American Visions: The United States, 1800-1860


By Edward L. Ayers

The early decades of the nineteenth century saw the expansion of slavery, Native dispossession, and wars with Canada and Mexico. Mass immigration and powerful religious movements sent tremors through American society. As the powerful defended the status quo, others defied it: voices from the margins moved the center; eccentric visions altered the accepted wisdom, and acts of empathy questioned self-interest. Edward L. Ayers examines the visions that moved Frederick Douglass, Margaret Fuller, the Native American activist William Apess, and others to challenge entrenched practices and beliefs. Lydia Maria Child condemned the racism of her fellow northerners at great personal cost. Melville, Thoreau, Joseph Smith, and Samuel Morse all charted new paths for America in the realms of art, nature, belief, and technology. It was Henry David Thoreau who challenged a hostile crowd “Is it not possible that an individual may be right and a government wrong?”

Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (October 2023)

You may also like…