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Young America Movement

Young America Movement

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Published by Jen Gaddis
Approx 1400 words- 5 pages. Written for a graduate level class on Walt Whitman. Specifically addressing the Young America Movement its effects on Whitman's writing.
Approx 1400 words- 5 pages. Written for a graduate level class on Walt Whitman. Specifically addressing the Young America Movement its effects on Whitman's writing.

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Published by: Jen Gaddis on Nov 01, 2010
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Gaddis 1Jennifer GaddisDr. Brock AML 630513 July 2010Walt Whitman and The Young America MovementOn February 11
th
, 1859, Abraham Lincoln noted in his Second Lecture on Discoveriesand Inventions:Young America has ³a pleasing hope---a fond desire---a longing after´ territory.He has a great passion²a perfect rage²for the ³new´; « He [the YoungAmerican] is a great friend of humanity; and his desire for land is not selfish, butmerely an impulse to extend the area of freedom. « He inclines to believe inspiritual rappings and is the unquestioned inventor of ³Manifest Destiny.´ Hishorror is for all that is old, particularly ³Old Fogy´; and if there be any thing oldwhich he can endure, it is only old whiskey and old tobacco.By the time Lincoln made this remark, the Young America movement had essentiallydisintegrated, however the term³Young America´ was kept alive in political rhetoric. Here,infact, Lincoln used it to his advantage when espousing the sacredness of intellectual propertyrights and the importance of embracing novelty in the way the Young America movement had.This is interesting to note because following the demise of the movement most politicians usedthe term in a derogatory fashion, hurling it as an insult towards opponents in an effort to accusethem of ³personal irresponsibility, individual immorality, and filibustering´ (Danbom 304).
 
Gaddis 2From its roots in antebellum optimism and perfectionism, to its downfall resulting from aninability to establish a focused platform, the Young America movement was an undertaking led by fresh-faced politicians whose goals were to spread the gifts of American democracy andrepublicanism to the world.Given that the political atmosphere of the mid-19
th
century was ³dominated by tiring oldmen,´ the time was ripe for a group of talented young men to sweep in and seize the hearts andminds of Americans (Danbom 304).Freshfrom victory in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), jingoistic attitudes began to surface.As Curti asserts, ³If there was one idea to whichAmericans as such could subscribe, it was the conviction that their country, as the only largedemocracy in the world, had the best possible form of government´ (34).While all YoungAmericans believed that the country¶s territorial extent had not yet been fully realized, theexpansionist beliefs on an individual level ranged from spreading democracy only to placeswhere slavery was feasible (such as annexing Cuba) to spreading it throughout the entire world,uniting it under Utopian ideals of democracy. This is directly contrary to the then held belief thatAmerica should teach democracy by example, not by intervention in other countries¶ politics. Itwas believed by the Young Americans that the unification of racially and ethnically diverse people was possible under the great American federal system while still ensuring the diversity of the states (Danbom 297).The Young America movement championed not only expansionist but interventionist principles as well.Though there were many revolutions occurring throughout the world duringthis time period, they were particularly concerned with the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 inwhich Hungary was attempting gain its independence from Russia. Young Americans felt it wastheir duty to help Hungary become a free-standing republic in its own right. Much of this was
 
Gaddis 3due to Louis Kossuth, a Hungarian revolutionary, who was touring the United States in 1851giving lecturesadvocating the American democratic conviction: ³May God bless your countryforever! May it have the glorious destiny to share with other nations the blessings of that libertywhich constitutes its own happiness and fame! May your great example, noble Americans, be toother nations the source of social virtue; your power be the terror of all tyrants²the protector of the distressed!´ (4). Young Americans saw this as a call to action to come to the aid of theworld¶s oppressed.The domestic proposals of the Young America movement are much less revolutionarythan their foreign proposals and have therefore received far less attention. Young Americastances on domestic issues were traditionally Democratic ones and often Jacksonian in nature.Young Americans wanted to abolish tariffs and establish free trade for all nations. Themovement supported popular sovereignty and even went so far as to call for the abolishment of the party systems of government, though no member of the party ever offered a better alternative(Danbom 300). States¶ rights were of the utmost importance and the leaders of the movementusually referred to the United States in the plural sense. Eliminating aristocratic privilege wasanother principle of the Young America movement as many were anti-bank and attackedmonopolies.Over the course of several years, it is generally agreed that there were severalcontributing factors that brought this chapter of American history to a close. For example, theextremism of its leaders (rather than the specific positions held by Young America movement) iscited as one of its failures. George N. Sanders, a Kentuckian journalist who was a vanguard of the movement, began severely verbally attacking ³Old Fogies´ in all areas of the politicalspectrum including Democrats, alienating many heretofore allies. Further contributing to its

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