Date of Award

Spring 5-13-2017

Level of Access

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

Advisor

Richard Judd

Second Committee Member

Nathan Godfried

Third Committee Member

Amy Fried

Additional Committee Members

Elizabeth McKillen

Jay Bregman

Abstract

This dissertation is a history of politics in Maine during the state’s formative period, the years from statehood until 1860. The history focuses on party conflict and on the development of organized political parties, particularly the Democratic and Republican parties. It concentrates on the structures and processes that politicians built, including party newspapers, county conventions, state conventions, legislative caucuses, and ultimately state committees and the office of state committee chair – all to compete effectively for power. During this 40-year period, parties also develop powerful new messages, campaign strategies, and developed leaders with the skills to accomplish these tasks.

I also argue that to understand these changes, it is necessary to be familiar with the “deep forces” that channeled Maine’s political and economic development. These are the state’s geography and its constitutional order. These forces produced in Maine a deeply fragmented state within in which both political party leaders and government leaders struggled.

Organized political parties first appeared in Maine in 1832, 12 years after Maine became a state. The force that pushed Democrats and the Whigs to create parties was their competition for patronage. In fact, the battle to control patronage would energize Maine’s political parties throughout this period.

It was the Democrats who first pioneered the development of new political structures and party organizations. In the 1830s and 1840 they dominated Maine’s politics. In the late 1840s and early 1850s it was the single – issue movement (prohibition, anti-slavery, and anti-Catholicism) that created political organizations that shook the Whigs and the Democrats to the very core. After absorbing the single-issue movements in 1856, the Republican Party would dominate the state.

Republican men like Hannibal Hamlin, John, L. Stevens, and James G. Blaine created a new Republican Party: centralized, professional, and disciplined. With annual mass state conventions, an army of state and national patronage office-holders, a well-funded party treasury, a compelling single-issue message, a strong state committee, and powerful state chairman, Maine would emerge as a “model” for Republican Parties in the North during the Civil War and the Gilded Age.