The panic’s repercussions extended far beyond the purely economic realm in Alabama. In some ways it redefined the political landscape, since in finding a scapegoat for the calamity Alabamians believed they discovered their former heroes from Georgia might just have been a self-serving cabal. The roots of the “Royal Party’s” demise, like the crisis itself, are tangled and deep but indisputably can be traced to the remarkable degree with which the small group of wealthy and politically connected Georgians guided Alabama through its territorial experience. They held leadership positions in its legislature and its financial institutions, and when the financial storm struck, they came under brutal scrutiny.
That many of them were associated with the embattled Planters and Merchants Bank would come to hang, albatross- like, around their collective necks as the depression dismantled homesteads the next year. Under the heat of the spotlight steadily applied by resentful antagonists, even former steadfast allies such as planter and financier Israel Pickens would separate from the Georgians. Running as “champions of the people,” these defectors soon banded together to claim more than their fair share of important offices. The panic did not end the days of the “Royal Party” power brokers in Alabama politics, but it marked the beginning of its demise.
The panic did not end the days of the “Royal Party” power brokers in Alabama politics, but it marked the beginning of its demise.
Yet even as such disasters ravished the territory, momentum continued to carry it towards its statehood destiny. Early in 1819 in the nation’s capital, a petition to Congress requesting immediate statehood, sent during the previous legislative session, had come up for discussion. Citing the “unparalleled tide of emigration, invited by the general fertility of our soil and the happy temperature of our Climate… daily flowing into the bosom of our Territory,” author John W. Walker insisted that its citizens “cannot conceive, how it could promote the interest of the national government, longer, to withhold from the people of Alabama the right they solicit.” He also reminded Congress that, with a population of nearly 70,000 people, the Alabama Territory easily surpassed the population of the recently admitted state of Mississippi and compared favorably to Indiana and Illinois, which entered the Union in 1816 and 1818, respectively. Sen. Charles Tait, close friend of many in the tight-knit Georgia Faction and soon to be resident of Alabama himself, guided the bill through Congress. On March 2, Pres. James Monroe signed the act that led to the state of Alabama. The act set forth the steps that needed to be taken for the new state to be admitted into the Union, including writing a constitution and establishing a government, and specified that elections be held in May to choose delegates to a July constitutional convention. Ironically, within a year that highlighted all that could go wrong on the frontier, Alabama finally prepared to make the transition that would mark the beginning of a bright new chapter in its story.