Oct 25, 2008

Young America’s Wild Side

(NYTBR) - On March 3, 1801, Thomas Jefferson intoned at his presidential inauguration, “We are all Republicans: we are all Federalists.” Then, addressing himself as much to future generations as to the crowd before him, he added, “I believe this . . . the strongest government on earth.” Yet with the passing of the founders, the Federalists would cease to exist as a political party, and by 1861 the nation would be engaged in a terrible civil war. What happened in the intervening years? More often than not, historians treat this period with a wave of a hand, as little more than the run-up to the unbridled struggle between North and South. In his latest book, “Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson,” David S. Reynolds, a professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and the author of “John Brown, Abolitionist,” among other books, asks us instead to more carefully consider the brawling, chaotic, boisterous years from 1815 to 1848 as a fascinating age in its own right. In this, he succeeds handsomely. Continued