1794 Swanwick vs. Fitzsimons

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1794 Swanwick vs. Fitzsimons

In the year 1794 John Swanwick won a stunning upset victory over Thomas Fitzsimons. This victory was for the 1794 Philadelphia congressional election. There were a large number of different economic as well as cultural issues that swayed the way in which voters made their selection. This essay intends to explore and exploit these crucial factors.

In order to understand who voted for each candidate we must first understand some background information about each candidate. Thomas Fitzsimons was an Irish immigrant. He was a clerk who eventually worked his way to the top of his firm. Fitzsimons was a member of the Federalist Party and he was a supporter of Alexander Hamilton’s policies. Fitzsimons was also a “strong” supporter of the excise tax. He was also one of the original founders and directors of the Bank of the United States. And finally, he was a Roman Catholic (Wheeler/Becker 101).

John Swanwick, on the other hand, was a member of the Protestant Episcopal Church. He was born in England, and feverishly supported the Patriot cause. The man was also fluent in both French and German. John Swanwick was a supporter of the early financial policies of Hamilton, as well as the federal Constitution. But by 1793, he left Federalism behind and became a supporter of the Democratic - Republican Party. In 1794, Swanwick was an officer in the Pennsylvania Democratic Society and also an officer in a society which aided immigrants. Swanwick was an opponent of the excise tax, yet thought the Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania was the wrong way to handle things (Wheeler/Becker 101-102).

Swanwick’s upset victory can be concluded to have been caused by a large number of middle class people simply leaving the Federalist party in support of the Democratic – Republican Party. These middle class people, primarily the artisans, maintained the most occupations within 1794 Philadelphia. According to the 1794 Philadelphia Directory and Register, a sampling of occupations by ward concluded that there were near 1,757 artisans total within the various wards of Philadelphia. If calculated this turns out to be nearly 42 percent of the sample occupations being artisans. Now if you were to factor the laborers into this equation, since they as well would be considered middle class, you would end up with a percentage of about 53 percent of the sample occupations being in the social family deemed as middle class. 53 percent is more than enough to win a Democratic – Republican Party victory. But since the laborers contained a large percentage of men who could not vote, their probable Swanwick votes were made up for by the rest of the middle class Joes whose jobs included that of shopkeepers, inn and tavern keepers, and things of this nature (Wheeler/Becker 106).

In order to gain supporting evidence to this claim, one could view “A Sample of Occupations by Ward (Males Only), Philadelphia, 1794” and compare it to “Congressional Election, Philadelphia, 1794” (Wheeler/Becker 106 & 112). While comparing the two pieces of information it is easy to discern that in the areas (North Mulberry, South Mulberry, North) containing many middle class jobs, (artisans, laborers, shopkeepers, etc) Swanwick won landslide victories. The reasons for the victories are obvious, but to understand why he lost in certain wards we will examine each loss individually. Swanwick’s losses or Fitzsimon’s wins rather, were generally in the smallest wards of Philadelphia. Swanwick’s loss in the High ward is a bit confusing at first. The chart on page 106 reports that there were 333 artisans within this ward, thus dominating the rest of the occupations giving Swanwick a simple victory. But after doing some calculations one can figure that the chart incorrectly reports the number of artisans by 300, bringing the total number down to 33. Now we can see why Swanwick lost the election within...
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