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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: Expansion
Overview of Triumph of Nationalism
Resource Menu: Expansion
Text 1. Charles Sellers
Text 2. Hezekiah Niles
» Reading Guide
•  Link

Text 3. Elias Boudinot
Text 4. Lewis Cass
Text 5. James Glover Baldwin
Text 6. George Fitzhugh
Text 7. Henry David Thoreau
Text 8. Harriet Beecher Stowe

RESOURCE MENU » Reading Guide Link

Reading Guide
2.  Hezekiah Niles, excerpts from "Great National Interests," Niles' Register, October 21, 1826

According to Sellers, the market revolution replaced the "use values" of subsistence economics with the "commodity values" of commercial exchange. In this piece we see just what "commodity values" are. A Baltimore magazine editor, Hezekiah Niles was one of the most influential journalists of the 1820s and 30s. Niles' Weekly Register was the New York Times of his era. While the forces pulling the nation apart were gathering strength, Niles, who saw himself as a contributor to nation building, looked for ways to "avoid the coming storm." For him the chief engine of unity was a vigorous national economy. "Great National Interests" is essentially a booster's cheer for both government-sponsored internal improvements and the market economy they fueled—canals in New York, coal mines in Pennsylvania, textiles mills throughout New England, etc. Niles is almost breathless with astonishment at what the young nation, only fifty years from independence, has achieved, and he wants his readers to be astonished, too: "A bleaching establishment was lately made at Belleville. The house is of hewn stone, 263-feet long and three stories high!" In the energy of Niles's writing we can sense the energy that drove westward expansion. He chides the slaveholding states of Virginia and Maryland for their backwardness but proudly reports the amount of American cotton that flows from the fields of the South to the mills of the North. Could be used with students. 8 pages.

Discussion questions
  ·  What is the purpose of Niles's article?
  ·  For Niles what constitutes American identity, and how does he assert it in this article?
  ·  This article offers a sense of the prevailing culture in which George Fitzhugh, Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote. (Fitzhugh's Sociology and Thoreau's Walden are represented in this section of the toolbox. Emerson's "Self-Reliance" is included in the "Common Man" section.) How would Fitzhugh respond to Niles's call for the industrialization of the South? How would Thoreau respond to Niles? How would Emerson?

Reading highlights
  ·  Note his passing references to wilderness, his allusion to Native Americans, and his assertion that the American economy rescues the land from unproductiveness.
  ·  Note the way Europe figures into the article.
  ·  Note the exuberant tone of the piece.

» Link

Topic Framing Questions
  •  How did the various people living in the United States in the first half of the nineteenth century respond to the emergence of a national market economy?

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

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