Kansas City Dinner Lecture with the Missouri Humanities Council's Steve Belko
In partnership with the Missouri Humanities Council, the Kinder Forum hosted a private dinner reception at the Kansas City Country Club on the evening of June 16, 2015, for local alumni and invited guests. The featured speaker for the event was MHC Executive Director Steve Belko, who gave a talk on the evolution of democratic culture during the Jacksonian era.
As Dr. Belko noted in opening his talk, history scholars have consistently (and rightfully) pointed to Andrew Jackson’s 1832 veto of the re-charter of the Bank of the United States as a touchstone moment in the rise of Jacksonian Democracy. The language with which Jackson denounced the bank–calling it, for example, a “prostitution of our Government to the advancement of the few at the expense of the many”–spilled over with the anti-aristocratic, majoritarian attitude that came to be associated with the democratic party both during and after Jackson’s tenure in the executive office. Though the Bank War was indisputably essential to publicly establishing the party’s ideological platform, Dr. Belko pointed out that its place at the center of discussions regarding the development of Jacksonian politics tends to obscure how the tariff debates that raged during the first half of the nineteenth century were also, and perhaps equally, important in defining Jackson’s legacy. Specifically, he argued that, by announcing their opposition to protective tariffs in terms of the “exclusive privileges” and monopolistic interests to which they catered, Jackson’s partisans in Congress drew on a rhetoric that reaffirmed and, moreover, strengthened the party’s fundamental commitment to the ideals of popular liberty and community welfare.
Steve Belko received his M.A. in History from Southwest Missouri State University and his Ph.D. in History from Mississippi State University. Before joining the Missouri Humanities Council as Executive Director in February 2015, Dr. Belko was an Associate Professor of History at the University of West Florida, where he also served as Director of the University’s Graduate Program in Early American Studies and Graduate Certificate Program in Historical Preservation. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including The Invincible Duff Green: Whig of the West (University of Missouri Press, 2006) and The Triumph of the Antebellum Free Trade Movement (University Press of Florida, 2012). His current book project, titled Philip Pendleton Barbour, 1783-1841: An Old Republican in King Andrew’s Court, is forthcoming from University of Alabama Press.