The Awakened Giant

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A Crowd Gathering in New York City’s Union Square in 1861. Harper’s Weekly (May 4, 1861), at 277.

The news from Fort Sumter spread throughout the country, and its coming awakened a restless energy in the North. That energy ignited patriotism and a new sense of collectivism throughout northern cities and states that would lead to a then-unparalleled war effort directed against the Confederacy. Read more

America in 1848

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John Calhoun.

In 1848, when word spread to America that a revolution was breaking out in France, President James Polk wrote: “The great principles of popular sovereignty which were proclaimed in 1776 by the immortal author of our Declaration of Independence, seem now to be in the course of rapid development throughout the world.” James Knox Polk to Richard Rush, April 18, 1848, quoted in Michael Morrison, “American Reactions to European Revolutions, 1848-1852,” Civil War History 49 (June 2003): 117.

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Lincoln the Teetotaler

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A Pledge to be Part of the Temperance Movement.

While the Democrats had held up Andrew Jackson as the ideal man, the Whigs began to view Abraham Lincoln in the 1840s as the ideal man, even though his personality was “artificial—that is, self-constructed.” Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 598.

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The Second Great Awakening

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A Methodist Gathering. By: J. Maze Burbank.

In the 1810s and 1820s, Americans were drinking as much as seven gallons of alcohol per year per person, drinking at every meal. Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 167. Even students at school could see their teacher inebriated while teaching, with drunkenness being commonplace throughout society. Id. This came, however, during the Second Great Awakening, a profound increase in religiosity in American society.

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The Last Founding Father

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James Monroe.

James Monroe was the last president who was truly part of the American Revolution generation. Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 91. He crossed the Delaware River with George Washington. Id. Obvious to his contemporaries, he dressed the part of the Revolutionary gentleman, wearing knee breeches and buckled shoes, with a powdered wig and three-cornered hat. Id.

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The Pivot of American Government

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James Sullivan. By: Gilbert Stuart.

In the earliest years of the American Republic, individuals like James Madison, Samuel Williams, Charles Pinckney, and Samuel Langdon concluded that no country had created a better model for representative government than America’s. See Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 596.

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Division and Balancing of Political Power

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Richard Henry Lee. By: Billy Hathorn.

Because the Federalists outmaneuvered the Antifederalists in presenting the Constitution to the American people, the Antifederalists faced a predicament of what to do. As Richard Henry Lee stated, many who wished to change the federal structure of government realized that they had to accept “this or nothing.” Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 547 quoting Lee to Mason, Oct. 1, 1787, Ballagh, ed., Letters of R. H. Lee, II, 438. The Antifederalists were more or less forced to “attack the federal government in those mechanical Enlightenment terms most agreeable to the thought of the Federalists: the division and balancing of political power,” otherwise known as separation of powers. Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 548.

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