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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
» Reading Guide
•  Link

Text 6. George Fitzhugh
Text 7. Henry David Thoreau
Text 8. Harriet Beecher Stowe


RESOURCE MENU » Reading Guide Link

Reading Guide
5.  James Glover Baldwin, excerpts from The Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi: A Series of Sketches, 1854

Reading Baldwin's Flush Times, you may be tempted to think that the Indians were smart to put thousands of miles between themselves and white society. In what often sounds like social criticism written by W. C. Fields, Baldwin satirically critiques life in the raw frontier settlements that sprang up in the wake of the Indians' removal. His prose may be inflated with pomposity and gaudy with Latin and learned allusions, but it can cut with a Twain-like edge: "the village boasted a population of . . . single gentlemen . . . who . . . laid projects for the future, to be worked out for their own profit upon the safe plans of some other person's risk." Lewis Cass contended that white settlement would bring civilization to Indian lands, thereby rescuing them from aboriginal unproductiveness. Baldwin tells us just what that civilization and the market economy that accompanied it were like. He shows us Niles's exuberant economy close up, with all its entrepreneurial wheeling and dealing. Baldwin's fulminations convey the frontier's corruption and violence, but they also capture its undeniable vitality and democracy. His is an unscrupulous world bristling with opportunity. Could be used with students. 6 pages.


Discussion questions
  ·  What is Baldwin's attitude toward the life he finds on the frontier?
  ·  Baldwin goes west to practice law, a profession that is supposed to bring order to life. How does it function on the frontier?
  ·  How does Baldwin's judgment of frontier life compare to that which Mark Twain offers in the selections from Huckleberry Finn in the "Common Man" section of this toolbox?
  ·  How might Fitzhugh, Thoreau, and Emerson have judged life on Baldwin's frontier?
  ·  What is the effect of Baldwin's style?


Reading highlights
  ·  Note the vigor of Baldwin's style.
  ·  Note the contrast he establishes between his persona and the life that swirls around him.


» 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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Toolbox Library: Primary Resources in U.S. History and Literature
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