expanding capitalist democracy writ large. Far from being “outside” the concerns of national political economy, the decisions Jackson and McKenney made in relation to their familial economies had everything to do with their mission to expand Euro-American plantation slavery, white male “mastery,” and a corresponding national speculative culture into Indian lands.
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Name: American Studies Association Annual Meeting
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http://www.theasa.net


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p244420_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Peterson, Dawn. "Domestic Speculations: Household Economies in Jacksonian Politics" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hyatt Regency, Albuquerque, New Mexico, <Not Available>. 2014-11-30 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p244420_index.html>

APA Citation:

Peterson, D. "Domestic Speculations: Household Economies in Jacksonian Politics" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hyatt Regency, Albuquerque, New Mexico <Not Available>. 2014-11-30 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p244420_index.html

Publication Type: Internal Paper
Abstract: Speculative enterprise, it can be argued, characterized the 1830s U.S. political economy. Plantation elites, bankers, politicians, yeoman farmers, white laborers, soldiers, slave traders, military contractors, and land speculators alike engendered their professions in response to varying predictions concerning the political, economic, and territorial shape of the United States. While the 1830s did not mark the emergence of speculation as a driving market force, scholars consistently emphasize the ways in which an increasingly expanding, diversified, and volatile (inter)national marketplace demanded that Euro-Americans and, in certain cases, Native Americans, abandon 18th-century family-based, household economies for risk-based business or military ventures in order to maintain economic solvency or accumulate wealth.
This paper takes a slightly different direction. Rather than assuming the increasing irrelevance of the familial unit in the 1830s political economy, it explores the ways in which the logic of speculation both relied upon stability within race-, class-, and gender-based family formations and, simultaneously, influenced the various “gambles” U.S. elites engaged in relative to the constitution and circulation of those differentially identified as “family.” By examining the “private” lives of Andrew Jackson and Thomas Loraine McKenney – two leading public figures in the expansion of Euro-American slavery into Southeast Indian territory – in relation to their political and economic policies, this paper assesses the ways in which these men’s conjectures about race, gender, class and belonging within their own “families” were inseparable from their speculative enterprises in “public” politics up to the 1830s. Jackson and McKenney’s experiments with the household management of their Euro-American wives and children, the African Americans they enslaved, and Southeast Indian boys they adopted as “sons,” both informed and were directly informed by prerogatives and practices relating to governing non-“white” and non-male subjects within an expanding capitalist democracy writ large. Far from being “outside” the concerns of national political economy, the decisions Jackson and McKenney made in relation to their familial economies had everything to do with their mission to expand Euro-American plantation slavery, white male “mastery,” and a corresponding national speculative culture into Indian lands.


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