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"The New Nation, 1800-1845"
by John Mayfield

Review by John Gabree

The period between the american Revoloution and the Civil War is lost to most Americans. Despite the drama of the presidencies o Jefferson and Jackson, the history of the Republic's early years is overshadowed by the dramatic events by which it was bracketed.

Part of the problem is that it is difficult to get a firm handle on the period. The years between 1800 and 1845 were a time of triumphant nationalism and virulent sectionalism. It was an age of expansion (from the Mississippi to the Pacific) but alos of consolidation (marked by the rise of the large eastern cities). These were the years the egalitarian principles of Jeffersonian democracy were established, just as the new aristocracy of wealth was born of the Industrial Revolution.

"During these years the great humanitarian reform movement flowered, and there were strenuous efforts to improve education, elevate the status of women, better the lot of the deaf, dumb and blind, reform the criminals and free the slaves. At the same time American Negro slavery was becoming more firmly entrenched and slaveholders grew less willing than ever to contemplate the end of their 'peculiar institution.'"

John Mayfield's brief survey of the age is ideally suited to the reader without special knowledge. A cultural historian, he skillfully integrates developments in American art, architecture, literature and philosophy with more familiar social and economic transformations. He accepts and even celebrates the era's contradictions. He notes the "tension between liberty and authority, between the desire for freedom and the need for restraint, that developement of American political institutions."

"The New Nation" fills an important gap on the shelves of readers who want to keep up with current scholarship in a crucial but relatively overlooked stage in our national development."(1982)

Buy The New Nation, 1800-1845 by John Mayfield



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