History 410: Unit 3

United States, 1765-1861, Fall 2022

Part III, Transformation and Disunion (1800-1861)

Intro | 1 | 2 | 3

21. Post-Revolutionary America: An Empire of Liberty

READ: Walter McDougall, The Throes of Democracy, xxii from "After just eighteen months" to xxvi.

Docs 2: Sellers, "Merchants and Farmers," The Market Revolution, 31-33; Factsheet, People in Motion; Crevecoeur, "Letters from an American Farmer"; Jefferson, “First Inaugural Address”

Timeline of events

  • 1792-93 Hamilton organizes Federalist party; Jefferson and Madison form Democratic-Republican Party in opposition to the Washington administration and Hamilton

  • 1796 Jefferson vs John Adams in presidential election. Adams, the Federalist candidate wins.

  • 1800 Jefferson elected presidents. Democratic-Republicans take over the House and Senate and dominate national elections for the next quarter-century. "I am persuaded no constitution was ever before so well calculated as ours for extensive empire & self government. ... Where this progress will stop no-one can say. Barbarism has, in the meantime, been receding before the steady step of amelioration; and will in time, I trust, disappear from the earth" Jefferson in 1809 and 1824."

  • 1816-1824 Era of Good Feelings. Party tensions die down as Federalist Party fades.

  • 1824 "Corrupt Bargain" election leads to election of John Quincy Adams. Candidates ran without party distinctions.

  • 1824-1828. Jackson organizes Democratic Party as protest against the Corrupt Bargain.

  • 1828 Jackson wins presidency as a Democrat in landslide victory over Adams, on the National Republican ticket.

  • 1833 Whig Party founded with Henry Clay as leader.

Notes: What does this reading tell us about who won the Revolutionary question of "Who should rule at home?" How did Americans define their “destiny?” Why were they so restless? Contrast the Whig and Democratic views of the role of government. Where do the parties differ?

22. Andrew Jackson and Democracy

READ McDougall, Throes of Democracy, 47 bottom-54; AND Docs 2: Jackson’s 2nd Message to Congress; Paul Johnson, The Story of the American People (excerpts on Andrew Jackson) (2004).

Notes: Do you see a connection between democracy and the removal of Southern Indians beyond the Mississippi? What were Jackson’s motives in pressing for removal? How did he justify the mass relocation along the “Trail of Tears?” What is your impression of Jackson’s personality and character?

23. Land, Capital and Slaves

READ Docs 2: Charles Sellers, "Market Contradiction," The Market Revolution; AND “Slavery and the Market,” Sven Bekert and Seth Rockman; Factsheet, “The Market Revolution”

Read the factsheet first, then Sellers and Beckert and Rockman.

Notes: How did most ordinary Americans live on the eve of the Market Revolution? Where does Sellers see a “contradiction between capitalist property and use-value communalism? What role did slavery play in the development of American capitalism?

24. Now what is an American? Two great books

READ Docs 2: Excerpts from Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville and Walden, by Henry David Thoreau

How would Tocqueville and Thoreau answer Crevecoeur's question (what is an American)? Read Thoreau as a historical document and place it into the context of the readings on American society in this period and the observations of Tocqueville.

If you find yourself thinking that Thoreau is a big hypocrite because he did not maintain total social isolation while at Walden, please read this website that clarifies common misconceptions about Thoreau and Walden.

25. Women and the Market

READ Docs 2: "Finale: A Vision of the future," from Daniel Howe, What Hath God Wrought; Sellers, "God and Mammon," The Market Revolution; Lucy Stone, “A Disappointed Woman;” DBQ, “Northern Middle Class Women, 1776-187; Catharine Beecher, “Domestic Economy”; NTU, “The Evils of Female Labor”

Notes: How did the market revolution change the lives of middle-class women? What were the “separate spheres” for men and women? Was it fair to equate the condition of women with that of slaves? What were the arguments against granting women the vote?

26. “The Whistle of the Locomotive”

READ McDougall, The Throes of Democracy, 142-153; AND Docs 2: Sellers, "Market Explosion," The Market Revolution; Charles Fraser, “The Moral Influence of Steam”

Notes: In what ways did the railroad and the telegraph shape American economic development? How important was government aid in promoting railroad development? Should the government have done more? Of the inventions McDougall lists, which do you find most significant? What would Thoreau make of the Fraser essay?

27. Research project: Research paper proposal. Today, choose a topic. We will meet in the library during class time.

Your homework to do BEFORE class:

  • Read the assignment. Write down any questions you have.

  • Download and print the Citations Guidelines document attached to the bottom of the Research Project page. Note the difference between footnote and bibliography formatting. You may use Noodlebib or some other citation software that you already know how to use: I'm not factoring in the time it takes to learn how to use a new program into this assignment.

  • Choose a topic on US history between 1815 and 1850. Do not agonize over the choice. You will not be actually following through on this proposal.

  • Use a libguide (this one up to 1830, or this one after 1830) to identify the best reference book for that topic. Read the entry on your topic and TAKE NOTES. Some reference books are electronic and can be read from your dorm room. Others are print and you must go to the library to read them.

  • Download or copy the bibliographical information for your source and begin writing your bibliography.

  • If you have time, begin the in-class work.

  • Don't wast time. "Well begun is half done."

In class:

  • Bring your copy of the citation guidelines you printed.

  • Ask me any questions you might have about the project.

  • I'll meet with each of you to get your topics.

  • Hunt for sources. Find at least two surveys/overviews and two monographs. You will see a list of thematic overviews here. Chronological overviews are listed in the libguide under the books tab. Also on the book tab is an explanation of the difference between a mongraph and an overview.

  • Use the indices of the overviews to find the pages that speak to your topic. Read those. Take notes.

  • Use the matchmaking strategy. Find monographs in the footnotes of the overviews.

  • Continue to add citation information to the bibliography you are creating.

28. Research Project. Begin writing.


  • Read the dusk jacket blurbs and if necessary skim the introduction of monographs and/or use indices to find passages relevant to your topic.

  • Use Biblion to find reviews of the books you have chosen.

    • Go to the library home page.

    • Click on the articles tab.

    • Type the name of the book and, if necessary, its author

    • You should get a list of reviews. Read as much of one or more review to get a sense of the argument of the book. If there are no reviews of the book, it's probably not a book worth using.

In class: After you check in with me and get your questions answered, keep reading and taking notes--and finding sources if necessary. You may be ready to make an outline or begin writing. By now you should have learned enough about your topic and its historiography to begin using your NOTES to write the essay.

29. Final day of the Research project. The automatic 48-hour extension does not apply to this assignment.


  • Write your one-page research proposal.

  • Make sure you include footnotes, done in the proper Chicago/Turabian style--which is DIFFERENT than the proper Chicago/Turabian style of bibliography. There should be some annotations in the footnotes. This will help you to keep the essay to just 250 words.

  • Bonus: in your essay or annotations, mention what primary sources you are likely to be able to use to complete the research paper you are proposing.

In class: Release time. Turn in your essay before the end of the class period.

30. The Argument over Slavery

READ McDougall, Throes of Democracy, 200 middle-203 middle; AND Docs 2: William Lloyd Garrison, “The Liberator”; John C. Calhoun, “On Reception of the Abolition Petitions”; David Walker, “Walker’s Appeal”; and Frederick Douglass, “Independence Day Speech”

Notes: Why and how did slavery become the central issue in American politics? How did Garrisonian abolitionism differ from other antislavery efforts? Why does McDougall call the abolition movement “feeble?” What approach to the slavery question strikes you as most effective, given existing political, economic and social circumstances? How do you imagine Douglass’s audience reacted to his July 4 speech?

31. The Peculiar Institution

READ McDougall, Throes of Democracy, 63 middle-65 bottom; 354 top-356 bottom; AND in Docs 2: Frederick Douglass, Autobiography; Fanny Kemble, “Three Days of Plantation Life”; “Go Down, Moses” “Confessions of Nat Turner”

Notes: How were slaves distributed throughout the South? What impelled Turner to rise up? Was he a freedom fighter or a terrorist? What picture of slavery does Douglass present? What was life like for enslaved people? What does the Kemble reading suggest about the effects of slavery on slaves and their masters?

32. “Mexico Will Poison Us”

READ McDougall, Throes of Democracy, 283-285 top 297 middle-301 top; 316 bottom-319; 329 top-337 top; 346 bottom-350 middle; AND in Docs 2: Douglass and Smith, “The Fugitive Slave Act”; Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience”

Notes: Why did the United States and Mexico go to war? Was it a just war? How do you define “just?” Assess the implications of the Wilmot Proviso. What were Wilmot’s motives? How was Mexico “poisonous” to the U.S.? What were the elements of the Compromise of 1850? Was it the best available solution to the slavery issue? Was there a solution?

33. Lincoln and Douglas

READ McDougall, Throes of Democracy, 365 middle-368 top; 375 middle-382 top; AND in Docs 2: Abraham Lincoln, “A House Divided”; “The Lincoln-Douglas Debates”

Notes: Pin down Lincoln’s position on slavery. Where did Douglas stand? Was Lincoln right to suggest the nation couldn’t survive half slave, half free? What is the significance of Lincoln’s invocation of the Declaration of Independence and Douglas’s invocation of the Constitution? Who gets the better of the debate?


  • 1848: Lincoln loses re-election bid after opposing Mexican War

  • 1854: Kansas Nebraska Act; Lincoln reenters politics

  • 1857 March: Dred Scott decision

  • 1857 Sept.: Panic

  • 1858 June: Lincoln House Divided Speech at Illinois State Republican Convention

  • 1858 August 2: third referendum in Kansas, 11,300-1,788 against slavery.

  • 1858 August 21 to October 15: Lincoln-Douglas debates.

34. Secession

READ McDougall, Throes of Democracy, 386 bottom-389 bottom; 392 top-397; AND in Docs 2: Brown, “Address to the Virginia Court”; "On John Brown"; Lincoln, “First Inaugural Address.” See the secession timeline and map below.

Notes: What is your view of John Brown? Was he guilty of treason? How did Lincoln manage to win the election of 1860? Were South Carolinians rational in responding to the Republican victory with an ordinance of secession? Should Lincoln have done more to reassure the South?

35. Study session. Use the study guide, and read this brief description of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

36. Final Exam

Intro | 1 | 2 | 3

Secession Timeline


November: Lincoln elected

December 18: John Crittenden of Kentucky proposes compromise that would extended Missouri Compromise line to California and forever preserve slavery where it existed. Lincoln and most Republicans rejected it and Congress tabled it on December 31.

December 20: South Carolina secedes.


February 7: Seven deep South states form Confederate States of America

March 2: Congress sends 13th Amendment to states for ratification.

March 4: Lincoln delivers First Inaugural Address

April 12: Confederates attack Fort Sumter; Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas secede

A site with maps showing the Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850, Kansas-Nebraska and the election of 1860.