Year of Eclipse
Hill and Wang, 9780809041190, 272pp.
Publication Date: February 9, 2002
1776, 1861, 1929. Any high-school student should know what these years meant to American history. But wars and economic disasters are not our only pivotal events, and other years have, in a quieter way, swayed the course of our nation. 1831 was one of them, and in this striking new work, Louis Masur shows us exactly how.
The year began with a solar eclipse, for many an omen of mighty changes -- and for once, such predictions held true. Nat Turner's rebellion soon followed, then ever-more violent congressional arguments over slavery and tarrifs. Religious revivalism swept the North, and important observers (including Tocqueville) traveled the land, forming the opinions that would shape the world's view of America for generations to come. New technologies, meanwhile, were dramatically changing Americans' relationship with the land, and Andrew Jackson's harsh policies toward the Cherokee erased most Indians' last hopes of autonomy. As Masur's analysis makes clear, by 1831 it was becoming all too certain that political rancor, the struggle over slavery, the pursuit of individualism, and technological development might eclipse the glorious potential of the early republic--and lead the nation to secession and civil war. This is an innovative and challenging interpretation of a key moment in antibellum America.
About the Author
Praise For 1831: Year of Eclipse…
“It was the year of Nat Turner's slave rebellion, of the launching of Garrison's Liberator, of Tocqueville's visit to the United States, of Cyrus McCormick's invention of the mechanical reaper, and of many other pivotal events. Annus mirabilis, 1831 became the hinge of fate for the future of America, both good and ill. Louis Masur has captured the flavor of this crucial year in this captivating book.” —James M. McPherson
“Louis Masur has set himself up in a propitious perch astride the end of republican America and the ascendance of that messier thing called democracy. It is as if Alexis de Tocqueville returned and, with all the advantages of historical hindsight, rewrote his classic account of modern America's birth.” —Joseph J. Ellis
“Not since Bernard De Voto's Year of Decision, 1846, published almost sixty years ago, have we had such a creative, well-intergrated work about a pivotal and defining moment in the nation's history. 1831 is filled with fresh and little-known information skillfully woven into a more familiar and highly meaningful narrative.” —Michael Kammen