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Manifest Destinies: America's Westward Expansion and the Road to the Civil War
A sweeping history of the 1840s, Manifest Destinies captures the enormous sense of possibility that inspired America’s growth and shows how the acquisition of western territories forced the nation to come to grips with the deep fault line that would bring war in the near future.Steven E. Woodworth gives us a portrait of America at its most vibrant and expansive. It was a decade in which the nation significantly enlarged its boundaries, taking Texas, New Mexico, California, and the Pacific Northwest; William Henry Harrison ran the first modern populist campaign, focusing on entertaining voters rather than on discussing issues; prospectors headed west to search for gold; Joseph Smith founded a new religion; railroads and telegraph lines connected the country’s disparate populations as never before. When the 1840s dawned, Americans were feeling optimistic about the future: the population was growing, economic conditions were improving, and peace had reigned for nearly thirty years. A hopeful nation looked to the West, where vast areas of unsettled land seemed to promise prosperity to anyone resourceful enough to take advantage. And yet political tensions roiled below the surface; as the country took on new lands, slavery emerged as an irreconcilable source of disagreement between North and South, and secession reared its head for the first time. Rich in detail and full of dramatic events and fascinating characters, Manifest Destinies is an absorbing and highly entertaining account of a crucial decade that forged a young nation’s character and destiny.From the Hardcover edition.read more
The 1840s was a decade of exuberant national growth and consolidation that laid the groundwork for schism and strife, argues this colorful history. Woodworth (Nothing but Victory) presents a vivid, episodic pageant of westward-ho empire building: settlers trekking along the Oregon Trail, Forty-Niners bound for the California gold rush, Mormons battling their way toward the promised land of Utah. Woodworth contrasts this flood of pioneering and settlement with a rickety, sclerotic political party system that papered over the problem of slavery, epitomized by the vapid populist sloganeering-"Tippecanoe, and Tyler too!"-of Whig presidential candidate William Henry Harrison in 1840. The themes collide in the book's centerpiece narrative of the Mexican War, which Woodworth, an accomplished Civil War historian, recounts with panache. The author's thesis-that the issue of slavery in the conquered Mexican territories wrecked a fragile national consensus-isn't original, but he elaborates it well, with entertaining, acid-etched sketches of egotistical politicians (and some random potshots at big government and "cultural elites" that seem cribbed from a Tea Party rally). This is narrative history writ large and vigorously-with foreshadowings of tragedy. 16 pages of photos; 19 maps. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.