History 233 Reading Guide

The War of 1812 and the Era of Good Feelings:  American Identity, Economic Nationalism, Regional Economic Specialization

  • Clinton Rossiter, "Nationalism and American Identity in the Early Republic," from Rossiter, The American Quest:  An Emerging Nation in Search of Identity (1971); reprinted in Sean Wilentz, ed., Major Problems in the Early Republic, 1787-1848 (1992), 14-22.  (e-reserve)
  • Roger H. Brown, "The War of 1812 and the Struggle for Political Permanency," from Brown, The Republic in Peril:  1812 (1964); reprinted in Sean Wilentz, ed., Major Problems in the Early Republic, 1787-1848 (1992), 170-177.  (e-reserve)
  • Steven Watts, "The Liberal Impulse to War," from Watts, The Republic Reborn:  War and the Making of Liberal America, 1790-1820 (1987); reprinted in Sean Wilentz, ed., Major Problems in the Early Republic, 1787-1848 (1992), 177-186.  (e-reserve)

Questions:

  • Clinton Rossiter argues that, while Americans identified themselves as a new people, two fateful questions remained to be answered in their search for national identity.  Were they different and better enough to rejoice confidently in the fact—and, if they were, in what ways?  Was the fate of America to be one sovereign nation like Britain and France or a a parcel of related yet basically sovereign half-nations, city-states, and provinces like Germany and Italy?
  • What sources of inspiration and interest did Americans tap in their search for self-identity?
  • How did these separate influences come together, and what kind of "country" did they begin to create?
  • How does Roger H. Brown explain the intensity of the party divisions in the years during and preceding the War of 1812?  By what process did the US enter the war?  How did the two sides respond?  What were the consequences of the war?
  • Steven Watts argues that the War of 1812 was rooted in a continuing struggle between republican and liberal outlooks.  The War Report gave the Liberal Republicans an opportunity to express an emerging liberal ideology.  What were the several layers of liberal beliefs and motives that Watts discerned in that Report?

Song:  "The Battle of New Orleans." Traditional Irish fiddle music; lyrics by Jimmy Driftwood (1945),  Lyrics and Music.