April 22, 2010
“Sam Patch’s Leap into the Great Divide”
“Some things can be done as well as others”, the famous line of Sam Patch became a well-known saying amongst U.S. citizens especially Jeffersonian and Jacksonian democrats (Johnson, 163). Sam Patch was many things in his lifetime from a famous falls jumper to a destitute mill worker to also the first American-born boss spinner. He however was viewed different amongst social groups in America. The common folk and Jeffersonian democrats viewed Patch as a good man and somewhat of a folk hero, while the middle class and Hamiltonians viewed him as a drunkard and a sign of the decay of society in America. He was a product of the harsh system and arising textile industry in America at the time. Society and politics in America were changing from a Jeffersonian agrarian country where passing lands down from the father to his sons was dying to a Hamiltonian society where textile mills were seen as a source of opportunity for this new debtor generation amongst whom Sam Patch was one. The emergence of two classes the debtor wage-earning class and the creditor middle class brought about social and political tensions. Sam Patch illustrates these tensions such as the differing social and political views, growing gap in income levels, and the perception of nature. The views of Sam Patch differ amongst the two classes, the wage earning and the middle class, and how they saw Patch as being in society. The Jeffersonian and later Jacksonian democrats who favored the average working class man viewed Patch as a hero and an inspiration in society for others to live by. He was a symbol of individualism and an example of a person being able to make something of himself from nothing, just as figures such as Andrew Jackson. Johnson writes that celebrities such as Patch “dramatized the possibilities of individual self-making in the nineteenth century” (Johnson, 164). Individualism would be a...