Inventing America


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Examining the Historical Context of Walden

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Inventing America

  1. 1. InventingAmericaForging NationalIdentity in the19th century
  2. 2. men fighting during Shays’s Rebellionat first the United States wasan unstable nation . . .– Economic depression– Diplomatic weakness– Social unrest– Uncertain status of West “We are going and doing wrong, and therefore I look forward to evils and calamities, but without being able to guess at the instrument, nature, or measure of them.”
  3. 3. Louisiana Purchase of 1803 vast new lands for exploration and settlementWar of 1812With victory over theBritish, the United Statesbecomes an establishedworld power
  4. 4.  European powers rebuffed Territory doubled in size Hegemony on the continent secured!
  5. 5. Americans embarked upon a period ofdramatic growth and change. . .
  6. 6. • Expansion of democracy• Population growth• Growth of cities• Industrial revolution• Westward expansion• Religion/reform
  7. 7. Expansion of democracyextension of the franchiseto all white men
  8. 8. PopulationGrowth The population of the country was four times larger in 1850 than it was in 1815 – Natural increase – Influx of immigrants
  9. 9. Growth of cities • By mid-century, 1 in 7 Americans was a city-dweller • 10 of the nations cities exceeded 50,000 people
  10. 10. Expansion of transportation and commerce• railroads• canals• steamboats• factories Industrial Revolution
  11. 11. Westward Expansion • Louisiana Purchase 1803 • Lewis and Clark 1804-1806 • Mexican War 1846-1848 • Manifest Destiny
  12. 12. Religion and ReformSecond Great Awakeninginspired• Abolition• Women’s Rights• Other social reforms – Prisons/Insane Asylums – Education – Temperance – Moral Reform
  13. 13. Observing this widespreadgrowth and change . . . artists and intellectuals begin wondering what “what is an American?” makes us unique? what have we become? who are we?
  14. 14. Cultural renaissance• Ralph Waldo Emerson declares the intellectual independence of America• Hudson river school explores the beauty of American landscapes• Hawthorne, Melville, Poe, Whitman, develop new literary schools• Henry David Thoreau takes to the woods
  15. 15. “Perhaps the time isalready come . . . whenthe sluggard intellect ofthis continent will lookfrom under its iron lids,and fill the postponedexpectation of theworld with somethingbetter than theexertions of mechanicalskill. Our day ofdependence, our longapprenticeship to thelearning of other lands,draws to a close.”Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar”
  16. 16. “I celebrate myself;And what I assume you shall assume;For every atom belonging to me, as goodbelongs to you.”
  17. 17. “No truer American existed than Thoreau” Ralph Waldo Emerson
  18. 18. “No truer American existed than Thoreau” Ralph Waldo Emerson