How can an analysis of the American Civil War help us evaluate what sorts of factors were considered during the early formation of our country? And how can it help inform our way of looking at current political climates? Learn more about Bryan Rommel-Ruiz's course here.
Between 1787 and 1860, Americans forged a new nation, but then shattered it with civil war. It is difficult to study this period of American history without asking questions about the tensions surrounding the formation of the United States under the Constitution of 1787 and what precipitated the catastrophic (for some apocalyptic, and for others emancipating) dissolution of the nation. While we will explore these issues, we must remember that Americans in the early years of the new republic did not see the inevitability of the Civil War that historians and some Americans see today. In this context, we will be looking at some of the major issues that defined the American experience in these years, including the anxieties of surrounding forming a new government and securing it; Jeffersonian ideology and its influence upon American political culture; the rise of Jacksonian democracy; Westward expansion; the emergence of the American middle-class; industrialization and the rise of American capitalism; and slavery. Viewed from these different events, we will see the common theme of Americans struggling to define the meaning of the new nation, what it meant to be American, and understanding the United States’ place in the world. The American Revolution promised republican government and society; but what that meant in the context of an expanding and industrializing nation challenged those very revolutionary visions. Both Northerners and Southerners, men and women, whites and blacks, drew upon these Revolutionary republican principles. Not only to define their place in the new political, economic, and social order, but to challenge it as well; and for some, at the risk of destroying the American republican experiment in the process.