Historical Facts: of 1809 to 1849 - in American Literature

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      During these forty years, 1809-1849 the facts most important for the student of literature are connected with the expansion and social ideals of the country. Progress was specially manifest in two ways: in "the manufacture of farms" and in the introduction and use of steam. At the time of the inauguration of Washington in 1789, the center of population of the entire country was thirty miles east of Baltimore. The progress of settlements westward, which had already begun in the last period, became in an increasing degree one of the remarkable events in the history of the world.

Historical Facts: 1809-1849
Historical Facts: 1809-1849

      We may observe that the second war with England (1812) resulted in welding the Union more closely together and in giving it more prestige abroad. We should next note the unparalleled material development of the country; the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, the rapid extension of steamboats on rivers, the trial of the first steam locomotive in 1828, the increased westward movement of population, which reached California in 1849, several hundred years ahead of schedule time, as those thought who prophesied before the introduction of steam. The story of the material progress of the country sounds like a new Arabian Nights' Tale.

      The administration of Andrew Jackson (1829-1837) is really the beginning of the modern history of the United States. The change during these years was due more to steam than to any other single cause. At the beginning of his administration, there were no steam railroads, but fifteen hundred miles were in operation before the end of his second term. His predecessor in the presidential chair was John Quincy Adams, a Harvard graduate and an aristocrat. Jackson was illiterate, a man of the people. There was an extension of the social democratic feeling.

      All classes, the poor as well as the rich, spoke their minds more freely on every subject. Even Jackson's messages relating to foreign nations were sometimes not couched in very diplomatic terms. Every one felt that he was as good as anybody else, and in the new settlements all mingled on terms of equality. When Cooper came back to the United States in 1833, after an absence of six years in Europe, he found that he had returned to a new country, where "everybody was everywhere," and nobody was anywhere, and where the chase for the dollar seemed to have grown more absorbing than ever before.

      Slavery had become one of the leading questions of the day. To keep the balance between the North and the South, states were often admitted in pairs, one free and one slave state. In 1845 there were in the Union thirteen free and fourteen slave states. The decade between 1840 and 1850 witnessed the war with Mexico and the acquisition from her of our vast southwestern territory,—Texas, California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and some interior lands to the north of these. The South was chiefly instrumental in bringing about this extension of our boundaries, hoping that this additional territory would be open for the employment of slaves and would tend to make more nearly even the influence of each section in the national government.

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