Syllabus: Jacksonian America, Fall 2016


John Quincy Adams (a better man than Jackson!)

H302: “Jacksonian America” aka Democratization of America, 1807-1848

Meeting Times: Tuesday/Thursday, Lane 124, 9:30-10:45

Instructor: Professor Bradley J. Birzer

Office: Delp 403



Probably no generation after the American founding had a more diverse range of powerful personalities—John Quincy Adams, John Randolph of Roanoke, John Marshall, John Taylor of Caroline, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Joseph Smith, Martin Van Buren, James Fenimore Cooper, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry D. Thoreau to name only a few. These personalities, essentially the children of the Founders, had to deal with the needs, the demands, and the intentions of the Republic. Importantly, they had to live up to what their fathers had given them from 1761 through 1793; they had to reify the ideals of the Republic. An unenviable task, to be sure. During these critical years, Americans wrestled with the formation of entirely new religions (many blatantly esoteric and Gnostic; others quite heterodox); the fragmentation and infighting of Protestantism; democratization in all aspects of American life; expansion westward and the various encounters with (usually outright brutal toward) American Indians; slavery and every one of its associated and attendant evils; reforms from the moderate and necessary to the outrageous and fantastic in all aspects of culture and politics; the establishment of America as a viable power among the nations of the world; the creation of political parties; and the development of American letters. To most Americans, economic and technological “progress” would allow the republic to transcend and overcome the limitations of the past, while the rising spirit of democracy would implant itself in the American West and throughout the world, by example or, if need be, by force. “Progress” and “destiny” and “individualism” became key words in the American vocabulary. Tellingly, the term “individualism” had never even appeared in print prior to 1827. Truly, something very different from the vision of the American founders emerged, a whole new American character–restless, expansive, violent, and suspicious of community.


Assigned Readings

  • Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought (ISBN: 0195392434). See term list at the end of the syllabus
  • Lee Cheek, ed., John C. Calhoun’s A Disquisition on Government (ISBN: 1587311852)
  • Cooper, Last of the Mohicans (ISBN: 0451417860)
  • Tocqueville, Democracy in America (ISBN: 0865978409), 2 vol. LF edition
  • Turabian, A Manual for Writers, 8th ed (ISBN: 0226816389)



  • Midterm 30%
  • Semester Long Research Paper 35%
  • Final 35%


Research Paper explained

  • The paper should be an original, well-researched, eighteen to twenty-five page paper in manuscript form (doubled spaced, one-inch margins, with proper footnotes and a complete bibliography). It must be primary-source driven.  Secondary sources should be used, but, not surprisingly, only  That is, you should employ secondary sources as guides to the bibliographic and primary sources available and as indicators of the historiographical controversies surrounding your topic.  The Mossey Library has excellent resources and some of the finest librarians—Linda Moore—I have ever met.  Make sure to take advantage of her expertise.
  • Mossey databases and resources you will find especially useful for this research project: the Western Americana collection (Yale’s entire collection on microfilm); Harper’s Online; JSTOR; America: History and Life; the New York Times; the London Times; and Nineteenth-Century Masterfile.
  • For the form and structure of the final paper, footnotes, and bibliography, you must use Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers (8th). The one exception to this: don’t use a title page.
  • Further and VITAL N.B. This paper is a one-semester paper and worth a little over 1/3 of your grade.  That is, I’m assigning it on day one of the course, and I expect you to begin it—at least the thinking about and research stage—immediately.
  • Topics include any aspect of any American person, event, or idea, 1815-1848. You DO NOT need to clear your topic with me before you choose it.  You should begin choosing a topic immediately.  I would start with a cursory read through DWH and, especially, through his excellent bibliographic essay.



Week 1: August 31-September 2

Week 2: September 5-9

Week 3: September 12-16

Week 4: September 26-30

Week 5: October 3-7*

Week 6: October 10-12

Fall Break: October 13-16

Week 7: October 17-21

Midterm: October 20 (must have read LAST OF THE MOHICANS and DISQUISITION)

Parents: October 22

Week 8: October 24-28

Week 9: October 31-November 4*

Week 10: November 7-11

Week 11: November 14-18

Week 12: November 21-22*

Week 13: November 28-December 2

Week 14: December 5-9 (Must have read DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA)

Final exam: December 16, 8-10am.


Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought, term chaser!



Pp. 1-202

Samuel Morse


“communications revolution”

Ned Packenham

Thomas Mullins

Battle of New Orleans, 1815

Jedediah Morse


“Middle Ground”

“little ice age”

Republican ideology



Fur trade

Santa Fe Trail

Jedediah Smith

Sojourner Truth

Planter paternalism

Slave patrol

Dolley Madison

Battle of Baltimore, 1814

Old Republicans

Hartford Convention

Treaty of Ghent

Creek War

Second Treaty of Greenville

Algiers War

Madisonian Platform

Second Bank of the U.S.

14th Congress

John Randolph

Old Republicans/Tertium Quids

Tariff of 1816

National Road

Compensation Act

Bonus Bill

James Monroe

Monroe’s cabinet

Anglo-American Convention of 1818

First Seminole War

St. Mark’s

Transcontinental Treaty of Washington, 1819

Monroe Doctrine

Erie Canal

John Marshall

Joseph Story


Old Southwest

Second Middle Passage

Francis Cabot Lowell

Lowell, Mass.

Great Migration


John Chapman

Panic of 1819

Langdon Cheeves

Missouri Compromise

Rufus King

Denmark Vesey


Temperance [American]

The Beecher Family

Charles G. Finney

“Burned-over District”

Oberlin College

“Christian perfection”

Circuit rider

Peter Cartwright


“Second Great Awakening”

Evangelical United Front

Robert Baird

Elias Hicks

“Catholic revivalism”

John Hughes


Pp. 203-420

William H. Crawford

John C. Calhoun

John Quincy Adams

Henry Clay

Andrew Jackson

The Letters of Wyoming

National Road


Erie Canal

“Empire State”

United States Post Office


Washington Irving

James Fenimore Cooper

Timothy Flint

DeWitt Clinton


Chesapeake and Ohio

John McLean

American Colonization Society




“American System”

National Republicans

Tariff of Abominations


“corrupt bargain”

Millennium (postm; prem)

Francis Wayland

American civil religion

William Miller

“The Great Disappointment”

Robert Owen



George Rapp

Amana Society

Martin Stephan

CFW Walther

Elizabeth Seton

Prophet Matthias

John Humphrey Noyes

Harriet Martineau

Frances Wright

Joseph Smith, Jr.

The Book of Mormon


Mormon War of 1838


Mount Benedict

Nat Turner

“Age of Jackson”

“kitchen cabinet”

John Henry Eaton/Peggy Eaton

Indian Removal

Cherokee Nation



Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek

Cherokee Nation v. Georgia

“domestic dependent nation”

Maysville Veto Message

Pocket veto


Robert Y. Hayne

Daniel Webster

Nicholas Biddle

Second Bank of the U.S.

Wildcat Banking

Martin Van Buren

Pet Banks

Great Triumvirate


Second Party System

Tariff of Abominations

Nullification proclamation

Force Bill


Pp. 410-524

John Ross

Treaty of New Echota

Black Hawk’s War


David Walker

William Lloyd Garrison

American Anti-Slavery Society

Amos Kendall


Elijah Lovejoy

Code duello

Roger Taney

Robert Owen

American Bible Society

Alexander Campbell

Horace Mann

Edward Everett


Yale Report of 1828

The Book of Nature

Joseph Henry


Slyvester Graham

William Morton

Theodore Dwight Weld

James H. Thornwell

Martin Van Buren

Richard M. Johnson

William Henry Harrison

Amos Kendall

Deposit-Distribution Act

Specie Circular of 1836

Pet banks

Free banking


William Leggett

Gag rule

Indian Removal

William Mackenzie




Pp. 525-

“Five Points”

Eli Whitney

Cyrus McCormick

John Deere


Working Men’s political parties

Francis Wright

Thomas Skidmore


Lowell Female Reform Association

Stephen Van Rensselaer II

Anti-rent movement

Treatise on Domestic Economy

Maysville Veto

“legal person”/corporation

B&O Railroad

America’s economic “take-off”

William Henry Harrison

Log cabin/Hard Cider

Horace Greeley

Land Act of 1841

Bankruptcy Act of 1841

“Illinois System”

Dorr Rebellion

Dorothea Dix

Pp. 613-

William Ellery Channing

Laura Bridgman

Ralph Waldo Emerson


Margaret Fuller

Henry David Thoreau

Brook Farm

Henry Wadworth Longfellow

Edgar Allen Poe

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Herman Melville

Frederick Douglass

Lewis Tappan

Theodore Dwight Weld

Liberty Party

Prigg v. Pennsylvania

Erasmo Seguin

Stephen Austin

Mexican Constitution of 1824


Santa Anna

Texian Revolution

William Travis

David Crockett

James Fannin

San Jacinto

Lone Star Republic

Webster-Ashburton Treaty

Robert Walker

James K. Polk

James G. Birney

Samuel F.B. Morse

Texas Annexation



Hudson’s Bay Company

“Fifty-Four Forty or Fight!”

Joseph Smith



Brigham Young

Zachary Taylor

George Wilkins Kendall

Winfield Scott

St. Patrick’s Battalion

John C. Fremont

Thomas Larkin

Stephen Watts Kearny

“No Territory”
Walker Tariff

Polk-Santa Anna Conspiracy

Cotton Whigs

Conscience Whigs

Revolutions of 1848

“All Mexico”

Nicholas Trist

Gold Rush

Irish Potato Famine


Lewis Cass

Free Soil

Declaration of Sentiments




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