The United States Magazine and Democratic Review

The United States Magazine and Democratic Review was a periodical published from 1837–1859 by John L. O'Sullivan. Its motto, "The best government is that which governs least," was famously paraphrased by Henry David Thoreau in "Resistance to Civil Government", better known as "Civil Disobedience".[1]


In 1837, O'Sullivan co-founded and served as editor for The United States Magazine and Democratic Review (generally called the Democratic Review). It was a highly regarded journal meant to champion Jacksonian Democracy, a movement that had usually been disparaged in the more conservative North American Review. The magazine featured political essays—many of them penned by O'Sullivan—extolling the virtues of Jacksonian Democracy and criticizing what Democrats regarded as the aristocratic pretensions of their opponents. The journal supported Martin Van Buren in the 1840 presidential election (he lost) and James K. Polk in the 1844 election (he won).

The Democratic Review was also (perhaps even primarily) a literary magazine, promoting the development of American literature. Some of its regular contributors were Nathaniel Hawthorne and John Greenleaf Whittier, with occasional contributions by William Cullen Bryant and James Fenimore Cooper. The Review also published some of the early work of Walt Whitman, James Russell Lowell, and Henry David Thoreau.[1] Hawthorne and O'Sullivan became close friends, and Hawthorne had more pieces published in O'Sullivan's magazine than in any other periodical. The Democratic Review was always in financial difficulties, since it accepted no advertising and relied on subscriptions and donations to survive. O'Sullivan relinquished his editorial duties for a short time to practice law, though he continued to write for the magazine.

The magazine is also responsible for coining the term "Manifest Destiny," a commonplace concept much in part responsible for Indian Removal.

See also


  1. ^ Widmer, Edward L. Young America: The Flowering of Democracy in New York City. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999: 66. ISBN 0-19-514062-1

External links and sources

  • The United States Magazine and Democratic Review at Cornell University Library, "Making of America", Volumes 1-38 and 40-43 (1837 - 1859)
  • The United States Magazine and Democratic Review at Internet Archive, various volumes (scanned books original editions color illustrated)
  • The Democratic Principle, an article by John L. O'Sullivan from the Democratic Review.
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