Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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DEMOCRATIC CLUBS (IN U. S. HISTORY), American associations formed in imitation of the Jacobin and other clubs of France. The first was formed in Philadelphia, soon after Genet's arrival in 1793, but the movement spread into other states, the Charleston club, on its own application, being recognized by the Jacobin club of Paris as an affiliated branch. These clubs lived in an atmosphere of turmoil and denunciation. The western clubs of Pennsylvania and Kentucky were strongly suspected of a design to attack the Spanish possessions in America or to form a western confederacy. Their denunciations of the first excise law and its enforcement embarrassed the government in the suppression of the whisky insurrection in 1794, and brought down upon them the wrath of president Washington, who, in his message of Nov. 19, 1794, referred to them as "certain self-created societies," "combinations of men, who, careless of consequences, and disregarding the unerring truth that those who rouse can not always appease a civil convulsion, have disseminated, from an ignorance or perversion of facts, suspicions, jealousies and accusations of the whole government" In answer, the senate echoed the president's warmth of language; and in the house, though the republican leaders succeeded by very meagre majorities in avoiding any direct reference to the democratic clubs, they were very careful to disclaim any connection or sympathy with them. The clubs feebly attempted a reply, but no longer kept up the assumption of a right to speak for the people. They had already received their death blow. Late in July. 1794, Robespierre had been guillotined, and the French convention soon after abolished the Jacobin club and its branches as dangerous to the public peace and order. The republicans in America at once withdrew their countenance from the democratic clubs, which rapidly thereafter disappeared.


—Not all the members of the clubs, as given in the newspapers of the time, were hearty adherents of the principles they professed. Many republicans were forced into them by a fear of being regarded as enemies of freedom and the rights of man; so that these short-lived associations were a paltry American imitation of the persecutions of the reign of terror-moral being substituted for physical duress (See DEMOCRATIC-REPUBLICAN PARTY, II. GENET, CITIZEN; and authorities there cited.)


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