Throes of Democracy: The American Civil War Era 1829-1877

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Throes of Democracy: The American Civil War Era 1829-1877

Author: Walter A. McDougall
Publisher: Harper
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 816
Cover Price: $ 34.95

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"And then there came a day of fire!" From its shocking curtain-raiser—the conflagration that consumed Lower Manhattan in 1835—to the climactic centennial year of 1876, when Americans staged a corrupt, deadlocked presidential campaign (fought out in Florida), Walter A. McDougall's Throes of Democracy: The American Civil War Era, 1829-1877 throws off sparks like a flywheel. This eagerly awaited sequel to Freedom Just Around the Corner: A New American History, 1585-1828 carries the saga of the American people's continuous self-reinvention from the inauguration of President Andrew Jackson through the eras of Manifest Destiny, Civil War, and Reconstruction, America's first failed crusade to put "freedom on the march" through regime change and nation building. But Throes of Democracy is much more than a political history. Here, for the first time, is the American epic as lived by Germans and Irish, Catholics and Jews, as well as people of British Protestant and African American stock; an epic defined as much by folks in Wisconsin, Kansas, and Texas as by those in Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia; an epic in which Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, showman P. T. Barnum, and circus clown Dan Rice figure as prominently as Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, and Henry Ward Beecher; an epic in which railroad management and land speculation prove as gripping as Indian wars. Walter A. McDougall's zesty, irreverent narrative says something new, shrewd, ironic, or funny about almost everything as it reveals our national penchant for pretense—a predilection that explains both the periodic throes of democracy and the perennial resilience of the United States.

Background Information

Manhattan Borough is essentially the Island of Manhattan, site of New Amsterdam and the commercial center of New York City. The election of 1876 was controversial and corrupt, ending in a commission that declared Rutheford B. Hayes to be elected President. Manifest destinty was the view that America's domination of the North American continent from sea to sea was the manifest intention of God. Founded by Joseph Smith and later led by Brigham Young, the Church of Latter Day Saints is better known as the Mormons. Herman Melville was a Massachusetts writer best remembered for his novel Moby Dick. Walt Whitman was an American poet of the mid nineteenth century, best known for his work, Leaves of Grass. Henry Ward Beecher was a Congregationalist minister, a leading abolitionist, and the brother of author Harriet Beecher Stowe. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 only deferred and did not eliminate the deep divide in philosophical and economic feelings about slavery and its extension to new territories. Railroads became the fastest transportation for people and the most economical for goods during the 19th century.