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

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Reading Guide
6.  George Fitzhugh, Sociology for the South; or, The Failure of Free Society, 1854
Ch. 5: "Negro Slavery"

Lewis Cass believed that racial characteristics prevented the Indians' successful integration into the market economy. However, the racial characteristics of Africans brought to this country as slaves offered no such impediments; at least that is what George Fitzhugh argues in his Sociology. A defense of slavery and the South, Sociology is something more as well. Fitzhugh defends slavery on the grounds that it "christianizes, protects, supports and civilizes" those under its sway, whom he characterizes as childlike, improvident, wild, and vulnerable. But not wicked or inhuman, and that's important. He further contends that "slavery [in the South] relieves [the slave] from a far more cruel slavery in Africa, or from idolatry and cannibalism, and every brutal vice and crime that can disgrace humanity." Up to this point Fitzhugh is a fairly typical apologist for slavery, but in the end he announces that "this peculiar question of negro slavery [is] of very little importance." Slavery and the South in general provide him a base from which to critique America's emerging market economy, indeed to critique progress and modernity themselves. While defending slavery, Fitzhugh argues for the welfare of the soul, for moral and intellectual improvement. Approximately 5 1/4 pages.

Discussion questions
  ·  Compare Fitzhugh's portrayal of Africans with Boudinot's and Cass's portrayals of Indians.
  ·  What characteristics does each focus on? Why, in Fitzhugh's view, are Africans compatible with the market economy? Why, in Cass's view, are Indians not? Why would Fitzhugh and Cass hold these views?
  ·  How does Fitzhugh portray the urban, industrial North?
  ·  What similarities do Fitzhugh's arguments share with Thoreau's in Walden? How do their arguments differ?
  ·  Why, in Fitzhugh's view, would the South's people, including its slaves, be better off if the region detached itself from the national market economy?
  ·  Fitzhugh wants the South to industrialize. If it did so, what, in his view, would prevent it from becoming as soulless as the North?
  ·  What does Fitzhugh mean by a "free society"?
  ·  How does Fitzhugh critique progress?

Reading highlights
  ·  Note Fitzhugh's use of the ancient past.
  ·  Note how he uses family imagery.

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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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