William Leggett and the Locofocos

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This case study will investigate the life and ideas of William Leggett, leader of the Locofoco movement. Founded in the mid-1830s and at their peak in the 1840s, the Locofocos were a group of radical Jacksonian Democrats who argued for free trade and legal protections for labor unions and against paper money, financial speculation, and state banks. Though Leggett’s life was short, his influence was powerful and his writing shaped intellectual and political change for at least two generations after his early death. Indeed, though historians comfortably remember the years circa 1815–1845 as the “Age of Jackson,” Walt Whitman proclaimed it then and there as “The Age of Leggett.”

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