A dvanced Placement United States History


AP Chapters

AP Vocabulary

Model Essay

Brown Book

Analytical Devices

Bloom's Taxonomy

History of Political Parties

Language Prompts

DC Everest APUSH Page


MHS Homepage








Chapter 11

Democratic Culture

Analytical Themes
  • Romanticism emerged in America illustrating a clear shift from European Enlightenment ideology.
  • Transcendentalism altered culture powerfully during the 19th century by spurring other reform movements.
  • To what extent did this period embrace the "common man" of Jacksonianism?
  • The Lyceum Movement foreshadows a key shift in bringing information to the public in political, educational, and media aspects.
  • To what extent did reform movements advance the ideals of democracy?

    I. Democratic Culture

    A. "We have listened too long to the courtly muses of Europe." - Emerson (1837)

    B. The US was emerging as a distinctly different democratic culture, as seen in their thinking, literature, and institutions.

    C. No longer tethered to Europe, the USA will now create theories, literary trends, and institutions, which influenced Europe.

    II. In Search of Native Grounds

    A. Many American writers in the early 19th century attempted to reveal the "American Genius" but only James Finnamore Cooper succeeded with: The Spy (1821), The Pioneers (1823), and The Last of the Mohicans (1826).

    B. Cooper represented a clear shift from classical literature to romantic literature, using emotion and a concern for beauty and freedom. Cooper exemplified American intelligentsia leaders - pro-Democrat. - Romanticism

    C. Most literary writers could only imitate European novelists, who dominated much of the literature read in America.

    D. American painting two levels:

    1. European trained artists painted wealthy and patriotic heroes from the revolutionary period. I.E.- Charles Peale founded Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

    2. Self-trained American painters provided art for rural American, celebrating the frontier's beauty. I.E.- Thomas Cole J. Fischer.

    III. The Romantic View of Life

    A. A departure from the Enlightenment, "Romantic" authors valued feeling, intuition and differences between individuals.

    B. Consistent with Jacksonianism and the glorification of the ordinary and the individual man.

    C. This view spurred Transcendentalism, which valued the individual and not the intellectuality, religion, or institutions.

    D. Transcendentalism influenced many movements and reflected the general "spirit".

    E. Transcendentalism defines the unknowable and indefinable - to transcend is to "rise above" restrictions.

    F. A New England movement, transcendentalism was not a religion nor an institution, though it did influence them.

    G. CHARACTERISTICS OF ROMANTICISM: A conviction that intuition, imagination, and emotion are superior to reason. A conviction that poetry is superior to science, a belief that contemplation of the natural world is a means of discovering the truth that lies behind mere reality. A distrust of industry and city life and an idealization of rural life of the wilderness; an interest in the more "natural" past and in the supernatural.

    IV. Emerson and Thoreau

    A. Leading Transcendentalist - Ralph Waldo Emerson - Harvard graduate and minister, who abandoned the pulpit. Emerson asserted fervor and purpose to Unitarianism.

    B. In "The American Scholar," he urged a departure from European views to "spiritual powers" and self-reliance. Unfortunately, Emerson often alienated other reformers and intellectuals in America.

    C. Henry David Thoreau - Harvard graduate and highly inflexible as a person, but a gentle dreamer, who loved nature.

    D. Thoreau felt that the drive for profit propelled by capitalism destroyed mankind and nature. He represented a divergence from "typical" American values.

    E. Thoreau spoke out against the majority of one and opposed government. He felt that a person is solely responsible for taking proper action. "Whenever were the good and the brave in the majority?"

    F. Thoreau put his beliefs to the test in his 2 year experience on Walden Pond. There he wrote the book, Walden, and criticized the American life style - anti-materialism.

    G. During the Mexican American War, he refused to pay a poll tax in protest of the institution of slavery. He was jailed for one night and wrote his Essays on Civil Disobedience - impacted Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

    H. Thoreau refused to participate in reform movements and was loved by many from afar.

    V. Edgar Allen Poe

    A. Poe - a tortured genius of the romantic period.

    B. Huge personal problems but could still produce -"on the edge" neurotic. He had financial, alcohol, drug, suicidal problems.

    C. He was a fantastic author, great editor, exact critic and fine writer of short stories, poems and books.

    D. His works were widely read during his life - "The Murder of Rue". His science fiction themes were visionary and generations ahead of his time. "Pit and the Pendulum" and his poem "The Raven" were instant sensations.

    E. Synthesized the mystery and dark elements of writing.

    F. A man of incredible reach, Poe died at 40.

    VI. Nathaniel Hawthorne

    A. Interested in Puritan New England, he settled in Concord and participated in the transcendentalist movement, but was unimpressed with Emerson and felt the movement was flawed.

    B. He was fascinated with the history of New England and wrote The Scarlet Letter and House of Seven Gables.

    C. He was widely read in this time but not wealthy - a democrat and Jacksonian.

    VII. Herman Melville

    A. Friend to Hawthorne and had a similar upbringing of hardship and loss of a parent.

    B. Melville went to sea for 18 months - jumped ship in the south Sea and lived with cannibals. He moved to Tahiti and spent another year at sea.

    C. Motivated by research of Shakespeare, he continued writing and was inspired by Emerson and rejected the European influences in writing, suggesting that men as worthy as Shakespeare were being born on the banks of the Ohio.

    D. He cited naval brutality and abuse in "White Jacket" and "The Tartarus Maids" which depicted women working in paper mills.

    E. He was not a cynic like Hawthorne but showed his realism of the dark side of human nature in Moby Dick a masterpiece not recognized until the 1890's. Melville's work became more intense, and he fell from favor with his contemporary readers.

    VIII. Walt Whitman

    A. Published "Leaves of Grass" (1855) - was the most romantic and distinct writer of his time.

    B. Jacksonian, but a Free Soiler who was motivated by Emerson in "Leaves of Grass".

    C. His work was awkward for the time - sensitive, egotistic and non-tradition.

    D. Few recognized his greatness in the raw form of poems (Thoreau and Emerson). (page 305 in text)

    E. Some of his poems were shocking. Example: he was a male nurse in the Civil War and formed relationships with men.

    F. His work was not appreciated until after his death in 1891.

    IX. The Wider Literary Renaissance

    A. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - song of Hiawatha and Paul Revere's Ride.

    B. James Russell Lowell - first editor of Atlantic Monthly.

    C. Oliver Wendell Holmes - poet and essay writer.

    D. Writers of focus were popular and influential during the period.

    X. Domestic times

    A. Changes in architectural styles included a move to Gothic style because of wood turning technologies.

    B. Technologies of cloth weaving and color impacted wallpaper and tapestries-furniture was modified in construction and covering.

    C. Paintings of Native Americans by George Catlin were popular.

    D. Engravings of popular works were sold with originals and reproductions commanding high prices.

    E. 1850's Currier and Ives' prints became popular - sold cheaply for 15 cents.

    F. Lithographs displayed American domestic behaviors including trains, horse races, and rural landscapes.

    XI. Education For Democracy

    A. Education for all (5 to 10 years of age) though few continued beyond reading, writing and doing sums. However, education was still lagging on the frontier edge and the South - a disadvantage for the South during the Civil War.

    B. Rise of the Common (public) School - idea from Jefferson - diffused knowledge to the masses.

    C. Tax-supported free schools were the eventual outcome.

    D. Education was to be statewide and the profession of teaching required training.

    E. Leaders in the education movement were Henry Barnard and Horace Mann from New England. These men wrote journals, created states' school boards, and issued reports promoting common schools and public education.

    F. They criticized wealthy families, who sent their children away to be educated, thus fracturing the community and limiting local efforts to educate all. Barnard and Mann encouraged young women to be teachers due to lower salaries.

    G. By the 1850's, all states (outside of the south) had free primary education. Many extended public education to the secondary level. Michigan and Iowa also had state-supported colleges.

    H. Mann's success was due to the support of employers to improve the work force and "Americanize" immigrants.

    I. Almost no working class children went to high school until the late 19th century.

    J. Mann suggested that education was "the great equalizer". To maintain the self-prophecy of slave inferiority, white Southerners restricted slaves from obtaining an education before and after the Civil War - possibly the most damaging long-term aspect - fueling racism.

    XII. Engines of Culture

    A. New culture in the north was driven by the expanding middle class and industrialization.

    B. Creation of cheap books and other publications directed behavior and communicated trends and styles.

    C. New novels of moralistic and sentimental topics started. Interestingly, women were often the leading authors of these publications. Hawthorne called them a 'damned mob of scribbling women".

    D. Maria Cummings wrote, The Lamplighter, a story of an orphan girl slave that sold 70,000 copies. The Feminization of American Culture by Ann Douglas - soap opera like stories.

    E. Mary Jan Holmes sold religious literature - American Bible Society used sales persons to sell 100,000's of copies of numerous novels.

    F. "How to" books became popular and philanthropists like Astor supported mechanic libraries. Public funded libraries began in Boston.

    G. The Lyceum Movement was a key change, bringing lectures to the public. Josiah Holbrook began the Lyceums in 1826, and by the 1840's, Thoreau and Emerson were often speakers at Lyceums as well as a host of other speakers.

    XIII. The State of Colleges

    A. Colleges were lightly attended - example: 400 at Yale. Attendance rose after 1840. - example: Virginia peaked at 500.

    B. Some small colleges emerged in communities, but few survived a decade.

    C. Tuition was $25 to $55 .

    D. Colleges had no grades-standards were somewhat lax - included classics but little practical teaching outside of clergy.

    E. Professors were poorly paid and considered secondary citizens - will shift as U.S. produces more services than goods.

    F. Brown University led to the redirecting of collegiate education to practical curriculum.

    G. Yale (1847) created a school of science and Harvard followed.

    H. New colleges of agriculture and mechanics began in the West and South.

    I. Oberlin admitted women in 1837, creating a coed school. Also Georgia Female College opened in 1839.

    J. Gaining a college education was a part of early presidential training (except Washington). Shift after J.Q. Adams, as the majority did not.

    XIV. Civic Cultures

    A. Cultural centers (not Washington DC - ironic) were Boston, New York and Philadelphia - with many smaller cities taking a leadership role in civic culture - Pittsburgh, Lexington, Kentucky.

    B. Lawyers made up much of the aristocracy of the time and biased the nation.

    C. Civic activities as Dickens pointed out were mere pigmies compared to Europe.

    XV. Scientific Stirrings

    A. A decline in the interest of science after Jefferson in the early 19th century - Tocqueville felt it was due to our distrust of theory and abstract.

    B. First American Journal of Science and Arts from Yale. Stillman a professor of geology needed to publish to communicate - great advances in geology.

    C. Alexander Dallas Bache opened the Smithsonian Institute. (1846)

    D. Samuel Morse's telegraph and Bache's lobbying create the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    E. Due to a gun accident, Dr. Beaumont did state-of-the-art research on the human digestive system.

    XVI. American Humor

    A. Based on juxtaposing Jackson-frontier or eastern fictional characters were composed of American ideals and reality.

    B. Russell Lowell added satire and The Bigalow Papers.

    C. The Southwest provided another locale for juxtaposing the genteel and the vulgar.

Key Terms
Lyceum Movement- this was an adult education movement for dropouts who were curious for knowledge. They came to listen to lectures by traveling reformers.

Transcendentalism- a liberal movement that believed that the truth "transcends" from the senses and that every man possesses an inner light.

James F. Cooper- wrote Last of the Mohicans, romanticism, and most of his novels almost had the frontiersman as the hero.

Henry D. Thoreau- transcendentalist, who condemned government and inspired passive resistance. He wrote Walden, and also wrote Essays on Civil Disobedience.

Herman Melville- considered an unconventional author, wrote the first modern American novel, Moby Dick.

Ralph W. Emerson- wrote many poems and philosophical essays, he urged the departure from European views to "spiritual powers" and self-reliance in the "American Scholar".

Walt Whitman- a poet who most famous work was "Leaves of Grass".

Nathaniel Hawthorne- took part in the transcendentalism, but felt the movement was flawed. His most famous work was The Scarlet Letter.

Horace Mann- pursued reform in the educational system by lengthening the school year, pushing for public education, beginning he first "normal" school, and using standardized books in education.