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Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersThe Triumph of Nationalism/The House Dividing, 1815-1850
The Triumph of Nationalism/The House Dividing
Topic: Culture of the Common ManTopic: Cult of DomesticityTopic: ReligionTopic: ExpansionTopic: America in 1850
Topic: Culture of the Common Man
Overview of Triumph of Nationalism
Resource Menu: Culture of the Common Man
Text 1. Andrew Jackson
Text 2. Mark Twain
Text 3. Thomas W. Dorr
Text 4. Mechanics/Workers
Text 5. Richard Allen and David Walker
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Text 6. Nathaniel Hawthorne
Text 7. James Fenimore Cooper
Text 8. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Text 9. John C. Calhoun
Text 10. Walt Whitman

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Reading Guide
5.  Richard Allen, selection from Confession of John Joyce, 1808

David Walker, excerpts from David Walker's Appeal, 1830

For enslaved blacks the emergence of a functioning democracy during this period meant nothing. For free blacks it meant very little because, without the vote, they could not participate in it. With few rights, one of the chief ways they could lay claim to a place in American society was to demonstrate their respectability. In the Age of the Common Man they had to be uncommonly aware of their standing and perceived character. They couldn't afford to excite any additional white hostility. The authors of these two selections inveigh their readers to behave respectably, but the character of their appeals vary radically.

On December 18, 1807, a former slave named John Joyce, with the help of an accomplice and a considerable amount of gin, strangled and robbed a fifty-year-old Philadelphia widow named Sarah Cross. The following year Richard Allen, the founder of the AME Church, published an account of Joyce's trial along with his confession. The introduction, excerpted here, and the notation on the title page that the confession was printed "for the benefit of Bethel Church," clearly establish the publication as a tool in the AME Church's campaign to instill proper values and codes of conduct in its members. 2 pages.

David Walker's Appeal also contains an account of a murder meant to serve as an object lesson, but the meaning Walker extracts from the story he relates is far different from the one Allen derives from Joyce's story. David Walker was a free black born in 1785 in Wilmington, North Carolina. He settled in Boston in 1826 and opened a small clothing store there. In the latter part of the 1820s he wrote for abolitionist newspapers and conducted extensive research on slavery. His finding provoked a ferocious rage, to which he gave vent in his Appeal. 11 1/2 pages.

Discussion questions
  ·  What lesson does Allen want his readers to take from Joyce's story? What lesson does Walker want his readers to take from "Affray and Murder"?
  ·  How do these two texts reflect class tensions within the black community?
  ·  Both Allen and Walker want their readers to show white America that black people are "men not brutes." What course does each recommend to do so?
  ·  How are Allen's and Walker's ideas of respectability similar? How do they differ?
  ·  In each text, what is the relationship between respectability and power?
  ·  Compare Walker's plea for education with that of the Philadelphia Workingman's Committee.

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Topic Framing Questions
  •  How did Americans respond to the emergence of a functioning democracy in which the majority of free adult males could vote?
  •  How did Northerners view the purposes of political rights and power?
  •  How did Southerners view them?

Toolbox: The Triumph of Nationalism / The House Dividing
Common Man | Cult of Domesticity | Religion | Expansion | America in 1850

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