To the Home Page of the National Humanities Center Web Site National Humanities Center Toolbox Library: Primary Resources in U.S. History and Literature  contact us | site guide | search 
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
Text 6. Nathaniel Hawthorne
Text 7. James Fenimore Cooper
» Reading Guide
•  Link

Text 8. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Text 9. John C. Calhoun
Text 10. Walt Whitman

RESOURCE MENU » Reading Guide Link

Reading Guide
7.  James Fenimore Cooper, selections from The American Democrat: A Treatise on Jacksonian Democracy, 1838

At this early stage in our national life, Cooper identified the central problems of a democratic society, and he sought to discuss them plainly in The American Democrat, a work he would have entitled "Anti-Cant" had he been able. We have offered the introduction and four central chapters in which Cooper discusses equality, the advantages and disadvantages of democracy, and the differences between the aristocrat and the democrat. American democracy, he contends, is a useful way to arrange a government, but it has its limitations and even hazards. A good selection to pair with Jackson, Hawthorne, Twain, and Whitman. 12 1/2 pages.

Discussion questions
  ·  What are Cooper's views on equality and inequality? How do they compare with Jackson's?
  ·  How do Jackson and Cooper view the "artificial inequalities" that government creates?
  ·  Would Cooper ever consider government an "unqualified blessing" as Jackson might? Why or why not?
  ·  How, in Cooper's view, does a democracy overcome the tendency toward mediocrity?
  ·  How can Cooper speak of a "democratic gentleman," and why would it be important to do so in the new republic?
  ·  Is Twain's Col. Sherburn a democratic gentleman?
  ·  How does Cooper view the prospect of majority rule?

Reading highlights
  ·  Mark Twain accused Cooper of numerous literary offenses. In his convoluted sentences you will find out why. Stick with them, nonetheless. They will give you much to talk about.

» Link

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

Contact Us | Site Guide | Search

Toolbox Library: Primary Resources in U.S. History and Literature
National Humanities Center
Web site comments and questions, contact:
Copyright © 2002 National Humanities Center. All rights reserved.
Revised: January 2002